Cirque du Soleil Plans to Open its First Theme Park

Look for a 2018 debut in Mexico.

After redefining and dominating the world of circus arts for 32 years, Cirque du Soleil tackles its greatest feat yet: opening a conceptual theme park near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Cirque du Soleil Theme Park at Night

Cirque du Soleil

In its 32-year history, theatrical entertainment group Cirque du Soleil has staged 40 productions on six continents. Recent years have given birth to Toruk —The First Flight, which was loosely inspired by the massive hit Avatar; Paramour, its Broadway debut; and Joya, a resident dinner show at Vidanta Riviera Maya.

Cirque du Soleil Theme Park and Waterfall

Cirque du Soleil

The latter served as a trial run for bigger plans: to create the world’s first Cirque du Soleil theme park. Cirque du Soleil and Grupo Vidanta, a high-end developer in Mexico, launched Joya in 2014. Based on its success, both groups are moving forward to create what they describe as an experiential and immersive theme park at Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta in the Riviera Nayarit.

Cirque du Soleil Waterpark

Cirque du Soleil

Grupo Vidanta has already invested $1.3 billion into the project, which will be rolled out in three phases. The first phase is slated to open in 2018 and include a waterpark. Later stages will include to-be-determined interactive theater productions, immersive experiences and rides and attractions, all geared toward adults. (A Vidanta representative compared the immersive aspect to a less creepy Sleep No More.) There are also plans for a Mexican culture section, nightlife and three new hotels.

Cirque du Soleil Theme Park Illustrations

Cirque du Soleil

So how did a local, non-profit circus group evolve into a global, corporate entity? Here’s a look back at some of Cirque du Soleil’s milestones and highlights.

Cirque du Soleil Theme Park

Cirque du Soleil

1984: Future Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté is a street performer with the High Heels Club in Baie-Saint-Paul, a small town near Quebec City, Canada. The year 1984 is also the 450th anniversary of Jacques Cartier discovering Canada, and the Canadian government has a cultural budget for the celebration. They approach street performers about devising a road show act they can take across the Quebec province; Laliberté spearheads the lead and helps brainstorm the Cirque du Soleil (Circus of the Sun) concept. Le Grand Tour debuts in Gaspé and consists of about 10 circus acts, including stilt-walkers, trapeze artists and contortionists. The group performs 10 shows in the region under what is to become its signature blue-and-yellow tent.

1987: Following a successful run across Canada, Cirque debuts at the Los Angeles Art Festival, and marks its entry into the American market.

1990: The Cirque phenomenon spreads to Europe and Japan.

1998: Cirque stages O, its first water-centric show, at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. It’s also Las Vegas’ second resident Cirque show at this point. That same year, La Nouba becomes the first resident show to take root at Walt Disney World Resort.

2004: Cirque du Soleil reaches its 20th anniversary. By this point it’s released an album of musical favorites from its shows, filmed a television series, and moved its headquarters to Montreal. Not content to take it easy, year 20 heralds the book, 20 Years Under the Sun. Meanwhile, 544 stilt-walkers land the company’s first Guinness World Record that year, while the fourth permanent show opens in Las Vegas.

2008: Cirque du Soleil branches out and establishes resident shows in China and Japan.

2010: Las Vegas gets its seventh show; Laliberté is recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

2014: Cirque du Soleil’s 30th anniversary. In addition to adding Kurios to its road shows, it opens its first resident show, Joya, in Mexico.

2016: Paramour, best described as a musical/circus hybrid, debuts on Broadway at the Lyric Theatre.

2017 and beyond: The company’s 41st show,Volta, will begin touring in April. The theme park is set to debut sometime in 2018.

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