Located less than 2 hours from Milwaukee and an hour from Madison, Wisconsin Dells is a popular Midwest destination for families year-round as “The Waterpark Capital of the World!”
The beauty of The Dells has been drawing generations of tourists to the area for years, and now I understand why.
Our visit was sponsored by Travel Mindset and Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau. All opinions are my own.
My mother in law, niece, and my youngest son joined me for a weekend adventure in The Dells. We experienced non-stop fun during our first visit to places that you will want to add to your list.
Things to Do in Wisconsin Dells
1410 Wisconsin Dells Pkwy
When you visit “The Waterpark Capital of the World!®” a great place to start is at the Largest Waterpark in America, Noah’s Ark Waterpark.
What I loved about this waterpark was that even though it’s HUGE (70 acres) the park doesn’t feel huge in a bad way.
You can find several different types of rides and thrill levels located close to each other so that you don’t have to walk very far between rides.
Our favorite rides of the day were the Black Anaconda water coaster, the longest in America at 1/4 mile long and the Sting Ray slide that drops you down a super steep incline in a double or single inner tube. My mother in law LOVED the water coaster and was so glad that we talked her into going on it.
We also enjoyed relaxing at the wave pool and the lazy river in between thrill rides. There are lots of options for families of all ages, with 51 slides and attractions.
A few food favorites at the park are Pink’s Hot Dogs and the Dole Whip Oasis Stand. A Dole Whip is the perfect treat after a long day in the sun.
A few tips before you go:
Save on admission to Noah’s Ark Waterpark by purchasing your tickets online. It’s also worth paying the extra $5 to upgrade your parking for closer access to the park.
Enjoy the Scenic Upper Dells Tour with Dells Boat Tours®
A two-hour tour on the Wisconsin River is a great way to introduce you to the amazing rock formations and cliffs in The Dells.
I loved that this tour also gave us two different opportunities to get off of the boat to briefly explore and grab a snack at the concession stand.
Our first stop was Witches Gulch, which was such an unexpected surprise. The mossy narrow formations felt like something out of a movie.
The trail path ends at a concession stand and bathhouse if you need to take a break. We had about 20-25 minutes during that stop.
Our next stop was Stand Rock, which had a little more of an incline that might be more challenging if you are in a wheelchair. We learned about the site where famous photographer, Henry Hamilton Bennett took a photograph of his son jumping across to Stand Rock.
This is also the location where we watched a trained German Shepherd jump to and from the face of Stand Rock. He only does it once so have your cameras ready to capture a photo or video, and there is a safety net in place just in case.
A few tips before you go:
Bring a sweatshirt or jacket because it can get cooler out on the water. When we started our tour, it was really hot and sunny, but it became windier later into our tour.
Seating for the tours is first come, first serve. You will wait on the benches before your departure and will enter the boat in the order that you arrive. We were glad that we got there early because we wanted to sit on the top deck.
You’ll have the opportunity to purchase a souvenir book during your tour that highlights the areas from the tour, along with vintage photos, so you will want to make sure that you have cash on hand.
1890 Wisconsin Dells Pkwy
We didn’t have enough time to check out this tour, but the Original Wisconsin Ducks® tour is also very popular. The one hour tour takes you over sandbars and in the Wisconsin River and Lake Delton, and it’s the only tour in the world in continuous operation since 1946.
I’m definitely adding it to my list for my next visit.
Watch the Tommy Bartlett Show
560 Wisconsin Dells Pkwy
A water ski show that dates back to the 1950s, the Tommy Bartlett Show does not disappoint. It’s not very often that you get to witness the skills by the professional performers on the water.
The 90-minute Wisconsin Dells Water Show features extreme water-skiing tricks and stunts, comedy acts, Flyboard tricks, and human pyramids on skis.
The first half of the show was filled with the waterski and water stunts and after the intermission, we saw more skills on land by performers who could do acrobatics, motorcycle stunts, and juggling.
Registered guests at Kalahari get free admission to the Tommy Bartlett Show! You need to get your tickets from the front desk and show the attendant your waterpark wristband.
We were offered the option to upgrade our seating when we arrived, but we opted for our regular seats for the 8:30 p.m. show. The seating in our section was first come first serve, and we arrived early enough to find great seats.
1550 Wisconsin Dells Pkwy
If you like to challenge yourself, you’ll find hours of fun at BigFoot Zipline and Ropes Course. During our visit, we were tight on time, so we opted to try the Ropes Course.
Each participant is harnessed in and is always connected to the course during their adventure. My mother in law isn’t a huge fan of heights, but she did a great job working her way up the course.
Participants can choose their own adventure with over 80+ elements to try on multiple levels. You progress to the next height level at your own pace, and you can even step off the course if you need a break before moving on.
If you reach the top level of the course and walk across the beam, you can climb inside the helicopter at the top.
There are free lockers available for guests to secure their valuables while they are up in the air and the staff is really helpful to make sure that you have a positive experience on the course.
See Animals at Timbavati Wildlife Park
2220 Wisconsin Dells Pkwy
There are more than 400 animals representing over 70 species at Timbavati Wildlife Park. A few of the many things to do during your visit include viewing the baby animals in the nursery, feeding the parakeets and giraffes, and taking a Safari Train Ride.
We had a short amount of time to visit the Wildlife Park because we had a plane to catch. One of the most popular areas during our visit was the giraffe feeding area.
If you are a registered guest at Kalahari, you can also get free admission to Timbavati Wildlife Park, which is another perk. Make sure that you get your tickets at the Kalahari front desk.
Great Places to Eat in Wisconsin Dells
411 State Hwy 13
Taking family-style food to a whole other level, you definitely need to come with an appetite to Paul Bunyan’s Northwoods Cook Shanty.
You can get a picture with Paul Bunyan or Babe the Blue Ox on your way in to eat at this lodge-themed restaurant.
You pay for your meal before you are seated, which is a little different, but it does make it faster when you are ready to leave after your meal. If you want your server’s tip added to your bill, make sure that you tell the cashier ahead of time.
Our breakfast started with buttermilk donuts, followed by biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, sausage links and ham, camp-fried potatoes, flapjacks, coffee, and juice.
We could have gotten refills on any of the breakfast items, but we were stuffed after the first round. Kudos to those who keep those refills coming. The restaurant also serves different menu items for lunch and dinner if you visit at a later time.
Enjoy Breakfast Sweets at Mr. Pancake
1405 Wisconsin Dells Pkwy
This is a great breakfast spot in a building shaped like a giant paddle boat. The specialty pancakes are really large and the omelets even come with pancakes, so you don’t have to choose between sweet or savory.
You will definitely not leave hungry. Mr. Pancake is located across the street from the Noah’s Ark Waterpark entrance which makes it a great place to fill up before your big day at the park.
*This is a very popular breakfast spot, so try to avoid the morning rush and get there extra early or later.
Lunch & Dinner
Mac and cheese fans, this place is for you! Don’t let the pan sizes fool you, because the regular size is really filling.
MACS has an assortment of creative combinations to mix up your mac n’ cheese, and I can guarantee that it will be love at first bite.
A few of our favorites were the bacon, chicken, ranch and the jalapeno popper. My younger son is a mac and cheese purist, and he still loved his version too.
Stay and Play at The Grateful Shed Truckyard
1470 Wisconsin Dells Pkwy
The Grateful Shed Truckyard was one of my favorite discoveries during our visit. It combined food trucks, great live music, creative seating and decor including an elevated rehabbed Greyhound bus that you can dine in.
You can choose from food trucks with Asian food, street tacos, and grilled cheese variations. The hardest part is narrowing down your options.
There is a bar and plenty of seating areas inside or outside. The outdoor area also has fire pits and cornhole.
You really need to take your time to look around at everything while you are there. There are so many fun details located throughout the space.
150 Gasser Rd
I’m a sucker for a gimmick, and Buffalo Phil’s Pizza & Grille has a dining experience that will put a smile on the faces of adults and kids alike.
You have the option to sit in an area where your food and drinks are delivered by a server …or you can sit in the area where they are delivered by train.
Seriously, why would you want to sit anywhere else?
Our sandwiches and burgers were really good and they were delivered to us quickly, which was good because we had a time crunch before leaving for the airport.
The expressions on the kids’ faces as the train passed by blowing bubbles or when it delivered their meals was priceless. I’ll admit, I was super excited when our food came by train, too.
399 Co Rd A
Hot Rocks is a tiki-themed restaurant with fun drinks and menu items that you can watch cooking in front of you on a hot lava stone.
Your server will give you pointers for the best practices for when to flip or sear your meat depending on what you select.
We tried the Filet Mignon Medallions, Jumbo Tiger Shrimp, and the Porterhouse. What’s great is that you are in charge of making sure that your meat is cooked to your preferences on the 750 degrees Fahrenheit lava stone in front of you.
Don’t forget to save room for the Hot Rocks Fudge Volcano for dessert. This is a great dessert for sharing, and the brownie is delicious.
Where We Stayed
1305 Kalahari Dr, Wisconsin Dells, WI
The best of both worlds, it’s nice to stay at a hotel that doubles as an amazing indoor and outdoor waterpark.
The outdoor waterpark allows you to soak up the sun, relax or try a few thrill rides. We had a blast on their watercoaster and group tube slides.
Kalahari is Wisconsin’s largest indoor waterpark and provides areas that will appeal to families of all ages.
The air temperature inside the indoor waterpark is warm, which makes for an awesome year-round adventure. Adults will enjoy the 21+ up hot tub area and swim-up bar.
We really enjoyed our visit to The Dells, and we’ve found many reasons to want to come back!
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