Wisconsin Dells sits along the Wisconsin River in the south-central part of the state, 50 miles northwest of Madison. Wisconsin Dells may be known as the “waterpark capital of the world,” but I’m here to tell you that there’s so much more to do than sliding down a giant roller coaster slide into the water.
The scenic Dells is filled with natural beauty, history, and some of the best scenic views I’ve ever witnessed, but that can get lost in the midst of all the tourist attractions. If open spaces, gorgeous landscapes, and beautiful drives interest you, then come along with me for some amazing things to do in Wisconsin Dells.
On a recent summer road trip, my friend and I went on some amazing adventures all over the Dells. We were hosted during our stay. All opinions here are my very own.
Things To Do In Wisconsin Dells
From the River Arts District downtown to all the attractions and the amazing scenic views, Wisconsin Dells is truly a place to vacation for the whole family… and two grown-ups who love adventure! This is one place you’ll never hear “I’m bored,” from any member of the family. The popular attractions are the waterparks, the boat tours, and wildlife parks, but my friend and I found some amazing things to do that may not be on the visitor’s lists of things to do in the Dells. I recommend starting your trip at the Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau located downtown at 701 Superior Street to look at brochures of interest and to pick up a coupon book.
New Life Lavender And Cherry Farm
Are you a lavender lover? You’re in for a treat if you are. At New Life Lavender & Cherry Farm, you can shop for your favorite handmade lavender products and order a lavender treat while perusing the store. I wanted everything in sight, including the picture on the wall that wasn’t for sale! And, I splurged on a lavender cherry pie with homemade lavender ice cream. It’s hard to go inside a room filled with lavender products and not buy a thing — just warning you!
Optional, of course, but in peak season, you can pay $5 to take a self-guided tour of its 20-acres of land that includes 25 varieties of lavender, a beautiful wildflower garden, and a secret garden. Indulge yourself and snap a selfie in the lavender garden. There is a bench and instructions on how to take the perfect selfie.
Pro Tip: If pick-your-own lavender interests you, call before you go, as it’s only available at certain times.
Stroll The Walking Path Of The International Crane Foundation
Take an 18-minute drive away from the touristy area on a scenic road to a place that not only houses the endangered whooping cranes but every single crane in the world. It was amazing to see the beauty in these creatures. The International Crane Foundation is truly a gem. Nowhere else can you see all the cranes in the world than right here. I highly suggest watching the 15-minute film about cranes narrated by the famous newsman Tom Brokaw before starting your self-guided tour around the premises, where you’ll learn so much more about all the endangered cranes.
Pro Tip: Bring a pair of binoculars for up-close viewing of the cranes, in case they aren’t wanting to be sociable.
Visit A Winery… Or Two
Wisconsin is known to be beer country, but there are nice wineries and vineyards too. We found a nice family-owned winery to visit 10 minutes from downtown called Broken Bottle Winery. It is a full-service winery with a nice outdoor patio. We had a wine tasting before heading outside. It was a perfect way to start our afternoon. It also has a small selection of beers. Fawn Creek Winery is on 13th Avenue and offers complimentary wine tastings with music on the deck every Saturday and Sunday. Or you may want to enjoy premium wines at The Kilbourn Cork while enjoying a bite to eat. A little further out is Baraboo Bluff Winery, with panoramic views.
Take A Train Ride Through The Wisconsin Dells
The Riverside and Great Northern Railroad excursion is for the whole family and anyone who wants to see the scenic rim of Wisconsin! Before heading out on the train, the conductor talks about the history of the area and how the railroad came to be. Then you’ll climb aboard the train and take a ride through the beautiful Wisconsin Dells.
Upper Dells Boat Tours
For fantastic scenery and the story of the history of Wisconsin Dells, I recommend taking the Upper Dells Boat Tour. A hospitality coordinator told me that this is the most popular attraction in the Dells, and after our tour, I know why. The gorgeous scenery of the Wisconsin River, sandstone cliffs, and beautiful rock formations made it clear that the history of Dells lives on in these areas. History buffs will find a spectacular journey on this boat tour.
Wilderness Canyon Zip Line Tour
Forget your worries and take a zip over the wilderness! Ziplining is an adventure you should try at least once in your life… but that’s my opinion. The first zipline I ever did, I was hooked. Now, I consider myself a zipline junky …and got the T-shirt. My husband — not so much. He’s never done it since. But, if you’re up for the adventure, Wilderness Canyon Zipline Tour is the place to try it. You’ll have hands-on training before heading up the stairs and a total of 6 lines to zip down. Of course, with most zip line tours, climbing stairs is part of it — if not stairs, then steep hills, so prepare yourself for a climb.
Best Restaurants In Wisconsin Dells
There is some eatery on every corner in the Dells. No one in your party will go hungry here. From hamburgers and hot dogs and pizza to fine dining and buffets, there is something for everyone.
Pro Tip: If you have picky eaters in your group, you may want to opt for Grateful Shed Truckyard, where everyone in your party can choose what they want to eat from a variety of food trucks. Each food truck offers something different.
Bella Goose Coffee
For the best avocado toast, try it at Bella Goose Coffee. To our surprise, it came loaded with avocado, egg, arugula greens, and a drizzle of balsamic oil for less than $10. And, if it’s your birthday, the cafe will give you a free scone! I even bought a pair of handmade earrings made by an employee there. After all, it was my birthday!
House Of Embers
In the middle of it all is House of Embers, with outside seating facing the busy street and an outside bar. I enjoyed its Napa Thai Salad loaded with Napa cabbage, fresh greens, and vegetables with a Thai peanut dressing. But, if you’re looking for a more robust meal, it was voted “best ribs in the Wisconsin Dells” according to the restaurant’s brochure!
Moose Jaw Pizza And Dells Brewing Company
Who wouldn’t want to eat where there’s a moose on top of the building and its delivery vehicles! Moose Jaw Pizza might be an eye-catcher for the kiddos, but with a cool brewery upstairs where you can try the 12 brews on tap, I think this is the place where everyone in your group will be happy. It also serves taco salad, hamburgers, pretzel bites, and more.
Our trip consisted of four days in a cabin with a full kitchen, so I shopped at Maurer’s Market for most of our food. It’s a fresh market in town and had everything we needed.
Best Hotels In Wisconsin Dells
Hotels are everywhere you turn. From Great Wolf Lodge to luxurious hotels — depending on what you’re looking for, there’s a place to rest your head that will please you. We picked a nice, quiet cabin in the woods that we enjoyed very much, but you can be right in the middle of it all if you choose.
Arrowhead RV Campground
If you’re looking for a quiet place to stay, Arrowhead RV Campground offers cabins, RV camping, a pool, and other amenities. This is where we stayed for four days and enjoyed the quietness and the nice scenic drive to and from town.
If you’re bringing your entire family and are looking for a resort that has it all, including a waterpark, you may want to check out the popular Wilderness Resort. This is also where the Wilderness Canyon Zip Line is located, and next door to the resort is Take Flight.
Enjoy the view at The VUE — a boutique hotel downtown with amazing views of the Upper Dells and the Wisconsin River. It’s a full-service luxury hotel with fine dining, pool, spa, and luxurious hotel rooms — it’s all about “the VUE” here!
Pro Tip: Whether it’s the waterparks that bring you to the Dells, or the fantastic scenery, or both, you’re in for a treat, especially if it’s your first time visiting. Wisconsin Dells is a place you’ll want to visit over and over again.
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