If you live in the Midwest (especially in Illinois), a trip to Wisconsin Dells is a rite of passage. It’s a great budget-friendly trip that’s close to home, and a ton of fun. I’ve been visiting the Dells since I was a kid and, although much has changed, the family bonding and memorable experiences shared remain the same.
This time around we took a little road trip to the Dells with the whole family – my husband and I, our two kids, my mom, and my daughter’s friend (the friend was a strategic decision on our part to ensure there’d be no complaining about having to do all the “baby stuff” with my toddler from my teenage daughter – best decision I could’ve made!).
With the trip only being 3 and a half hours from the Chicago area, we only had to make one stop on the way – and of course couldn’t miss the photo op at the Illinois/Wisconsin border!
WHERE TO STAY
There are so many places to stay at the Dells from hotels and motels to camping sites and RV parks. This time around we decided to stay at the Kalahari Resort! We choose to stay at the Kalahari because of the many amenities they offer: an indoor and outdoor waterpark, an indoor theme park, bowling, a movie theater, free passes to some popular attractions, and so much more! I needed to keep my spouse, parent, toddler, and teen all entertained and Kalahari delivered on that big time! But I’ve also stayed at the Wilderness Resort, Great Wolf Lodge, Mount Olympus Resort, Paradise Motel, and Blackhawk Motel, and many others – all still really great options. A lot of times we choose a place to stay based on seasonal promotions, so be sure to check what “freebies” you get before booking.
WHAT TO DO
A visit to a pool is a must (Wisconsin Dells is the waterpark capital of the world, after all), but it doesn’t have to be a huge waterpark. A smaller hotel pool with a nice toddler area is sufficient. But you don’t have to spend all your time poolside during your trip. For animal-lovers, take the kids to Wisconsin Deer Park where you can feed over 100 tame, free-roaming deer and see some other animals. Or, you can visit the newer attraction, Timbavati Wildlife Park. The park is still partly under construction, but offers unique viewing opportunities and the chance to feed some of the animals too.
Toddlers would also enjoy Circus World, a circus museum located in Baraboo, WI, where the original Ringling Brothers Circus was founded. Visitors can watch a circus with acrobats, animal performances, and clowns, or stroll through and see restored old circus wagons. There’s so much more to do at Circus World!
Knuckleheads Bowling & Indoor Amusement Park would also be great fun for toddlers with rides, bowling and arcade games. There are also inflatables for kids to bounce around in – my toddler loves those!
For the more adventurous teen, the waterpark slides are the perfect way to get an adrenaline rush and have a great time. The large waterparks like Noah’s Ark (America’s largest) and Mt. Olympus offer the perfect mix of waterslides and wave pools for hours of entertainment. Go Karts are another fun way for teens to spend their time at the Dells. With numerous Go Kart facilities like ADare Go Carts, Big Chief Go Karts and the Mt. Olympus theme park, even teens without a driver’s license can enjoy driving on fun adventure tracks.
If your teen is really, really adventurous, you can try the Wilderness Canyon Zip Line Canopy Tour at the Wilderness Resort. The tour takes you through 5 zip lines that soar over a canyon – a thrill-seeker’s paradise. Vertical Illusions is also a great option with zip line adventures, kayak tours and rock climbing tours.
For the Whole Family:
The whole family would enjoy one of the many scenic boat tours held throughout the Dells. The Original Ducks tour takes riders through both scenic land and river locations on a “duck”, a boat that can ride on both land and water. Originally used during WWII to transport soldiers, the Original Ducks now takes tourists through some beautiful landscapes of Wisconsin – the amazing rock formations are breathtaking. You can also try the Dells Army Duck Tours, very similar to the Original Ducks, but with a military feel.
Another must-see during a trip to the Dells is the Tommy Bartlett Show. Adults, kids, and teens will have a good time at this 90-minute timeless show on both stage and water. The show, currently in its 61st year at the Dells, has been a family favorite for generations – and images of the the water-ski team have been an iconic representation of the Dells for years.
WHAT TO EAT
The Wisconsin Dells offers a variety of dining options to satisfy any palate. Kids will love themed restaurants like Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty, an all-you-can-eat buffet, and Buffalo Phil’s Pizza & Grille, where your meals are delivered by trains.
Meat-lovers will love the steak options at the Dells like House of Embers or Kaminski Brothers Chop House. But if you’re visiting the Dells for the first time, you can’t leave without trying some cheese curds at Monk’s Bar & Grill – they are fantastic! Similar to a mozzarella stick, cheese curds are made with Wisconsin white cheddar and are lightly battered and fried to a golden brown…SO GOOD!
A vacation at the Wisconsin Dells is guaranteed to be fun for the whole family with so many options on things to do and see (& EAT!). It’s impossible to do it all in one visit. One trip to the Dells will only result in one question…”When do we go back?!?!”.