After escaping the big city of Chicago, we found ourselves in Baraboo, Wisconsin. There were more people riding with us on the “el” than I think live in Baraboo. Sandy found a little place online not far from Devils Lake State Park, where we planned to spend the next day hiking on the Ice Age Trail. After a quick drive through town, past Victorian storefronts and a beautiful town square, we found ourselves at the Willowood Inn. It was made up of several quaint little buildings in a park-like seting among the willows. With planted flowers and colorful Adirondack chairs to match, it looked like a wonderful place to spend the night.We checked out the rooms before checking in. They happily gave us the keys for two rooms, telling us to pick the one we liked. The rooms we looked at were outdoors-themed, one about fishing and and the other a woodsy cabin. We chose the cabin, dreaming one day to build our own.
When I moved the car to our “cabin” I noticed that the room numbers were on birchbark at each of the parking spaces. The office had a little sitting room and library where you could read about the area. With places like Devils Lake State Park, Circus World, the Mid-Continent Railway Museum, the International Crane Foundation, and the Aldo Leopold Foundation nearby, there’s plenty to keep you busy during your visit.Just down the road we ate dinner in a barn basement. The sign read “The Barn” and it truly was the basement of a old red barn, now housing a tavern and restaurant. The animals never had it so good! We started off with cheese curds so I could try them. Our meals were good and the local waitress was at her first day on the job. Like most of the other Midwesterners we met on this trip, she took care of us just fine.
After a comfortable nights sleep, we rolled back into Baraboo. Returning to a restored antique diner, the Broadway Diner, for breakfast, I couldn’t resist the house special of cheddar, sausage, and gravy biscuits. Picture two large biscuits with sausage and a slab of Wisconsin cheddar, all covered with gravy. The dinner was clean and bright. There was even a separate side room for small gatherings, lined with circus photographs from years ago. Listening to employees and customers using each others’ first names, we knew that we were at a place where the locals eat.
We only had time to visit a few places around Baraboo on this trip. Reading up recently, I was sorry we’d missed Circus World. That won’t happen next time! In 1884 five brothers founded the Ringling Bros. Circus in Baraboo. The circus wintered here for 34 years, until the winter of 1918. The area, nicknamed “Ringlingville,” is a National Historic Site and has the largest group of historic circus structures in the United States. Over two-thirds of all known circus wagons are housed here. Between this and several other places we’d still like to see, we know we’ll be back!