Well-known as The Waterpark Capital of the World, Wisconsin Dells does way more than provide waterpark thrills and adventures on more than 200 plunge drops, tube rides, racing speed slides, bowls, water roller coasters, surf machines, wave pools and lazy rivers. And, of course, there’s a plethora of other attractions for all ages as well. This family-friendly destination brings multigenerational relatives together—the indelible memories created here will be the fodder for stories told around the dinner table for years to come. Pack the kids in the car, set out on a short three-hour road trip, and see for yourself why Wisconsin Dells has been touted as one of the Midwest’s best-rated vacation hot spots. Here are 10 ways families can enjoy Wisconsin Dells.

Fun for Everyone: Noah’s Ark Waterpark

Start your vacation by diving into one of the best waterparks to start your vacation: Noah’s Ark Waterpark, America’s largest waterpark, spanning a whopping 70 acres with three miles of waterslides.

The smallest littles of your group will love splashing around in one of the four children’s water play areas or with a parent in one of the two wave pools. Paradise Lagoon has special rides and slides built just for them. Older kids will have a hard time not screaming on Raja: The World’s Largest King Cobra, which starts six stories up in the air and ends with a trip through the snake’s mouth. The Black Anaconda is a raft jaunt that three people can experience, and Time Warp is a bowl design that four family members can enjoy. If you need a break from the sun, check out the 4-D Dive-In Theater or the Safari Adventure Mini Golf, ideal for the whole family.

Online: noahsarkwaterpark.com

Through the Trees You’ll Go: Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort

Wisconsin Dells houses over 8,000 hotel rooms, so picking the right one might seem a herculean task. Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort wins for being America’s largest indoor and outdoor combination waterpark and resort, built to thrill with over 500,000 square-feet of waterpark fun—that’s the same size as 12 football fields! Spend your day splashing around in four indoor and four outdoor waterparks at this resort—cabanas are available throughout to enhance your stay.

If you’d like to check out the dry adventures, pop over to the: Click ‘N Climb Challenge Walls, indoor and outdoor Go-Karts, CYvrSPACE Virtual Arena, Northern Lights Sky Ropes Course, Wild West Bumper Boats, indoor and outdoor mini golf, Mega Prize Arcades, Room Escapes, Timberland Playhouse, Wilderness Canyon Zip Line, and Horse Drawn Wagon Rides. You won’t go bored here, that’s for certain.

Online: wildernessresort.com

 

 

photo: Kalahari Resort Waterpark

Go on a Water Safari: Kalahari Resort Waterpark

The award for the largest indoor waterpark in Wisconsin, traversing 125,000 square-feet, goes to Kalahari Resort Waterpark. Everyone, from young to young-at-heart, will enjoy a stay at this resort, which features a world-class spa, with manicure, pedicure, facial and massage treatments even for kids; varied dining, including options for even the pickiest of eaters; and a huge indoor waterpark. If your kids have ever dreamed of becoming a mermaid, shark or surfer, the Kalahari Resort Waterpark’s trainers can help.

Of course, there are plenty of other activities to do here as well: bowling, arcade, escape room, and The Arena virtual reality experience. Tom Foolerys Adventure Park features 100,000 square-feet of interactive fun for the whole family with awe-inspiring rides, activities and games. Siblings will magically play together and have those bonding moments that all parents hope for.

Online: kalahariresorts.com/wisconsin

 

photo: Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Park

Get Your Thrills: Amusement Parks That Can't Be Beat

For thrill-seekers, or for people who like to watch from the safety of the ground, there are numerous amusement parks in Wisconsin Dells, perfect for the intrepid members of your family.

BigFoot Zipline Tours
Fly through the oak and pine trees, from tower to tower, on Wisconsin Dells’ first zipline. Seven separate paths will provide hours of smile-inducing fun for your family. For special savings, purchase a package and enjoy multiple area attractions like the Dells Army Duck Tours, WildThing Jet Boats and BigFoot Zipline Tours.

Online: bigfootzip.com

Big Chief's Go Karts
This family-friendly classic adventure is not only adventuresome but also, it’s affordable. For only $3.00, you’ll ride up and over hills and around hairpin turns with as much speed as you can muster. Grab some noshes and drinks afterward—definitely not before, unless your stomach is made of steel—at Pizza Pub, B-LUX Grill & Bar, Mr. Pancake, or Dairy Queen.

Online: wisdells.com/wisconsin-dells-area/attractions/big-chiefs-race-mountain.htm

photo: Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Park

Heightened Adventures
Heightened Adventures offers a Zip Line and Adventure Park located within Chula Vista Resort on six tree-filled acres. Seven zip lines and four ropes courses will keep your kids busy and active—it will be the best screen-free “online” experience yet. If mom and dad want to join in on the fun, there’s a Black Course for confident climbers over age 12, full of challenging obstacles and zip lines.

Online: heightenedadventures.com/

Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Park
Wisconsin Dells is known for having a lot of “firsts” and “biggest” attractions and Mt. Olympus is no different. It’s here that you’ll find the world’s first upside down wooden rollercoaster, with the world’s longest underground tunnel: Hades 360 Wooden Rollercoaster. Other must-visit attractions include: The Underworld Go-Kart Track, The Manticore swings, Almighty Hermes Swing, Cyclops Rollercoaster, Little Titans Rollercoaster, Kiddie Train, and more.

Online: mtolympuspark.com/

 

photo: vicki watkins via flickr

Canyon Creek Riding Stables Scenic Tour

There are multiple ways to get in and around Wisconsin Dells through informative and fun scenic tours. Dells Trolley Tours, Ghost Boat’s “Journey to Haunted Canyon”, Lost Canyon Tours’ horse-drawn carriage rides, and Baraboo Tours for pedicabs are all standouts worth looking into for a memorable afternoon.

Canyon Creek Riding Stables is one of those adventures that sticks with you long after you’ve dismounted your horse. Go on a one-hour trail ride with your family, taking in nature’s beauty at every turn—ancient rock formations and a waterfall will delight every rider. Journey through a 200-foot tunnel, see Boot Hill Cemetery, and explore Canyon Creek’s Tombstone western town, where you’ll be greeted by the local sheriff and possibly Jailhouse Bob. Once you return, don’t forget to visit the petting zoo where you can feed farm animals.

Online: canyoncreekridingstable.com/

 

Magic, Oddities, and Wonder: Museums

Wisconsin Dells abounds with interactive activities that are sure to spark your imagination and get your creative juices flowing. Challenge your brain power at Ripley Believe It or Not! Museum. Test your gem-finding skills and intuitive powers at Great Wolf Lodge’s MagiQuest and ShadowQuest collaborative games. Find the elusive golden skull at the Lost Temple. Pan for gold at Dells Mining Co. Learn about photography at H.H. Bennett Studio.

 

 

“Ooh” and “Ahh” at Wisconsin Dells' Live Shows

Circus World in Baraboo is entertaining for all ages, Palace Theater in the Dells showcases Broadway musicals and Disney classics, and the Crystal Grand Music Theatre is perfect for music lovers. For a classic Wisconsin experience, however, don’t miss the Dells Lumberjack Show. Watch brawny lumberjacks, made strong by that good Wisconsin dairy, compete in Canoe Jousting, Standing Block Chop, Ax Throwing, and Crosscut Sawing.

Popular amongst visitors is the Tommy Bartlett Show, a 90 minute, action-packed live event that will have you on the edge of your seats. With stunts, acrobatics and water skiers, this is anything but your ordinary show. It's been wow-ing fans for 67 years with extreme water skiing, incredible boat stunts and light-hearted comedy. 

Online: tommybartlett.com/water-show/

photo: Timbavati Wildlife Park

Go Wild: Timbavati Wildlife Park

Watch 70 different species of animals, roam around as you ride on the Old Fort Dells Engine Number 9 Safari Train Ride. You can see more than 400 animals here, including an Artic fox, sloth, kangaroo, wildebeest, lion, and tiger. Timbavati Wildlife Park has it all—Swine Time Pig Racing, illuminating wildlife presentations, giraffe and camel feeding stations, and a large petting zoo and animal nursery for hands-on animal encounters. For a great lay of the land, start your adventure at the observation tower. You’ll spot things that you never thought possible for a day in Wisconsin.

Online: timbavatiwildlifepark.com/

 

Explore Downtown Wisconsin Dells

A change of scenery, outside of the waterparks and adventure courses of the Dells, might be in order. Visit downtown, which is accessible and walkable and worth a look-see. Buy souvenirs at one of the many gift shops, sip espresso in a coffee house, and even get a photo keepsake at Capone's Original Old Time Picture Studio (there are a number of these photo studios). Downtown is a great place to stop for lunch or dinner, treat the kids to fudge and candy, see what you can find in one of the antique shops, and stretch your legs along the Scenic River Walk. You might just surprise yourself with what you’ll find.

Online: wisdells.com/wisconsin-dells-area/attractions/scenicriverwalk.htm

photo: The Tommy Bartlett Exploratory

Visit a Hands-On Interactive Exhibit

The Tommy Bartlett Exploratory – Interactive Science Center, formerly known as Robot World, will delight and inspire your family through interactive scientific discoveries and science. This exhibit is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) at its best, an educator’s dream. With 175 opportunities for learning, your kids will delve deep into science experiments, space exploration, technology-heavy activities and games of skill. This is the sort of place that a young kid can enjoy alongside an older sibling—in short, it’s fun for all.

Online: tommybartlett.com/exploratory/

Ready to start making more amazing memories with your family? Plan your family vacation now at wisdells.com

 

—Wendy Altschuler