It’s billed as the Waterpark Capital of the World, and maybe it is. There sure are a bunch of them. But Wisconsin Dells offers a lot more to do besides body slides and wave pools, thanks to a load of family-flavored attractions and activities.
Water does, however, dominate the theme in the Dells (named for the French term “dalles,” which means “slab-like rock”). Visitors have been touring the sandstone gorge, or narrows, along the banks of the Wisconsin River for more than 150 years, and the striking formations, canyons and caves have not dwindled in appeal over the decades.
The Wisconsin River, which bisects the city of Wisconsin Dells, is a tributary of the Mississippi but is not navigable all the way up. So, in order to get a boat in the water here or at nearby Lake Delton, it will have to be trailered in — or you can rent one at many of the marinas in the area.
Where to Dock
If you trailer your boat to Wisconsin Dells, there are many marinas and docks to get it into the water. Holiday Shores Campground & Resort has boat rentals and slips, gas pumps and services for boaters, as well as a 167-site campground and rental cabins. Be aware that slips are available for registered guests only. Holiday Shores is four miles from Wisconsin Dells by land and three miles by water.
River Bay Camping Resort & Marina, located on the opposite bank of the river from Holiday Shores, offers tent sites, log cabins, log lodges and three-bedroom family condos. Plus, all customers receive passes to the Chula Vista Resort, one of the major waterparks in the Dells.
What to Do
The major attraction of the Dells is the many waterparks. Since it is the Waterpark Capital of the World, it would be good to visit one, especially if you have brought children along. Chula Vista, Mt. Olympus, Noah’s Ark, Wilderness Resort and Kalihari have both indoor and outdoor waterparks, so guests can get wet during any season.
The Dells also has the largest collection of Army Ducks in the country. Two companies, Original Wisconsin Ducks and Wisconsin Dells Army Ducks, provide tours on land and water in one of the many amphibious vehicles of their fleet. The DUKWs are retired Army vehicles that were used for troop landings during World War II.
For the less adventurous, there are other, more refined ways to explore the Wisconsin River and its narrows. Dells Boat Tours offers dinner and sunset cruises. Visitors to River Bay Camping Resort & Marina, which also has a paddlewheel boat called the Princess Kay, can enjoy similar tours.
In the evening, after drying off from the day’s fun in the water, check out the Tommy Bartlett Show on Lake Delton. Billed as The Greatest Show on H2O, the 90-minute water show features a skilled water ski team performing speed and aerial tricks. Or, take in a show at the Rick Wilcox Magic Theater.
Prefer to spend a day away from the wet stuff? There are multiple golf courses, walking/biking trails along the Wisconsin River RiverWalk, and unique shops and museums.
A trip to Watson’s Woods is not a roam through a forest but a visit to see wood sculptures and original chainsaw carvings by Grand National Champion Carver Dave Watson. Or, visit the H. H. Bennett Studio, home of the photographer who put the Dells on the map with his images of the Wisconsin River. While there, learn about his most famous photograph, Leaping the Chasm at Stand Rock.
Mid-Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom, less than 20 miles from Wisconsin Dells, is an outdoor living history museum. It interprets the history of the short-line railway during the Golden Age of Railroading, from 1880 to 1916. Also near the Dells is the International Crane Foundation, where visitors can see all 15 species of cranes of the world in live exhibits.
Where to Eat
As most visitors would expect, the Dells has a wide assortment of restaurants and eateries. Start the day off with a hearty lumberjack breakfast at Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty, or at the Mr. Pancake Restaurant. Have lunch at Sprecher’s Restaurant & Pub or at Moosejaw Pizza & Dells Brewing Co. For dinner, try Sarrento’s or The Del-Bar.
With so many things to do in and out of the water, sites to see and places to eat, Wisconsin Dells is worth checking out. Trailer a boat or rent one, but either way, be sure to enjoy the water recreation this great family destination has to offer.
Chula Vista Resort & Waterpark – www.chulavistaresort.com
H.H. Bennett Studio – www.hhbennettstudio.wisconsinhistory.org
Holiday Shores Campground & Resort – www.holiday-shores.com
International Crane Foundation – www.savingcranes.org
Kalihari Waterpark & Resort – www.kalahariresorts.com/wisconsin
Mid-Continent Railway Museum – www.midcontinent.org
Moosejaw Pizza & Dells Brewing Co. – www.dellsmoosejaw.com
Mr. Pancake Restaurant – www.mrpancake.com
Mt. Olympus Waterpark – www.mtolympuspark.com
Noah’s Ark Waterpark – www.noahsarkwaterpark.com
Original Wisconsin Ducks – www.wisconsinducktours.com
Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty – www.paulbunyans.com
Rick Wilcox Magic Theater – www.rickwilcox.com
River Bay Camping Resort & Marina – www.dellsriverbay.com
Sarrento’s – www.sarentosrestaurant.com
Sprecher’s Restaurant & Pub – www.sprecherspub.com
The Del-Bar – www.del-bar.com
Tommy Bartlett Show – www.tommybartlett.com/water-show/
Watson’s Woods – www.watsonswoods.com
Wilderness Waterpark Resort – www.wildernessresort.com
Wisconsin Dells Army Ducks – www.dellsducks.com
Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau – www.wisdells.com