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The Most Retro of the Retro

Mother and daughter looking at old circus world wagon

When you’ve been in the tourism business as long as Wisconsin Dells has, there are bound to be some classic establishments that have been open for generations. The twist is these types of Dells’ businesses have not only maintained their longtime loyal followers, but they’re also attracting new generations of fans.

Topping the list of attractions that have stood the test of time are Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf with tens of thousands of pretty flowers adorning all 90 holes, and Wisconsin Deer Park where petting the deer and posing for pictures remains a family favorite. Speaking of animal attractions, take a horse-drawn wagon ride through the narrow gorge at Lost Canyon Tours, also known as Wisconsin Dells’ version of the “magnificent mile;” ride Engine No. 9 at Timbavati Wildlife Park, a train that oldsters may remember from the Old Fort Dells attraction, now long gone; and take in a show under the Big Top at Circus World, the original winter home of the Ringling Bros. circus.

Gather the gang, grandparents to grandkids, for a nostalgic breakfast at Paul Bunyan’s Northwoods Cook Shanty or Mr. Pancake. Later in the day, let everyone select a chunk of their favorite fudge at one of the shops that specialize in homemade fudge.

Souvenir shopping can be a classic experience when you visit Parson’s Indian Trading Post & Museum, in business for 101 years and housing an incredible collection of handmade Ho-Chunk baskets. The Wisconsin Dells Antique & Craft Mall taps into the modern craze for vintage finds – thank you HGTV! Aunt Jenny’s Got-It-All Store is moccasin-central, so stock up on the comfy footwear long associated with a Wisconsin Dells vacation.

Check in to a cozy motel where you can park your car right outside your door. Décor touches of neon signs, faux grass carpets, pots brimming with flowers, swimming pools, even outdoor ping pong tables signal you’ve taken a step back in time, in a good way that is. There’s the Dells Flamingo Resort, Fitzgerald’s Motel, Colonial Motel, Black Hawk Motel & Suites, Indian Trail Motel and more.

End the evening at one of the last of a vanishing breed, the drive-in theater, when you take in a double feature at Big Sky Drive-in Theatre. Just remember to bring cash. No card readers here…yes, it’s that old-school.

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