Daytripping in Southwestern Wisconsin
When thinking of summer in Southwestern Wisconsin, what comes to mind? Likely corn, beer and brats. And of course, cheese. There is a reason locals are called cheese heads. On our stay in Wisconsin, we drove through miles of cornfields, ate countless ears of corn dripping in butter, had brats on numerous occasions, enjoyed the local beer and ate way too much cheese while successfully avoiding the “stinky” cheese.
Wisconsin likes to showcase their food, but they also like to show off their outdoors and history. In Southwestern Wisconsin, the options for exploration are numerous. During our stay in southwestern Wisconsin, we took two day trips, the first brought us closer to nature with a tubing trip down the Wisconsin River organized by WI River Outings in Sauk City, and the second trip transported us through circus history with a day at Circus World Museum in Baraboo. Here are some tips to make these day trips the highlight of your summer.
The sun was shining on a July morning as we made our way from Madison 35 miles northwest to Sauk City, a small quaint town on the Wisconsin River. We traveled past corn fields, red barns and roaming cows, all classic Wisconsin images, with a dose of Wisconsin farm smell thrown in, and we arrived at WI River Outings.
We were greeted by Christine who provided us with all our gear, gave us instructions on the rules of the river including use of life jackets and no glass in our cooler, the location of sandbars and the tube take-out spot. Christine transported us upriver about two and one-half miles to our put-in location while providing us with a brief education on the area. With our tubes tied together including an extra tube for our cooler, sunscreen and floppy hat on, we were off.
Our three plus hour float included lunch on the sandbar, jumping fish, perched eagles, herons, an occasional paddle to keep on course, a few swims to cool off, scenic bluffs and lots of peace and quiet. The river was very still on this summer day and the chance to be so close to nature was enjoyed by all. WI River Outings made our adventure easy, fun and memorable.
WI River Outings has two shops along the Wisconsin River, one in Boscobel and a second in Sauk City. Both shops offer kayak and canoe rentals and transportation services for both partial day to week long river trips. Tubing trips are offered out of the Sauk City location. Sandbar camping is a highlight of overnight river trips. You can either bring your own gear or rent all the needed gear at the shop. WI River Outings is truly a one stop shop for all your river needs. Due to years of river experience, the shop can help you plan your ideal Wisconsin River trip whether you are looking for an upclose look at nature, planning a family gathering, want to do some primitive camping, or you want to paddle 90 plus miles on a scenic river. WI River Outings can make it possible.
After a day on the river, we headed to Circus World Museum in Baraboo, another small town on the Wisconsin River, for a history lesson. Baraboo was home to the Ringling Brothers who in 1884 created the Ringling Brothers Circus.
As popularity grew, the circus maintained their headquarters and wintering grounds in Baraboo until 1918 when the circus combined with the Barnum and Bailey Circus, thus creating the famous Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. The Circus World Museum was created in 1954 to showcase and preserve circus history.
Visitors to the museum today will find original buildings from Ringling Brothers headquarters, the largest collection of authentic circus wagons in the country with over 200 plus wagons artfully restored and preserved, a first class live one ring circus performance complete with professional clowns, jugglers, and acrobats, a variety of animals including tigers and elephants, a full day of live entertainment shows, and lots of circus history and paraphernalia including musical instruments, costumes, a clown car and a trip through a sideshow.
I grew up having the opportunity to see the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus many times as a kid.
The circus was the one and only reason we could leave school early. I even had the chance to be in the circus and ride in a circus wagon to the envy of my siblings. Our day at Circus World Museum brought back memories for me and the chance for me to share my circus memories with my daughter. The live entertainment was a reminder that despite the last performance of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus in May of 2017, the circus does and will live on in both the lives of circus performers and in the hearts of us all.
A trip to Circus World Museum is definitely a must for children and adults of all ages as Circus World offers something for everyone. It is open from the end of March until the end of October with limited shows during the spring and the fall. The museum is spread out over 60 acres with golf cart transportation available if needed. Check out their website for daily showtimes.
After daytripping in southwestern Wisconsin, watch the sunset with a Spotted Cow and contemplate your next adventure in this part of the State. Will it be a hike along part of the National Ice Age Trail in Devil’s Lake State Park? Will it be a ferry ride in Merrimac? Or will it be entering the state’s cow chip throwing contest in Sauk City? When in Wisconsin, explore like a Wisconsinite.