Downtown Wisconsin Dells Shops Plus Lots More to Explore
True or False: Downtown Wisconsin Dells is where tourism started in the community some 170 years ago? True! Time to explore all the Wisconsin Dells downtown district has to offer today, from traditional favorites to newcomers to hidden gems.
We love a good downtown story, given Wisconsin Dells has such a vibrant downtown district where visitors can have fun, indulge in favorite foods, shop for souvenirs, and even stay if they like so they can be close to all the action. In other words, downtown Wisconsin Dells is classic tourism at its best. So, let’s jump in to the specifics to help you with your vacation planning.
But First, a Little Wisconsin Dells History
Historians point to one Leroy Gates, logger and river pilot, who, in 1857, parlayed his knowledge of the waters into a rowboat tour business, as the person who started something big for Wisconsin Dells. Another name to know is H.H. Bennett, a pioneer of landscape photography whose exquisite images of the Dells taken around the same time were displayed in passenger train cars (hello, the precursor to Instagram), luring lots of visitors who were eager to put themselves in the very landscapes they found so enthralling in Bennett’s photos. So, you could say it was the natural beauty that first drew travelers to downtown Wisconsin Dells and it’s the natural beauty that continues to charm visitors today.
Visit Bennett’s original photography studio, a state historic site, on Broadway in the downtown district, open May through October. Stroll the nearby Scenic River Walk, slowing down at the trailhead to view river photos and portraits of river boat captains taken by local photographer Joseph Leute displayed in the open-air “Soul of the River” gallery.
Then head down to the Dells Boat Tours® ticket office for tickets for a scenic river cruise on a double-decker tour boat. The boat tours run March through October, while the jet boat season is from May through October.
Super Fun Family Attractions in Downtown Wisconsin Dells
In addition to the classic boat tours, downtown Dells is home to some terrific family-centric attractions. The newly expanded Wizard Quest is a full-size wizard questing labyrinth adventure where your family can work as a team to solve the riddles and release the wizards.
Also, fantastical but in a much different way is Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum, where the three floors of oddities are mind-boggling. Tradition dictates you bowl a few games at Chalet Lanes & Lounge, have your family portrait taken at one of the old-time portrait studios, pan for gemstones at Dells Mining Co., and play mini-golf and laser tag at Wild Fun Zone.
When temperatures climb, you’ll likely want to spend as much time outside as possible. Get in tons of mini-golf at Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf and Timber Falls Adventure Park, and race around on go-carts at the new Yeti Yard Next Level Adventures. The beautiful new Elm Street Plaza is a must-visit, with free entertainment, pop-up markets and seasonal celebrations.
Downtown Wisconsin Dells Shops
There’s always great energy in downtown Wisconsin Dells which has everything to do with the wonderful variety of shops lining both sides of Broadway. It’s all walkable, so park your car, do some window shopping and people-watching, and then commence to picking up a favorite item or two for everyone in your group.
For starters, nothing says Wisconsin Dells shopping like the fudge shops in downtown Dells. There’s Swiss Maid Fudge, Wisconsin Dairyland Fudge, Candy Connection, Dells Fudge Company, Original Wisconsin Dells Fudge, and Goody Goody Gum Drop. Let’s add a few more to this sweet indulgence mix, including Huckleberry’s Ice Cream & Bakery, WIchoacana Mexican Dessert Bar (open March-November), and Cheese Cake Heaven Deli Restaurant (with April-September hours). Consider this permission to get treats from all of them! For those who prefer some “crunch” in their snacks, check out Kernel Popcorn’s Factory/Candy Kitchen and Oodlesmack Popcorn.
If you’re in the market for home décor items and gifts, the Winnebago Gift Shop will be your happy shopping place. Winnebago has been open for nearly 75 years and is also a shopping destination for Minnetonka moccasins. For cowboy boots – yes, real Western wear – pop into The Pickled Cowboy. An insider gem for home décor finds is DooHickey’s Gifts. Scoop up toys for the kiddos at Made With Love, select souvenirs at 38 Broadway Gifts (a seasonal shop with hours April-October), and pick out a new wardrobe of resort wear at Native Sun.
Dining in Downtown Dells
Let’s review downtown dining favorites, shall we?
For breakfast, Bella Goose Coffee has a Café on the River where the food, coffee, and views are all equally spectacular. Dells Bistro on Broadway (open March-October) has irresistible bubble waffles -try the Nutella Banana version - and smoothies.
For lunch, you’re spoiled for choices. Try a signature sandwich or salad at High Rock Café, a favorite among foodies. You will not be able to resist the burgers at Monk’s Bar & Grill, a dining institution in the Dells. MACS - Macaroni and Cheese Shop has cheesy entrées for kids and grownups. Mexicali Rose on the Wisconsin River serves authentic Mexican cuisine. The District’s menu offers fast casual, made-from-scratch fare, and it’s also on the Wisconsin River. The Villa Pizza Co. (open March-December) has all your Italian favorites, from pasta to pizza.
For dinner, slide into a booth at The Keg Bar & Grill or pull up a chair at a high top at River Walk Pub. Combine pizza with axe throwing at Asgard Axe & Tap. Try one of the fire braised pork or chicken entrées at Dells Distillery.
Later in the evening, head to Showboat Saloon for music and libations. There’s also Kilbourn Cork, a premium wine bar, and Latte Stone Brewing Co., a nanobrewery with an outdoor beer garden.
Stay in Downtown Wisconsin Dells
Generation after generation, visitors return to downtown Wisconsin Dells for lodging. Why? Because of the nostalgia factor, the good value, and the proximity to all the shops, attractions, and restaurants in the downtown district. Places like Fitzgerald’s Motel, Trails End Motel, Finch Motel, Colonial Motel, and Black Hawk Motel deliver a time-honored Dells experience that visitors treasure. Amber’s Inn & Suites and Days Inn & Suites by Wyndham are both popular choices for groups and family reunions.
So, in summary, stay, play, dine, and shop, all in downtown Wisconsin Dells!
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