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“Knowledge is Power- and a little goes a long way here”

The Dancing Horses Theatre
Ranked #1 of 12 things to do in Delavan
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: 2-3 hours
Owner description: Enjoy a day full of experience at Wisconsin’s own Dancing Horses, Animal Gardens. You day begins with The Dancing Horses Theatre presentation of an enchanting NEW performance that is unparalleled anywhere else. From the moment the show opens until the finale, the audiences of all ages sit spellbound, applauding each equine performer and trainer, exclaiming in wonder, chuckling at the humor and even wiping the occasional tear when a moment of connection touches a heartstring. Get up close with the trainers with our newest park feature: the Backstage Tour. During the tour, you are given a demonstration about liberty-style horse training and then you will be invited into the stables to meet the equine performers. Next, as you exit The Dancing Horses Theatre, you enter the 30-minute Exotic Bird Show which follows. Meeting our Exotic Birds is a delightful treat. This performance features several different species of exotic birds that will amaze you with their incredible abilities and antics. Your experience continues with more, a visit to the Baby Animal Barn. The Baby Animal Barn is filled with both domestic and exotic baby animals that children can hold and feed. Our staff is there to answer any questions you may have about our baby animals. In close proximity is an outside petting zoo and several charming rides children will enjoy.You can then take a walk or ride through our Wildlife Exhibit, a natural-setting zoo where you can see animals, many of which are indigenous to Wisconsin. The exhibit culminates in the Deer Park where you can pet and feed white tail deer. You can experience a tractor-pulled wagon ride though the park, where larger animals are available for viewing. You won’t want to miss the train ride though our Indian Village; complete with teepees, Native American art, and oral history lesson about the area’s indigenous people.With the two stunning performances, The Dancing Horses and the Exotic Bird Show, and our animal attractions, this will be a day you will not soon forget and will want to share with everyone.
Useful Information: Activities for older children
Chicago, Illinois
1 review
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
“Knowledge is Power- and a little goes a long way here”
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed September 2, 2011

First piece of advice I can offer is this: the website is completely wrong. The brochure's not that good either. The interns, however, are very helpful and knowledgable, so this is what I've got:

For $10 per person (no child's price, unless under 2, in which case they are free) you will get admission to:
•the Baby Barn- highlight! Open all day.
•the Pasture- lots of fun, but you do have to pay for food, and the animals will most likely mob you. Can scare little kids pretty easily.
•the Wildlife Trail- neat, but only a walking trail; to feed the deer, you must go on the train ride, which is one ticket per rider over 2. The walk's not too bad but not stroller friendly and if it's rained at all, it's going to be muddy.
•the bird show- another highlight, and about 30 minutes long. Shows at 11:00 and 3:00. Morning show seemed less crowded.

For $25 for an adult, and $12.50 for a child you get access to all of the above, plus the horse show. Now the horse show is a bit of a borderline thing— it runs about an hour and a half, although there is also a rather lengthy intro, and the transitions between acts can run long and are accompanied by no more than slideshows. They seem to only use six riders in the whole show, so I guess it's necessary for changing, but expect young kids to get bored easily. Also, the show is fun, but it's probably not exciting enough to hold the attention of teenagers. If your kids are very excited by horses, and able to sit through the in-between parts, then I'd say go for it. Otherwise, your mileage may vary.

Now, for the things you have to pay extra for:

FIrst off is ANY kind of ride. Tickets are $3 each, 2 for $5, and 10 for $20. You will be pushed to buy the 10 for $20, but I'd suggest working out what you'd like to do in advance so you know exactly how many you need. The tickets are good for:
•the train ride. 30 minutes, and despite the listing of ride times, the only set times seem to be right after the bird show. Other than that, ask one of the interns, and they'll take you out whenever you like! It includes a stop at every pen in the Wildlife Trail, and a quick blurb of information about each. Fun but it seems a little rushed, and it's hard for the kids to get into. Unfortunately, the railings around the pens are built at the perfect level to make it hard to see into the pens from the train, especially for little kids. The stop at the end to feed the deer was really exciting, as they're very docile, but they're not always hungry, and seem to like staying in the muddiest part of the pen. Also, they try to limit how much the deer get fed at any one time (I think they said they have to get medicated feed at night) so you can't stay in there indefinitely. My recommendation would be to walk the trail, if everyone's up to it (it's not too long) and I was given a helpful tip: you can feed the deer leaves through the fence! They were a lot more interested in the leaves, to be honest, so that worked out better.
•the wagon ride. Also 30 minutes, and this one is a tractor-pulled wagon ride, driven by a farmer. He goes past some of the animals and their pond, as well as the horse pastures, although the horses mostly seemed to be inside for the show. He also goes through the Indian Village, and gives a talk about the history of the area, and the Indian tribe that used to live here. Interesting, but disappointing for kids who were hoping to see more animals. You can walk around the pond on foot, if you like. There are some emus back by the horse pastures that are really out of the way, and you don't see otherwise!
•the pony ride. No adults on the ponies, I'm afraid, just kids, though they don't seem to have a problem letting kids around 12-14 on. The pony rides are offered outside, but they take the ponies inside the show arena right before the show to offer rides. The rides inside are longer and climate controlled, and guess what? You don't have to be attending the show to get a pony ride inside! Just have your tickets and tell the people at the door to the arena that you just want a pony ride. They'll bring you up to the edge of the stage and call a pony over for you.
•the boat rides. There are a couple of little electric boats that you can take out for a ten minute spin on their pond— pretty cool! You can see the swans and ducks up close, and they don't try to come after you for food. Life jackets are provided, and each boat can seat up to two people— only two people, though, even if one of them is very little! No holding kids in laps, unfortunately. Only one side of the boat steers, but if you have two kids that want to drive and only one boat is available, they will let you come back at about the 5 minute mark and switch drivers. The only downside is that, since rides are ten minutes long and only two boats are available, if there are people waiting, you'll be waiting a while for a ride. Also, the red boat is definitely faster.

One final note on rides: there are NO CAMEL RIDES any more. I guess the camel that gave rides got retired and is now used for training purposes. Apparently, it's not to train the camel they still have, as he does not give rides, and steals hats and food. (Don't try to pet the camel without having food for it, by the way.)

You'll also have to pay extra for the backstage tour of the horse barn (after the show) but you'd have to refer to one of the other reviews for that. It seemed like it would take too long after a long day.

Animal feed is the last extra expense, and there are three different ways to feed animals: grain, goat bottles, and cow bottles. The bottles are fun, but they are not full bottles! You can see the baby goats are very fat, as they get fed regular bottles as well as any bottles that customers buy (50 cents), so there is only about an ounce or two in each bottle. The goats drink fast, too! If you want a photo opportunity, you'd better have the camera ready! The calves didn't get extra bottles while we were there, but if you were there around noon or closing time, apparently you can buy their regular meal bottles for $1! Those bottles are huge, too! Definitely worth it, but there are only two calves, so I'd ask to be able to buy them early so they don't get sold to someone else. The goats only have regular meal bottles (full ones) for sale around the time they close, I guess, but I assume you could buy those the same way. And lastly, there are two ways to get grain: from the feed dispensing machines, or from the staff. The feed machines are a quarter each, but give very little food and seem to get jammed very easily. The feed from the staff is $1, but you get an ice cream cone full of it, and when you're done with the feed, you can give the animals the cones as well, very clever and cuts back on litter. They sell it outside at the picnic tables, and it seems to mostly be for the animals in the pasture. Inside, only a few animals are allowed to eat it, mostly the ones with hooves. Also, you can feed the animals in the pasture over the fence, which is probably a better option for little kids, as the big goats can get pretty pushy once they realize you have food.

My definite favorite part was the barn, and although the brochure says there is a 'show', there isn't one. Instead, there is staff in there all day, and they'll present the animals to you individually. You can pet anything except the monkeys and the bobcat, and you can even hold a couple of them, like the skunks! The big cage in the center houses some of the most fun animals, flying squirrels. The interns even got the squirrels to jump back and forth between them as a bit of a demonstration, about five feet. Warning though, they will occasionally try to jump to other people, which can be frightening! They don't always seem to have it out, but they also have a baby lemur they can bring out and you can pet. There's a kitten room in the back, as well— they adopt out kittens, although the prices seem to vary depending on who you ask. A word to the wise, as soon as the kids see the kittens, nothing else in the barn is interesting any more. We weren't the only ones who spent the better part of an hour playing with kittens.

The animals seem very well cared for and the girls that work there all seem in love with them. They answered all of our questions and were very knowledgable— most of them are already out of college, actually. I know someone raised concerns about the animals having food or water— I didn't see any animals without water, although sometimes the dishes are hidden, and was told that the animals get fed at night so their food isn't out during the heat of the day and spoil. Smart!

The place is a little rundown, and you can get nickeled and dimed if you go in not knowing what to expect. There IS a $5 fee to buy tickets with a credit card, and their ATM has a $5 fee as well! So, I would bring cash to buy the tickets or buy them online. There is no fee to buy merchandise with a card, although it is fairly pricey. Food is definitely overpriced, but you CAN bring in your own food and drinks, and there are picnic tables to sit at. (For the horse show, you can eat in the theater.) Also, know what rides you want to do and only buy tickets for those. Finally, remember to wear sunscreen, and comfortable shoes (not sandals or flip flops!) that you don't mind getting dirty.

Knowing the things I do, I'd go back, but only for the zoo part, and only as a half day, I think. You'll get the best value if you skip the rides and walk around!

Visited July 2011
Helpful?
14 Thank Mary S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Date | Rating
  • English first
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English first
Chicago
Level Contributor
43 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 29 helpful votes
“Nice, Entertaining Show”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed August 25, 2011

As Grandparents, we took our 11-year-old granddaughter to see this show, but not dinner. We all enjoyed it, as we were close to the performing horses. There was plenty of variety and lots of skill. But, if you are looking for a Vegas production, this is not it. Lots of opportunity for the kids to pet the horses and meet the performers after the show.

The petting Zoo was the typical goats, chickens, pigs, etc. To feed them you have to pay extra for feed - nothing new in that. There is plenty included in the price to occupy young children up to pre-teen, and opportunities to spend more money. Again, nothing new in that either.

All-in-all a pleasant outing with good family fun. I've recommended it for friends with children and grandchildren.

Visited July 2011
Helpful?
2 Thank MOMelanuk
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Johnson Creek, WI
1 review
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
“Don't believe their website and bring tons of cash!”
2 of 5 bubbles Reviewed August 13, 2011

My daughter begged me to drive over an hour to see Echo the parrot who was on America's Got Talent. So I checked out their webpage and off we went. Unfortunately nothing on their webpage is correct. The times for the shows are wrong, they no longer have a baby animal show and you don't get a wagon ride included in price (which is now a tractor driven wagon, not horses).

Be sure you say your child is under 12, they charged us adult prices and when I questioned it they said she looked over 12. She is not. Bring cash-if you use a credit card they charge an extra $5 for processing and they "prefer not to take checks." You will also be paying an additional $3 for a wagon ride which they say is included on website. Throughout the day they will push you throughout the park to buy backstage passes, food for animals, bottles for animals, pony rides, camel rides, boat rides, wagon rides, souveniors. And let's not forget that all of the lovely young people roaming about educating you are "interns" who are not paid and gladly accept gratuities to "support themselves while they are learning." There are boxes in every venue to collect money for related charities...save the parrots, kittens, abandoned horses; but read the fine print only a "percentaqe" for which the amount is not disclosed actually goes to the charity.

The horse show was OK. My daughter and I both ride and could appreciate the training the horses received and what they were doing. On the other hand, children who had never been around horses seemed somewhat bored by the show. I have seen much better similiar shows. It is supposed to 90 minutes but the first 24 minutes consists of the owner telling her story of her stallion and his recent demise (which cast kind of sad pallor over the show). The last 10 is a very bad "water show" that only involves horses for about 2 minutes-they set two of the mares and their foals loose in the arena to wander about. So basically it is under an hour.

The backstage show consists of a very short speech from the trainer where she spends most of her time stressing how well they treat the horses, which I suppose is educational in some way to people who have no horse experience. I would have preferred some more info on how they are trained, etc... The other 20 minutes consists of being led throught he barn by an intern and personally introduced to the 20 plus horses in the show who are now in their stalls. Very little information and education, not even for those who have no horse experience. Sad waste of $10.

The facility overall has seen better days.

On the plus side all the animals seemed well cared for. The poor unpaid interns are terrific. They have a wide variety of animals in the baby barn including a wallabee, lemurs, skunks, and other more unusual animals. Sarah and Echo were great. Sarah was very nice signing an autograph for my daughter.

Visited August 2011
Helpful?
14 Thank Jennifer G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
new lenox, illinois
Level Contributor
33 reviews
9 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 65 helpful votes
“Only okay & that's being kind.”
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed August 12, 2011

First off I really wish the rating system had half stars because although I am giving this an "average" rating it really should be slightly less.
After reading the most recent reviews I have to agree with the fact that this attraction is really overpriced.
And the tractor/train ride to see the caged animals in the woods was just plain sad.
The baby petting area was nice & manned by "interns" that seemed knowlegeable & caring.
The horse show was okay, the horses are beautiful & their trainers costumes added a bit of Las Vegas in an otherwise dumpy theatre. But the slide show was boring & the owner who talks to you in the begining totally turns you off to the whole experience as she comes across really "trashy", as does the rest of her family that have odd jobs taking the money, seating you, etc.
Using the water effect that starts once the slide show finally ends would be better used throughout the show & not just at the end.
My 7 year old grandson had just finished a week at horseback riding camp & was really excited to see the show, but after initially showing some interest he became really bored(as did I), & we didn't even stay for the bird show.
I must admit I had high hopes for this attraction as the Geneva Lakes area is in desperate need for some GOOD attractions that you can take the kids to. Unforunately this isn't one of them.

Visited August 2011
Helpful?
9 Thank deb3009
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Chicago, Illinois
1 review
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 20 helpful votes
“Caveat emptor”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed August 5, 2011

I checked the website and reviews before visiting and my personal experience does not reflect the opinion of most of the folks here. The admission price for the Dancing Horses show includes a bird show, baby animal petting area, and a small wild forest animal display. The horse show in itself is worth the price and the extras are an added bonus. I agree that the horse show could use some extras in the cast, as it does get boring seeing the same lady coming out . Whereas she is not as old and fat as some have described her, lets just say if she was not so visible constantly throughout..... Overall it is an entertaining afternoon for the family. They do allow outside food and beverages, which is pleasantly surprising. My only problem was as some of the other comments reflected was the added charges. It is a business and they are out to make money which is fair as long as the customer is aware. The lady at the ticket office is quite a salesperson and does not hold a gun to you, but it is quite obvious that she is out for $$$ and will say anything to get them. Cash does go a long way however and she was willing to make concessions e.g. the behind the stage show was $10.00 per person , but she let the 4 of us (wife, children and me) as a package for $10.00 . I personally would not recommend this additional , as it is quite long and after a long day somewhat tiring. Once we did go back into see the horses the children were a bit more interested. Overall , it is a great outing and knowing what we know now, will be visiting again...just a little bit wiser. Buyer beware, but definitely go and have an enjoyable afternoon. The entire staff is very friendly and accomodating. There is an older gentleman who gives tours, Farmer Bill who is quite knowledgeable and entertaining. The staff I think are all volunteer and depend on tips from what I recall, but they do not shake you down and actually seem to enjoy their jobs.

Visited July 2011
Helpful?
20 Thank gavinsutcliffe
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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