“Funnest vacation ever!”
When your five-year-old screams that multiple times during a trip, you know you’ve done something right. What I did “right” was bring my kids on a weekend trip to America’s largest water park, Wilderness Resort, in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. About a three-hour drive from Chicago, Wilderness Resort is an excellent remedy for our brutal, Midwest winters.
The resort is actually made up of three properties: Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort, which features 444 guest rooms, 40 vacation villas, 76 Frontier Condominiums, and 35 cabins; Wilderness on the Lake, with 108 luxury two- and three-bedroom condominiums; and Glacier Canyon Lodge, featuring 460 upscale condominiums. We stayed in the main hotel, which is split into two sections: the New Frontier region and the Wild West region. Each section features a variety of shops, dining options, attractions, and water parks. New Frontier and Wild West are connected by an indoor walkway, so there’s no need to brave the elements to get from one part of the hotel to the other. Our standard guest room in the Wild West was perfect for the four of us. With two little kids and all the available fun, we weren’t going to spend a whole lot of time in the room anyway. But when we were in the room, it was comfortable and cozy. The room is somewhat separated into two areas: the main sleeping area and a sitting area. This was huge for me since the kids go to sleep rather early, and it allowed me a separate space to stay up, watch TV, and get some work done, all without disturbing them. The sleeping area features two double beds, a small dining table with two chairs, dressers, and television. The sitting area has a pull-out couch bed, television, coffee table, microwave, refrigerator, and sink with a generous amount of counter space (really handy for sippy cups, bottles, snacks, etc.).
So, about these water parks… There are EIGHT: four indoor and four outdoor. We visited in mid-November so the outdoor parks were out of the question. Of the four indoor parks, we made it to three. First was the 70,000-square foot Wild West water park, the resort’s largest, in the section of the hotel with the same name. The Ransack Ridge play area was a big hit with both of my kids. Lucia loved running up and down the stairs of the six-level play structure, stopping to shoot water cannons, and then whisking down one of the many slides attached. Meanwhile, Anthony was happy to be frolicking in the little wading areas surrounding Ransack Ridge. Wild West is a great spot for big and little kids alike.
Most of our second day at Wilderness was spent at Klondike Kavern in the New Frontier region. The kids and I took many a trip down Bonanza Brook, the 400-foot lazy river. The three of us plopped into a double inner tube and floated on like we had not a care in the world, and Anthony squealed with joy the whole time. When we weren’t on the lazy river, the kids enjoyed Bonanza Bluff, the huge play area with spray features, a 750-gallon tipping bucket, and side-by-side slides (that I had to go down countless times with Lucia).
Also in the New Frontier region is the Wild WaterDome. I may or may not have dragged Lucia there so we could check out the The Great Wave, the nation’s largest indoor wave pool. Lucia was a little nervous the first time the alarm went off, signaling the start of the waves, but after a few times, I had to drag her out of the wave pool! Also of interest to me at Wild WaterDome is Margarita’s Swim-Up Bar, but I didn’t make Lucia go there with me. That’s probably frowned upon.
Wilderness Resort realizes the importance of keeping the kids well-fed and parents well-fueled to keep up with them. The proof is the number of dining options at the resort, which range from snack shops to sit-down, full-service restaurants. On our first night, we enjoyed poolside pub fare from The Thirsty Buffalo Saloon, located above the Wild West water park. We were able to order “take out”, which wasn’t taken very far; just to the tables outside the saloon overlooking the water park. I was also able to enjoy a much-needed, sophisticated adult beverage from the saloon’s full-service bar.
Wild Canyon Cafe in the New Frontier Region is the perfect dining spot for families. First of all, it’s huge; there is plenty of seating space. Secondly, there is a breakfast buffet as well as a dinner buffet, along with full menus for each meal. The buffet really is cost-effective, especially because families receive one free children’s buffet for each adult buffet purchased. We did the breakfast buffet on our first morning at the resort and were stuffed on cheesy scrambled eggs, biscuits & gravy, and all the bacon we could eat. That night, we returned for the dinner buffet, where Lucia was thrilled to find “chicken with the handle” (chicken legs, fried). I was just thrilled to have a New Glarus Brewing Spotted Cow to go along with my dinner.
You can’t walk past a self-serve frozen yogurt shop several times with kids and expect to avoid stopping in. Yukon Yogurt is strategically located along Klondike Boardwalk, on the mezzanine level of New Frontier Region, outside of Klondike Kavern water park. Who am I kidding, though? It’s fun for adults, too. There are fifteen flavors of frozen yogurt and sorbet, and a tempting array of toppings. It’s weigh-and-pay so be careful with how much you load in your self-serve cup!
Naturally, the water parks at Wilderness Resort are the big draw, but there is a ton of “dry” fun to be had, too. Honestly, I really had no idea just how much there is to do that doesn’t involve water and pools. Many of the dry attractions are indoors, too, so it’s perfect for winter visits. Lucia and I zoomed around the Wilderwoods Go-Kart Trail and had the track to ourselves most of the time. Both kids – ok, all three of us – loved climbing up and around Timberland Play Park. It’s a 4-story, 30,000-square foot playground-meets-obstacle course (think Wipeout for kids and without the gross stuff). But the most exciting was the Northern Lights Sky Ropes Course. Lucia spotted it shortly after our arrival at the resort, since the course is situated directly above one of the mega arcades. She was really curious about it so I explained how it works and she made up her mind that she needed to do it. I knew it meant that I’d have to go with her and, I’ll admit, I wasn’t too thrilled at the prospect. But I saw it as an opportunity to teach my daughter a lesson about courage and bravery. We were fitted with our harnesses, hooked into the overhead track, and sent off on our own to explore the course of planks, stairs, and suspension bridges. Lucia became quite nervous when it came time to walk one of the planks so a resort employee, Alex, came over to hold her hand and guide her across. I can’t commend Alex enough for his patience and the attention he paid to Lucia. He made the ropes course fun and successful for her.
Admission to the many water parks is included in your stay at Wilderness Resort, but the indoor “dry” attractions are not. To help families save money while ensuring they don’t miss out on any of the fun, Wilderness Resort offers the Wild Fun Pass, which is more economical than paying for individual attractions. At $24.95 per pass, it allows for entry to the go-kart track, ropes course, laser tag, mini-golf, and even $1 off ice cream at Pistol Pete’s.What makes the Wild Fun Pass even more awesome is that it comes in the form as a card; no bracelet or ID is required, so the card can be used by anyone in your party. Furthermore, the passes don’t expire! So, if you know you’ll be making a return trip to Wilderness Resort (and why wouldn’t you?), you can bring the Wild Fun Pass back with you to finish using it up. Lucia thought of her Wild Fun Pass as a passport; she was determined to experience each of the attractions and have them marked off her card.
To have the “funnest vacation ever!” with your family, and cure cabin fever while you’re at it, consider Wilderness Resort in Wiconsin Dells. Also, be sure to check the resort’s website frequently. There is always a deal or new offer to be had. Our visit last month was our first and I have a feeling it won’t be our last.
A big thank you to Wilderness Resort for hosting my family and me, and for including Wild Fun Passes with our weekend stay. As always, all words and opinions are my own.