Take a moment and imagine a destination that is most ideal to you. Does the adventurous spirit within long to set itself free in an environment that was designed for the very purpose of catering to the limitless, unrestricted amusement of the inner child? Or perhaps you’re looking for an awe-inspiring oasis of scenic sandstone bluffs and tranquil boat rides along the river to calm your mind, and escape the ins and outs of your hectic everyday schedule? Whatever your particular mood may be, Wisconsin Dells is bound to be a destination that fulfills both the extrovert and introvert in you! With three-million people journeying to the Dells each year, it’s no wonder the “Badger” state tops in recreational activities—from fishing and cycling to hiking trails. Wisconsin Dells is also known as the “water park capital of the world,” hosting many of the largest indoor and outdoor water parks in the entire world. For adults and children alike, Wisconsin Dells is the place to enjoy a wide variety of festivities and fun in the sun! It is about a 3 hour and 25 minute drive from Chicago, (195 miles), a 3 hour and 37 minute drive from Minneapolis (216 miles), and a 2 hour and 10 minute drive from Milwaukee (124 miles).
Top 10 attractions
1. Rick Wilcox Magic Theater is the place where master illusionists Rick and Suzan Wilcox opened their 550-seat theater in 1999 and have continued to dazzle and entertain thousands year-round. This 90- minute show combines magic and comedy along with unadulterated quick wit and astounding illusions that leave onlookers on the edge of their seat. The gracious hosts even take time to connect with their audience in a meet and greet sort of manner by signing autographs and taking photos after the show. Visitors have the option of purchasing their tickets in advance online or from the Rick Wilcox Theater box office. Admission is $40 for adults and $34 for children.
2. Wisconsin Deer Park provides a unique experience where families can come explore, relish, and feed over 100 deer and a variety of other wildlife. This petting zoo has been up and running for over fifty years, providing its visitors with not only fun and downtime, but the chance to expand their minds and gain knowledge about the animals as they transition into various life cycles. With 40 acres of land to walk through, one can sense a high level of authenticity as you stroll through the perfectly paved, well-groomed, wooded trails—interacting with the American Elk, Bison, and European Fallow Dear to name a few. Wisconsin Deer Park is the perfect place to slow down time and connect with nature. Admission is $12 for adults and $8 for children.
3. H.H. Bennett Studio is the oldest operating business in Wisconsin Dells. Henry Hamilton Bennett first opened his studio doors in 1865—thus creating the legacy of being the eldest operating photography studio in the United States. Visitors of this mini-museum can indulge in the works of the proclaimed “best photographer of the 19th century” and feast their eyes upon many of Bennett’s original photographs, photography inventions, homemade cameras, and equipment. Come experience a walk down history lane and be inspired by a man who was not only left his mark on the photography world—but was also an inventor, promoter, and entrepreneur. Admission is $7 for adults and $3.50 for children.
4. Noah’s Ark holds the unequivocal rank as “America’s Largest Waterpark”—a title that is undefeated and very much deserved. Housed on 70 acres of land with more than 60 separate activities, Noah’s Ark is a recreational smorgasbord for the restless and highly energetic. Kids of all ages can splash around in the Kiddie Play Area or hang-ten on one of the parks largest wave pools, indisputably named, the Big Kahuna. With three dozen waterslides, mini golf, go-carts, and a white water raft adventure—boredom is absolutely impossible! The park is open from the months of May to September. Admission is $38.99 for adults and $28.99 for children.
5. Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf gives a whole new meaning to the sport of mini-golf. Families can enjoy a day of challenging their golf skills with a variety of adventure courses such as Blackbeard’s 18 (easiest), which goes over a waterfall at the highest point—or Pirate’s Lookout (Medium Difficulty), which winds around a waterfall on top of a hill and gives a spectacular view of the Wisconsin River. Visitors have the unique opportunity to be not only physically stimulated, but visually stimulated as well—golfing among 30,000 plants and other magnificent landscaping. Bring the kids for some fun in the playland area or the whole family for a sheltered outdoor picnic. Open daily from April to October, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Prices vary according to hole courses.
6. Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Parks hails as the world’s largest water resort. This majestic land features 37 watersides, 3 lazy rivers, 2 huge wave pools including Poseidon’s Rage – unleashing killer waves up to 9 ft. tall, the Lost City of Atlantis – a giant water fortress that is 6 stories tall with a monster dump bucket, and 7 waterslides and geyser blasting water over 160 feet into the sky. If your heading is spinning from all the water, replenish your balance on land and head over to one of the 8 go-kart tracks, batting cages, or arcades for some fun and games. Admission is $19.99 (prices can vary depending on what day you arrive) or get free admission if you lodge at Mt. Olympus Hotel Rome. Whether you’re bringing the kids for their first visit or 100th visit—Mt. Olympus will definitely be one wild ride that you’ll never forget!
7. Circus World Museum serves as a standing monument—a memoir of the days when five brothers: Al, Otto, Charles, John, and Alf T. Ringling brought The Ringling Bros. Circus to life and created a legacy spanning over 34 years—from 1884 to 1918. As this glorious period in time began to fade, the man whom had been the personal attorney to the Ringling Families, John M. Kelly, became inspired and envisioned a way to preserve this families history and the circus industry, and in 1959—Circus World was born. Visitors can expect to see the largest collection of circus artifacts in the world, including over 210 original vehicles and wagons used by American, English, and Irish circuses, original fine are oil paintings, rare photographs of the performers, and so much more. Circus World Museum is a history lesson you don’t want to miss! Admission is $17.95 for adults and $7.95 for children.
8. Tommy Bartlett Show is awesome! Tommy Bartlett was born in 1952 as a traveling show out of Chicago. Its adventurous creator, Tommy Bartlett, made a household name for himself when he turned his inspiration into action after seeing his first water ski show. From that inspiration sparked a water extravaganza that has continued to evolve throughout history by combining some of the most elite choreography, famous entertainers, incredible stunts, and state-of-the-art sound and visual technologies—giving audiences a show beyond their imaginations. Although Mr. Bartlett passed away in 1998, his legacy lives on and the Tommy Bartlett Show continues to the longest-running, live, outdoor entertainment show of its kind. General admission is $21 for adults and $11 for children.
9. Ripley’s Believe it or Not! began its magical journey in 1918 when cartoonist and adventurer, Robert Ripley, put utensil to canvas and started drawing his daily feature. From that moment of creativity, Ripley’s Believe it or Not has been entertaining visitors from around the world for over 90 years with extraordinary attractions in 10 countries, along with best-selling books and television series in more than 70 countries. Ripley’s Odditorium at Wisconsin Dells features three floors with 11 incredible galleries of illusions that puzzle the mind and large collection of other odd and interesting things you won’t find anywhere else. Let your curiosity wonder in The Temple of Discovery, where you can explore ancient artifacts and feel the earth shake—all in good fun of course. Admission is $25.99 for adults and $21.99 for children.
10. Dell Boat Tour is the result of Wisconsin Dells growing popularity and prominence as a vacation spot in the mid-1850s. Tourism began to flourish and river guides rose to the occasion with the exclusive rowboat—resulting in the introduction of paddle-wheeled steamers and the motorized launches that came into creation down the line. This “tourism boom” has now grown into boat tours that carry over 500,000 passengers through the picturesque wonders of Wisconsin Dells. Couples can turn up the romance and spend an evening aboard the Sunset Dinner Cruise, marveling at the scenery and taking a dreamy stroll through the torch-lit paths of Witches Gulch— or indulge in a little fright among the Ghost Boat, a spooky excursion that includes a moonlit scenery and haunting tales of the Dells. Prices vary depending on the chosen boat tour, but expect to spend between $12-$30.
As if this Wisconsin Dells isn’t enough to feast your eyes upon—this destination is also expert at stimulating the appetite.
Monk’s Bar & Grill – A Wisconsin Dells tradition since 1947. The elusive Angus beef burger is what keeps visitors and locals alike hungering for more. Two level seating. Full drink menu and great food makes for good times! (608) 254-6036
Crabby’s All You Can Eat Seafood & More – A haven for seafood lovers and family fun. Features a Galley style dining room and an Animatronic Pirate Show! Variety of seafood and meat dishes.(608) 253-CRAB
High Rock Café – Located on the downtown strip area, this high-end café combines class with delicious, American cuisine. Satisfy your taste buds with unique salads, hearty wraps, or pasta. The hustle and bustle and downtown awaits you! (608) 254-5677
Moosejaw Pizza & Dells Brewing Co. – Family friendly restaurant featuring some of the best steak, pizza, and beers in the Dells! Serving 10 different styles of hand-crafted microbrews and unique seasonal flavors, visitors are sure to have a good time and return for another round. (608) 254-1122
Mexicali Rose – A fiesta of colors, lights, breathtaking views, savory smells and friendly excitement makes Mexicali Rose the ideal environment for fine Mexican and American food. Relax and enjoy a menu of delicious margaritas, sizzling fajitas, and festive ambiance. (608) 254-6036
Downtown Wisconsin Dells gives visitors a plethora of options when to finding those unique souvenirs and tokens of appreciation and includes a broad mixture of stores—from art galleries to apparel boutiques and more!
Buckhorn Exchange at Great Wolf Lodge: Located inside the Great Wolf Lodge Resort. Exclusive souvenirs and tastefully chosen merchandise. 1400 Great Wolf Drive Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965, (608) 253-2222 (800) 559-9653 Open: Year-round; Parsons Indian Trading: Holds the largest collection of Native American crafted products. Post & Museum: 370 Wisconsin Dells Pkwy, Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965, (608) 254-8533, (866) 281-8704 Open: Year-round; Wisconsin Dells Antique Mall: Offering everything from World War II memorabilia to antique toys to sports merchandise. S2279 Timothy Lane Wisconsin Dells WI, | Phone: 608-356-7600. Open 7 days a week
Whether you want the speed and efficiency of an airport or you want cruise and take the scenic route— the journey you choose to take to get to Wisconsin Dells should be smooth and stress-free.
By plane: The Dane County Regional Airport in Madison is an hour to the south. Further away lies O’Hare International Airport in Chicago and Gen. Mitchel International Airport in Milwaukee.
By train: Amtrak’s Empire Builder route between Chicago/Milwaukee and the Pacific Northwest passes through the Dells. The Station is located just off Broadway, the main strip of downtown Wisconsin Dells.
By car: Interstate 90/94 passes right through the Dells area with four exits leading directly to the Wisconsin Dells area.
By Bus: The Greyhound Bus stops at the Citgo/Burger King at 611 Frontage Rd.
Wilderness Territory the Wilderness’s 3 indoor water parks combine to include 240,000 sq ft, making it the largest indoor water park in North America. The Wilderness has 4 indoor and 4 outdoor water parks totaling nearly 500,000 square feet. It was featured as #1 on our list of America’s Ten Best Hotel Pools.
Black Hawk Motel (Avg. $114 per night) – Top 25 Bargain Hotel in the World and 2013 traveler’s choice winner. Located in the heart of Wisconsin Dells, just 4 blocks from downtown and river district. Free WiFi and splash pass for each room reserved. All rooms are non-smoking.
Mt. Olympus Hotel Rome (Avg. $109 per night) – 1000 rooms spread over the Wisconsin Dells strip. Immediate access to Mt. Olympus Water Park & Theme Parks and room includes free admission.
Northern Bay Golf Resort and Marina (Avg. $201 per night) – Located on the shores of Castle Rock Lake just north of the Wisconsin Dells. 18 hole golf course and breathtaking sunsets over the lake. Close to shopping outlet and state parks
Cedar Lodge & Settlement (Avg. $443-556) – Located off the beaten path next to Lost Canyon on the Lower Dells of Wisconsin Dells. Spacious lodge rooms, suites, and villas; scenic and relaxing.
Amber’s Hideaway (Avg. $ 65-$208) – Conveniently located on the quiet side of Wisconsin Dells and within walking distance of the historic downtown shops, restaurants, nightly entertainment and the breath taking River Walk.
The Great Wolf Lodge – While the Great Wolf Lodge was not quite right for our family, it may be perfect for yours! They feature a massive 84-degree indoor water park with over 38,000 square feet of water-packed excitement, including jaw-dropping slides for thrill seekers or zero-depth entry areas for little ones. Grab a wand and battle a dragon in MagiQuest or get an ice cream-themed manicure in Scooops Kid Spa before gathering your family in our Grand Lobby for nightly fireside Story Time. Check out this video that I took at their Charlotte, NC location.