We just got back from a (very) brief vacation up in the Wisconsin Dells.
For those of you not familiar with the upper midwest, the Wisconsin Dells is this area just north of Madison, WI, kind of in the middle of the state. It was formed by the glaciers during the last ice age, and there are beautiful lakes, limestone cliffs, woods, and … and… it has basically over the last 100 years been a huge summer tourist destination.
Picture Las Vegas, but with northwoods natural beauty, and instead of miles and miles of casinos you have miles and miles of waterparks. Yes, waterparks. In fact I think the Dells is the “waterpark capital of the world” or at least the tourism board thinks so. And in every kind of theme you can imagine – African theme (waterparks, in Africa?), ancient Roman themed, northwoods themed, and just plain “we are the biggest, hugest waterpark ever” themed. Cue cheesy “main” strip with all the old junk shops, neon and flashing lights, arcades, fudge/candy shops and junk food restaurants. Every kind of boat ride to suit your fancy – fast or slow, short or long, upper or lower Dells. There’s even a water ski show that I think has been performing on the lake for 50 years or more.
Suffice it to say the Dells is my 8-year-old’s most favorite vacation spot in the whole world. Except maybe for Italy. Or at least the places in Italy we stay that have a pool.
We always stay at the Kalahari Resort when we go there. It’s the African-themed park. We’ve never actually stayed anywhere else so I can’t say it’s the best waterpark in the Dells, but we sure like it.
They do “family friendly” well, in that they have a ton of things going on to keep the kids entertained, but it’s not so saccharine that the parents just want to hurl (they make really good fruity cocktails poolside). And it’s huge. Really, really huge. Outdoor waterpark, indoor waterpark, I don’t even know how many restaurants, pottery-making place, candy/ice cream shop and this massively huge indoor theme park, which has tons of arcade games, go-karts, mini-golf, a rock climbing wall, ropes course, merry-go-round and an actual, huge, full-size ferris wheel INDOORS. This is Wisconsin after all. Let’s just say that in my daughter’s perfect world, we go to the Kalahari, check in, and we never leave. Why would we? “Welcome to the Hotel Kalahari … such a lovely place …”
You know how when you go to Las Vegas, and time has no meaning, and you spend hours and hours and hours in carefully crafted environments that have everything you could want or need right at your fingertips? You lose all track of day or night, indoors or outdoors, or that a world outside even exists? Well these Dells waterparks do the same thing but for kids. It’s like Vegas on training wheels. Although the closest you come to gambling is spending hundreds on arcade games trying to get enough tickets to “buy” that cheap toy that probably cost $4. Wait, that is gambling. Hmm…