07/08/2013 04:38 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Family-Friendly Festival Exposes Kids to the Arts

For the last several weeks, New Haven has celebrated its 18th annual International Festival of Arts & Ideas. The Festival brings together an impressive range of performers who this year included edgy acrobats, Spike Lee and the Kronos Quartet. Almost every day, a separate family stage was set up on the New Haven Green, with free musical acts geared towards the younger set, who were welcomed with movable block seats.

One of the Festival's highlights was L'Homme Cirque, David Dimitri's one man circus. His mini tent on the Green was home to a tightrope walk and an equestrian performance. His act dramatically ended when Mr. Dimitri shot himself out of a cannon and left through a flap in the top of the tent, only to keep on walking on another tightrope. Circus lovers, including myself and my nine-year old twins, were even more dazzled by Sequence 8, performed by Le 7 doigts del la Main. (I am still not sure why all of the circus acts had French names). The members of this Canadian circus arts company performed Olympic-sized feats (jumping, flipping, and spinning through the air) that had us gasping, while a charming narrator provided sophisticated one-liners.

The Festival also did a great job of taking advantage of New Haven's other prominent kid-friendly assets: Yale University and amazing Neopolitan-style pizza. The Festival offered treks through Yale's many museums and we joined a tour of Yale's Peabody museum given by the curator of its Egyptian exhibit, which also included a walk that showcased Egyptian symbols hidden across the campus.

New Haven has an impressive collection of pizza restaurants, many of which feature their own special toppings that range from white clam sauce to mashed potatoes. For those who couldn't decide, the Festival gathered many of the best known restaurants to the Green for several lunchtime "Pizzafests."

I also squeezed in a cooking class and an Indian dance performance. More than 80 percent of the Festival's activities were free, and most of the rest cost about $25 or offered a "pay what you wish" option. For those who like to plan ahead, next year's Festival will take place from June 14-28th.