In Wisconsin Dells, the the word “classic” can mean many things to many people.
Some visitors are strict in their application, using it exclusively to describe businesses they remember from childhood trips. Others reference farther back then that when using the adjective, preferring a more historic use, as in historic sites in the area. Still others, and this is a big segment, think the Dells is awash in instant classics, as in the waterparks. How about we all just agree that there is no right or wrong use of the word.
When it comes to summer vacation, Wisconsin Dells has been a classic destination dating back 150 years when the first visitors came for rowboat tours of the Wisconsin River. Many were from the Chicago area. How did they find out about the Dells way back then? Local photographer H.H. Bennett took exquisite landscape photos of the river and placed said photos in train stations between the Dells and the Windy City. Brilliant advertising ploy really. Bennett is credited with making Wisconsin Dells famous, and his studio and gallery, now a state historic site, remains intact and open to the public in downtown Dells. Tours of the river have been upgraded a bit, with tour boats, paddlewheelers, WWII amphibious vehicles known as Ducks and jet boats among the choices.
You can stay still at a classic resort, like Baker’s Sunset Bay Resort on Lake Delton where an impressive upgrade of the beach, decks and outdoor pool and addition of new suites and a party pavilion only add to the charm. Ambers Hideaway, with its pool and gazebo out front, is a classic motel. The owners there have renovated every room in the last year and lovingly re-landscaped the grounds. Sherwood Forest Camping & RV Park has been family owned since 1967, with the second generation adding their touch to the tradition of camping with amenities like movie night, Sunday crafts for the kids (so the parents can pack up), a zero depth splash pad for the toddlers and a new gathering pavilion.
Sherwood Forest Camping & RV Park also has air conditioned cabins, part of a new trend that takes classic camping and turns it up a notch. It’s called “glamping” as in glamour camping. Visitors can reserve tree houses with air, microwave, refrigerator and cable TV at Mt. Olympus Zeus Village & Camp Resort and yurts (these are a modern adaptation of the ancient shelters used by nomads) at Yogi Bear™ Camp-Resort & Water Playground.
There are classic attractions that visitors like to experience just about every time they visit the Dells. Counted among them have to be go-karting, riding the roller coasters, feeding the deer at Wisconsin Deer Park, horseback riding, seeing the Tommy Bartlett Show, playing some mini golf, having an old-timey portrait taken downtown and ending the night with a double feature at the Big Sky Twin Drive-In Theater.
But let’s get to the white elephant in the room - it’s the community’s world-famous waterparks. Would you be surprised to know that Noah’s Ark Waterpark has been around for 33 years? That’s got to qualify as a bona fide classic in years alone. Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Parks’ massive surf pool and towering racing slides made it an instant classic. The waterpark resorts that fill up the landscape here all have outdoor waterparks too. There’s the jaw-dropping variety at Kalahari Waterpark Resort Convention Center, Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort and Chula Vista Resort. The toddler-friendly ones at Great Wolf Lodge and Polynesian Resort Hotel & Suites, to name just a few. Plus, there are just about every size and shape of waterparks in between in Wisconsin Dells.
Next time you’re heading to the Dells for a summer vacation, think classic. Maybe you could even get in the mood by playing some classic tunes on the radio on your drive in. Then again, agreeing on what constitutes classic music with your kids could be more of a challenge than defining classic vacation to Wisconsin Dells.