Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Making a Splash in Wisconsin Dells

Getting Away



The spectacular fly board in action at the Tommy Bartlett Ski Show. Tommy Bartlett Ski Show, Fly board courtesy Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau

“Waterpark Capital of the World!” That’s what Wisconsin Dells boasts – and it’s probably right. But you can only stay biggest if you keep getting bigger, and Wisconsin Dells is doing just that. The town is so confident of its continuing prowess that they’ve had their nickname copyrighted.

Even before the first waterpark was built, the beautiful Wisconsin River and unusual rock formations attracted early tourists to the area. In the last quarter of the 19th century, noted photographer H.H. Bennett set up shop here. His amazing landscape photos attracted even more visitors. His most famous photo is of his son jumping five feet from a rock ledge across a 47-foot-deep chasm to a flat rock atop a slender sandstone pillar. The photo went viral – as fast as it could in 1886. And, of course, there were daredevils who wanted to try the jump.

Insurance companies put a stop to the stunts in the ’40s, but visitors can still see specially trained dogs make the leap. Bennett’s studio is now a museum.

After World War II, amphibious military vehicles were brought to the area. The Ducks had landed. Still in business as “The Original Wisconsin Ducks,” they trundle tourists along woodsy wilderness paths and into nearby waters.

Downtown Wisconsin Dells – Branson with cheese curds. Downtown Wisconsin Dells courtesy Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau

The big new attraction in the ’50s was the Tommy Bartlett Ski Show. Its founder has passed on but the show continues. Yes, there are lovely bathing beauties, skiing pyramids, jumping and barefoot skiing, but you’ll also see innovations like the water-jet-propelled fly board and the sky ski along with the antics of daredevil clowns.

In the late ’80s, a local resort owner saw a pool complex with some exciting extras that made plain pools seem passé during a visit to Texas. Considering the shorter summer season in Wisconsin, he and his partners decided to build a similar attraction but with a roof over it, creating the nation’s first indoor waterpark.

Now there are over 20 indoor waterpark/water playground facilities in the Dells – more waterslides per capita than anywhere else in the world. America’s largest waterpark, Noah’s Ark Waterpark, covers 70 acres and features three miles of waterslides.

 Mount Olympus, one of Wisconsin Dells’ many watery attractions. Photo by Elaine Warner

The Kalahari Waterpark Resort is Wisconsin’s largest indoor waterpark with 125,000 square feet, while the Wilderness Hotel and Golf Resort holds the record for the largest indoor/outdoor waterpark resort in the nation. The combined space is equivalent to 12 football fields.

This place is kid heaven – but bring your wallet. All the parks have added attractions: video games, gift shops and other opportunities to drop a few dollars.

Visiting the Dells can be a schizophrenic experience. Part of the town offers the Branson-strip experience – souvenir stores, quirky museums and fudge shops – and the waterpark attractions. And while I loved the fudge, it was the scenic beauty and the geologic history surrounding the tourist-y town that appealed to me.

Here’s a quick geology lesson. Zip back half-a-billion years to the Cambrian Period. This area was the sandy shore of an ancient sea. Over the millennia, the sand hardened into sandstone.

During the Ice Age, a great lake existed near here, a melted glacier dammed up by remnants of un-melted ice. About 15,000 years ago that ice dam failed and lake waters rushed over the sandstone, carving deep gorges and canyons.

There are many ways to explore the area – I chose the easiest. One of the best land tours is at Lost Canyon where a horse-drawn wagon ride wanders through a mile of narrow gorges squeezed by towering cliffs. Some places were so narrow that I couldn’t see how the horses – a pair of massive Percherons – would get through.

Visitors to Lost Canyon travel through narrow gorges barely wide enough for the wagons. Photo by Elaine Warner

The Duck tour goes through similar, though not as dramatic, terrain, but you’ll also see some of the river and Lake Delton.

Both the Lost Canyon tour and the Duck tour were short compared to the Dells Boat Tours cruise. This two-hour, 10-mile round-trip takes you upriver from downtown Wisconsin Dells.

In addition to the scenery you’ll see while relaxing on the boat, there are two stops to stretch your legs. The first, Witches Gulch, is a narrow canyon with high, layered sandstone walls. The next features Stand Rock where, weather permitting, you will see trained dogs making that historic leap.

 

The International Crane Foundation, founded by two ornithologists with the lofty goal of saving the world’s cranes, is a bonanza for birders. This is the only place in the world where you can see all of the world’s 15 crane species. Necessary fencing makes photography tricky but the whooping crane enclosure is blessedly free of annoying barriers – and the majestic birds posed regally while seeming to ignore us.

Pair of whooping cranes at the International Crane Foundation. Photo by Elaine Warner

One of the town’s newer attractions is Timbavati, a wildlife park and a work in progress. The staff here is great and you’ll have a much more personal animal encounter than most places. Before my visit was over, I’d bottle-fed a baby camel, petted a zebu on the head, fed an eland and served carrot sticks to several greedy giraffes.

Ride an elephant or watch circus animals perform at Circus World Museum in nearby Baraboo. A Wisconsin Historic Site, original Ringling Brothers buildings house exhibits – my favorites, the elaborate circus wagons.

For more information about Wisconsin destinations, visit travelwisconsin.com.

All-you-can-eat invite

Food for Thought

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

All-you-can-eat bodacious breakfast served home style. The buttermilk donuts are great.

Burgers, brats and their own beers. Or go for their home-brewed root beer.

Pizza and beer but don’t miss the beer cheese soup. Worth a stop for a picture of the little red delivery car with the moose on top.

Family-owned, specialty hickory-smoked ribs and heavenly cinnamon rolls

“Steakhouse/supper club with a modern edge” in business for over 70 years. Great food and super service leads to longevity.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »You Might Like

New Orleans Bound: Heading Down to the Big Easy

Steamboats to street musicians, incredible food and a perennial party atmosphere – the Crescent City is a prime destination year-round.

Off to See the Wizard in the Myriad Gardens

In her ongoing travels through Oklahoma, author and photographer M.J. Alexander goes over the rainbow to OKC for a screening

Culinary Cruises: Haute Cuisine on the High Seas

To find new heights of delicious refinement, head to sea and explore the improved dining possibilities on luxury cruises.

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

April 2019

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Celebrate Easter with a trip to Andy Alligator’s Fun Park! On Saturday and Sunday, get $5 off an All-Day Pass with our Eggcellent Easter Special. All-Day Passes include Go-Karts,...

Cost: $23.95

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park & Water Park
3300 Market Pl
Norman, OK  73072
View map »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Annual Mentorship Exhibition features pieces from Oklahoma City high school students that visit the Artspace studio each month. Throughout the duration of the program, the students engage with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

The OSU Symphony Orchestra will conclude the 2018-19 season with Schubert's monumental and majestic Symphony No. 9 in C ("The Great"). The concert opens with The European Anthem,...

Cost: General Admission: $10; Students & Seniors: $7

Where:
Oklahoma State University Department of Music
132 Seretean Ctr
Stillwater, OK  74078
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma State University Department of Music
Telephone: 405.744.6133
Contact Name: Dr. Thomas Dickey
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Annual Mentorship Exhibition features pieces from Oklahoma City high school students that visit the Artspace studio each month. Throughout the duration of the program, the students engage with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Potbelly Sandwich Shop is giving back to the local neighborhood with Feed Your Smile, a fundraiser supporting Concordia Life Care Community.  Show this flyer on your smartphone or...

Cost: Free

Where:
Potbelly Sandwich Shop
8500 N Rockwell Ave
OKC, OK  73132
View map »


Sponsor: Potbelly Sandwich Shop
Telephone: 405-792-5112
Contact Name: Katy Fabrie
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Annual Mentorship Exhibition features pieces from Oklahoma City high school students that visit the Artspace studio each month. Throughout the duration of the program, the students engage with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

RexFest will feature an interactive art exhibit called a luminarium created by Architects of Air. From April 25-28, visitors can walk through the inflatable sculpture, which disperses light and...

Cost: $8 for kids; $10 for adults; $30 for families of four

Where:
Together Square
400 W Sheridan Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Delta Dental

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Annual Mentorship Exhibition features pieces from Oklahoma City high school students that visit the Artspace studio each month. Throughout the duration of the program, the students engage with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

RexFest will feature an interactive art exhibit called a luminarium created by Architects of Air. From April 25-28, visitors can walk through the inflatable sculpture, which disperses light and...

Cost: $8 for kids; $10 for adults; $30 for families of four

Where:
Together Square
400 W Sheridan Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Delta Dental

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

"Deliberately silencing the internal chatter and not overthinking. Conscious, but not over-trying. With this approach, things just seem to happen—it’s where all the substance is...

Cost: Free

Where:
Individual Artists of Oklahoma
706 W. Sheridan Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Individual Artists of Oklahoma
Telephone: 405.412.2541
Contact Name: David Smith

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Shop over 200 vendors at this indoor event with everything from vintage furniture, retro and mid-century decor to handmade goods, antiques, industrial finds and architectural salvage!

Cost: $5 at the door, 13 and under free

Where:
Heritage Place
2829 S. MacArthur
Oklahoma City, OK  73128
View map »


Sponsor: Junk Hippy
Contact Name: Kristen Grandi
Website »

More information

A Sporting Chance will host the 25th annual Track and Field Meet at Branson Junior High in Branson, Missouri. A Sporting Chance provides year-round sports and recreation programs designed for those...

Where:
Branson Junior High
263 Buccaneer Boulevard
Branson, MO  65616
View map »


Sponsor: A Sporting Chance
Telephone: 404-314-2188
Contact Name: Hannah Schachinger

More information

RexFest will feature an interactive art exhibit called a luminarium created by Architects of Air. From April 25-28, visitors can walk through the inflatable sculpture, which disperses light and...

Cost: $8 for kids; $10 for adults; $30 for families of four

Where:
Together Square
400 W Sheridan Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Delta Dental

More information

This one-day festival is rooted in the printing of large-scale woodblocks carved by local Oklahoma artists. We bring in a 5-ton steamroller and print pre-carved blocks throughout the day on Tyvek...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
Contact Name: Evan
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

The Annual Mentorship Exhibition features pieces from Oklahoma City high school students that visit the Artspace studio each month. Throughout the duration of the program, the students engage with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Andy Alligator's is celebrating teachers! On Saturday and Sunday, teachers with a valid ID will receive a FREE All-Day Pass and $5 off for each family member! An All-Day Pass includes...

Cost: Teachers receive a FREE All-Day Pass; family members get $5 off

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park & Water Park
3300 Market Pl
Norman, OK  73072
View map »

More information

America’s largest interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel. At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: $59.95

Where:
The Skirvin Hilton
1 Park Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: The Dinner Detective
Telephone: 866.496.0535
Website »

More information

Get a sample of the nightlife of Spain at Tulsa Botanic Garden's "Viva La Vida." The Garden is bringing star chef Jamie Bissonnette (Toro restaurants in Boston, NYC, Bangkok and...

Cost: $250

Where:
Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Dr
Tulsa, OK  74127
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330
Contact Name: Lori Hutson
Website »

More information

2nd annual gathering of "The Big Lebowksi" fans at The Dude Abides OKC All Oklahoma City Urban Achievers, Abiders and Coen Brothers fans are invited to join us at Fassler Hall OKC and...

Cost: Free, contests have entry fee

Where:
Fassler Hall
421 NW 10th
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Revolve Productions
Telephone: 405.810.6977
Contact Name: Tobi Coleman
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags