Family Fun at Baraboo’s Circus World Museum

Family Fun at Baraboo’s Circus World Museum pin

Last summer when we visited the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells, we decided to stop by the Baraboo Circus World Museum. This small venue played a significant role in the history of circus life in the US between 1884 and 1918.  The site, which hosts circus performances daily in the summer, showcases several of the original buildings used by the Ringling Brothers for their winter housing as well as an enormous amount of artifacts and memorabilia. Open year-round; it is under the auspices of the Historical Society of Wisconsin who promotes the history of North America, so we planned for an educational experience.

Family Fun at Baraboo’s Circus World Museum sign


In 1954, John M. Kelley, a former attorney for the circus, decided to start a museum of the Ringling Brothers Circus and Circus history in general. After extensive fundraising and acquiring the circus’ former winter housing the museum finally opened in 1959. Nowadays the museum features several buildings filled with displays as well as an area that visitors can see circus acts and explore reconstructed circus wagons. Even though the museum doesn’t look like much from the outside, it is quite vast and has a rather large outdoor area boasting various circus performances and animal encounters.

Family Fun at Baraboo’s Circus World Museum wagon

What to See

Many travelers come to see the shows in the Hippodrome big top, which showcases events like interactive kid’s shows, animal encounters, and a magic show. However, there are many different building and exhibits to see at this location.

Family Fun at Baraboo’s Circus World Museum elephant

“Caught in the Act”

The ‘Caught in the act’ indoor display displays the extensive Ringling Brothers Circus history. The brothers started out from this exact location in 1884. The first two rooms are decked with turn-of-the-century colorful posters, programs, old newspaper clippings and even old photographs detailing the museum as it looked when it first opened.

Family Fun at Baraboo’s Circus World Museum mini


This section displays the remaining buildings of the Ringling Brother’s Circus. Today, the site exists as a National Historic Landmark. These buildings include the Animal House, Wardrobe Department, and Ring Barn. One can also take a tour of Ringlingville to get more information about how the Ringling Brothers prepared for their shows.

Family Fun at Baraboo’s Circus World Museum back

Irvin Feld Exhibition Hall

This Hall, the largest building in the museum, features nine forced perspective dioramas detailing the history of the Ringling Brothers Circus. These Jean Leroy dioramas from the 1960s advertised the circus in towns. The dioramas were discovered two years ago in a New Jersey attic. Museum volunteers then meticulously refurbished them to their original glory. There are also other sections that detail general aspects of circus life and history.

Family Fun at Baraboo’s Circus World Museum goat

W.W. Deppe Wagon Pavilion and C.P. Fox Wagon Restoration Center

This section features an important aspect of circus life. Here, visitors can see over fifty antique circus wagons, recovered from all over the US and restored by the museum. Many of these wagons were retired and turned into chicken coops and coal bins. One can also view wagon restorations in progress at the nearby C.P. Fox Wagon Restoration Center.

Family Fun at Baraboo’s Circus World Museum circus

Robert L. Parkinson Library and Research Center

This research facility houses various collections related to the circus fandom. These include books, photographs, and periodicals. One can visit this fan’s paradise at no charge.

 Family Fun at Baraboo’s Circus World Museum wheel

Other Attractions

The next two buildings are filled with circus costumes, large props like Cinderella’s carriage, musical instruments and even old circus wagons. One can spot odd trinkets like old-fashioned souvenirs and fascinating mementos like an elephant tusk and a chair that a lion trainer used to protect himself. There is even a flea circus complete with flea high-wire act and tiny wagons.

For those itching to get that circus ‘selfie’, there are several displays to pose with. These displays include a high trapeze wire and a side booth where visitors are turned to gorillas.

Family Fun at Baraboo’s Circus World Museum giraffe

The outdoor area looks like a mini carnival and is primarily geared towards the youngest visitors though older children might like it too. It includes a play area with swings, inflatable bounce house, and petting. There is also a carousel with miniature ponies and elephant rides. Kids can even pretend they are riding a unicycle or walking a tightrope in some areas.

As in all family based attractions, the museum has a food venue with the usual fair grub of funnel cakes, cotton candy, ice cream and hot dogs. There is also the obligatory souvenir shop for those who wish to collect mementos of their travels.

Family Fun at Baraboo’s Circus World Museum post


The entrance fee is a bit hefty at twenty dollars per person but does include circus shows throughout the day from ten am to five pm.

The venue does feature some rides that cost extra, like the pony and elephant rides. Visitors can stop by the big elephant to get tickets to these attractions.

Family Fun at Baraboo’s Circus World Museum gold

Autism Travel Tips:

  • We recommend this museum to those highly interested in circus memorabilia or turn of the century posters.
  • Everyone in the family should wear closed shoes as the terrain is uneven.

Entertaining Kids at the Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells


Even in a place like Wisconsin that has indoor water parks in abundance, the Kalahari Resort stands out.
The property features an indoor water park 125k square foot in size, an outdoor smaller sister property, and a small indoor theme park.
All three offer rides and attractions are catering to visitors of all ages.

Entertaining the Kids at the Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells inside

The Indoor Theme Park

The indoor water park has six thrill rides and five family ones.

The thrill rides are

  • Master Blaster is a 570 foot long, fast, two person, uphill water coaster.Expect to be splashed with water and it has a sharp drop at the end that may scare the young ones.
  • Tanzanian Twister is a one or two-person a pipe style spiral 40 mph ride that isn’t recommended for claustrophobic guests or those with noise sensitivities (the tube creates an echo effect and amplifies screams) or motion sensitivities.
  • Zigzag Zebra is a fast-paced tunnel ride, that like the Tanzanian Twister isn’t suitable for those who are noise sensitive.
  • Elephant trunk at the 270-foot tube isn’t as bad as the Master Blaster, so if your kid wants to try one, this is the one to try.
  • Rippling Rhino at nearly 400 ft long is a milder version of its faster counterparts.
  • The Flow Rider is an attraction that simulates surfing on top of a five-foot wave and is a balancing ride that has gained popularity in the last few years. It has been installed in multiple parks, even on cruise ships. Be advised that  you are only permitted to body surf. at this park.

The Family rides are:

  • Victoria Falls – a 504-foot long raft ride that resembles a theme park ride only with no real scenery,
  • Zambezi River – the park’s lazy river that is great for everyone especially since parents can ride with their kids.
  • Safari Kids Splash area is the two-story wooden house submerged in 12 inches of water for the young kids, with crawl spaces, tunnels, and slides,
  • Leopard’s Lair created for the school aged kids with 3000 feet of play area includes slides and nets,
  • Crocodile Cove is geared towards the older crowd with activities like a water walk and basketball.

Entertaining the Kids at the Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells outside

The Outdoor Waterpark

The outdoor water park at 77,000 square feet, mirrors the indoor park, offering thrill and family rides but on a smaller scale.

The four thrill rides are:

  • Extreme Rush is a two lane fast paced racing-style slide, which can accommodate siblings or kids with parents.
  • Swahili Swirl is a slide that shoots riders from a vortex into the water, and not recommended for children with motion sickness or any fear of heights.
  • Anaconda slide has sharp turns and deep plunges, so it is only recommended for those that have tried some of the milder rides.
  • Wild Wildebeest is a smooth ride in which guests floating rafts pass through caverns and waterfalls.
  • Splashdown Safari is a 6,000-square-foot clubhouse with geysers, spinning trays, hose jets, water cannons, curtains and wheels that can be hand-operated by kids.
  • Luapula Lazy River is a family favorite, boasting loops around the outdoor water park, pools and waterslide tower.

Autism Travel Tips

  • Be advised that the park offers no front of the line pass or accommodations for autism!
  • Talk to your kid ahead of time about water safety, the fact they may have to wear a life jacket (if they are under a certain height) and reiterate the fact he/she should never run on park grounds.
  • Have your kid start with the milder rides and work their way (at their pace) to the thrill rides.park’s indoor and outdoor thrill rides are not recommended for people with claustrophobia, anxiety or those suffering from any motion sensitivity, since on most rides, especially those comprising enclosed tubes, guests can’t see anything and can experience sudden almost violent drops.
  • Bring water shoes to prevent your child from slipping
  • Schedule your visit on a weekday- we visited in the middle of summer and encountered incredibly short lines
  • Both parks have a shortage of signage and staff so expect to be confused as to which entrance leads to which slide.
  • You can get free towels at the entrance, and there are lounge and upright chairs throughout the park. If you wish to enhance your experience, you can rent a private cabana for the day with LCD televisions and even your private hot tub.

Entertaining the Kids at the Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells theme park

The indoor Theme Park

The indoor “theme park” is an 110,000 square foot entertainment center offers a day all inclusive pass or pay as you go option.Be aware that not all attractions in the park are free, so for the Bowling, Nascar Simulator, and Golf simulator, as well as all the arcade games you need to pay extra.

For the younger kids

  • an African themed Merry-Go-Round,
  • a 1,000 square foot jungle gym,
  • and a kiddie swing.

For older kids

  • the ‘Big Wheel’ Ferris Wheel,
  •  the 360 coaster
  • the Sky Trail® Ropes Course —20 feet above the ground,
  • rock climbing wall
  • drive a go cart
  •  Laser tag combat.
  •  Free mini course as well as a golf simulator you can pay extra for.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Visit the theme park in the early afternoon or the morning when everyone is busy at the water parks so you don’t have to wait in any lines.
  • Ask the staff at check in whether they have any discount deals for the park.
  • Ask to see the park before you decide whether you will pay for the ride or get an all inclusive day ticket.



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