When you feel the itch for a weekend away from it all, pack a bag, grab a book, and head to Sauk County, Wisconsin, where the natural beauty invites you to relax and play. The region boasts scenic landscape, a rich history, delightful towns, and sundry trails and rivers. You can fluff your pillow at an elegant resort, escape to a farmhouse inn, or choose from a plethora of bed and breakfasts from whimsical to charming.
We also recommend a canoeing camp for an extraordinary experience under the stars on a sandbar off the Wisconsin River. Whatever you choose, check in to your new weekend digs and check out our itinerary below to help you craft your own adventure.
Head to downtown Baraboo and grab a spot on the patio for breakfast at Bella Vita Cafe, a cozy eatery serving from-scratch bakery goods, fair trade coffee drinks, and savory bites in a historic, two-story house. Order from a variety of espressos, lattes, and cold brews to sip alongside quiche and scones of the day. (Or go decaf with a lavender lemonade.) 138 1st St., Baraboo
Eat like a local at Jen’s Alpine Café & Soup Kitchen, which boasts old church pews for seating and crowd-pleasing dishes like classic American breakfasts, omelets, and specialty pancakes. If you can’t make it for breakfast, swing by for lunch when Jen offers a selection of her famous house-made soups. 117 4th St., Baraboo
Slip into your poodle skirt and hit the Broadway Diner, a restored 1950s diner that whips up quick hashes, egg scrambles, pancakes, and, of course, malts, shakes, and homemade pies. 304 Broadway St., Baraboo
Inhale lavender, exhale stress at New Life Lavender & Cherry Farm. The family-owned farm grows 25 varieties of lavender on its 40 acres of landscaped gardens, which also includes flower fields, cherry trees, beehives, sheep, a koi pond, and scenic views of the hills. You can take a wagon ride through the farm, make your own essential oil at the blending bar, taste a variety of lavender-spiked confections, and, of course, shop lavender and cherry-infused goodies from the gift shop. Lavender makes its blooming debut in June and July, but the farm is a pretty spot to visit through October. E10766 County Road W., Baraboo
Get some fresh air and a spectacular view at Devil’s Lake State Park. It’s the largest state park in Wisconsin with towering quartzite bluffs, a 360-acre lake, 29 miles of hiking and biking trails, rock climbing, swimming spots, beaches, and picnic areas. All adventure levels are welcome, whether you’re pushing a stroller on a paved trail or satisfying your inner adrenaline junkie by bouldering. In winter, you can BYOS (bring your own sled) and hit the slopes east of the Nature Center. S5975 Park Road, Baraboo
The Wisconsin Dells is proudly called the Water Park Capital of the World. The area is home to the first-ever indoor water park and now contains a higher concentration of water parks than anywhere else in the world. Choose to slip and slide at Noah’s Ark Waterpark, Kalahari Resort Waterparks, Chula Vista Resort Waterparks, Wilderness Resort & Waterpark, or Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Park, several of which also offer on-site lodging. (Is your inner child jumping up and down yet?) If you consider yourself too serious for such silliness, consider that the resorts also offer golf, spas, and swim-up bars.
Shop an extensive assortment of cow, goat, and sheep cheeses at Carr Valley Cheese. Sample what’s on display, then get your favorites to go with some bread, cheese, honey, jam, sausage, and pickled veggies, and you’ve got the ingredients for a top-notch charcuterie plate. Don’t forget to grab some chocolate cheese for dessert and famous cheese curds (fresh or fried) for later. Pack it all up and head over to Baraboo Bluff Winery for a bottle of award-winning Sangiovese to pair with your homemade picnic at a table overlooking the vines. Carr Valley Cheese, 420 Broadway, Wisconsin Dells; Baraboo Bluff Winery, E9120 Terrytown Road, Baraboo
Downtown Baraboo is dotted with quaint boutiques for an afternoon of shopping. Find stores that house antiques and curios, vintage clothing, Native American treasures, garden gifts, kitchenware, fair-trade gifts, local artisans’ creations, toys, books, farmhouse home decor, and a handful of fudge and candy shops.
Tourists flock to Ishnala Supper Club every season to enjoy fine dining in nature. (And the house cocktail — an old fashioned.) The restaurant, built out of a 1909 family log cabin home, is cozied into the pines and right on Mirror Lake, so you can enjoy a stunning view from any spot in the dining room. The wait is known to reach three hours, but there is plenty of seating on the veranda, the lawn, or down at the beach, where you can sip cocktails from the bar to pass the time. S2011 Ishnala Road, Lake Delton
It’s a safe bet you’ll have good time at Ho-Chunk Casino & Hotel, with all the casino classics including blackjack, craps, Dai Bacc, 24-hour slot machines, and bingo. Owned by the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin, the casino contains 302 rooms and suites — so feel free to make it an all-nighter — and the Copper Oak Steakhouse, Spirit Bar, and Stand Rock Café for fuel to keep you rolling. S3214 County Highway BD, Baraboo
Aunt Ozie’s is worth a small detour. Nestled in a historical house built in 1901, this eclectic eatery satisfies customers with its quirky decor and delicious bites. Find welcoming waitstaff, mismatched furniture, historical bits and bobs in glass cases, plentiful breakfasts, beloved pizza and fish fry, and a rotating lineup of pies made in-house. 200 Main St., Loganville
Dine like a Reedsburg local at hometown favorite Greenwood’s Cafe. It doesn’t look like the place has changed in decades, and that’s part of its charm. Expect dependable breakfast staples sold a la carte, friendly servers, flowing coffee, homemade pie, and prices under $10. 116 S. Walnut St., Reedsburg
Train enthusiasts will undoubtedly find joy at the Mid-Continent Railway Museum, but no one can resist the excitement of a conductor shouting “all aboard!” Visitors can take an hour-long journey on a restored vintage train that departs a wooden depot built in 1894, explore preserved railroad cars and locomotives, and watch current restoration projects underway. You can also book onboard dining experiences. E8948 Museum Road, North Freedom
Just 20 minutes from the railway museum, Corner Pub Brewery is an unassuming microbrewery with local craft beer on tap and solid burgers, fried cheese curds, and fish fry. 100 E. Main St., Reedsburg
Baraboo River is one of the longest stretches of free flowing river in the country. You can drift at a leisurely pace or get your heart racing by kayaking or canoeing through small rapids. Paddle in pairs or go solo with Baraboo River Canoe & Kayak Rentals; choose from a handful of trips that range from 3 to 16 miles and one to six hours. 106 Freedom St., North Freedom
Right on the banks of the Baraboo River sits Driftless Glen, a distillery making bourbon, rye whiskey, vodka, brandy, moonshine, and gin right out of the area’s distinctive climate, water, and soil. Celebrate your hard work with a flight of in-house spirits or a handcrafted cocktail before choosing from an eclectic menu, which has a little bit of everything including jambalaya, bourbon barbecue, shrimp scampi, steak, and burgers. The dessert menu will make your mouth water with nearly everything drizzled in house-made brandy and bourbon sauces. Tours of the distillery are also available; call ahead to book. 300 Water St., Baraboo
Explore The Great Sauk State Trail, a 10.5-mile multiuse paved trail that runs from the former home of a WWII army plant (now a prairie just shy of Devil’s Lake State Park) through Sauk City. The trail borders the Ho-Chunk Nation Territory and then continues through Prairie du Sac. Along the way, you can find Riverfront Park and Veteran’s Memorial Park, remnants of the old Union Pacific Railroad route, art installations, painted murals, eagle sightings, miles of Wisconsin River views, and a handful of restaurants steps from the trail. Biking requires a $5 day pass, which can be purchased at multiple locations, including a self-serve station near the Ruth Culver Library. 236 Water St., Sauk City
Hop off at a trailside eatery. Ques Bar & River Deck has a patio overlooking the trail and river, and a menu where cocktails and sandwiches reign supreme. Find cold sandwiches and salads that are great for grab-and-go meals, or order from the stars of the show: one of 30 types of mojitos and a dozen panini sandwiches. Cash only. 612 Water St., Prairie Du Sac
Wollersheim Winery & Distillery is a one-stop shop for afternoon entertainment. The winery celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, but its roots date back to 1894. Get the history on a guided tour ($18 per person), reserve a seated wine tasting ($25 per person), or show up between 12 to 5 p.m. for wine-flight tastings. The distillery offers spirit flights and a menu of cocktails to sip outside. The in-house bistro is open from 12 to 3 p.m. and serves dishes made using local ingredients. The menu changes seasonally, but you can expect toasted sandwiches, soups, quiche, salad, and fresh bread. 7876 WI-188, Prairie Du Sac
Continue on a local libations tour at Vintage Brewing Company, a local brewery with a beer garden and restaurant serving a large selection of their own craft beers and a menu of crowd-pleasers, like soft pretzels, meatballs, flatbreads, sandwiches, burgers, fish, and mac and cheese. They also serve house-made cider, root beer, cream soda, and ginger ale. 236 Water St., Sauk City
Hit Eagle Inn for a hometown café dishing up from-scratch comfort food morning, noon, and night. Bestsellers include hot beef and potatoes, roasted chicken, and house-made pies, cinnamon rolls, and donuts. When a hankering for eggs strikes at dinnertime, don’t worry; they serve breakfast all day. 655 Water St., Prairie Du Sac
Settle in at Spring Green General Store for breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays. This little gem is one part cafe, one part general store housed in a 1919 cheese storage building transformed by sky blue paint, fresh flowers, and a cheerful mural of rainbows, butterflies, and peace signs. The menu is equally delightful with coffee drinks, tea, local handcrafted soda, a variety of mouthwatering breakfast scrambles with local cheese curds, chilaquiles (tofu option available), pancakes and French toast with local maple syrup, and weekend specials. If you can’t make it for breakfast, lunch is served daily. Leave time to shop. The selection of kitchen accessories, games, toys, puzzles, jewelry, books, and soaps all but guarantees you’ll go home with a souvenir. 137 S. Albany St., Spring Green
World-renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright spent his childhood in the hills near Spring Green, Wisconsin, where he later built Taliesin, an 800-acre estate, now a National Historic Landmark open to the public as Taliesin Preservation and Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center. The estate, built in 1909, includes Frank Lloyd Wright’s own home, studio, and an architecture school. Architectural Digest calls it the “most complete embodiment of Wright’s philosophy of organic architecture.” Tours ($20-$98) range from a one-hour, kid-friendly outdoor exploration of the landscape to a comprehensive, four-hour walking tour of the property.
Afterward, grab lunch at Taliesin’s Riverview Terrace Café, and find a spot in the dining room or at a picnic table overlooking the Wisconsin River. The menu sources ingredients from local farms — as well as pickles and edible flowers from Taliesen’s own garden — and includes daily baked goods, charcuterie, specialty dips, sandwiches, and salads. 5607 County Road C, Spring Green
Further explore Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy by heading 3 miles from the estate to the Wyoming Valley School Cultural Arts Center, designed by Wright and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Free tours are offered July through September. Reservations aren’t required, but check online for the schedule and for special events. The center also hosts rotating art installations, concerts, and workshops. 6306 State Highway 23, Spring Green
Arcadia Books offers a thoughtfully curated lineup of books, and its knowledgeable and friendly workers are happy to help shoppers find their next read. There’s also a kids’ corner stocked with children’s titles. The in-house café, The Paper Crane, serves lattes, cappuccinos, mochas, smoothies, boba tea, and hot chocolate. And its cooler is stocked with fresh sandwiches, soups, salads, cheeses, crackers, rotating specials, and beer and wine. 102 E. Jefferson St., Spring Green
You’re sure to find a cool gift for anyone on your list at Spring Green General Store. Unique kids’ toys, puzzles, handcrafted jewelry, and books are just a few of the exciting goods on offer. 137 S. Albany St., Spring Green
Wilson Creek Pottery boasts gorgeous pottery you can proudly display and use all over your home, from bowls and vases to pitchers and catchall dishes. E6101 County Toad WC, Spring Green
And for table linens, pretty housewares that change seasonally, candles, artwork, giftable gourmet foods, jewelry, and bottles of wine, head to Convivio. 122 N. Lexington St., Spring Green
Reserve a table at Homecoming, in the old White School house, a local historic landmark built in 1877. The cozy eatery with counter service aims to offer high quality food, local ingredients, and reasonable prices. The menu is creative and constantly rotating, but always passionately crafted and delicious. The restaurant also hosts pop-up dinners so locals and visitors can enjoy a limited-time dining experience. 242 N. Lexington St., Spring Green
Nestled on 110 acres of woods off the Wisconsin River, the magical American Players Theatre is a professional classical playhouse with two theaters: a 201-seat indoor theater, and a large outdoor amphitheater that accommodates more than 1,000 guests under the stars. Check the calendar for show times and performances. You can also bring your own picnic or preorder one on-site to enjoy before your show. 5950 Golf Course Road, Spring Green