• Jason Lopez

Baraboo: Fan-favorite Small Town in Wisconsin

  • Charming zoo / park / favorite spot

  • Premier swimming and hiking at Devil’s Lake

  • The Circus!

  • Adorable downtown

  • Taking your car on a ferry (for free!) to get there!

These are just my personal favorite attractions Baraboo, Wisconsin has to offer. Here are a few additional reasons it's a great destination:

  • 13 miles from Wisconsin Dells (waterpark capital of the world)

  • 48 miles from our Capital city, Madison

  • Ranked #3 in 2020's Livability Index

  • Top attractions include farmer’s market, water sports, the campus, and the capital

  • A plethora of outdoor activities, combined with a small, walkable downtown has plenty to fill a weekend getaway (or longer) if you can venture beyond city limits

  • See the full list of to-do's here on Tripadvisor

My dad grew up in Baraboo and that means I’ve been given historical, anecdotal and personal tours every time we travel through my favorite small town. I hear about my aunt's best friend's house, or where my dad got his first ticket while driving home from Camp Randall with his dad after a game; the list goes on. We give my dad a good tease every time, but really I love them.

Here’s a list of my favorite spots in Baraboo that are must do:

Oschner Park Zoo

Why it’s awesome:

Totally Free!

Adorable animals (including farm animals that you can feed)

Playground located right behind it, just down the hill; a perfect post-zoo picnic spot

There’s pigs and goats, lions and bears, llamas and wolves and our personal favorite, the prairie dogs. There’s also a new(er) otter exhibit and a variety of owls, monkeys and other standard farm animals.

Two years ago, when Penny and Cal were four and three, an animal trainer took them inside the keeper’s area and let them pet a skunk, which was obviously awesome for them (and me).

Definitely worth the trip, take a look!

Devil’s Lake State Park

Devil’s Lake State Park is one of Wisconsin’s most popular tourist spots. Campers literally reserve their campsites in January, when the calendar opens up; take your time and you won’t get a site.

It's one of the most popular day spots, the beach and water filling up with campers and day visitors alike. You can climb the North or South bluffs, each offering stunning views of the lake below.

Devil’s Lake attracts about three million visitors per year, and has two of the coolest spots I’ve ever visited, Pewit’s Nest and Parfrey’s Glen. Due to multiple deaths while jumping off the bluffs and into the cool pools of water below, they’re intermittently closed to visitors.

Parfrey's Glen and Pewit's Nest-

The Circus World Museum

I had no idea how culturally significant the Circus was at the turn of the century. The historical information provided here includes a beautiful collection of artifacts, costumes and carriages. The kids rode an elephant, and I was assured the animals in the Circus Show were treated well so fingers crossed on that one.

The Big Top Show was an hour of pure entertainment; everyone in our crew enjoyed the show but none more than my seventeen-year-old, Faith. Her grin was ear to ear for each performance, our favorites being the unicyclist, the mother-son juggling duo that was out of this world and of course, Penny and Cal’s favorite, the clown (who was actually funny and not *exclusively* creepy).

We were so lucky as to be in attendance with literal circus performers, who assured us that the juggling act we witnessed would take years to perfect.

We didn’t give ourselves enough time at the Circus; there’s plenty to view and read about so give yourself more than the three hours we allotted ourselves. Check it out here.


‘The Square’, Baraboo's downtown center, has the usual and appreciated gift shops, pharmacy, café, a sports bar, and a library right in the middle. Bonus, my favorite consignment store, Recycled Sally’s, where I found my favorite pair of jeans. My husband would also like me to point out that the one and only Clown Hall of Fame is downtown on "The Square" as well. Lopez and Paz had what Lopez described as a "riveting walk through the annals of clown history".

For dinner, we hit our downtown go-to spot, Baraboo Burger Company. Standard sports bar, with games on projectors throughout, but this time we did the back patio. Same good food as usual and nice little spot in the back, plus delicious IPA, mmm. Great last stop before going our separate ways.

Merrimac Ferry

If you’re coming from the East, instead of taking Hwy 90, you can cut across to Hwy 113 and add ‘crossed a river on a ferryboat’ to the list of cool things you just did in Wisconsin.

You just pull your car up onto the ferry and voila, you're crossing the Wisconsin River in about seven minutes time!

You can get out of your car, walk around and check out the view from the river as you sail across. The ferry carried over 200,000 vehicles across the river during the 2020 season but don't worry, there are ice cream shops at both docking areas while you wait.

Also, it’s free. It's amazing! Read the history here.

Visiting Baraboo will always be a favorite pastime; the shops and stops in town, plus the natural beauty surrounding it, draw me and countless others back year after year.

There's other attractions I've yet to visit, like the Driftless Glen Distillery or at least since I was a kid, the International Crane Foundation. There's also gambling at Ho-Chunk and touring the Al Ringling Mansion, the outlet mall and several wineries.

No matter the season, Baraboo has something to offer visitors. For me, that'll probably be October 9th to check out this awesome craft fair and hike a bluff at Devil's Lake!