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What Makes Wisconsin Dells "The Waterpark Capital of the World!®"?

Outdoor waterslide at Kalahari Resorts.

Waterpark Capital of the World Credentials

Ever wonder how Wisconsin Dells became known as "The Waterpark Capital of the World!®" The answer lies just ahead.

Family tubing at lazy river.

Lots of places in the U.S. are famous for one thing or another. Take Cawker City, Kansas, which claims the world’s largest ball of twine. And Mitchell, South Dakota, home of the world’s only corn palace. And Santa Claus, Indiana, where it’s Christmas year-round, a destination that would pair nicely with a trip to Claxton, Georgia, the fruit cake capital of the world. Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, is home to the weather-predicting groundhog. We could go on and on, it’s such fun.

Yet there’s one “capital” that vacationers of all ages and from all parts of the planet make a point to visit on a regular basis. That’s none other than “The Waterpark Capital of the World!®”, also known as Wisconsin Dells.

Let’s dive into the details of how the Dells rightfully earned that title.

It All Started with Water

We’ll get into the waterpark capital claim in just a minute, but first a short history on Wisconsin Dells itself. Nearly 170 years ago the first visitors to the area came to see the community’s original claim to fame. We’re referring to the natural beauty of Wisconsin Dells, more specifically the Wisconsin River with its towering sandstone cliffs, aka the “dells” of the river. Travelers enjoyed rowboat tours of the river where they were able to see for themselves the topography that was so enchantingly captured in images by celebrated local photographer H.H. Bennett, a pioneer of landscape photography.

So, you could say the allure of Wisconsin Dells has always been rooted in water.

Those rowboat tours gave way to scenic tours aboard steamboats, double-decker tour boats, and WWII amphibious vehicles known as Ducks. Even today, no visit to Wisconsin Dells is complete without a river tour and a visit to Bennett’s original photography studio in downtown Dells which is now a state historic site.

Family going down Kowabunga waterslide at Noah's Ark.

So how exactly did the waterpark craze get started in Wisconsin Dells?

The Rise of Wisconsin Dells Waterparks

Outdoor waterparks started dotting the landscape beginning in the 1970s, led by what is now America’s largest outdoor waterpark, Noah’s Ark, spread out over 70 acres with plunge slides, trap door slides, raft rides, wave pools, lazy river, water roller coaster, surf machine, and kiddie play areas to keep human water bugs very, very happy.

Then in 1989, something magical happened. The Polynesian Water Park Resort put a roof over its water attractions and, voila, the first indoor waterpark was created.

Today, there are big resorts with both indoor and outdoor waterparks including the Wilderness Resort, America’s largest indoor/outdoor waterpark resort with four indoor and four outdoor waterparks, Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin’s largest indoor waterpark, Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Park, home to America’s first rotating waterslide, and Chula Vista Resort, with a unique location overlooking the Wisconsin River. Great Wolf Lodge is another big waterpark resort, known for its indoor waterpark that is tops with toddlers and grade-schoolers.

Along with the large resorts, there are also midsize properties with great water activities. That list includes Aloha Beach Resort, Atlantis Waterpark Hotel, Grand Marquis Waterpark Hotel & Suites, Meadowbrook Resort, and Yogi Bear Camp-Resort & Water Playground.

Kids playing at Land of Natura waterpark.

New on the scene this year is Land of Natura, an outdoor waterpark attraction with a naturally filtered lake featuring America’s largest floating waterpark.

By the Numbers

While it has become next to impossible to tally given annual expansions and additions to area waterparks, we are confident in saying there are currently more than 200 waterslides to ride in Wisconsin Dells. Hmmm, better plan for an extended stay, wouldn’t you say?

Wisconsin Dells has more waterparks of every size per capita than anywhere else in the world. Thus, “The Waterpark Capital of the World!®” official claim to fame, made even more impressive when you consider the community is a little less than 20 square miles and with just 6,000 permanent residents.

If you want to learn more about Wisconsin Dells, we happily direct you to the waterpark capital of the world section of the website.

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