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Explore History In A New Way

Explore Wisconsin’s rich circus heritage at the original winter quarters home of the Ringling Bros. Circus in Baraboo.

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Explore Wisconsin’s rich circus heritage at the original winter quarters home of the Ringling Bros. Circus in Baraboo. Your admission to this National Historic Site includes seven massive buildings filled with fascinating exhibits, spotlighting the colorful lives, innovation, and passion that fueled America’s most popular form of entertainment for over 50 years. Experience the world’s largest collection of authentic wood-carved parade wagons and some of the original railroad equipment that transported wonders and innovations gathered from five continents and seven seas.


Animals

Our animal partners are respected and revered members of the Circus World family. They help tell the story of the American circus as children of all ages observe the animals and human entertainers working side by side in harmony. In our performances and on our grounds will be ponies, elephants and dogs. Elephant and pony rides will also be offered at specific times for short intervals during our summer performance season.

Circus World believes that positive, healthy environments are vital for working animals. The animals are fed, watered, groomed, and cleaned daily, where the public can view the care we offer the animals for themselves. All of the animals have access to the area’s best veterinary care and receive monthly vet inspections. Each fall the elephant manure is offered to area farmers and home gardeners. A donation to Circus World is greatly appreciated.

***Animals are onsite during our summer performance season only.


Kids’ World Circus

The Ringling brothers began their circus adventure when they were kids; giving shows in their backyard. That legacy continues today with Kid’s World Interactive Circus, where kids, (especially the younger ones), create their own circus, much as the Ringling’s did 150 years before.

In Kids World Circus, kids play the parts of performers and animals in a fun big top production that is always unique and full of surprises.

Taking place in the Hippodrome once each day; you’ll discover that whether you’re a participant or part of the audience, Kid’s World Circus is tons of fun for everyone!


Our Treasures

Circus Exhibits

Above are a few of the 260+ beautiful and authentic circus wagons in the collections at Circus World.

Circus World offers acres of exhibits documenting the American Circus. The original Ringling buildings are the largest artifacts, part of the Ringling Bros. Circus original winter quarters. The Ringling Circus used our site in Baraboo as their home base from 1884-1918. This is where 5 brothers dreamed, created, and exported amazing wonders to eager audiences across America. The winter quarters are the largest and oldest group of nineteenth and twentieth century circus structures in the United States, belonging to the largest circus enterprise the world has ever known. The property is a National Historic Landmark Site consisting of 7 original winter quarters structures loaded with colorful displays documenting all facets of the circus.  The exhibits are open to the public from May 23 – October 31, 2020, with live programming throughout the grounds from May 23 to August 30!

Robert L. Parkinson Library & Research Center

Circus World’s Robert L. Parkinson Library and Research Center is the world’s foremost research facility for circus history. The holdings document the history of the American circus from its inception in 1793 to the present day.

It contains a huge collection containing rare photographs, posters, manuscripts and artifacts. With information on some 2,800 American circuses, and a reference file of over 300,000 names of circus performers and employees, it is a prime source of information for enthusiasts and scholars of the circus from all over the world.

Location
415 Lynn St.
Baraboo, Wisconsin 53913
Hours
Open by appointment year round Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m. Please call 608-356-8341 and ask for the library for additional information.

Tour Historic Ringlingville

Throughout the late 19th and early 20th century, the Ringling show would return to Baraboo after their tour had ended to start preparing for the next season. The winter months were busy, repairing and repainting equipment, designing and fabricating props and wardrobe, contracting performers, planning the route, contracting railroads to haul the train, and pulling together artwork for new advertising campaigns. They also cared for the animals which in 1916 consisted of: five hundred horses and ponies, 29 elephants, 15 camels and about 20 other hay eating animals, plus tigers, lions, monkeys, and birds including ostrich. Of the 25 Ringling structures that once existed in Baraboo, 10 winter quarters buildings remain today; all National Historic Landmark Structures. They are the largest grouping of circus structures in America.

Wagons

Circus World’s pride and joy is the largest collection of authentic circus wagons on earth. This colossal congress contains over 260 wagons and vehicles from large, medium, and small shows as well as carnivals. They were gathered from places far and wide, across the United States and England, some in good shape, some neglected, and still others were basket cases… but each one has a story to tell. They are beautifully restored by the talented craftspeople of Circus World, the parade wagons are rolling masterpieces of the woodcarver’s art, while the baggage wagons carried all of the equipment used by the show. Guided tours are offered daily from May 20 – August 28, 2022 @  12:30pm beginning outside the Wagon Pavilion.


Learn with the Wisconsin Historical Society

Virtual and In-person Programs

Get ready to give your young learners the best field trip memory of the year. WHS is excited to bring back our popular sensory-rich, wonder-filled, on-site Field Trips at our historic sites and museums. We are also continuing our live, interactive online programs to bring creativity, critical thinking, and empowered storytelling into your classroom!

Wisconsin Historical Society Sites

Circus World is one of 12 historic sites and museums owned and operated by the Wisconsin Historical Society. Explore all of these sites below.