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A weekend guide to circuses, burgers and riverwalks in Baraboo.

If you’re any sort of Wisconsin traveler, you’ve almost definitely been to the Dells. But you might have been missing a gem of a city just a few miles south that has more than enough attractions to make a weekend getaway worthwhile.

Friday Evening

Check into the Ringling House Bed and Breakfast, which was built in 1901 by Charles Ringling, a founder of the Ringling Bros. Circus, and remained in the family for over a century. It’s located right near Downtown Baraboo, offers a home-cooked breakfast and is deeply rooted in the circus history of Baraboo, which you’ll see more of as the weekend progresses.

If you want to sneak in some sight-seeing after checking in, drive over to Devil’s Lake State Park to explore Baraboo’s greatest natural attraction. There’s hiking, kayaking and other great outdoor activities to be enjoyed at the park, which stays open until 11 p.m. If you get into town early enough, this is a great place to spend the afternoon and evening.

One of the attractions Devil's Lake State Park are the Devil's Doorway, Wisconsin, USA

Devil’s Lake in Baraboo

For your first meal of the trip, stop by Baraboo Burger Company. With twenty years of experience serving the good people of Baraboo, this restaurant will meet all your burger needs.

Photo by Archer Parquette

Saturday Morning

Start off your Saturday the right way at Broadway Diner, which offers a fine selection of breakfast food in a quaint ’50s atmosphere. The diner was originally built in 1954 and restored to vintage perfection.

Now it’s time to get into the real heart of Baraboo, a city best known for its circus attractions. Your first stop should be the International Clown Hall of Fame and Research Center, “the place to learn about circus clowns and clowning and the history of clowns,” according to their website. In a cruel world where both Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey have closed their famous circuses, this place remains a long-standing bastion of clowns, worth a visit.

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Saturday Afternoon

We’re not done clowning yet: next up is the Circus World Museum. The vast grounds house a profusion of circus memorabilia, exhibits and live shows showcasing the history of circuses. Stop in the gift shop to pick up both clown- and Baraboo-related souvenirs.

The Museum is right on the Baraboo River, so if you’re feeling enchanted by the water or just want to immerse yourself in nature to escape the clown visions still running through your head, talk a stroll along the Baraboo Riverwalk. The Riverwalk Park is exactly 0.4 miles away from Circus World, so take a stroll in that direction and see what the park has to offer.

After your exciting afternoon of lions and tigers and clowns, it’s probably time for some food and relaxation. Stop by Green Vine Ice Cream to fill the tank with one of 20 flavors of hand-dipped ice cream. On a diet? Green Vine also makes a good lunch option, with a wide selection of sandwiches and soups, fruit smoothies and juices.

Saturday Evening

As you settle into the evening, get ready to get both historic and theatrical. Al Ringling Theatre was built in 1915 and has been restored into a beautifully-painted venue for live music, film and theatre, complete with a big ol’ chandelier and box seats along the sides.

Time for a fine meal, a couple brewskis, and enough pie to send any sane person into a coma: To end the night, Head over to the Log Cabin Restaurant and Bakery and peruse the family-style menu and lengthy draft beer list. Log Cabin claims to have sold over one million slices of pie and counting — do your civic duty and add to that tally.

Red wine photo courtesy of GettyImages.

Sunday

Before hitting the road, make a stop at the Baraboo Bluff Winery, a family-run winery that offers fantastic views and three tasting bars for your wining pleasure. Try all ten to twelve wines for $5, try five wines of your choosing for $3, or try three wines of your choice for free. Don’t forget to identify a designated driver first!

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