While I was staying in Madison, I took a day to visit Baraboo, a small town within an hour's drive. I took back roads as usual, soaking in the rolling green fields, passing tiny farms nestled against tall trees. The sun was bright and hot, and the sky was very blue. I drove up an actual hill, which is a significant enough event in that part of the world that I proudly reported it to Christa a couple of days later. It was, in short, a perfect day for a visit to Circus World.
After my health insurance freakout, money was feeling a little dear, so I balked internally at the ticket price, but handed over my $19.95 with a smile. Tickets are less expensive in the Spring and Fall, so I'd recommend those times if you're thinking of visiting.
Circus World is a museum built in the former summer home of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The first room is full of beautifully done exhibits that detail the lives of each of the Ringling brothers and their contribution to the circus they ran for many, many years. My favorite part was the poster exhibit, which showcased some of the beautiful, clever, and over-the-top illustrations in the museum's collection.
I wandered through several old barns, peering into circus wagons, marveling at a purple-carpeted clown car (smaller than a VW bug and they got 20+ clowns in it if I recall correctly), laughing at myself in a funhouse mirror, and checking out the big top, where there are daily shows.
A wide gravel trail pushes into the woods, slowly becoming narrower as tree roots and rocks become more prevalent. The trail makes no apology for going right through the middle of a rocky creek for about 25 feet, but the scramble is well worth the effort. Huge walls of black rock and soft, pebble-filled sediment tower above, seemingly held in place by moss and gnarled tree roots alone. Ferns are jammed into every conceivable nook and cranny, waving gently in the humid, cool air. There's a small waterfall at the end and there were several loud, shouty types, so I took a few photos and turned around after a short while.
It was a day with the best of both worlds: the dusty, colorful, endless optimism of the circus, and the cool, green, mossy quiet of the woods. I was lucky to visit.