Ask any Midwesterner for a list of the most popular local vacation sites, and there’s a high chance you’ll hear the Wisconsin Dells recommended repeatedly. The city of Wisconsin Dells has lots to offer, including world-class indoor and outdoor water parks, making it an excellent choice for families. It’s also relatively affordable, being smaller than the Midwestern gem of Chicago. If you’re yet to visit the Dells, our first-timer’s guide has everything you need, from accommodations to things to do and activities that don’t involve water parks — just in case you need a break from the city’s most famous attraction!
Wisconsin Dells Water Parks
They don’t call the Dells the Waterpark Capital of the World for nothing — the city is home to the world’s largest concentration of indoor and outdoor water parks. Six of the most popular are found on the city’s official tourism site, offering newcomers a quick guide to the area’s various spas, resorts, and other accommodations. We’ll briefly cover them here, but we highly recommend researching before making reservations.
Chula Vista offers hotel rooms that can sleep up to eight adults and boasts more than 200,000 square feet of water parks. While some parks air on the side of adventure, lazy rivers and an 18-hole golf course provide a relaxing experience when called for. Kalahari Resort has a great outdoor water park, but it’s well known for having the largest indoor water park, which is included in the cost of your stay.
There’s also a wildlife park visitors can explore. Land of Natura is a newly opened outdoor waterpark on Lake Michigan, so you’ll need to plan seasonally for this attraction. Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park is home to the country’s tallest water slide, and Noah’s Ark Waterpark is the largest overall in the United States.
Things to Do in the Dells That Aren’t Water Parks
Surprisingly, there are just as many things to do in Wisconsin Dells that aren’t water park-related. A quick stroll through the #lovethedells tag on Instagram helps illustrate, with photos from wildlife encounters, seasonal hikes, golfing, restaurants, and more. The International Crane Foundation is the only place in the world where visitors can see all 15 crane species and Lost Canyon Tours offers horse-drawn views of beautiful caverns.
The Dells also has three riding stables for equestrians of all experience levels. The Wisconsin Deer Park is a family-friendly outdoor adventure with more than 100 deer, and it’d be remiss to leave the Midwest without trying the regional favorite — cheese curds — at the High Rock Cafe. There’s tons to do, even if you’re not into water sports!
Where To Stay in Wisconsin Dells
The Dells offers a few sleeping arrangements, depending on what you’re looking for. Birchcliff Resort offers cabins that make a cozy family or couple’s getaway, as does Cedar Lodge and Settlement and Kathy’s Kozy Kottages. If you’re looking for something more upscale, Atlantis Waterpark Hotel, Baker’s Sunset Bay Resort, and Ho-Chuck Gaming Resort have comfy accommodations. Local options like Amber’s Inn and Suites, Aloha Beach Resort, Best Western Ambassador Inn, and the Colonial Motel offer more affordable stays. The city’s website lists 11 places offering vacation rental homes if you’re booking for a group or want something more private.
Day Trips From Wisconsin Dells
Looking to stay in the Dells but know you’ll have time to take an entire day trip while there? Luckily, the Midwestern location offers easy access to several day-long adventures for those who plan ahead. Baraboo is only a 20-minute drive from the Dells and features the breathtaking Devil’s Lake State Park, a glacial lake surrounded by easy-to-difficult hikes with rock features and impressive scenery.
If you have a car rental, Chicago is only a three-hour drive away, giving Dells visitors quick access to the Windy City. While water parks are fun, there’s nothing wrong with checking out all the art, shopping, and urban charm Chicago has to offer. Lastly, Madison, the state’s capital city, is only about an hour’s drive from the Dells. The charming town has restaurants, shops, a farmer’s market, and more for those looking for a day’s escape.
The Wisconsin Dells is nearly the perfect spot for family vacations, with its world-renowned water parks and resorts. However, there’s just as much to do that doesn’t involve water at all, meaning that groups with visitors who want to shop, enjoy local wildlife, or grab a regional snack have plenty to keep them occupied. With its proximity to other major Midwestern cities and plenty of places to stay that run the budget spectrum, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in the Dells! You might be a first-timer now, but the town’s charm will surely bring you back again and again.