Storytelling, art, beauty, magic, and unbelievable feats of balance and strength. That’s the circus for you, but this is obviously more than your ordinary circus. Cirque du Soleil’s “Totem” is in town, so gather the kids under the Grand Chapiteau in San Francisco’s AT&T Park for an amazing show.

Even the most fidgety of young ones will find reason to feast their eyes and ears during this two-hour performance brought to life with tribal rhythms. The set itself is hypnotic, changing from a virtual swamp to a fisherman’s pond to a volcanic island with the help of a super cool projection surface.

The performers wear colorful, glittering costumes, but above all, it’s what they can do that will impress the family most. Take the group of unicyclists pedaling with one foot while kicking bowls onto the tops of their heads, the scientist juggling glow-in-the-dark balls while trapped in a life-size beaker, or the “Crystal Ladies” spinning fabric with their hands and feet.

Just when you think the acrobats have pushed their limits, they take their acts a step further. Imagine a porter balancing a long metal perch on his forehead, at the top of which another acrobat wobbles upside down. Of course, no circus is complete without a clown, and Valentino is sure to get the chuckles out of ’em.

Cirque du Soleil “Totem” is playing in San Francisco through December 18. Tickets are already on sale for the show’s return to the Bay in San Jose come March of 2012. Click here to buy tickets online.

Insider’s Tips:

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– Children of all ages are welcome to the show. Even the night performances see babies snuggled in their wraps and school-age kids smacking their thighs in amusement.

– Don’t spend $20 on parking. The meters won’t be running, and there are plenty of metered spots to go around along the vicinity of 2nd and 3rd streets, if you are willing to walk three or four blocks.

– The show runs 2 hours 30 minutes, which includes a 30 minute intermission. The 30 minute break is the perfect time for a potty break as well as a good stretch.

– Speaking of potty breaks, keep in mind that there are a few rows of portable restrooms available. Walk all the way to the back row and the line will likely be less than half that of the first row.

– Food is available inside the tent. Concession stand treats include popcorn, chips, and hot dogs, and patrons are welcome to munch while they watch.

– Sound effects may at times get loud, and the lighting dark, but the show is pretty much kid-friendly.

74 Mission Rock Street
San Francisco, Ca  

— Renee Macalino Rutledge
Photo credit: Cirque du Soleil “Totem” website