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Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin
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Baraboo, Wisconsin

Wisconsin Dells

As the “Waterpark Capital of the World,” Wisconsin Dells is the Midwest’s premier destination for resort-style family fun. The city takes its name from the Dells of the Wisconsin River, a glacially formed gorge flanked by striking sandstone formations. In addition to over 20 water parks that constantly raise the bar for thrills and spills, there are variety shows, mini-golf courses, go-karts, bowling alleys and roller coasters. For nature lovers, nearby state parks provide an antidote to the crowds, with rolling countryside, sparkling lakes and a bounty of recreational opportunities.

Wonderful River

The Dells of the Wisconsin River, a five-mile gorge, lies in south-central Wisconsin, 60 miles north of Madison and 120 miles northeast of Milwaukee on Interstate 90. The area is prized for its distinctive Cambrian sandstone rock formations and tributary canyons, formed over 500 million years ago. With dramatic seasonal fluctuations, July temperatures frequently top 82 degrees.

Local Color and Attractions

For families with kids, there’s no denying the appeal of the Dells. With indoor and outdoor waterparks that are wetter and wilder than anything anywhere, and a glut of human-made activities for all seasons, it offers a welcome escape for travelers craving carefree fun. The waterparks compete for four million visitors annually, with constantly evolving themes and thrilling attractions. Perhaps the most spectacular place to slip and slide, Noah’s Ark Water Park is the jewel in the Dells’ crown, with a dizzying array of water slides that go on forever, massive waterfalls, white-knuckle roller coasters and a drive-in cinema.

Water Tours and Ziplines

Boat tours along the river give visitors a spectacular exploration of the Dells’ glorious sandstone gorge. Excursions offered by Dells Boat Tours and Original Wisconsin Ducks take visitors on a two-hour tour through Dells Glacial Park, the rock formations that catapulted the Dells onto the tourist radar. Also in the Dells is Bigfoot Zipline Tours, the largest zip line tour in town at 20 football fields in length. The adventure involves zipping along seven lines through a canopy of red pine and white oak trees and over Bigfoot Island in Sasquatch Lake.

Outdoor Fun

Just a stone’s throw from the Dells, opportunities for outdoor recreation abound with kayaking, canoeing, windsurfing, fishing, hiking, biking and golfing. Fishing at Beaver Springs Fishing Park is a popular summer activity for families, with a handful of fishing pools that pretty much guarantee kids’ instant gratification. Also within the park, you can go horseback riding (around a track) and check out a small aquarium.

Wisconsin Jewels

Around 50 miles south of the Dells, Cave of the Mounds, formed over millions of years by leaching acidic water and erosion, is hailed as the “Jewel Box of Wisconsin.” Guided tours highlight the cave’s rock formations, including stalagmites, columns and stalactites.

Rugged Trails

Just three miles from the Dells, Mirror Lake State Park is flanked by sandstone bluffs and provides excellent fishing, swimming, canoeing, kayaking and bird-watching. At Rocky Arbor State Park, a couple of miles from Wisconsin Dells, more than 28 miles of hiking trails meander through pine trees and across sandstone bluffs.

Devil’s Lake State Park

Just 20 miles south of Wisconsin Dells, Devil’s Lake State Park is the largest and most visited state park in Wisconsin. The park is famed for its 500-foot quartzite bluffs that tower above a lake ringed with sandy beaches. There are just shy of 30 miles of hiking trails for all skill levels, including breathtaking sections of the National Ice Age Scenic Trail, as well as opportunities for more remote backcountry exploration. The strenuous 10-mile hike from the East Bluff Trail takes in Balanced Rock, the Devil’s Doorway and Parfrey’s Glen, the state’s first natural area. Swimming is popular at two beaches located on the lake’s north (the most crowded) and south shores from mid-June to late September. The beaches are fully equipped with playgrounds, picnic areas and amenities. For families, the nature center is worth a stop for its engaging and hands-on exhibits.

Festivals and Events

In April, the Dells Rare Barrel Affair invites participants to taste rare and barrel-aged beers alongside beloved Wisconsin beer staples. In May, the Automation Festival features a car show with over a thousand lovingly restored classic vehicles as well as family activities, a car corral and a swap meet. In September, the immensely popular Wo-Zha-Wa Days ushers in the fall season with a parade, an arts and crafts fair, live music, a street carnival and the Wo-Zha-Wa half marathon and 4k runs. Also in September, the Kilbourn City Live Music & Arts Festival is the Dells’ top music spectacle, a block-party style event featuring up-and-coming artists as well as big name headline bands and the signature kickoff party’s “Battle of the Bands.”

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 thought of it long before your cravings started. Many of the resorts feature white-linen service restaurants as well as those eateries focus on casual outings.

Circus World

Circus World Museums sits just south of the Dells in Baraboo. This institution boasts histories and biographies of more than 2,800 traveling troupes, thousands of photos and posters of famed clowns. You’ll also see memorabilia related to Giraffe-Neck Woman, Tom Thumb, and lion tamer Gunther Gebel-Williams.

For More Information

Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau



Wisconsin Department of Tourism