Slide down—and around and down and around—in a gigantic water park
Wisconsin Dells gets its name from the stretches of river valley chiselled through 150-foot-high honey-hued cliffs, but that’s not what draws millions to this south-central Wisconsin tourist mecca. They come for the water parks. ‘The Dells’ boasts the largest single water park, the largest indoor water park and largest number and variety of water parks anywhere in the nation—21 at last count.
And the water parks are merely the aquatic anchor of a full-fledged family vacation destination with an exhausting array of child-pleasing attractions: amusement parks, go-kart tracks, boat tours, water-ski shows, circus acts, haunted houses . . . It’s made this small city the state’s No. 1 tourist destination.
It all began with the natural attraction of those sandstone cliffs. Visitors were stopping in The Dells as early as 1850 to tour serpentine side canyons and towering escarpments by rowboat. Riverboats, amphibious ‘ducks’, water-ski shows, and the rest all eventually joined in too. The Ducks—immense WWII landing craft—are still a hugely popular attraction, trundling along downtown streets and then ploughing right into the Wisconsin River for a tour of its rock formations. Traditional boat tours, too, offer views of the Dells’ fern-draped canyons and pillars of stone.
Anyone with children will find it hard to deny the simple pleasures of the water parks. Noah’s Ark is America’s largest, an eye-popping 70-acre array of 36 waterslides, two wave pools, two artificial rivers and rides like Flash Flood. Resorts in the area have built their own versions. The result is nearly two dozen indoor water parks, including the Kalahari Resort’s 125,000-square-foot creation that includes a 570-foot-long roller coaster, and Great Wolf Lodge, with its 12-level tree house and water jungle gym.
The elegant Sundara Inn & Spa is an organic-style inn hidden away in the pines on 26 acres. Services at the well-known spa include ‘purifying rituals’ such as aroma steam and rainfall showers. Turns out, there are water attractions in the Wisconsin Dells for adults, too.
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Trip idea text ©Patricia Schultz. For contact information about the places mentioned and many more USA trip ideas, see Patricia Schultz's blockbuster book.