The small town in Central Wisconsin known as Wisconsin Dells is the Waterpark Capital of the World. When driving along I-94, this tourist town seems to come out of nowhere. In reality, Wisconsin Dells became a unique attraction thanks to events that took place more than 10,000 years ago.
Glacial activity during the last Ice Age created its namesake “Dells” along what is now the Wisconsin River. The water theme continues today with many water park resorts scattered across town. The Wilderness Resort is America’s largest waterpark resort and where I stayed on a recent Wisconsin staycation. Consider this your guide on how to spend a weekend at the Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells!
Lodging Options at the Wilderness Resort
First and foremost, the Wilderness Resort is a hotel. It is easiest and most affordable for groups of four or less to book a room at the resort itself. Tyler and I opted for that route on our recent visit. This makes it easy to enjoy the hotel all weekend, as everything you need can be found without setting outdoors. The waterparks, restaurants, gift shops, and lobby are all within walking distance from your room. The decor is #PursuitOfCoziness goals; your hotel room feels like a small cabin (with all the amenities, of course)!
For larger groups or longer visits, the cabins on the property may be a better option. These luxury cabins offer more privacy and seclusion than the standard wall-to-wall hotel rooms. They also allow you to enjoy a “weekend at the cabin” without sacrificing hotel amenities. Waterpark passes are still included with the purchase of a cabin, villa, or condo stay. I stayed in one of these cabins with my family as a kid and absolutely loved the experience! Though I don’t know much about them, the Wilderness also hosts guests at its adjacent Glacier Canyon Lodge and Wilderness On The Lake properties.
Dining Options at the Wilderness Resort
Planning meals during your weekend in Wisconsin Dells is a breeze at the Wilderness Resort! During our recent visit, Tyler and I ate all of our meals on the property. The resort boasts a variety of dining options for lunch, dinner, and dessert. We ate at the Thirsty Buffalo Saloon and Survivors Bar & Grill for dinner on the two evenings of our stay and splurged on Yukon Yogurt during the day. I love that the resort’s “Western” theme is found all over, including at its restaurants. The vibe was great for both families and couples!
Waterpark Options at the Wilderness Resort
As America’s largest waterpark resort, finding a place to splash around at the Wilderness Resort is easy. The facility has four indoor and four outdoor waterparks, so your options basically double in size in the summer! There are fun slides, rivers, and splash pads for kids of all ages, but adults can have fun here, too. Tyler and I surprised ourselves with how much we enjoyed our waterpark dates! We frequented some of the park’s bigger slides and hot tubs. Note that on weekend evenings, especially in the winter, the hot tubs fill up fast. Like any popular tourist destination, I recommend visiting the Wilderness Resort on weekdays or “off” times if you can.
Hiking in Wisconsin Dells
Experience the unique topography of Central Wisconsin with a visit to one of two state parks near the Wisconsin Dells! Rocky Arbor State Park (pictured above) is a beautiful place to snowshoe in the winter and camp in the summer. Exposed rock lining the park’s main trail loop lets you time-travel thousands of years into the state’s geologic past. I also absolutely loved the trees here and the adorable a-frame ranger station!
Just south of town lies Mirror Lake State Park. Take a look at your reflection at the water’s edge and you’ll see exactly why. This beautiful blue lake is the backdrop for one of the state’s most iconic supper clubs, Ishnala. I visited in late fall on a truly breathtaking day. The bright blue lake was frozen with no snow to cover it and fallen pine needles turned the surrounding landscape a firey orange. Talk about color contrast! Hike up to Echo Rock for an especially serene view.
Attractions in Wisconsin Dells
In the 1950s, businessman Tommy Bartlett brought his traveling water ski show to Lake Delton in Wisconsin Dells. It never left! Today, the Tommy Bartlett Ski, Sky, and Stage show brings together some of the world’s most talented performers to put on an aquatic circus before your very eyes. Wisconsin has a unique history when it comes to water skiing and Tommy Bartlett keeps the classic style of show water skiing alive! You will see jumps, pyramids, lifts, and more every afternoon and evening in the summer. This patriotic stunt show is great for viewers of all ages! Other iconic Wisconsin Dells activities include ducks boat tours and horse-drawn carriage tours of Lost Canyon. Both are great options to see the area’s unique landscape up close!