Off The Beaten Path In Baraboo

A Day Trip, Worlds Away

By Megan Roessler | Photos Courtesy Josh Meyer

Baraboo has an eclectic charm and a wealth of character. With scenic views and outdoor adventure, small-town history, and record—and rule—breaking artwork, this town offers plenty of chances to be amazed.

On the drive up from Madison, stop by one of Wisconsin’s lesser-known natural spaces—Gibraltar Rock State Natural Area. There, 1,234 feet above sea level, 200-foot cliffs tower over the Wisconsin River Valley offering views of farmhouses, prairies, rolling hills and weathered red cedars. To get to the top of the cliffs, choose between a 1.5-mile paved hike or a longer loop through the forest, although note that both are steep and neither offers stairs or handrails. At the top, look down at the landscape, but be sure to look up to take in the sky and clouds above, too.

After the trek back down, a winding 30-minute drive northwest will drop you off in downtown Baraboo. If your hike has you feeling hungry or ready to treat yourself to some pie and ice cream, stop by the Broadway Diner. In shining stainless steel and neon, this restored 1950s-style diner serves up classic American breakfasts, burgers and homemade pies. A short walk will take you past the Sauk County Courthouse, decked out with relief decorations of circus history, the AL. Ringling Mansion, which offers daily tours, and the Al. Ringling Theatre.

About 15 minutes south of Baraboo is one last sight to see. In a hideaway behind Delaney’s Surplus Sales, you’ll find what’s reportedly the world’s largest scrap metal sculpture—Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron.  Part intellectual playground and part sculpture garden, the Forevertron is made from repurposed industrial material—everything from circular sawblades, to trumpets, to parts of an Apollo 11 spacecraft. Visitors can find their host and the wife of Dr. Evermor, Lady Eleanor, in a VW Bus repurposed into a cozy visitor’s center. Though there are no signs, guides or formal tours, the Forevertron tells a mythic and imaginative story of its creator launching himself from Victorian England into the celestial realm. Revealing the subtle beauty of everyday “stuff,” it captures the hearts and minds of visitors of all ages.

With Wisconsin summer classics like Devil’s Lake and Circus World, and conservation meccas of the Aldo Leopold Shack and International Crane Foundation, Baraboo is a place of nostalgia for many, and one that promises new adventures on every trip back.

For more information:

  • Gibraltar Rock State Natural Area, Dnr.wi.gov. Broadway Diner, broadwaydinereats.com.                                                                                                               
  • AL. Ringling Mansion, alringlingmansion.com.                                                                                                                 
  • Forevertron, S7703 US-12, North Freedom, Wisconsin.

MAGICAL MYSTERY TOURS

Grab your flashlights and cameras and extend your day in Baraboo into the night with Baraboo Tours, which explore the supernatural side of town. Their Haunted Downtown Walk covers the streets and buildings that “put the ‘boo’ in Baraboo.” With a storied history and heritage whose characters include renowned naturalists, athletes and politicians, it’s no surprise that Baraboo has the mystery and charisma of something beyond the ordinary.

Thrill seekers 21 and over looking for a ‘spirited’ twist might opt for the Spirit Walk, where guests will enjoy drink samples at the Driftless Glen Distillery and a walk through haunted downtown before ending the night with wine tasting at the Con Amici Wine Bar. For those with the hardiest penchant for the paranormal, the River Tour offers the chance to bust out some ghost-hunting gear and reach out to the supernatural firsthand.

Baraboo Tours also offers evening walking tours and rickshaw rides across historic downtown, exploring everything from the story of the circus-founding Ringling family to the town’s historic churches. These excursions have a charm all their own… no haunts needed.

Tours run through Labor Day.

Visit barabootours.info or chamber.baraboo.com/events.