The Wisconsin Dells is an area in the central part of Wisconsin around the Wisconsin River. Dells are limestone formations found along the river, as well as on the banks of many nearby lakes. There is also a town called Wisconsin Dells. When visiting this area, you can spend your time experiencing a family fun time on a river setting, a completely different outdoor adventure, or a combination of both.
We visited the Wisconsin Dells as part of a 1-week Wisconsin and Michigan RV trip. We chose to concentrate only on the natural beauty of the area for two reasons. The first is that we visited during quarantine, and the people in Wisconsin Dells and its businesses were not taking part in social distancing as a whole. In our experience, this was not true in the rest of Wisconsin. We also just prefer the outdoors to manufactured fun.
Things to Do in the Town of Wisconsin Dells
The Dells is a lot like a less idealized Disney resort or a Las Vegas geared towards families on shores of the Wisconsin River. It is huge and packed. There is any sort of fun your family could desire here- amusement parks, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, waterparks, ghost walking tours, an upside-down White House, and go-cart tracks. You can also get any treat or kind of food you want along Broadway, the crowded Main Street. Two things universally recommended to us were taking a Duck Tour and seeing the Tommy Barlett Water Skiiing Show. The show was closed due to COVID, and we just didn’t feel comfortable with the way they were running the Duck Tour as far a social distancing.
Things to Do in Nature Around Wisconsin Dells
Within half an hour of the city are a few National Parks, lakes, and rivers that you should be sure to check out if you are a nature lover.
Things to do on the Wisconsin River
We found many ways to experience the real star of the area, the Wisconsin River. Since half of our family are not thrill-seekers and we didn’t want to be on a boat with other people, we chose to rent a pontoon boat. It was easy to drive and the perfect choice for us. There are beaches along the river where you can tie up and have a picnic or enjoy the day on the shore. The Dells portion of the Wisconsin River is five miles long, so it takes a little over an hour to travel up and down if you are moving steadily on a pontoon boat.
We rented our boat from Holiday Shores Boat Rentals. Although teenagers mainly run it, we had a great experience. Its location is about 5 miles away from the center of town. They quickly provided an accessible parking space for our RV. They were accommodating, and the boat worked perfectly. It is at the northern portion of the river’s dells, which makes it easy to know where to go with the boat. They also have a fishing hole near the boat launch. They also rent kayaks and jet skis.
If you are looking for more of a thrill, you can look into taking a jet boat tour.
Lake Dalton is the perfect lake to jet skiing on because it is relatively calm and not too busy. We rented jet skis here through Dells Watersports, a very professional company. This lake is more built-up than Mirror Lake or Devils Lake.
This tranquil lake has two fingers, a lodge, and calm water. There are very nice campgrounds in the park and a waterfront park. You can rent pontoon boats, kayaks, or canoes right at the boat launch, also through Dells Watersports. This location is much less busy and frantic than the Lake Dalton location. There is also a fishing hole right by the docks, perfect for kids. We chose to visit this lake for a day out on a canoe.
This lake in nearby Baraboo is known for hikes with stunning views. Try the East Bluff Trail or part of the National Ice Age Trail.
Places to Eat in Wisconsin Dells
Ishnala Supper Club
A supper club is a Wisconsin tradition and one you should try while you are in the state. They generally are older establishments in beautiful locations. For more specifics, read this article from the Chicago Tribune. Ishnala Supper Club has been around for almost 60 years. The wooded building is built into nature on a cliff over Mirror Lake.
Although somewhat pricey, my kids were besmirched with the meat they cooked on pieces of lava rocks. My 14-year-old named it as one of his favorite restaurants.
Where to Stay in Wisconsin Dells
I didn’t make the right choice on where to stay for this portion of our trip. If I visit again, I will stay in one of the following places which I had a chance to visit:
This family-run resort reminded me of a family summer camp. The RV sites are close together, but there is so much to do here; you could not leave for a week. We rented our pontoon boat here and would have loved to have spent more time sitting on the beach, renting jet skis, fishing, and renting kayaks.
Because we were in the area more for nature experiences than the carnival atmosphere on downtown Wisconsin Dells, we would have loved to stay in either of these campgrounds. They have a lot of space and so many activities. The only negative to these sights is that they tend to book up six months in advance.
Sandhill Cranes in Wisconsin
As you can see, there is much more to do around Wisconsin Dells than amusement parks. As nature lovers, we are big fans of the area.
Speaking of nature, the other things we saw in Wisconsin in the fields that surprised us were pairs of cranes. Half of the greater sandhill cranes in the world are in Wisconsin. They even have the International Crane Conservatory nearby in Baraboo.
Have you been to Wisconsin? What is your favorite part? Please let me know in the comments. Stay tuned to my coverage of Door County in the next post.