It’s easy to associate Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, with family vacation fun.
From the first Duck Tours right after World War II and early heyday of the Tommy Bartlett Thrill Show in the ’50s through the current waterpark craze, Wisconsin Dells has presented unique signature family attractions, wall to wall and sunup to sundown.
But what happens after sundown? Well, lots, frankly. Wisconsin Dells isn’t typically associated with nightlife, but more and more singles and couples are learning just how vibrant the area’s restaurant, bar and club scene has become.
Wisconsin is known for elegant “supper clubs,” and Wisconsin Dells features fine examples. House of Embers, owned by the same family since the 1950s, specializes in smoked and slow-cooked ribs among other entrees but also is known for its unique and intimate dining rooms. These themed rooms—the Omar Sharif Room, Valentino Room, Humphrey Bogart Room, and others—seat from two to eight and are perfect for special occasions celebrated while on vacation.
The Del-Bar named because of its location between the cities Wisconsin Dells and Baraboo, is another true institution. Praised for its aged steaks and its shellfish, Del-Bar has been family-owned since 1943, when former University of Wisconsin football star Jimmy Wimmer bought the restaurant and enlisted his wife as cook. Within a decade, it earned inclusion on a Chicago journalist and travel writer’s list of top 10 restaurants in the United States. The restaurant’s architecture also is part of the charm. It’s the work of James Dresser, who studied under Frank Lloyd Wright.
Captain Brady’s Showboat Saloon is family-friendly by day and a place to play shuffleboard, shoot pool, hear live music and wash down free, all-you-can-eat bacon strips at night. The building even has a colorful history. Built in 1907, when Wisconsin Dells was still known as Kilbourn City, it converted from tavern to candy store during Prohibition, although its owners are rumored to have continued selling liquor from a secret basement speakeasy.
Another well-established nightspot, the Sandbar has been open for more than 60 years. It’s a lively sports bar in the heart of Packers Country (beware, Bears fans) with more than 100 beer labels available and a kitchen open till 2 a.m. Meanwhile, Giada’s Lounge next to Pizza Pub offers an extensive selection of wines and cocktails.
The late-night scene really heats up at a couple of Wisconsin Dells nightclubs where DJs, dancing and pulsating music are in and indifference to strict dress codes is out.
At The Reef, nighttime alter ego of the Caribbean-themed family restaurant Marley’s, outlaws bandanas, skullcaps, cut-off shirts, sweats and sunglasses; provides mandatory hat and coat checks; and also prohibits profanity, fighting and other forms of indecent behavior. On the lower level, besides the dance floor, you can enjoy the Pirate Bar, a full-service bar in the form of a galleon, and the more intimate Submarine Bar. A bar outside the lower level, furnished with memorabilia from a previous location including the original Marley’s bar, serves as the designated smoking area. You can also reserve VIP rooms on both levels for additional cost. The translucent Bubble Bar on the upper level is reserved for VIP members and overlooks the dance floor.
Wett Night Club, also known as Club WETT, has similarly rigid dress requirements. Club WETT is 10,000 square feet of visual extravagance. Its epicenter is a $250,000 soundstage with sophisticated lighting displays and professional dancers in “crow’s nests.” Drink specials abound and VIP bottle service is available. A nightly confetti release heightens the celebratory spirit. Private rooms are available to accommodate bachelor/bachelorette parties and other occasions.
Finally, if you’re looking for the thrill of casino ambience, consider Ho-Chunk Gaming. This full-service casino features a full selection of table games including daily Hold ’Em tournaments and three- and four-card poker, plus baccarat, blackjack, craps and roulette. There also are daily bingo sessions, jackpot drawings. If you enjoy Off Track Betting, you can make place wagers for greyhound, thoroughbred and standard bred (harness) racing either with tellers or at self-service terminals.
Of course, there also are slots. The selection of more than 2,000 machines, including 300-plus in a nonsmoking area, features the latest and most popular offerings. There’s a separate area for high-limit games.
But as at all top casinos, gaming is only one activity. Dining choices include the Copper Oak Steakhouse & Lounge, Standrock Buffett, Sunrise Cliffs and the sports-themed Wo Zha Wa. There’s also professional entertainment, including some of the top regional and national music and comedy performers.
Nighttime in Wisconsin Dells—and you think a day at the waterparks wears you out.