A new ride, a new aerial park. A new clubhouse, a new theater.
Once again “The Waterpark Capital of the World!®” rises to new heights.
Read on for a recap of all the exciting new developments in 2015.
Feet Off the Ground
There’s a new tower ride at Mt. Olympus Theme Park & Water Park and it’s called Manticore (that’s a legendary creature similar to a sphinx for all you mythology buffs). This vertical swing stands more than 140-feet tall, has 12 arms and 12 double seats, and is lit up with a barrage of LED lights. You’ll get a spectacular view of the entire Mt. Olympus Park on this one.
It’s a first-of-its-kind for Wisconsin Dells as the area’s first aerial adventure park, Heightened Adventures, opens at Chula Vista Resort, taking up six acres in the woods between the resort and adjacent golf course. The attraction will have a zipline with aerial obstacle course, with obstacles at varying levels of difficulty, making it family-friendly for grade-schoolers through grown-ups. Plan to set aside at least two hours for the full experience, from gear-up and instruction through self-guided experience. Guided adventures are also available by request. The course is mapped at heights from 10 to 40 feet off the ground, affording terrific views of the forest and the Wisconsin River. This eco-adventure is open to the public year-round, weather permitting.
There’s something so naturally fun about jumping around on a trampoline that kids take to it like ducks to water. The trampoline park at Knuckleheads Trampoline Park ● Rides ● Bowling, entering its first full year, includes a monster jumping pillow plus every configuration of trampoline imaginable. It’s not unusual to see little kids making some big-time trick dunk shots on the basketball-themed trampoline area.
Those who venture over to BigFoot Zipline Tours this year will be in seventh heaven with the addition of zipline #7 known as Zipzilla. It stands 120 feet tall and takes you careening above treetops at 55 mph. The bird’s-eye view of the city alone is worth the price of admission.
Branson? Vegas? No, Wisconsin Dells!
Now on to entertainment news. Palace Theater enters its first full year. This 800-seat dinner theater was completely renovated with all new sound and lighting equipment plus major architectural and interior design updates. The schedule includes Broadway-quality American musical revivals as well as favorite Disney classics, with cast and crew hailing from New York, Chicago and other entertainment hubs of the U.S. They’ll also have a line-up of nationally known bands and comedians for concert engagements. A full meal is included in the ticket price too. In 2015, shows include Pinkalicious, Ring of Fire, The Little Mermaid, Lombardi, A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker.
Take a step back in time with the new illusion at the well-established, 550-seat Rick Wilcox Magic Theater. Master illusionist and star of the show, Rick Wilcox, will send a youngster from the audience back in time 30, 40, even 50 years. Rick and the grade-schooler will step into a clear octagon glass box with wife Suzan Wilcox at the controls setting the dial for time travel. Rick and the child magically fade away. When Rick reappears the child isn’t with him – makes sense since he or she technically wasn’t born yet. When the child reappears, Rick is gone. The illusion ends with a surprise. Yes, you’ll have to see it to find out just what that surprise is. He’s spent three years working on it, ever the consummate perfectionist.
A Kick for Sports Fans and Sports Teams
Cold Water Canyon Golf Course at Chula Vista Resort is debuting a new clubhouse this year. The Clubhouse includes a 200-seat restaurant and outdoor veranda with firepits, TVs and great views to the bluffs. The resort has 65 years under its belt, so to speak, of perfecting the Friday Night Fish Fry, so that menu item should be a big draw. The resort is also getting into agri-tourism in an even bigger way this year with the expansion of their corn maze to a full 12 acres. The resort owners actually farm this land across from the golf course entrance, and they’ll be planting in excess of 700,000 seeds of corn to make the maze before harvesting the crop at the close of the season. Along with the maze there will be a farm market, hayrides, a potato slinging catapult and inflatable slides.
Woodside Sports Complex in Wisconsin Dells knows how to keep the ball rolling when it comes to expansions. In 2015 they open two new grass soccer/multipurpose fields, adding to the six synthetic turf soccer fields and four synthetic turf baseball/softball fields opened just last year. There’s also a retail and concession stand plus meeting rooms and a VIP viewing area. Woodside also has a huge facility in nearby Mauston and owns and operates the Wisconsin Dells Center Dome.
Spring Brook Sports Bar & Grill is now sporting 26 flat-screen TVs in a new private dining room and bar area, making it a great hang-out for sports fans.
Ambers Resort & Conference Center gets Most Improved Player honors for its $4 million renovation. The 228 rooms are refreshed and there are now two indoor pools and two outdoor activity pools. Their hospitality rooms are great for teams looking to hold an all-team potluck. This property is a hop, skip and a jump from JustAgame Fieldhouse, which, by the way, is hosting the 2015 Wisconsin Collegiate Conference Men’s and Women’s Basketball Final Four.
Food and Drink
Wollersheim Winery opens its new 25,000 square foot distillery this summer, featuring its own cellar and retail space. The fruits for the brandies are grown in Wisconsin and the grains for the whiskey and gin come from a farm just one mile down the road from the distillery. An intriguing factoid: both wine and brandy were made on the property nearly 100 years ago. Post-Prohibition regulations made a return to these roots impossible, until 2009 that is, when a change in Wisconsin law once again allowed wineries to distill spirits. Wollersheim Winery sits on a hillside overlooking the Wisconsin River in nearby Prairie du Sac.
The Meat Market, an old-fashioned butcher shop where the meat is sourced from local farms and cut fresh daily for the meat case, recently opened. What’s really tempting is the huge variety of brats – no question you’re in Wisconsin when there are more than 20 varieties of brats from which to choose.
Mr. G’s Chicken Shack in downtown Wisconsin Dells has the kind of carry-out and delivery food that you can’t help but associate with words like mouthwatering and yummy. Their specialty is something called “chic on a stick,” thus bringing new meaning to the term grab-and-go food.
Driftless Glen Distillery on the banks of the Wisconsin River in Baraboo is opening a restaurant with seating for 200 inside and outdoor dining for 55. Given their stock in trade as a distillery, it’s no surprise the owners will be serving up “distillery cuisine,” with the majority of dishes using the handcrafted spirits in creative ways. How interesting that they are also using the spent grains used in making the spirits to feed the cows they source for their beef dishes. Talk about farm to glass to plate! The restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner plus Sunday brunch. Tack on a tour and tasting while you’re there. By the way, their neighbor is Circus World and if you time your visit right you might see circus animals crossing the river while you dine.
More Spa, More Serenity
Spa Serenity, just a short drive away in downtown Baraboo, has become even more serene with the addition of new treatment rooms, quiet lounge areas, and a pretty manicure and pedicure station in the front of the building with huge windows looking out onto the quaint city center.
Cute Little Shopping Find
The Ivy Cottage is a great find for purse fanatics, jewelry lovers and those who fancy themselves interior designers of their own abodes. It’s located downtown in a 1930s cottage-style home with loads of architectural charm and, of course, the requisite climbing ivy on the outside to add to the curb appeal. The shop offers some upscale resale items too.
BIG ANNIVERSARIES, STARTING WITH A SESQUICENTENNIAL
150 Years for H.H. Bennett Studio
Can Wisconsin Dells’ fame be traced back 150 years to a single person? The answer to that tourism genealogy question is a resounding “yes,” and the person is Henry Hamilton Bennett. His exquisite images of the Wisconsin River with its towering sandstone cliffs and mystical caverns, raftsmen risking life and limb to ferry timber, the Ho-Chunk nation and their life along the dells of the river, and even his own family members standing in as models proved fascinating photojournalism. Bennett was an early marketing pioneer as well, arranging for his photos to be displayed in train stations between Wisconsin Dells and Chicago. Visitors began arriving to experience the natural beauty of the Dells and naturally needed places to stay, places to eat and boat guides to take them on tours of the river. Thus, the tourism industry here was born. In nearly every Bennett bio you’ll see the phrase, “the man who made Wisconsin Dells famous.”
Bennett, and later his family, ran the historic photography studio in downtown Dells for 135 years before donating the studio and the extensive photographic collection to the Wisconsin Historical Society. It is the oldest continually operating photography studio in the United States.
The sesquicentennial is being marked with a season-long anniversary gallery exhibit, “150 Years of Dells and Studio History,” plus a weekend of celebrations including activities in the studio and adjoining outdoor courtyard the weekend of June 13-14. Don’t miss the all-new 3-D stereo viewer station in the studio – it’s the best way to see the river as it was in Bennett’s day. On August 22, the Crystal Grand Music Theater will be the site of “Stand Rock Indian Ceremonial Reawakened,” a program of Native American song, dance and historic Bennett photos produced by Friends of H.H. Bennett Studio and Little Eagle Arts Foundation.
Ducks Live to Be 70
The Original Wisconsin Ducks®, the WWII land-to-water vehicles repurposed for tours of the Dells, start their 70th season this year. To mark the occasion look for 10 of the 92 Ducks to be painted in a retro color scheme reminiscent of the 1950s and ‘60s.
Here’s some interesting Duck trivia: Upwards of 500 people have been Duck drivers since the ‘50s and it remains one of the most coveted jobs in the Dells, not only for the chance to be outdoors but also because it looks good on a resume. Today, along with three generations of visitors to the Dells, there are even three generations of Duck drivers, with the youngest being 18 and the oldest 77.
Yogi Bear Camp-Resort & Water Playground Goes Retro for 45th
For their 45th anniversary this year, the owners of Yogi Bear™ Camp-Resort & Water Playground are one-upping the concept of “throwback Thursday” by staging a full-scale throwback with the renovation of their 50 family lodges to now include avocado and gold color schemes in all the kitchens. They’ve also purchased a foam machine to add a layer of frothy fun to their waterslide activity area for special events. While today’s little ones may not know the original cartoon, they are still bound to enjoy appearances by the lovable cartoon characters and the parades through the camp resort.
25th Anniversary for Dells Mining Co.
Dells Mining Co. turns 25 this year. How serendipitous that it’s the silver anniversary - after all, they provide pretty sterling silver mountings for the sparkly gemstones you “pan for” by sifting through gem-rich soil to find treasures. They’ll even custom design jewelry for you. Gold mountings are also a choice (gold is for 50th anniversaries, just in case you were wondering). Dells Mining Co. has two locations – the original one is on the Wisconsin Dells Parkway and is open seasonally while the second location, right downtown on Broadway, is open year-round – and they’ll be having anniversary specials all year-long.
To stay up-to-date on rolling “new news” items throughout the year, bookmark WisDells.com.