It's rare to find a Midwesterner who didn't vacation in the Dells as a kid. For more than 150 years, Wisconsin Dells has served as a popular getaway, morphing over time from a serene natural setting to a kitschy carnival ride of entertainment to its current incarnation as the "Waterpark Capital of the World." Today, Wisconsin Dells is a blend of old school and state of the art, where faded attractions sit beside bustling resort complexes. The beauty that has attracted people to the area since the 1800s remains the star attraction, with everything from scenic tours to self-guided kayaking excursions available. One thing has not changed: The Dells have been a popular summertime destination for decades because every business, attraction, resort, and activity is family-centric.
The abundance of indoor water parks makes a winter visit worthwhile, and the vibrant fall foliage rivals that of New England, but summer is the prime time to visit the Dells. Then the full range of outdoor activities can be experienced, from canoeing to bicycling to roller coaster riding. Bargain hunters can save big by visiting in early to mid-June, when lodging is often up to 50 percent less expensive than during the peak summer months.
Temperatures average in the mid-70s in summer, but can reach the 90s with high humidity. Bring plenty of sunscreen and a light rainproof jacket in case the moody Midwestern weather turns rainy or chilly.
The closest airport, Dane County Regional (DCRA), is 55 miles away in Madison, Wisconsin. Less expensive flights can often be found by flying into General Mitchell International (MKE) in Milwaukee (116 miles) or Chicago's O'Hare International (ORD) (188 miles). Both Amtrak and Greyhound also serve the Wisconsin Dells.
Because the area is spread out along two main highways (Dells Parkway/Route 12 and Broadway/Routes 13/16/23), getting around the Dells requires a car. Parking is usually free and relatively easy to find at most attractions and resorts, even in the downtown River District (look for parking off the main drag and bring quarters for parking meters).
The Wisconsin Dells Coupon Book is packed with discounts, including a lower price for the book itself if purchased online. Many resorts and attractions offer online deals on their websites or exclusively to email subscribers.
There are 18 campgrounds in the Dells, ranging from privately owned to more rustic Wisconsin State Park campgrounds.