Every January in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., the resort community better known as “The Waterpark Capital of the World!®”, there is a little tradition the local visitor bureau likes to call the official release of what’s new for the coming year. Given everything that’s debuting in the Dells for 2012, frankly it might have been easier to chronicle what’s not new. But, in the spirit of keeping the tradition alive, here is the rundown of new waterpark rides, attractions, accommodations, restaurants, shops and outdoor adventures for the new year.
Big Waterpark News
Starting outdoors, Noah’s Ark Waterpark, America’s Largest Waterpark, is debuting Quadzilla, a $1 million family mat racer slide that stands 47 feet tall, with lanes that run 323 feet long. How can that be, you ask? Because the four slides making up this ride are literally braided and twisted together, a first-of-its-kind for this community. Riders will plunge head first on Quadzilla, reaching top speeds of just over 20 mph. If you do the math, that’s 24 seconds from top to bottom. The lanes start out enclosed, but as you race to the bottom, they become open lanes so you can see who’s winning in the side-by-side competition. As you crest over vertical curves and gain even more speed toward the bottom, be prepared to experience a feeling of weightlessness.
At Kalahari Waterpark Resort Convention Center, they’ve literally raised the roof to install two indoor Super Loop waterslides, the first of their kind in the world, the Sahara Sidewinders. These slides stand 65 feet tall, which meant extending a section of the roof to accommodate the added height. You’ll even be able to see the top of these slides from the interstate. Riders will step into the slide and brace themselves as a trapdoor opens below their feet, sending them rocketing at speeds up to 25 mph. Kalahari also installed an additional free fall slide for the really adventurous called the Screaming Hyena. While the new slides will be a hit with tweens and teens, the toddlers have not been left out, as the resort has opened a new kid’s play zone called Tiko’s Watering Hole, with more than a dozen kiddie slides and interactive African animal figures – think grey-crowned cranes doubling as squirt guns. A rain tree gushes water as if it’s raining for added squeals.
Heading back outside, the Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort is adding two new water tube-style slides, one that loops and one that jettisons riders straight down, both with trap doors to get the free fall started. Riders can reach speeds up to 40 mph thanks to maximum G force. Both of these behemoths will be in the Glacier Canyon Lodge section of the sprawling resort, the country’s largest combo indoor/outdoor waterpark property.
Over at Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Parks, their archeological crew has “excavated” the $3 million Lost City of Atlantis, a gigantic outdoor water fortress that covers over three acres. This new archeological find will be easy to spot at a whopping six stories tall. Tailored for all age groups, the Lost City of Atlantis will feature a monster dump bucket and seven water slides including a bowl ride, boomerang slide, family tube slide, kids’ water slides and a geyser blasting water over 160 feet.
The new splash pad at Sherwood Forest Camping & RV Park proves waterpark fun doesn’t have to be limited to just waterpark resorts. This zero-depth attraction is festooned with rainbow water arches, squirt cannons and geysers.
New Ways to Be Entertained
There is a really nice variety of new indoor attractions this year starting with Wild Fun Zone, located downtown Dells and offering indoor bumper cars with spinning action, 3-D black light mini golf, a laser tag arena that takes the shape of a space cave, virtual roller coaster ride and mega arcade. Look for the huge gorilla on the top of the building to find this place.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum has added a “shrunken head alley” featuring a half-dozen actual shrunken heads. Next door at Wizard Quest, a new character by the name of Professor Oodlesmack has been added to the quest displays. His eccentric hobby is creating new flavors of popcorn, so naturally there is an Oodlesmack Popcorn counter attached to Wizard Quest, with more than 40 different gourmet flavors. Plus, the Dells 4D Special FX Theater, on the same block, has two new films this year that will make you feel like you’re in the movie.
There’s just something about oversized gadgets that gets kids, and adults, engaged. At the Tommy Bartlett Exploratory – Interactive Science Center, you can lift a 3,000 pound car off the ground using an oversized lever. This new hands-on exhibit is located right outside of the front entrance to the Exploratory. Head inside and you’ll find two other new exhibits – one, a musical experiment called “Dancing Sands” and the other a “Square Wheel” that actually rolls. Side note – the Exploratory is also celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2012.
Outdoor Recreation and Adventures
Vertical Illusions, known for its inspiring Wisconsin River kayak and rock climbing adventures, is now offering an Eco Zip Line Canopy Tour. You’ll zip off the top of Chimney Rock, a 500-foot bluff affording 120-mile views, and then travel along 15 tree-to-tree zip lines without ever touching the ground. For winter visitors, Vertical Illusions offers a 40-foot frozen waterfall climb.
If you like zip lining, there’s a good chance you’ll also like the new adventure ropes course located inside the Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort. It’s called the Northern Lights Sky Ropes Course and it’s perched 30 feet above the mega arcade in the Wild West region of the property. Wearing a full-body safety harness, you’ll climb your way around 42 challenges with varying degrees of difficulty.
Big Chief’s Go Karts is new, with enough uphills and downhills to make you dizzy. A hairpin turn is thrown in for good measure.
Lost Voyage, a nighttime adventure on the Wisconsin River that takes participants on a mystifying scavenger hunt of sorts in search of a mythical (or is it?) tour boat that vanished years ago, has new chapters planned for this ongoing conspiracy mystery. Look for clues online, in the ticket center lobby and as you enter Cold Water Canyon on foot and interact with characters you meet along the way.
For baby boomers and older, the first thing that probably comes to mind when they hear “P.T. 109” is the movie by the same name that dramatized President John F. Kennedy’s WWII experiences during which he captained a PT boat. Now, it’s also part of the moniker for a Wisconsin River tour of the Upper Dells glacial park. The P.T. 109 Boat Patrol sightseeing excursion is narrated, drawing on both history and legend of the river, and showcases the sandstone rock formations.
This is just about ESPN-worthy news. JustAgame Fieldhouse has completed a huge addition to its facility, adding two regulation high school courts that can be reconfigured to a regulation college court with seating for 2,000. No sooner were the floorboards in place than the announcement came that JustAgame had been selected by the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association as the site for the 2012 All Star Games, bringing 200 of the best Wisconsin high school players to the Dells.
Anniversaries and Reunions
The Tommy Bartlett Show is marking the 60th anniversary of its iconic water ski show with reunion performances the weekend of June 30-July 1, inviting skiers back to celebrate with the current cast of “Livin’ the Dream.” Retro ski acts are making a comeback too, featuring the ski tricks that made the show famous the world over. Other special events and appearances to mark the occasion will be sprinkled throughout the summer.
Both Swiss Maid Fudge and Wisconsin Dairyland Fudge are marking their 50th anniversaries with sweet specialties that will only be available for the anniversary year.
Wollersheim Winery is celebrating its 40th anniversary of being in business, although the land’s use as a vineyard dates back to the 1840s, with tours, events, displays and wine releases. Already a national historic site, Wollersheim was also recently bestowed with an historical marker from the county’s historical society.
A Little Food, A Little Wine
Sprecher’s Restaurant & Pub of Wisconsin Dells brings to town its casual style dining, micro-brews and gourmet sodas made by its own Sprecher Brewery. The cream soda is a must, as is the root beer.
Fawn Creek Winery has introduced two new wines. The Kilbourn Red is a cranberry-flavored Shiraz; one dollar from the sale of every bottle is donated to the Kilbourn Volunteer Fire Department of Wisconsin Dells. Cabin Fever is a backberry-flavored Merlot and is billed as a seasonal wine to help cure the doldrums of Wisconsin winters.
Insider Shopping Finds
Downtown has a new shopping experience in women’s apparel – it’s a boutique called Alpha Beta Karma. This store has the feeling of a Parisian flea market meets So Ho boutique, thanks to the owners’ frequent buying trips to bring in fashion, jewelry, footwear and accessories from both east and west coast designers.
The third downtown newcomer is Thirty Below Leather, selling an ever evolving inventory of purses, gloves, hats, wallets and belts, and the best part is that every item in the store is $30 or less.
For anyone into gardening, Wisconsin Landscaping & Garden Center will lure you in with their solar gazing balls, glass bird feeders and garden art. If you’re in Wisconsin Dells on a celebration vacation and would like flowers delivered, their floral department is at your service.
Finally, Ho-Chunk Gaming – Wisconsin Dells has added a new recreational vehicle park to its complex. It’s called Hocak Houisa Chi’ Nuk Luxury RV Park, which translates to "Ho-Chunk Parking Village." This three-season addition has 49 spaces with amenities like Wi-Fi, water, sewer, electric, fire pits and picnic tables, along with a comfort station with showers and a guest laundry facility.
If you’re still looking for other things to do in the Dells, then you are not only ambitious but clearly a diehard fan, so have at it by logging on to the official web site, www.wisdells.com. There you’ll find complete listings of waterparks, attractions, restaurants, retail, lodging and service choices.