Yes, we know that the Great Wolf Lodge, Kalahari, Chula Vista, Mt. Olympus and Wilderness, among others, have indoor waterparks too. We just forgot our floaties.
To scratch that “Waterpark Capital of the World” itch during the winter, there’s still plenty to do in the Wisconsin Dells, sans waterslides. So, we put together am itinerary for a cold-weather weekend in the Dells.
Start your weekend in the Dells by learning about the man who made it famous: H.H. Bennett. Born in Canada, Bennett moved to Wisconsin at the age of 14. After fighting for the Union in the Civil War, Bennett opened up a photography studio in 1865 and started taking pictures of the Dells’ iconic rock formations. He soon revolutionized photography by inventing a shutter that allowed moving objects to be captured in focus (pictured here). His great-granddaughter, a cartoonist by the name of Vernon Grant, claimed that “Photo journalism was born,” as a result of Bennett’s visual storytelling. His work is displayed in the H.H. Bennett Museum. The museum closes at the end of October until spring but can accommodate pre-booked groups during the winter.
And although much of the Dells’ popularity is thanks to the visionary eye of Bennett, new artistic pursuits are becoming more popular in the area. Board and Brush opened in Lake Delton in 2017 and offers classes where participants can make their own paintings on wooden canvases, perfect for taking home and hanging in an entryway or kitchen. (Beer is available for purchase during classes too!)
Whether you’re looking for a history lesson or a boozy ride, Wisconsin Dells Trolley Tours can probably quench your thirst. There’s a haunted tour, a beer and burger experience, a margarita ride, winery tour and more than a dozen other options. Several of the tours include lunch at venues like Jose’s Mexican Restaurant and Monk’s Bar & Grille.
If you prefer snow to swimming, then Cascade Mountain is probably your calling. Knowing Wisconsin winters, there will likely be fresh powder on the dozens of slopes and hills for snowboarders and skiers. Lessons are offered for learners. If that appears a little treacherous, then the snow tubes are open for all ages.
Looking for a flatter route? Mirror Lake, Devils Lake and Arbor state parks are all covered in trails that welcome snowshoers and cross-country skiers. Or take a horse-drawn sleigh ride from Woodside Ranch.
If you somehow have an extra hour of time to fill in your afternoon, try riddle-solving at any of the Dells’ numerous escape rooms. You can try an hour-long or mini-15-minute escape at Elusive Rooms, or take a risk in one of four scenarios at Booby Trap Escape Rooms.
After the sun sets, we suggest another stage performance. The Palace Theater specializes in dinner & a show. Enjoy roast beef with fall harvest vegetables, followed by one of their Christmas specials, Rockin’ New Year show or any number of classic Broadway musicals and tribute acts. (Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli, anyone?)
Time for one last blast of relaxation before you head home? We suggest stopping at Sundara Inn & Spa. Ask for the massages ranging from half-an-hour to 90 minutes, take part in a purifying bath ritual (which includes a rainfall shower, a dip in an oil-infused hot pool followed by a cool water plunge), or try the new “Salt Treatment Room Therapy” that utilizes salt crystals and salt tiles to create a deeply relaxing experience followed by an optional salt scrub or salt bath.
Are spas too classy for you? Instead, honor an age-old Dells tradition on your way out of town with a stop at Pizza Pub’s all-you-can-eat lunch buffet. You’ll pack on the calories, but sometimes deep dish can be more satisfying than a deep tissue massage.
Looking for more vacay ideas? Check out some of Milwaukee Magazine’s other Weekend Getaway itineraries.