Nestled between Wisconsin Dells and Madison, you’ll find the most magical and colorful Wisconsin historic site, the Circus World Museum in Baraboo. Next time you’re driving through “The Dairy State,” stop by and explore the wonderment that was and is Circus World, just a few short minutes off of I-94.
From magic shows to live animals and the world’s largest circus wagon collection (with 210 wagons!), it’s hard not to feel enchanted here, no matter your age. Founded in 1884, the Ringling Bros. Circus was housed along the north bank of the Baraboo River. These buildings were home to the circus’ winter quarters through 1918. They called it “Ringlingville.”
Today, this Wisconsin historical site boasts the largest surviving group of circus structures in North America. By the time you leave the library and research center full of photographs, original music compositions, handwritten manuscripts, and thousands of original circus poster art, you’ll know absolutely everything you ever wanted (or didn’t want) to know about circus history.
Also, if you’re feeling adventurous you could take a ride on an elephant—one of the few places in the country where you can experience such a thing. Or relax under the Hippodrom white top tent for one of the many daily shows. They’ll even teach you how to juggle!
Hungry? Grab a bite at the Cookhouse Grill offering a full menu, or for your sweet tooth, have a snow-cone or some cotton candy—in full circus style. Then, if you find yourself too worn out by all the circus fun to continue on your road trip, there are plenty of campgrounds and hotels within a short drive, including Devil’s Lake State Park, which offers plentiful beaches, hiking, biking, and cross-country ski trails.
Trust me, someone who’s driven through Wisconsin more times than I can count, making a pit stop at the Circus World Museum will be the best bathroom break you’ve ever made!