Family Vacations in Wisconsin

Family Vacations: Wisconsin Dells

Photo courtesy of Noah's Ark Waterpark. Enthusiastic thrill-seekers take the plunge at Noah's Ark in the Wisconsin Dells.

Nearly two-dozen water parks lure families to the Wisconsin Dells year-round: It's considered to be the water park capital of the world. Many of them are themed -- pirates, King Arthur, the lost world of Atlantis -- and each one tries to outdo its neighbor with more lavish rides, bigger splash-and-play pools, and longer and faster waterslides.

The Dells was a popular family vacation spot long before the first water park opened its gates. Visitors first came to take boat tours through the unusual sandstone cliffs along the Wisconsin River. In the mid-1950s, "Ducks" -- World War II water/land vehicles once used for beach invasions -- were introduced to the Dells and used for tours. A flashy water-ski show also debuted. Both the Duck tours and the water show are still popular today, but the water parks are the area's biggest draw year-round.

In the summer the behemoth Noah's Ark is open to everyone. It is a Dells landmark and offers 70 acres of wave pools, waterslides, lazy rivers, and children's play areas. Its popular Dark Voyage ride speeds four-person rafts through 600 feet of total darkness.

While some of the water parks allow only guests of their affiliated hotel, most, including the enormous African-themed Kalahari, offer day passes for non-guests. The hotel features an indoor water park under a massive glass roof, where families can slide and splash on even the frostiest of days. One of its most popular rides, the Tanzania Twister (nicknamed the Toilet Bowl), swishes riders around a giant funnel at dizzying speeds and then "flushes" them into a pool. The resort's signature attraction is the Botswana Blast, a water coaster that shoots riders uphill using strategically placed water jets.

The Wilderness Resort is another indoor giant, with 160,000 square feet of rides and slides. Its most popular attractions include Fantastic Voyage, a fast 500 foot long, five-person raft ride.

The southwestern desert-themed Chula Vista Resort has both indoor and outdoor water parks built around its hotel.

Feeling a little waterlogged? Check out Tommy Bartlett's Ski, Sky, Stage Show and watch the incredible feats of daredevil skiers, contortionists, and aerial performers, as well as a laser light show. Ready for some sleight of hand? Head to It's Magic. You can visit Robot World, Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum, or the Circus World Museum in nearby Baraboo. Visitors can also choose among plenty of other attractions, such as train rides, horseback riding, miniature golf, go-carts, and countless flashy, fun arcades.

Wisconsin Dells Information

Phone: 800/223-3557

Continue to the next page for information about a sweet behind-the-scenes look at one of America's favorite candies at the Jelly Belly Factory Tour.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Wisconsin State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Wisconsin, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.