Order the Official Wisconsin Dells Vacation Guide®
Return to Listing
It was back in 1956 that Dr. R.O. Ebert started the horse-drawn wagon tours through Lost Canyon, the longest and deepest land canyon in Wisconsin. In 1967, the Kissack families took over the business and still operate it today, doing their part to maintain this natural treasure. Visitors ride through a mile of cliff-walled gorges in comfortable yet quaint horse-drawn carriages. At the narrowest passages, the guides must talk the horses through the tight squeeze. In some of the deeper parts, the sheer rock and sandstone wall have not felt the touch of the sun in more than 50,000 years.
Note - All submissions will be reviewed by the Wisconsin Dells Visitor and Convention Bureau staff, may be shared with Chula Vista Resort Waterparks, and may be used on this web site or in other publications to help share your Dells experience with others.
When you've been around as a Wisconsin Dells tourism town for 150+ years, it's inevitable that some attractions will be viewed as more "flashes from the past" than nods to the future. Good thing residents of the Dells have found those "flashes" to be worthy of preservation and visitors have found them to be worthy of continued patronage, because some of these are the last of their kind.
We'll start a short drive out of town in a quaint little community known as Baraboo. There you'll find a national historic landmark -- Circus World. The Ringling Bros. Circus was founded in Baraboo in 1884 by five Ringling brothers and, naturally, they named their property in Baraboo "Ringlingville." This compound along the Baraboo River served as the winter quarters for the troupe. The buildings date from 1897 and, while they are the largest surviving group of original circus structures in North America, the museum's collection of circus artifacts may just be the largest in the world. It includes more than 210 original wagons and an exceptional collection of thousands of circus ads and posters. You can't miss the Buffalo Bill Wild West poster which measures nine feet high by 70 feet long. During the warm weather months, take in a performance in the Hippodrome, see live animals and daydream about what it must have been like to be a circus performer all those decades ago.
For the next stop, it's the Mid-Continent Railway Museum in the town of North Freedom. Stroll museum exhibits of steam locomotives that date back to the 1880s and then hop aboard a restored steel coach for a 50-minute ride through the countryside.
As long as we're on the subject of transportation, let's add to the itinerary a horse-drawn wagon ride at Lost Canyon Tours, located on the south shore of Lake Delton, back in the Dells. This mile-long tour gets you so close to cliff-walled gorges that it's a wonder the large Percheron horses don't get spooked. According to the guides, who really live the part, the deeper recesses of Lost Canyon have not felt the touch of the sun in more than 50,000 years.
Then it's on to Parsons Indian Trading Post & Museum. This business was opened in 1885 by Glenn Parsons, an honorary chief of four Native American tribes and a local river boat captain. Today it stands as one of the world's largest purveyors of Native American gifts and artifacts. Beaded moccasins, satchels, ceremonial capes and bold jewelry are inspired in both their design and technique. Parsons features the work of tribes from the United States, Canada, Mexico and Central America.
No historic tour is complete without a visit to the H.H. Bennett Studio, believed to be the oldest business in the Dells. Here, you'll see haunting images of Native American tribespeople and loggers, even Bennett's family. It was Bennett's other-worldly photos of the river and bluffs that helped turn Wisconsin Dells into a bustling tourism town.
Last stop is the Big Sky Twin Drive-In Theater with its two big screens, each featuring a first-run double feature. Before the show starts, make a dash for the snack bar for some hot buttered popcorn, icy cold soda and sticky cotton candy. Now that'll take baby boomers back.
This section allows you to download the Wisconsin Dells area price guide. We're certain you'll land on the right dollar figure.
At least once in your lifetime you should try this itinerary. These classic attractions, restaurants and resorts never go out of style. Just ask your parents or grandparents.
Starting with attractions, these are all must-do’s, so be sure to schedule your time accordingly. For those traveling with little ones, Wisconsin Deer Park is worth a stop. At the deer park, which opened more than 50 years ago, kids can feed the freely roaming deer, some still with their doe spots, others with huge antlers. Staying with animal-themed attractions, Lost Canyon Tours offers its own version of the “magnificent mile” - a ride through the narrow gorges of the canyon in a quaint horse-drawn wagon.
A tour of the Wisconsin River in the afternoon is next in order. You can head out on a Duck, an amphibious WWII vehicle that gives you a little land travel with your water tour. Choose from the Original Wisconsin Ducks® or Dells Army Duck Tours. Or you can relax aboard a double-decker tour boat. Some offer you shore landings to explore the gorges and see a trained dog make the famous Stand Rock jump from one bluff outcropping to another. Other aqua tour options include jet boats, a paddle wheeler, tours without shore landings and dinner cruises.
Take a detour downtown and stop in the H.H. Bennett Studio, the original studio of the post Civil War photographer H.H. Bennett, the man who introduced the world to Wisconsin Dells with his critically acclaimed photos of the river, the bluffs, the early logging industry and Native American culture. Here you can try the Stand Rock jump, blocked off on the floor. The original leaper was actually Bennett’s son Ashley.
You can’t get much more classic than the circus and that’s why nearby Circus World in Baraboo makes this list. The grounds here were the original winter home of the Ringling Bros. Today, visitors can still take in 10 different shows performed daily during the warm weather months and gaze upon the world’s largest collection of restored parade wagons.
One evening has to be set aside to see the Tommy Bartlett Show. Even this popular ski show, going strong after 60 years, is harkening back to its classic high-energy roots with the costumes and choreography for its 2011 “Livin’ the Dream” show. After the show, take a stroll downtown for some homemade fudge or a candy-loaded caramel apple or giant sucker at one of the many confection shops. Maybe even slip into a new pair of moccasins at Winnebago Gift Shop, Bailey’s Landing or Aunt Jenny’s Got-It-All Store.
On another evening, pile in the car for a double feature of first-run movies at Big Sky Twin Drive-In Theater. This is one of the last of its kind in Wisconsin.
Settle down for the night at a classic hotel or motel. There are so many to choose from in the area it would be unfair to mention just one or two. But what must be said is that these places represent the best of the mom-and-pop motel tradition, with a good number run by second and third generation families. Pull your car right up to the door of your room and make yourself feel right at home.
The next morning, make breakfast your classic meal of the trip, with a stop at Paul Bunyan’s Northwoods Cook Shanty (fair warning, the doughnuts are fresh and soft and irresistible); or Mr. Pancake, where matriarch Diane Thompson’s recipes for waffles and pancakes and blintzes are to die for.
-- Select --Alaska - United StatesAlabama - United StatesArkansas - United StatesArizona - United StatesCalifornia - United StatesColorado - United StatesConnecticut - United StatesDistrict of Columbia - United StatesDelaware - United StatesFlorida - United StatesGeorgia - United StatesHawaii - United StatesIowa - United StatesIdaho - United StatesIllinois - United StatesIndiana - United StatesKansas - United StatesKentucky - United StatesLouisiana - United StatesMassachusetts - United StatesMaryland - United StatesMaine - United StatesMichigan - United StatesMinnesota - United StatesMissouri - United StatesMississippi - United StatesMontana - United StatesNorth Carolina - United StatesNorth Dakota - United StatesNebraska - United StatesNew Hampshire - United StatesNew Jersey - United StatesNew Mexico - United StatesNevada - United StatesNew York - United StatesOhio - United StatesOklahoma - United StatesOregon - United StatesPennsylvania - United StatesRhode Island - United StatesSouth Carolina - United StatesSouth Dakota - United StatesTennessee - United StatesTexas - United StatesUtah - United StatesVirginia - United StatesVermont - United StatesWashington - United StatesWisconsin - United StatesWest Virginia - United StatesWyoming - United StatesAlberta - CanadaBritish Columbia - CanadaManitoba - CanadaNew Brunswick - CanadaNew Foundland - CanadaNova Scotia - CanadaNorthwest Territories - CanadaOntario - CanadaPrince Edward Island - CanadaQuebec - CanadaSaskatchewan - CanadaYukon Territories - Canada
-- Select --United StatesCanada
Send Me The Wisconsin Dells Newsletter
Get the inside track on Wisconsin Dells activities, festivals and events, seasonal specials and key information.
Sign Me Up For Market Research
I am also interested in participating in periodic research studies about Wisconsin Dells. I agree to allow the Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau, or its market research partner, to contact me up to three times a year to participate in the studies.
**By submitting your experience, you warrant you are the sole owner and author of these items. You understand and agree that all submitted information will become the sole property of the Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau and will not be returned. You also give us permission to use your comments as we see fit and you understand that we may even contact you via e-mail or phone for more information. While under no circumstances will your personal information be shared with the general public, we may share your contact information with businesses you've identified in your story.
Our monthly e-newsletter gives you the scoop on things to do in Wisconsin Dells, so sign up today!
Wisconsin Dells respects your privacy. Your information will not be shared, sold, or used for any other purpose.
701 Superior Street, PO Box 390
Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965-0390
(608) 254-4293 (Fax)
Chat With Us!