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15 Best Things to do in Baraboo, Wisconsin

15 Best Things to do in Baraboo, Wisconsin

Baraboo, Wisconsin, is the largest city in Sauk County and is the principal city of the Micropolitan Statistical Area. But why should you visit here? What is there to do in the Wisconsin Dells region? Good news! There are plenty of things to do in this Northeastern city.

You can head outside to see the areas around the Great Lakes, stay inside and visit the local museums, or ask the locals about what is best to do on a lazy Sunday. 

If you are headed to Wisconsin for your upcoming road trip, weekend getaway, romantic weekend, or other tours of Wisconsin, check out some of these top things to do in Baraboo.

We promise you won’t be disappointed with the plethora of historic sites, outdoor excursions, and cultural attractions!  

Methodology:

We read various user reviews, travel blogs, and travel websites to see the best things to do in Baraboo, Wisconsin. We gathered an idea to see what people liked best about visiting this area by reading user reviews.

If there were previous recommendations about certain things to do, and users do not like the experience, we said why it fell short.  Furthermore, travel sites and travel blogs provide insight into what solo travelers, families, and couples would like to do in the town during their upcoming vacation.

By combining our first-hand knowledge and reading first-hand reviews, we’ve put together a list of the best things to do in Baraboo, Wisconsin

Fun & Best Things to do in Baraboo, Wisconsin

1. Best Museum for Families: The Circus World Museum 

The Circus World Museum is one of the top kid-friendly Baraboo museums. A large circus museum, this entertainment center features summer performances, interesting acts, and eye-opening cultural experiences. Located right on Water Street in the heart of Baraboo, this museum is a staple in the community. 

Founded by the famous Ringling brothers and opened to the public back in 1959, the Circus World Museum has expanded since its inception. It gained 60+ acres throughout the years, cementing itself as the birthplace of the largest surviving circus company, the Ringling Brothers Circus

Today, visitors can find historical artifacts, learn about circus history, check out old posters, handbills, photographs, ads, and learn how this family venture started with just six circus wagons into the world’s most famous circus. 

See Related: Best Things to Do in Green Bay

2. Best Zoo for Sunny Days: International Crane Foundation 

The International Crane Foundation is a unique zoo where you can gaze at every crane species in the world – all 15 of them!

For the summer days in Wisconsin where you want to bring your family outside to enjoy the sunny weather, walking around the International Crane Foundation on Shady Lane Road is magical for children and adults alike.

If you are an animal lover and conservationist, you will love the ability to see all 15 species of cranes being held in this museum.

Out of the 15 species, 11 are facing extinction. Get a glimpse of these majestic creatures before it is too late!

You and your family can wander around the live crane exhibits, visit the breeding facilities, and hike around the peaceful outdoor space, a 250-acre restored prairie. With a new renovation finally completed in late 2021, this crane center is better than ever!

3. Best Lake for Summer: Devil’s Lake

Lake and Mountain View

Devil’s Lake is a historical phenomenon and a current spot for summer days on the water. Devil’s Lake in the Devil’s Lake State Park is a remnant of the last ice age – for history buffs and nature lovers alike, this place is the ideal day out of the city. 

Devil’s Lake has no visible inlet or outlet, adding to the mystery and the importance of this lake in the state. Positioned between two quartz mountains and hundreds of hiking trails, Devil’s Lake is the ideal spot to start or end your hike through the State Park.

We recommend checking out the Balanced Rock Trail for panoramic views, wooded areas to provide shade, and interesting sea caves. 

Don’t feel like hiking through the state park? No worries — check out the lake and enjoy the serenity with a picnic lunch at one of the many pavilions and picnic tables. 

4. Best Museum for Nature Lovers: The Flyways Waterfowl Museum

If your children enjoy being outside, seeing animals, and being one with nature, they will love the Flyways Waterfowl Museum. Children can put down their iPads and check out this delightful duck sanctuary with an array of ducks, including taxidermied species, decoys, and calls.

Back in the 20th Century, President Franklin Delanor Roosevelt created an initiative that focused on protecting migratory birds and wetlands.

Since 1934, the US Fish & Wildlife Service has upheld the Duck Stamp Act, keeping migratory birds protected over the past century. Baraboo saw the importance of protecting bird species and decided to do its part by opening the Flyways Waterfowl Museum in 2013 to continue protecting local ducks. 

Opened and managed by a local family, the Swensons, this family has always been passionate about waterfowl and protecting local species. The displays, exhibits, and attractions within the museum show their dedication to protecting ducks in the Baraboo area. 

For those who want to head to the museum, check out the exhibits between mid-May through the end of October. And don’t worry – admission is just $7 for adults, and kids under six years old can get in for free.

See Related: Best Things to do in Tomah, Wisconsin

5. Best Museum for Unique Interests: The International Clown Hall of Fame

Okay, we know that some people have a fear of clowns. But for those who are interested in the origins of circuses and the prevalence of clowns, this museum really has it all!

This circus town museum dedicates its entire space to recognizing the clowns who have cemented their place in history — and there are many more than you may think.

The International Clown Hall of Fame, located right on 4th Avenue in Baraboo, is just around the corner from the Circus World Museum.

If you want to do both in one day, it is more than possible as well as on theme! Although the exterior of the building is pretty unassuming and might make you turn away, don’t be dissuaded – continue inside and check out the one-room museum that is perfect for quirky individuals who want to gather some insight into clown culture. 

Featuring displays of different types of clowns, clown costumes, clown shoes, portraits, paintings, and paraphernalia, this museum is an homage to everything clown-related. If you have a car, you can park in front of the museum for free and spend a few hours checking out the history of clowns.

6. Best Garden for Art Lovers: Dr. Evermore’s Forevertron

Located just outside of Baraboo in North Freedom, Wisconsin, this unique sculpture is a massive scrap metal sculpture in an outdoor sculpture garden in the middle of the state.

Located on U.S. 12, just a short drive from downtown Baraboo, this industrial scrap and sculpture park is an interesting half-day trip. 

Dr. Evermore was a Victorian inventor from England who brought his creativity overseas. He opened the Foreverton, a sculpture park in rural Wisconsin that utilized scrap metal from an army ammunition plant.

For those who want to check out this interesting art installation and outsider architecture, head to this garden between Thursday and Monday. 

See Related: Why Are Flights So Expensive?

7. Best Architectural Site for History Buffs: The Man Mound

The Man Mound is the remains of a giant earthen figure. Curious? We don’t blame you! This earthen mound is made of unknown origins and cuts directly across a road in rural Wisconsin. For history buffs who are curious about how this came to be, head to the Mound Builder Civilization Spot

These piles of earth had significance once upon a time. There are plenty of earthen piles known as the Mound Builder civilization in America’s heartland – but today, we have no idea their purpose or where they came from. 

The mystery and allure surrounding the effigy mounds are an interesting sight for tourists and locals to see. Hundreds of these ancient mounds are dotted around the Upper Midwest and specific parts of the South.

Although some of these mounds eventually disappeared over time or were purposely destroyed, some still remain today – and some are in Baraboo, Wisconsin! 

One of the most famous mounds is the Man Mound, an effigy mound located just four miles northeast of the town center.

This is one of the best examples of the effigy mounds that once scattered the rural lands of Wisconsin. To visit the mound, follow state road 33 and park for free outside of Man Mound Road. 

8. Best Nature Trip for Hikers: Parfrey’s Glen

Rocks and Flawing Water

Although you may have already visited Devils’ Lake, maybe you can’t get enough of the beautiful outdoors in Wisconsin – and we don’t blame you!

Another outdoor adventure for nature lovers is Parfrey’s Glen, a canyon and geologic formation that is reminiscent of something out of a sci-fi movie. 

For those who love adventure and getting a bit dirty, I recommend throwing on some hiking boots and bringing the family to this valley, waterfall, and rock-climbing Mecca.

All you have to do is watch your footing and walk along a creek with huge boulders, making you feel like you are mountain climbing while in Wisconsin. 

Visitors state how they love the cool cliffs on a hot summer day, the easiness of the hike along the well-marked path, and the large boulders that take your breath away.

This hike is family and kid-friendly, as long as you bring the proper equipment – hiking boots, trekking poles, water, and snacks. 

This hike is located within the previously-mentioned Devil’s Lake State Park so you can visit the lake and the glen on the same day!

Parfrey’s Glen is Wisconsin’s first State Natural Area, with the exposed geological rock, sandstone conglomerate, and sandstone embedded with boulders of quartzite. If you are in the Baraboo area, you absolutely must see it.

9. Best Relaxing Day in Nature for Boating Lovers: Mirror Lake State Park

Lake and the Forest

Mirror Lake State Park is the perfect spot to hop on a boat and forget all of your worries.

You can take one of the many trails from the parking lot of campgrounds around the lake and wander around the cool forest. We recommend walking on the Ishnala Loop to get a glimpse of the entire park and the lake at once. 

If you love it, you can even camp here overnight!

Check out the Echo Rock Amphitheater, hummingbirds, kayaking, and bird species. For a great bite to eat, head to the Ishnala Supper Club to keep your tummy from rumbling until breakfast the next morning. 

Spanning over 2,000 acres and just three miles outside of Wisconsin Dells, this park is a great alternative to the Devil’s Lake State Park.

Head here if you enjoy walking around sandstone bluffs, swimming in the lake, canoeing, kayaking, boating, and birdwatching.

There are even plenty of local hotels and resorts to choose from if you don’t love the idea of staying in a tent – check out Baker’s Sunset Bay Resort, Delton Oaks Resort, and Meadowbrook Resort for a luxurious stay! 

10. Best Drinking Activity for Adults: Driftless Glen Distillery

Located right in the heart of Baraboo along the river, the Driftless Glen Distillery is the perfect adult-only activity. If you enjoy whiskey, other spirits, or strong drinks, this is the place for you.

Maybe you’ve spent a few days outdoors, and you want to let loose — or maybe you just want to see if Wisconsin knows what they are talking about when it comes to alcohol. 

Whatever the reason, Driftless Glen has got you covered.

Tourists who have been here before love the old-fashioned cocktails, convenient location, beautiful outdoor seating, tasty food, and friendly staff. The distillery has over 17 different spirits and sells its products in 21 states across the nation! 

If you want to learn more about the distillery, you can book a tour of Driftless Glen for your next trip to Baraboo.

You will start the tour with balsamic samplings, olive oil tastings, and other delicacies from the distillery. And you’ll end the tour by sampling FIVE of the strong spirits produced at the Driftless Glen! 

For those who want to spend a few hours here, make a reservation at the mouth-watering restaurant.

We recommend trying the tasty bourbon BBQ sandwich, pot roast entree, jambalaya with sauteed jumbo shrimp and Andouille sausage, Margherita pizza, Korean street tacos, or elk sliders. 

11. Best Shopping for a Rainy Day: Outlets at the Dells 

For shopping lovers who want to get the best deals on brand-name clothes without spending a fortune, the Outlets at The Dells are factory outlets with dozens of designer stores at a fraction of the price.

You can find great savings when you visit the Outlets, getting gifts for your family or loved ones at stores like Nike, Old Navy, Abercrombie & Fitch, GAP, Under Armour, and much more!

Or, if you just want to bring home some souvenirs for yourself, this outlet shopping center has you covered.

Find discounted clothing items from stores like Hollister and Polo Ralph Lauren so you can feel good about spending money on high-quality items at a small percentage of the typical price. 

Do you love shopping? Join the TangerClub to get even better deals while shopping at Tanger Outlet Malls! Located right near Mirror Lake State Park in Baraboo, this shopping outlet center will surely work up an appetite.

But not to worry — there are plenty of restaurants nearby to help curb your hunger. We recommend checking out Buffalo Phil’s Pizza, Macs Macaroni and Cheese, Knuckleheads Bar, McAlister’s Deli, or Cracker Barrel for lunch or dinner!

Visitors love the variety of store options, reasonable prices, and friendly staff at the stores. For the rare rainy day in Wisconsin, visiting these outlet stores may be the perfect getaway. 

12. Best Specialty Museum for Families: AL. Ringling Mansion

Although there is no shortage of museums and attractions in Baraboo, the AL. Ringling Mansion is the perfect choice for those who love specialty museums and unique finds – and essential for circus fans who’re still hungry for more!

Located right in the heart of Baraboo, this museum is perfect for spending 1 or 2 hours out of the hot weather during your summer vacation. 

Tourists who have been to this museum before love the old-school home (that is slowly changing into a B&B), interesting stories, historical architecture, and Ringling family memorabilia.

Once the bed and breakfast transformation is complete, you can even spend a night here in this historic home! 

Guided walking tours are available all year round, meeting at the “Pie Car” and the bar in the house.

They are offered every hour on the hour from 11 am to 4 pm, so it doesn’t matter if you get a late start to the day.

After you are done walking around the museum, you can head to one of the local restaurants for a quick lunch. We recommend stopping at the Little Village Cafe, Broadway Diner, or Baraboo Burger Bar

13. Best Outdoor Zoo For Families: Ochsner Park Zoo

Ochsner Park Zoo Sign and Entrance
Ochsner Park Zoo by Corey Coyle is licensed under CC BY 3.0

During the summer months, you want to get outside and enjoy the sunshine and see what Baraboo has to offer, right?

Ochsner Park Zoo is perfect for kids who are tired of being cooped up inside all day! Check out this 26-acre park that is located right next to the Baraboo Riverwalk.

Open every day, all year long, this Ochsner Park Zoo has something for everyone. With a variety of wildlife species that are being rehabilitated to be released or protected, you can feel good about visiting this zoo that has been in operation since 1926.

You can enjoy a morning stroll along the Baraboo River and then wander into the zoo featuring over 25 different animal species! If you or your kids are animal lovers, you will enjoy the variety they have here at this zoo.

With plenty of snowy owls, miniature donkeys, sandhill cranes, bald eagles, spurred tortoises, capuchin monkeys, Canada lynxes, llamas, prairie dogs, whitetail deer, black bears, river otters, gray wolves, and much more; there’s something for everyone to love! 

Not to mention, admission is free, so there really is nothing to lose! Located on Park Street in Baraboo, this zoo is easily within walking distance from the center of Baraboo.

Although the walk is a bit farther, you can head to one of the nearby restaurants afterward to refuel for the rest of your day.

We recommend checking out Las Milpas Mexican restaurant, Jen’s Alpine Cafe, or Cheeze Factory Pizza

The zoo hours are between 9 am and 7 pm in the summer, 9 am and 5 pm in the spring and fall, and 9 am to 4 pm in the winter. 

14. Best Vineyard for Wine Lovers: Baraboo Bluff Winery

Grapes at Baraboo Bluff Winery

This is the perfect excursion for couples who want to go to Baraboo for a romantic weekend getaway or those who want to explore what Baraboo has to offer.

First established in 2015, the Baraboo Bluff Winery produces all of their wines on-site, meaning the vineyards you are looking at as you’re sipping the tasty red cabernet are where the wine is made.

If you do not have any kids with you, heading to the Baraboo Bluff Winery is easily one of the top things to do in central Wisconsin! 

Located just 10 minutes from downtown Wisconsin Dells and 40 minutes from Madison, the Baraboo Bluff Winery offers panoramic views, tasty pours, and three large bars – making it feel like you have a mansion all to yourself while you’re sipping on some exquisite red and white wines!

Gazing out on the rolling vineyards and outdoor seating area, you can sit inside to cool off during the hot summer days or sit outside and build a suntan.

Visitors’ choice is paramount here. You can choose a dry flight of 5 wines, a sweet flight of 5 wines, or anything else that suits your fancy. 

We recommend getting a bottle of the 2019 Sangiovese to take home with you – it won the 20th Annual Finger Lakes International Wine Competition and earned a double Gold Medal! 

Located on Tarrytown Road in Baraboo, you will probably need a car or a taxi to get here. We recommend the latter since there is no way you will be able to resist the temptation of multiple glasses of wine when you’re at this beautiful vineyard! 

Tourists who have been here in the past love the sommeliers and the workers, as they are very knowledgeable and make the entire experience fun and informative.

Visitors love the outdoor picnic tables with extensive views of the beautiful surroundings, and the low price for tastings. 

See Related: Fun & Best Things to do in Minocqua, WI

15. Best Hiking Trail for Young Children: Pewit’s Nest Gorge

Cave with Natural Light

We get it – Wisconsin has more nature than you thought. This is why you should head to Pewit’s Nest Gorge with your young children!

The views of the gorge, the bright green trees, the flowing water, and the easy hiking trail make this a much-needed city break from the hustle and bustle of urban life.

Tourists who have been here in the past love how the trails are suitable for children, that you can swim in the water during hot days, and the rare plants and flowers that are abundant in the area.

Of course, when you visit, make sure to stay on the path and avoid damaging any of the nature – tourists in the past have been turned away by the people disrespecting the Wisconsin State Natural Area.

However, for those families who are respectful and enjoy being outside in nature, this is the perfect getaway for hot summer days.

Located just 2 miles southwest of Baraboo on the Country W Road, Pewit’s natural gorge is similar to the previously mentioned Parfrey’s Glen – but typically with fewer people! 

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