What to Do When You Visit Wisconsin Dells

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.

Raja Noahs Ark Waterpark

Things to Do in Wisconsin Dells

Spend the Day at Noah’s Ark Waterpark

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.

waterslides at Noahs Ark waterpark e1562112959368

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.

group picture at Noahs Ark e1562113407251

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.

Sting Ray at Noahs Ark waterpark

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.

Noahs Ark waterpark Wisconsin Dells e1562113038302

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.

Dole whip Noahs Ark waterpark e1562113062230

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.

Scenic Upper Dells Tour with Dells Boat Tours

Enjoy the Scenic Upper Dells Tour with Dells Boat Tours®

107 Broadway

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.

Upper Dells Tour with Dells Boat Tours 1

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.

Witches Gulch stop

Our first stop was Witches Gulch, which was such an unexpected surprise. The mossy narrow formations felt like something out of a movie.

Witches Gulch Upper Dells Tour with Dells Boat Tours
Witches Falls

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.

Stand Rock stop on Upper Dells Tour with Dells Boat Tours
Stand Rock at Wisconsin Dells

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.

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.

hiking near stand rock

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 on 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.

souvenir book from Scenic Upper Dells Tour with Dells Boat Tours

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.

Original Wisconsin Ducks e1562122754774

Original Wisconsin Ducks®

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.

female skiers Tommy Bartlett Show

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 of the professional performers on the water.

clown at Tommy Bartlett Show e1562132288313

The 90-minute Wisconsin Dells Water Show features extreme water-skiing tricks and stunts, comedy acts, Flyboard tricks, and human pyramids on skis.

ski show Tommy Bartlett Show
Tommy Bartlett Show
Tommy Bartlett Show Wisonsin Dells

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.

group photo at Tommy Bartlett Show

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.

Tommy Bartlett Show welcome sign e1562132709502

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.

BigFoot Ropes Course e1562124329412

Face Your Fears on the BigFoot Zipline or Ropes Course

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.

element at BigFoot Rope Course
helicopter at BigFoot Rope Course e1562133883762

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.

BigFoot Ropes Course in Wisconsin Dells

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.

inside the helicopter BigFoot Ropes Course Wisconsin Dells

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.

Timbavati Wildlife Park

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.

train at Timbavati Wildlife Park
birds at Timbavati Wildlife Park

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.

giraffe at Timbavati Wildlife Park

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.

Paul Bunyan’s Northwoods Cook Shanty e1562126874640

Great Places to Eat in Wisconsin Dells


Fill Up at Paul Bunyan’s Northwoods Cook Shanty

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.

statue at 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.

log cabin decor at Paul Bunyan’s Northwoods Cook Shanty

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.

buttermilk donuts Paul Bunyan’s Northwoods Cook Shanty

Our breakfast started with buttermilk donuts, followed by biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, sausage links and ham, camp-fried potatoes, flapjacks, coffee, and juice.

breakfast at Paul Bunyan’s Northwoods Cook Shanty

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.

Mr Pancake Wisconsin Dells

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.

peanut butter pancake Mr Pancake Wisconsin Dells
omelett and pancakes at Mr Pancake Wisconsin Dells

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

MACS Macaroni and Cheese Shop e1562110882465

A Cheese Lovers Paradise at MACS – Macaroni and Cheese Shop

208 Broadway

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 Macaroni and Cheese Shop pan sizes

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.

chicken bacon ranch MACS Macaroni and Cheese Shop

A few of our favorites were the bacon, chicken, ranch, and jalapeno popper. My younger son is a mac and cheese purist, and he still loved his version too.

view from above The Grateful Shed Truckyard

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.

elevated greyhound bus The Grateful Shed Truckyard

You can choose from food trucks with Asian food, street tacos, and grilled cheese variations. The hardest part is narrowing down your options.

street tacos The Grateful Shed Truckyard
Chinese food The Grateful Shed Truckyard
outside The Grateful Shed Truckyard

There is a bar and plenty of seating areas inside or outside. The outdoor area also has fire pits and cornhole.

The Grateful Shed Truckyard stairs
eat sign The Grateful Shed Truckyard
vw seating at The Grateful Shed Truckyard

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.

train Buffalo Phil’s Pizza Grille

Buffalo Phil’s Pizza & Grille

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.

drinks delivered by train Buffalo Phil’s Pizza Grille

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.

train for food Buffalo Phil’s Pizza Grille

Seriously, why would you want to sit anywhere else?

tri tip sandwich at Buffalo Phil’s Pizza Grille

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.

Hot Rocks Wisconsin Dells

Cook Your Meat at Hot Rocks

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.

Hot Rocks sign e1562119901673
drink at Hot Rocks

Your server will give you pointers for the best practices for when to flip or sear your meat depending on what you select.

Porthouse at Hot Rocks

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.

Hot Rocks Fudge Volcano

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.

outdoor waterpark Kalahari Resorts Wisconsin Dells

Where We Stayed

Kalahari Resorts & Conventions

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 best of both worlds, it’s nice to stay at a hotel that doubles as an amazing indoor and outdoor waterpark.

waterslide Kalahari Resorts Wisconsin Dells
Kalahari Resorts Wisconsin Dells outdoor waterpark e1562121050771

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 Resorts Wisconsin Dells
wave pool at Kalahari Resorts Wisconsin Dells e1562121388784

Kalahari is Wisconsin’s largest indoor waterpark and provides areas that will appeal to families of all ages.

swim up bar Kalahari Resorts

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.

room at Kalahari Resorts Wisconsin Dells

Kalahari Resort offers a range of room options for families depending on their size and amenity needs. We stayed in the Sands section of the hotel with access to the waterparks via the skywalk so we never had to go outside in our swimsuits to visit the other section of the building.

We really enjoyed our visit to The Dells, and we’ve found many reasons to want to come back!

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What to do when you visit Wisconsin Dells
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