If you live in the Midwest you are likely aware that the Wisconsin Dells are known to be a fun summer escape and you are dreaming of sunny days splashing at a water park right now. The Wisconsin Dells are best known for their water parks, but their countless attractions, family friendly hotels and restaurants, and gorgeous natural beauty make them the ideal summer vacation spot for any family. My family was lucky enough to live about 15 minutes away from the Dells for three years and when the weather starts to warm is when we most miss the great variety of fun it has to offer.
In finding your bearings, it is helpful to note that Lake Delton is the town adjacent to Wisconsin Dells. This is where many hotels are located and various family friendly spots. The two towns run into one another so when people refer to the Dells they are often talking about the collective area of both towns. Baraboo, WI is a nearby town (about 15 minutes) which holds Devil's Lake. This is often considered the Dells area by out of towners. We have included things in all three towns in the information below, but focused primarily on the Dells/Lake Delton area.
Here are our top picks for Where to Stay. Where to Eat. and Where to Play:
STAY. Having lived locally, we do not have a ton of experience staying in local hotels. However, between our hotel stays and those of family and friends we recommend the following:
*Great Wolf Lodge : if you are looking for something with a waterpark, we had a great experience here. It is significantly smaller than the Kalahari located across the street. The Great Wolf Lodge has a restaurant and huge indoor waterpark. There are various family friendly room options and the price is reasonable for the area. I like that the waterpark is only for hotel guests as well. This makes it a little less crowded even during the busy months. The Kalahari is a play hotel. There are indoor and outdoor waterparks, a movie theater, and indoor theme park with mini-golf, etc. I personally find it a little loud and overwhelming, but there is certainly plenty to do. The activities however are open to the public so you can utilize them even if you are not a guest. If you hit a patch of rainy days, make note that this is the only movie theater in the area.
*The Wilderness : This one is another huge hotel that has more of a resort feel. There is everything from golf to zip-lining here. I haven't stayed here, but everyone I know who has greatly enjoyed their stay.
*There are various "normal" hotels in the area as well. If you want to get out an explore the Dells, I'd look for a regular hotel with a pool.
EAT. There are so many, many restaurants in the Dells it can be a little overwhelming. Here are our favorites:
*Favorite: Cheeze Factory Restaurant. This is an oddly named vegan restaurant. I won't deny that part of why I love it is that my son with a dairy allergy can eat everything, but it is incredible breakfast and lunch food.
*Italian Food: Sarento's in the Dells. Good selection of Italian staples.
*For the View: Ravina Bay. On a warm summer night, sit on the patio by the lake. You might even get a peek at the Tommy Bartlett Water Show
*Pizza: Moosejaw Pizza in the Dells or Mama Mia in Baraboo. Moosejaw is fun and family friendly. Mama Mia's is delicious pizza.
*Burgers: Monk's. There are several locations around the Dells area.
*Lunch: Broadway Diner in Baraboo. Cute restaurant with good food. Close to both Circus World and Devil's Lake.
*Coffee: There is a Starbucks in the Lake Delton, but we loved the Coffee Bean Connection in Baraboo. Great drink selection (including fruit only smoothies for the kids) and a little coloring space in the corner to keep kids occupied while you rest and chat. Recommend a stop on the way to Circus World or Devil's Lake.
*Pack Lunch Food. Especially if you are headed to the Waterparks, I would avoid purchasing lunch.
PLAY. There is an overwhelming number of things to do in the Dells area, especially in the summer. We tried almost everything at least once during our 3 years in the area and here are the ones we would do over and over again!
*The Original Wisconsin Ducks (Wisconsin Dells) One of the most unique forms of transportation around and a classic Dells attraction. See the beautiful dells area from a Duck ride.
*Riverside and Great Northern Train Ride (Wisconsin Dells) If your kids like trains, this is a sweet little train ride through the woods on a child sized train. To ride on a full scale train, a half an hour drive to North Freedom can afford you such a ride.
*Noah's Ark or Mt Olympus (Wisconsin Dells) The Dells are called The Waterpark Capitol of the World so you really shouldn't visit in the summer without visiting one. Can't decide, here are some thoughts on which one to choose.
*Circus World (Baraboo WI) This is a fun, albeit touristy attraction near the Dells. Young children will delight at the animals, playground, carousel, and shows. I am not personally a huge circus fan, but this is a fun attraction and my kids are huge fans.
*Devil's Lake State Park. (Baraboo WI) This is my absolute favorite spot in this area. It is beautiful. There are lovely hiking trails, boats to rent, and beaches along the gorgeous lake. However, it gets insanely busy here on the weekends during the summer. Although I highly recommend a visit, it is best to go during the week. If you only have a weekend to spend, I would visit Devil's Lake Sunday. If you can stay a day or two on either side of the weekend, Monday or Tuesday are usually the quietest times at the park. Even with some crowds, Devil's Lake is worth the trip.
*Some indoor ideas, in case you hit a rainy day:
Knuckleheads: Games, bouncer, climber, bowling. Good for children ages 2+.
Kalahari: Mini-golf, ropes course, movie theater. Better for older children. 4+
There you have it. A perfect vacation waiting for you. Now it's time to put those dreams of warmer weather into action and start planning a summer trip to the Wisconsin Dells!
*Note: Most things are closed or have limited hours in the Spring, Winter, and Fall. The Dells is generally fully open Memorial Day through Labor Day.
*Which Water Park is for Your Family? How to pick between Noah's Ark and Mt Olympus.
*A Summer Weekend in Madison WI
*A Summer Weekend in Milwaukee WI
*For even more ideas, here are all of our favorite spots in Wisconsin.
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