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.

Family Stay at the Kalahari Resort ,Wisconsin Dells

After watching the Travel Channel’s “America’s best ten water parks”, we chose to visit the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells; a small town an hour out of Madison Wisconsin or a four-hour drive from Minneapolis. From the descriptions of the show, this resort had the most thrill rides and slides which my son with autism loves.


Family stay at the Kalahari Resort ,Wisconsin Dells lobby
The resort is family friendly,  catering to guests of all ages and offers a few lodging options and several restaurants on the property. We chose the cheaper package deal in their ‘Desert’ room with indoor and outdoor water park tickets. They also have ‘Hut’ and ‘Nomad’ rooms as well as suites with multiple configurations.

I called the hotel before our arrival and asked for a feather free room due to allergies, as well as a quiet one for my son with autism. We were put in the main building at the end of the corridor on the fourth floor where it was pretty quiet, and we found out that the property doesn’t offer any feather bedding, so that was not an issue.

The Resort

The main lobby area is decorated with metal statues of safari animals and the reception staff members who check you in and supply the room key, and the park entrance bracelet are very professional and efficient. The bracelet made of thin plastic was reasonably comfortable to wear for several hours but proved a bit much for our son to have continuously on his wrist, so we had to remove it every night.

Our Room

Our room boasting two queen beds and a full-size sleeper sofa was decorated in dark browns and had a definite 1980’s vibe to it. Sporting a microwave, coffee maker, cooler and 40 inch TV, it also featured a dining table which served as a makeshift desk.

The hotel’s free WiFi is somewhat reliable but powering the electronic devices in the room might be a challenge if the entire family wishes to charge their devices at the same time since there weren’t enough outlets.

The closet located right at the entrance is a bit of a small space for the luggage of a family of four, but it is somewhat alleviated by the three drawers in the TV chest in the center of the room where clothing items could be stored.

The Kalahari Resort doesn’t offer free bottled water in the rooms, so guests have an option of purchasing bottles at $3-$5 dollars per bottle or asking to re-fill room glasses with tap water from the restaurant bars.

What we liked in the room was the fact that they had special locks that allowed the windows to open only partially, thus blocking kids from pushing against the screens and injuring themselves.

Family stay at the Kalahari Resort ,Wisconsin Dells room


The bathroom layout was a bit unusual with the single sink in the room located outside the actual washroom.The actual restroom, decorated in light safari hues, had the commode and the curtained tub.
The resort supplies eco-friendly toiletries like shampoo, conditioner, and soaps but no shower caps or other additional bath accouterments like robes and slippers.Also,the resort does not provide any handheld showerhead or safety mat, so if you feel your child needs them, you should consider bringing your own.

There is no executive lounge, but there is an extensive breakfast buffet adjacent to the indoor park and an à la carte breakfast menu with scrumptious customized three-egg omelets we enjoyed on the last day of our stay.

The Wisconsin Dell property does have a relatively modest gym, which is wonderfully empty to work out in, as well as a spa for parents to spend a few hours relaxing in away from the kids.


Family stay at the Kalahari Resort ,Wisconsin Dells eateries


Autism Travel Tips

  1. The air-conditioning in the room didn’t work well when we first checked in, and it shorted a few hours into our stay. It took maintenance quite a couple of tries to get it fixed and once they did it was way too loud to keep on an entire night so sleeping through the evening was difficult for our son with autism since it was unpleasantly hot in the room.
  2. Make sure you bring an anti-slip mat for the bathroom, as there is none supplied as well as a nightlight as the room can get quite dark at night without it.
  3. If your child is noise sensitive, ask for a room away from the both water parks.


Taking your kids with Autism to the Cracker Barrel Restaurant

As a family living in California, we officially refer to ourselves as ‘Cracker Barrel’ -Deprived since the chain doesn’t have any restaurants in our home state.
To fuel our obsession with the family-friendly chain, we make a point of visiting every Cracker Barrel restaurant we pass, even if it means in some cases driving out of our way.

Last month we were delighted to discover a branch right next to the hotel we were staying at the time, the Kalahari Resort in the Wisconsin Dells and, needless to say, our kids insisted on having lunch there.
If you have never been to the Cracker Barrel and want to know what the buzz is about; here are our six reasons why we love the chain and keep returning for more.

Six Reasons Why We Love the Cracker Barrel Restaurant outside

The Price

You simply can’t beat the price for a sit-down lunch or dinner!
For under $30 a family of four can enjoy a hefty lunch or dinner with large portions, two vegetable sides orders, unlimited soda drinks and corn muffins.And if a guest isn’t too hungry, he or she can order off the kid’s menu.

The Taste and service

We just can’t get enough of their fried country cooking!
True, it isn’t very dietetic, and I probably wouldn’t recommend eating it on a day to day basis, but still; their fried chicken and apples are pretty much to die for in our book.
For a venue with such turnaround, it is pretty surprising that their staff is still always so patient and friendly.We’ve been to many locations and have yet to encounter rude, or slow service.

The Rocking Chairs

Our son saw the rockers and was immediately hooked!
In fact, the first time we ever dined at a Cracker Barrel back in Houston, Texas, he had to be bribed into even entering the restaurant since all he wanted was to sit outside and rock.
Nowadays, he looks forward to eating his fried apples but still insists on a twenty-minute stint on one of the display rockers in the front of the store either before or after a meal.

Six Reasons Why We Love the Cracker Barrel Restaurant food

The Store

The store next to the restaurant is a ‘tchotchke’ exploration cove you can spend time (and money) in.Our son with autism never gets tired of finding new items to buy and candy to sample.
The store carries most of the old-fashioned games, candy and CD’s one can think of as well as country inspired home wares and even clothes.

The Country  Decor

Perfect to occupy our son when he gets bored or antsy, the country inspired artifacts displayed on the wall have always added to our overall dining experience.The old fashioned advertisements and memorabilia are not only fascinating but make patrons feel like they are visiting older family members.

Table Fidgets

For years, our sons fidgeted with the salt and pepper shakers or squabbled in restaurants with no Wi-Fi.
But that was before we discovered the  Cracker Barrel. Nowadays, they spend their time playing with the connect four and giant chess sets available at the tables and always have a good time.

Have you taken your kids to a Cracker Barrel Restaurant?
What was your experience?







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