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Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin
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Baraboo, Wisconsin

Wisconsin Dells

Have a slippery good time in a perennial summer playland

The Wisconsin Dells unabashedly embraces its role as the indoor waterpark capital of the world. With a slew of attractions built around slipping and sliding, the Dells today pitches itself as Las Vegas for kids. Where else can you hurtle down a 10-story-tall waterslide inside a behemoth theme park, play 18 holes of miniature golf, race around what is considered the world’s largest go-kart complex, hurl a skee ball and then eat pancakes just before bed?

While the Dells’ manmade attractions exert a powerful hold on Midwestern families with kids, Wisconsin’s green and pleasant lands remain a haven for nature lovers. Back in the 1950s, it was the region’s idyllic natural beauty that lured visitors to its rocky coastline, cherry orchards, wooded gullies and neat 19th-century villages. For travelers who like to get their thrills from the natural landscape, there’s kayaking and canoeing on the Wisconsin River, fishing on nearby Lake Delton, and hiking, biking and paddle boarding on the glassy waters of Mirror Lake State Park.

Circus World

You’ll be inspired to do backflips after seeing the Circus World Museums, just south of the Dells in Baraboo. In 1882, the five Ringling brothers founded the circus troupe known as the Ringling Brothers Classic and Comic Concert Company. The legend lives on at one of the state’s top attractions, Circus World, the largest museum in the world of its kind. Some 51 acres are dotted with evocative buildings including big-tops, an elephant barn, and a wardrobe department.

A National Historic Landmark and museum since 1969, Circus World boasts the world’s largest circus research center, with detailed histories and biographies of more than 2,800 traveling troupes, thousands of photos and posters of famed clowns smothered across the walls. You’ll also see memorabilia related to Giraffe-Neck Woman, Tom Thumb, and lion tamer Gunther Gebel-Williams.

There’s also a 1988 photo of George H.W. Bush (the year he was elected president) continuing the Woodrow Wilson tradition of throwing a straw hat into a circus ring. Circus World’s showpiece is a stunning collection of intricately carved wooden circus wagons, the world’s largest ensemble by a long shot. In all, more than 200 wagons and vehicles have been preserved from traveling carnivals and circuses in the U.S. and England.

Wisconsin Dells, Visitor & Convention Bureau

Land and Lake

Exploring the waters of the Lower Dells and Lake Denton on an original World War II-era Duck has been a quintessential Wisconsin tourist experience since 1946. Amphibious tours take in the region’s iconic rock formations, sculpted from 14,000-year-old salted sandstone cliffs that stretch for 15 miles. After driving through 4 miles of wilderness trails, where prime wildlife spotting opportunities include deer, turtles, mallards and herons, the mighty Ducks clamber over sandbars before splashing into Lake Delton. The Duck’s stealthy six-wheel drive is then employed to traverse eye-catching attractions that include Grotto Island, the Twin Ink Stands, Sugar Bowl and Lone Rock.

Also in the Dells is Bigfoot Zipline Tours, the largest zip line tour in town at 20 football fields in length. The two-hour adventure involves zipping along seven lines through a canopy of red pine and white oak trees and over Bigfoot Island in Sasquatch Lake.

A narrow reservoir with steep 50-foot sandstone cliffs, the glassy smooth Mirror Lake State Park is a picturesque lake fringed by pine and oak woods. The park offers a terrific range of outdoor recreation with 28 miles of hiking trails, 17 miles of cross-country skiing trails and 9 miles of mountain biking trails. Mirror Lake is also a popular boating spot with a 200-foot swimming beach, a picnic ground, wooded campsites, and boat, bike and canoe rentals. Bring your camera to capture the stratified rock formations that loom over the waters.

Wisconsin Dells Visitor and Convention Bureau


As the Wisconsin Dells’ popularity has soared, the number of colossal waterpark theme resort hotels jockeying for the family vacation budget has burgeoned. More than 20 waterparks now compete for the mantle of “largest,” “greatest” and “best value” resort as they up the ante every year with ever more thrilling water coasters, indoor go-kart tracks, bowling lanes, and even a six-story indoor Ferris wheel (that’s at the safari-themed Kalahari).

For adult fun, most resorts offer a range of dining options, as well as movie theaters, casinos, and libations served only a few hours after the prompt 7 a.m. opening.

Noah’s Ark Waterpark is the self-proclaimed largest waterpark in the nation, with close to 50 water slides, two rivers, four children’s water play areas, two wave pools and mini golf. The Wilderness Hotel and Golf Resort was early on the scene of the delux waterpark-hotel hybrids and still remains a top choice; sprawling across 600 acres, it has some 1,163 rooms spread across three properties.

Dine in the Dells

There’s virtually no place you can go in the Dells without the aroma of food around. In the mood for a burger, a Coney dog or some ice cream? How about a sit-down for a family-style meal? Whatever you want, the eateries around the Dells have already thought of it long before your cravings started. Many of the resorts feature white-linen service restaurants as well as those eateries that make more casual outings their specialty.

For More Information

Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau



Wisconsin Department of Tourism