Spread out comfortably in a valley near the Wisconsin River, the small town of Baraboo has some relatively big claims to fame. You won't find a lion tamer putting his big cats through a routine on every street corner of small-town Baraboo, but as the one-time residence of the Ringling brothers, chances are you'll be able to catch a show at the Circus World Museum.
Not necessarily quieter but certainly more natural, the other show in town is the International Crane Foundation, an ornithological preserve that acts as home base to hundreds of cranes. Whoop it up on a guided tour and peruse the small associated museum to learn more about these large flying birds. You might be able book evening entertainment at the Al Ringling Theater, but with day-light hours to spare, steer a wee way out of town to North Freedom and pay a visit to the Mid-Continent Railway and Museum. Make sure to get a ticket for a scenic ride through the Baraboo River Valley on the steam engine still chugging through.
Those with a soft-spot for paddling adventure should note that the Baraboo River flows free for 115 miles, a pleasant river escape. If you prefer to stay dry, consider instead a hike amongst the striking rock formations in Devil's Lake State Park. There are enough easy trails to go around, but the better views are to be had from the top of Balanced Rock. When the weather's fine this prime piece of state park property might get a little crowded, but quiet, in the form of Parfrey's Glen Natural Area glacially carved canyons are only a few miles distant.
Baraboo is 41 miles northwest of Madison.