Wisconsin Dells, in the southern part of that great state, calls itself “The Water Park Capital of the World®” And it is, indeed, a mecca for aquatic recreation. But that’s just the beginning.
The area’s unique geography has attracted visitors for centuries. In modern times, its cool lakes, breezy woods and startlingly starry nights provide idyllic settings for fun family vacations (and reunions), relaxing couples’ getaways and energizing group retreats.
Founded as Kilbourn City in 1857 by Byron Kilbourn, the name “Wisconsin Dells” comes from the French-Canadian word, “dalles,” meaning “river rapids or narrows.” In 1931, the city’s name was changed to the more descriptive and Americanized, “Wisconsin Dells.”
Tourists have enjoyed exploring the picturesque dells since the mid-19th century, first by rowboat, then steamboat and later, amphibious vehicles (“ducks”) and specially equipped tour boats.A powerful magnet for visitors from all over the Midwest, Wisconsin Dells has also evolved into a year-round international tourist destination, boasting a full array of recreational, dining and cultural attractions.
Water parks are the Dells’ premier attraction. Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park features wave pools, water slides and the world’s longest underground roller coaster tunnel plus Cyclops, a winding 1,680 ft. monstrous coaster. The park also has a fleet of go-karts for those with the need for a bit of speed.
Have an Adventure
In an area that’s ideal for amphibious travel, Dells Army Ducks propels guests across land and water in the scenic lower Dells and Lake Delton, Grotto Island, the Twin Ink Stands, Sugar Bowl and Lone Rock on its military-style vehicles.
Four seasons of Fun
For skiers, Christmas Mountain Village Resort offers winter activities on 11 downhill slopes. When the sun shines (and snow is not on the ground), the resort’s championship and nine-hole golf courses, and 800 acres of pristine woodland beauty also beckon.
The Tommy Bartlett Show, a 60-year family entertainment extravaganza, is renowned for its comedy acts, amazing stunts, expert water skiers and daredevil troupe of performers. The adjacent Tommy Bartlett Exploratory, a science and technology center with more than 175 interactive activities, features a rare and authentic Russian space station MIR core module.
Homemade Food and Old-Fashioned Fun
Thunder Valley Inn’s Farm Dinner Show spotlights traditional Scandinavian hospitality, hearty homemade food, and entertainment from Lars on his accordion and “the girls” on their fiddles, presenting a rollicking re-creation of an old-fashioned farmland threshing party.
Music and Comedy
The beautiful Crystal Grand Music Theater, Wisconsin Dells’ premier venue, offers seating for up to 2,000 people. Audiences enjoy performances by popular rock, country and comedy stars in a beautiful and intimate setting.
Take a 30-minute ride on a vintage steam-powered train through the Dells countryside on the historic Riverside & Great Northern Railway and pay a visit to their fascinating museum following your trip.
Explore the narrow sandstone canyons of Witches Gulch and hike beneath the shadows of the forbidding trees along Spooky Lane, or enter the Phantom Chamber of this unforgettable Wisconsin landmark.
Cruise on a 15-mile lake adventure past the towering sandstone cliffs of the Upper Dells, followed by an invigorating shore walk along Stand Rock and Witches Gulch with Dells Boat Tours (from April to October).
Canyon Creek Riding Stables is just six miles down the road from Wisconsin Dells in Lake Delton, so you can easily slip back in time to the Old West. Take a family trail ride to Tombstone, Canyon Creek’s very own western town. Or you can trek through the magnificent cliff-walled gorges in a quaint horse-drawn carriage.
Wisconsin Dells offers delectable dining choices for any taste and every budget. Here are a few savory local spots that are popular with natives and hungry visitors.
MACS Macaroni and Cheese Shop combines cheese — Wisconsin’s best-known product — with a variety of macaroni shapes and other tasty ingredients. The result is a fast, fresh and delicious meal or snack. There’s also a wide choice of other menu items to please even the most finicky eater. MACS’s casual setting and unique variety make it a great-stop for hungry families to recharge after a day of fun and adventure.
Cheese is also the star of The Cheeze Factory Restaurant but its 100% vegan and non-GMO menu features a healthy variety of non-dairy items, too. There’s also an ample selection of sandwiches, flatbreads and more, plus a cappuccino and espresso bar.
For more traditional fare with a modern culinary touch, the High Rock Café presents steaks, burgers, seafood and pasta along with a full bar of libations. The resident chef/owners also take pride in their locally sourced and seasonal offerings.
Locally brewed craft beer takes center stage at Moosejaw Pizza & Dells Brewing Co., which combines a popular restaurant with a dedicated micro-brewery. Pizza, pasta, ribs, sandwiches and salads can be paired with beers and ales brewed right on the premises. There’s also a tempting kids’ menu and a variety of other beverages for non-imbibers.
Christmas Mountain Village
In order to take advantage of all that Wisconsin Dells has to offer, consider staying at Christmas Mountain Village, Bluegreen’s fabulous resort, which is near everything we’ve just talked about. Make a splash!
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