Wisconsin Dells has earned the unofficial title of ‘Waterpark Capital of the World’. Making our first pass through town, it quickly became apparent where this name came from. We discovered that there are currently 20 waterparks spread around the area. That makes this northern destination a major draw for family vacations. Wet and wild fun is certainly appealing, but we wanted to find out what it’s like visiting Wisconsin Dells without getting wet. Let’s dive into the variety of dry options available for all ages’ entertainment.
We want to thank the Wisconsin Dells CVB and the local businesses for hosting our visit. Rest assured all opinions are our own.
What’s in a Name?
We have heard about this area for years. While visiting Wisconsin Dells had been on our radar for quite some time, we didn’t know where it got its name. It turns out it is based on geological formations in the sandstone. This all occurred around 15,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age. To get a better look at these protected features, we hopped on the Dells Boat Tour. There are two tours to choose from; upper or lower. We selected the Upper Dells, which has two stops. After a breathtaking hike through Witches Gulch, it was back to the boat for stop #2. A short ride and we found ourselves at Stand Rock. This location is notable for being captured by early photographer H. H. Bennett. In place of his son bounding between the pillars, we watched a dog make the leap.
A Different View
Seeing the layered columns made us yearn for more. Back on dry land, we planned out another Dells excursion. After our first tour, we thought Dell’s formations were limited to the area alongside the Wisconsin River. It would take a visit to Lost Canyon Tours to discover that these fascinating features cover around 5 miles of land along and nearby the river. On our way to this horse-drawn excursion, we passed by more of the waterparks. Summer was in full bloom and we noticed tons of family fun taking place. We found our destination and soon we were off on our relaxing excursion. As our steeds pulled us along, we found ourselves in deep conversation with our guide. Riding through these slot canyons made for an incredible experience.
Now that we understood where this region got its name, we were ready for some more exploring. Knowing that this is a family destination, we wanted to see what they had to offer the younger visitors. Waterparks are a big draw, but we were visiting Wisconsin Dells without getting wet. What could be better than a hands-on science museum? The Tommy Bartlett Exploratory offers visitors a chance to explore the mysteries of science and space. They state that they are home to over 175 exhibits, but instead of counting we spent our time learning. It’s funny how quickly we revert to childhood mode when faced with a chance to play.
Exploring New Worlds
Now that we were in hands-on mode, we didn’t want the fun to end. No problem, because they have Wizard Quest. This all-ages immersive experience was something new for us. The 30,000-square feet labyrinth of hidden mysteries is designed to appeal to the entire family. The creators of this attraction have perfected the art of transporting visitors to a magical world. With tons of quests to complete, you can make multiple visits without running out of new things to accomplish. We were so impressed that we spent our time just exploring all of the nooks and crannies while discovering hidden doors and chambers.
Exploring can burn a lot of energy, so we always make sure to include some interesting foodie stops. Once again, we focus on family-friendly sites that can make a good day great. While enjoying our morning coffee at Bella Goose Coffee, a local clued us in on a nearby burger joint. B-Lux Grill is a family-run business that features hearty bites and fun shakes. While I was all in on a delicious beefy Cheesehead Burger, Crystal decided to sample their Fish & Chips. To sweeten the pot, we included one of their famous shakes. Ours was The Mojo Jojo, which is packed with tons of peanut flavor.
Driving around town, we realized that the hits kept coming when it comes to interesting dining options. At Grateful Shed, another local recommended stop, we enjoyed ordering lunch from a series of food trucks. While this may not seem that unusual, this was a collection of trucks all housed inside a permanent structure. It’s a sight-and-taste experience. What would a visit to Wisconsin be without some cheese? MACS (Macaroni And Cheese Shop) offers a variety of macs, melts, salads, and desserts. We opted for the Chicken Bacon Ranch Mac, which was packed with cheesy goodness. Good thing there are plenty of calorie-burning activities around town.
Like many vacation destinations, there are myriad other family activities. For us, miniature golf is our go-to evening entertainment. There is an assortment of options, but our schedule only allowed time for a couple of rounds. Perhaps if we had focused on playing the game, instead of playing around, we might have made it to one or two others. For those of you who have been following our adventures for a while, you won’t be surprised that we found ice cream. This creamy treat is our favorite dessert option and we love sampling all types. Once again, more calorie burning was required.
Choosing a lodging option is fairly easy around this region. There are resorts, chain hotels, and old-school motor lodges. We opted for the last category and found one that is locally owned and operated. The Black Hawk Motel is within walking distance of the historic downtown area. With an itinerary packed with excursions, we don’t spend much time at our lodging. I did take some time to wander around and check out all of the amenities. It looks like a family can find plenty to keep everyone occupied during downtime from exploring.
During our time visiting Wisconsin Dells, we discovered that not all of the family-friendly attractions are in the city limits. Just a few miles south of the city we found Baraboo, Wisconsin. We had never heard this name before, but would soon have a reason to retain its memories for a lifetime. This upper Midwest town is home to Circus World. This is the winter home of the Ringling Brothers Circus and operates during warm weather. While the circus isn’t as prominent in today’s entertainment schedule, here you can relive the glory days of the circus. Not only is it filled with a dizzying amount of artifacts, but you can also watch a live circus.
Visiting Wisconsin Dells
When we set off to discover the possibility of visiting Wisconsin Dells without getting wet, we had no idea just how much we would find. With just a couple of days allotted for exploring, we packed a ton of fun into our time. Now that we know how much this place has to offer families, we can understand why it is a top Midwest vacation destination. Whether you are a waterpark fan or just want to connect with nature, you will find opportunities abound in Wisconsin Dells.