Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau

Tommy Bartlett Exploratory - Interactive Science Center

Tommy Bartlett Exploratory - Interactive Science Center

Tommy Bartlett Exploratory - Interactive Science Center

Tommy Bartlett Exploratory - Interactive Science Center Map
560 Wisconsin Dells Pkwy NWisconsin Dells 53965
(608) 254-2525
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Spring, Fall & Winter 10 am- 4 pm
(608) 254-2525
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One of the most exciting favorite Wisconsin Dells Attractions; all day, every day, the Tommy Bartlett Exploratory is the place to be for hands-on family fun. Filled with more than 175 interactive activities, it is sure to boggle your brain. Test the laws of physics with our Giant Lever, where you can lift a 5,000-lb., full-sized vehicle off the ground! This Wisconsin Dells attraction is also the only place on Earth where you can see, feel and experience an authentic Russian Space Station MIR core module. Ride our High Wire SkyCycle (seasonal) on the world’s thinnest bike trail, a one-inch cable 12 feet in the air! Experience virtual reality adventures, simulator excitement, mirrors, magic, puzzles, holograms and scientific wonders!  Out of all the wonderful things to do in Wisconsin Dells, anything Tommy Bartlett is a must. Enter our Exploratory and get lost in the wonders of science, technology, space and fun! 


From Chicago

Take I-90/94W toward Rockford. Continue to Wisconsin on I-90W toward Madison. At Madison, I-90 and I-94 merge and become I-90/94. Take Hwy 12 (Exit 92). Follow ramp to the right - travel 2-1/2 miles on Hwy 12W. Take right at 4th traffic light continuing on 12W & 23N. The Tommy Bartlett Show and Tommy Bartlett Exploratory are located 1/4 mile on right.

From Milwaukee

Take I-94W toward Madison. At Madison, I-90 and I-94 merge and become I-90/94. Take Hwy 12 (Exit 92). Follow ramp to the right - travel 2-1/2 miles on Hwy 12W. Take right at 4th traffic light continuing on 12W & 23N. The Tommy Bartlett Show and Tommy Bartlett Exploratory are located 1/4 mile on right.

From Minneapolis/St. Paul

Take I-94E toward Madison. Take Hwy 23 (Exit 89). Take left at traffic light onto Hwy 23N. Travel 1 mile to intersection of Hwy 23N & 12W. Take left at traffic light. The Tommy Bartlett Show and Tommy Bartlett Exploratory are located 1/4 mile on right.

From Green Bay

Take Hwy 41S to Oshkosh. From Hwy41S, take Hwy 44W to Ripon.

In Ripon, take Hwy 23W. Take I-39S (Hwy 51S) to the Wisconsin Dells exit, Hwy 23. Continue on Hwy 23W to Wisconsin Dells. Go through town and cross the Wisconsin River Bridge. Take left on Hwy 23S & 12E at next traffic light. The Tommy Bartlett Show and Tommy Bartlett Exploratory are located 1/4 mile on right.

Convention Overview

One of the most exciting favorite Wisconsin Dells Attractions; all day, every day, the Tommy Bartlett Exploratory is the place to be for hands-on family fun. Filled with more than 175 interactive activities, it is sure to boggle your brain. This Wisconsin Dells attraction is also the only place on Earth where you can see, feel and experience an authentic Russian Space Station MIR core module. Out of all the wonderful things to do in Wisconsin Dells, anything Tommy Bartlett is a must. Enter the Exploratory and get lost in the wonders of science, technology, space and fun! 

    Tommy Bartlett Exploratory - Interactive Science Center Videos
    Add Your Tommy Bartlett Exploratory - Interactive Science Center Story
    Tommy Bartlett Exploratory - Interactive Science Center
    Tommy Bartlett Exploratory - Interactive Science Center Stories
    2012-08-19This was a very enjoyable experience. It was so fun to have so many hands on things to play with and explore. Never a dull moment, super fun!
    -AliciaPine City,MN
    2012-07-29This is a very fun and interactive! Suitable for all ages! All of the space simulator like exhibits were fun and amazing!
    2009-09-14I went to Tommy Bartlett's Exploratory this past year with my brother. The place kept you quite busy and interested in trying everyone of the hands on experiments b4 you would leave to another area. Everything was like a science experiment yet so fun. A great idea for families to enjoy. Tottally worth the money. The Russian Mir Space Station was a favorite of ours to see. Especially since there were only three ever made.
    2009-03-10Cant believe its out of this world just like Space Camp! We brought our kids there every year so wild in there. I love the stars in this hallway and the mirrors that move in different directions. And the camera you take a pose and snap the picture is taken and see your creation! Want a fun place to get information and see the Mior Spacestation! Cant belive its real! Thanks The Heidens and The Taylors summer of 2008

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    Tommy Bartlett Exploratory - Interactive Science Center Articles
    It's Okay To Be Spacey2010-04-01Space capsules that are the real deal fill the Tommy Bartlett Exploratory.Read More
    It's Okay To Be Spacey

    tommy-bartlett-exploratory-wisconsin-dells-36There is a repository for life-size artifacts of the U.S. and international space program and it's not in Florida. It's in Wisconsin Dells. Imagine that!

    The Tommy Bartlett Exploratory - Interactive Science Center, an attraction with enough hands-on experiments, games and gizmos to satisfy any curious kid, continues to build up its reputation as a place to plunge into space, figuratively of course. It started in 1997, when late owner Tommy Bartlett indulged his fascination with space travel by acquiring an authentic Russian Space Station MIR core module. The deal was brokered by current owner, Tom Diehl.

    The 43-foot MIR was couriered to the Dells directly from a Moscow museum. It's one of only three manufactured by the Russians and the only one open for public viewing. Visitors to the Exploratory can step inside, but be prepared -- the module is tipped at an angle to simulate space travel and it may play games with your equilibrium. The MIR program is credited with paving the way for the current International Space Station endeavors.

    Then last year, Diehl jumped at the chance to acquire a full-size replica of the Mercury Space Capsule, a piece of hardware that represents the United States' first manned spaceship of nearly 50 years ago and is memorialized in the book and the movie The Right Stuff. The replica capsule had been built for the Kennedy Space Center, but when plans to display it there changed, the Tommy Bartlett Exploratory gladly stepped in. It is faithful to the real deal, having been constructed from NASA blueprints. You're sure to be surprised at just how compact it is -- a mere 6-feet 10-inches long by 6-feet 2 ½-inches in diameter. Its main function was to shield astronauts from the extreme heat experienced during re-entry into the earth's atmosphere.

    In the same area where the MIR and Mercury now float, you'll also find a replica of Sputnik I, the first satellite in space, and other space memorabilia. And you may also see Mark Schilling, tour guide and a bit of a space expert himself, thanks to his 37-year career at Tommy Bartlett's. "I grew up with this, watching those big moments of space exploration on a black-and-white TV in the school hallway," said Shilling. "Today's school groups might consider it more like a Model T, but I still get excited thinking about it."

    Shilling confessed that, when he was little, he would have liked to have gone into space. "Not anymore," he said. "Having helped with this exhibit and the detailed timeline of events, I understand the reality of just how challenging it is."

    Trivia: Among the original Mercury Seven astronauts was Donald "Deke" Slayton, who grew up in Sparta, Wisconsin. While a heart condition grounded him from Mercury flights, he did make it into space in 1975 as part of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project that marked the first meeting in space between American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts.

    View all Wisconsin Dells Museums & Interactive Attractions.


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    Handy List Of Hands-On Activities2010-01-01Get hands-on. The Dells' definition of "interactive" is a whole lot more fun than Webster's.Read More
    Handy List Of Hands-On Activities

    Here's a lesson in having fun: Visit places that stretch your mind and body. That's right, learning a little something on vacation can be very entertaining, especially in a place like Wisconsin Dells.

    Circus World - Wisconsin Dells Hands On Attractions

    Circus World

    At America's historic landmark circus museum, kids get to be the star of the show.

    H.H. Bennett Studio - Wisconsin Dells Museums

    H.H. Bennett Studio

    Recreate the Stand Rock jump -- a leap from one bluff to another (only this time on land) made famous when Bennett photographed his son mid-air using his stop-action camera invention.

    Tommy Bartlett Exploratory - Interactive Science Center - Hands On Attractions In The Dells

    Tommy Bartlett Exploratory - Interactive Science Center

    More than 150 interactive exhibits here prove the world is an amazing place.

    MagiQuest - Hands On Wisconsin Dells Attractions


    Armed with magic wands, kids explore this four-story, live-action adventure game that combines video gaming, role playing and story telling.

    Wizard Quest - Interactive Attraction In Downtown Wisconsin Dells

    Wizard Quest

    This game of strategy puts you smack dab in a full-size world of wizards.



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    Attraction & Lodging Price Guide2013-01-06Price it out, then plan it.Read More
    Attraction & Lodging Price Guide

    Price It Out, Then Plan It

    This section allows you to download the Wisconsin Dells area price guide. We're certain you'll land on the right dollar figure.


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    Dells Debut Offers A Ton Of Fun For Families With Tots2010-07-20Recently it dawned on us. Despite being parents for about five years, we hadn't been to the Dells in a lot longer than that (if you discount one of us attending a bachelor party there). With kids in the house, that didn't seem to make any kind of sense at all to a Wisconsin family.Read More
    Dells Debut Offers A Ton Of Fun For Families With Tots

    By Bobby Tanzilo
    As published on OnMilwaukee.com

    Recently it dawned on us. Despite being parents for about five years, we hadn't been to the Dells in a lot longer than that (if you discount one of us attending a bachelor party there). With kids in the house, that didn't seem to make any kind of sense at all to a Wisconsin family.

    We wrote up a to-do list that was more than a little ambitious for a single overnight stay and with nary a consideration of the weather. Amazingly enough, a little planning went a long way and with one exception, we saw everything we had hoped to in our Wisconsin Dells debut.

    If you're planning your first trip to the Dells with very little ones, you might find our itinerary and experience useful...

    Timbavati Wildlife Park/Storybook Gardens

    We're pretty kid-focused when it comes to planning trips, mostly setting aside whatever it is we'd like to do in favor of what we think the kids would enjoy. That was the philosophy in our approach to the Dells, too, with one exception.

    We wanted to take the kids to Storybook Gardens based on childhood memories of it (and of a similar place I used to go as a kid in Lake George, N.Y.). But even in that case, we knew that at least one of our kids was familiar with many of the characters and nursery rhymes illustrated in this Dells landmark.

    It's almost amazing that the nearly 60-year-old Storybook Gardens (and Timbavati Wildlife Park), 1500 Wisconsin Dells Parkway, is still going. The park is dotted with displays that present nursery rhyme favorites in three-dimensional glory. There's the mustachioed giant atop Jack's beanstalk and Humpty Dumpty ill-advisedly sitting atop a brick wall.

    There are also a number of enclosures with wildlife on view -- everything from gigantic turtles to sloths and kangaroos. There's a great train that circles the property, a wildlife show, camel rides and more.

    When we lost a stuffed animal along the tracks, I got a moment to hear a bit about the history of the park, which opened in 1956.

    The folks that lease it now have been running it for about eight years and are working hard to make a go of it. You can tell it's not easy to run a traditional place like this in the Dells in 2010 -- there's a lot of glitzy competition for the tourist dollar -- but Storybook Gardens is still fun when there are young kids in the group and I'd recommend it.

    Great Wolf Lodge

    We had hoped to take a ducks ride on the Wisconsin River next, but the phone rang as dark clouds began to take shape in the sky above. Our room was ready at Great Wolf Lodge, 1400 Great Wolf Dr., right off I-94, and it was nap time (sadly, not for mom and dad), too.

    The best thing about Great Wolf is that it solved two problems at once. We got a hotel and a selection of water parks all together in a single package.

    The kids loved the Kid Cabin room we got because part of the large room was separated off into a log cabin with bunk beds. When they saw them, sleep was the last thing on their minds. They were ready for a deep woods adventure right in the hotel room.

    Great Wolf also has three indoor waterparks and an outdoor one. There are restaurants, an arcade, a spa and more, all wrapped into a single, sprawling complex that means you could choose to never leave the lodge and still have a great time at the Dells.

    Because it was our inaugural water park experience and our kids are wee, we had pretty much all our waterpark fun in the Bear Track Landing park, which had a kiddie area perfect for them and a nice wave pool that was fun for all of us.

    But we also checked out the other waterparks and I bet next time, now that they've gotten a taste of waterparks, will love the Treehouse Island park, which has a range of awesome sprays, spurts and spouts to douse you from every direction. Spirit Island has a nice and not terribly daunting slide.

    Then there's the Howlin' Tornado, which looked awesome for thrill seekers, but not like something to bring your toddlers into.

    "The all-under-one-roof, weather-proof offerings at the large waterpark resorts are popular year-round, because they provide a full experience with no weather interruptions and they're a good value," says Carla Minsky, of Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau.

    "Which is not to say that guests don't leave the resorts to experience the other attractions around town. Variety is still king and there are classic Dells' rituals that visitors enjoyed when they were young and like to re-create for their children."

    When I tell her that taking our kids to a place we remembered going to as kids -- Storybook Gardens -- felt like a rite of passage, Minsky says, "Yes, we hear that a lot!"

    Great Wolf Lodge Wisconsin Dells - Even the littlest kids can find waterpark fun at Great Wolf Lodge.

    Goody Goody Gum Drop LLC & High Rock Cafe

    Afterward, we spent the late afternoon and early evening out in downtown Dells walking around, hoping to see fudge being made at Goody Goody Gum Drop, 401 Broadway, the largest candy store in the Dells. No luck on the fudge, but we got some yummy dessert treats.

    But first, we had dinner at the High Rock Cafe, 232 Broadway. We weren't sure what to expect here. At first we thought it might be diner food, but the nice yet casual eatery had a range of delicious sandwiches, salads and entrees -- I had a monte cristo with the most amazing broccoli salad.

    Best of all, despite being a nice, adult-looking place, High Rock had a good kids menu and a staff that was fabulous with kids. Skip the gimmicks and get a great meal for the whole family here.

    Back at the hotel, we splashed a bit in the water and hit the 8 p.m. storytime and the animatronic show in the Great Wolf lobby, which drew a large crowd and delighted all the kids present.

    If mom and dad weren't beat, we might have perched on the deck for a drink and relaxation.

    Downtown Wisconsin Dells Shopping - Goody Goody Gum Drop is the largest candy store in the Dells and the hazelnut truffles are quite good.

    Paul Bunyan's Northwoods Cook Shanty

    The next morning, up early, we weighed the differences between Mr. Pancake and Paul Bunyan's Cook Shanty, opting in the end for the latter, which didn't disappoint. If you've been there, you know. If not, know that you don't order. Servers just bring everything to the table and this is not the time to think about diets or exercise. Especially since the first thing to arrive at table is donuts.

    Paul Bunyan

    Tommy Bartlett Exploratory - Interactive Science Center

    Back at the hotel, we spent more time in the waterparks and had lunch in Great Wolf's Loose Moose Bar & Grill. Then, before leaving for home, we went to Tommy Bartlett's Exploratory Interactive Science Center to see the Russian Space Station MIR core capsule.

    First we wound through the maze-like floors of hands-on science and technology exhibits and activities, which our overtired kids didn't appreciate as they likely would have at any other time.

    Then we entered the small space that holds the capsule and some other related displays. It felt pretty odd to be standing in a space station and we couldn't help but note how small it was.

    Little more than 24 hours after our arrival in the Dells, we got back on I-94 in the opposite direction and headed for home with our Dells debut and a lot of fun under our belts.

    Thanks to those ubiquitous racks of brochures, we left armed with the start of another itinerary.

    This one may or may not include the Mid-Continent Railway Museum in nearby North Freedom, the Circus World Museum in Baraboo and breakfast at Mr. Pancake. Carla Minsky, of the Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau also suggests the Wisconsin Deer Park.

    What it definitely will include is a ducks ride, weather permitting.

    The MIR Space Station

    Story Highlights

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    A Classic Influence Every Step Of The Way2010-09-16Pay homage to all that's classic.Read More
    A Classic Influence Every Step Of The Way

    Prefer The Wisconsin Dells Classics

    Enduring. Endearing. Those were the two words that guided the research for this story on the classic Wisconsin Dells vacation. Many of the Wisconsin Dells hotels, attractions and restaurants included below have been building up a fan base for decades and across generations. Others are slightly more contemporary classics that still say “Wisconsin Dells” in a big way. Combined, they make for lots of choices for travelers who like to go classic.


    classic-dells-motels-100Classic Wisconsin Dells Hotels & Motels

    A good starting point is downtown, where classic Wisconsin Dells hotel and motels right on the main street are well maintained and still very popular. There’s Fitzgerald’s Motel, where the front sign reminds you to “Smile, you’re on vacation.” Last year, Fitzgerald’s celebrated its 60th anniversary, and owner Margaret Gewont is 100% sincere when she tells you guests are more like extended family than vacationers. A peek in the guest book proves it, with the first entry reading: “Margaret is the ultimate hostess.” The list of downtown Wisconsin Dells hotels and motels is long and varied, so take your pick.


    downtown-wi-dells-shops-100Downtown Wisconsin Dells

    As long as you’re already on the main thoroughfare, keep your car parked and put on your walking shoes for a stroll up and down Broadway. You’ll pass fudge shops like Swiss Maid Fudge and Wisconsin Dairyland Fudge and likely succumb to the sweets being made behind the picture windows. Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum, with its quirky and fun-to-read-about displays from adventures of days gone by, is one of the many amusing Wisconsin Dells attractions on Broadway. As long as you’re downtown, go ahead and have one of those old-timey pictures taken. For souvenirs, Bailey’s Landing and Winnebago Gift Shop are both known for their wide selection of Minnetonka moccasins, a fashion statement in Wisconsin and on the runways of New York.


    wisconsin-river-tours-100Classic Wisconsin River Tours

    On your walk through the Dells, you’re sure to see a Duck or two. Not the feathered kind, but the WWII amphibious vehicle kind that takes visitors on tours of Lake Delton and the Wisconsin River. Hop on and enjoy the splashdowns and scenery. Another classic river tour choice is a tour boat, either double decker or paddlewheeler. Some even offer shore landings, which is really the best way to experience the grandeur of the sandstone bluffs in the area.


    dells-animal-attractions-100Animal-Related Dells Attractions

    Now on to real animals, as in the deer at Wisconsin Deer Park, one of the classic Wisconsin Dells attractions that’s been in business for more than 50 years. Here you can feed the deer and also interact with American elk and bison. Wisconsin Deer Park also acts as a zoological supply service, with deer from their park being placed in zoos all over the country.


    tommy-bartlett-show-100Tommy Bartlett Classic Attractions

    Two Wisconsin Dells attractions that begin with the founder’s name, Tommy Bartlett, are staples on the classic vacation itinerary. There’s the famous Tommy Bartlett Show staged on Lake Delton, the longest running water ski show of its kind in the country. It's replete with complicated ski tricks, fast boats, comedy and acrobatic acts thrown in for good measure. Plus, the Tommy Bartlett Exploratory - Interactive Science Center is also known for its hundreds of hands-on science experiments, a real Russian MIR space station and an exact replica of NASA’s Mercury space capsule.


    noahs-ark-water-park-100Noah's Ark Waterpark - A Classic Wisconsin Dells Water Park

    If you want to experience a classic Dells water park, then Noah’s Ark Waterpark is it. It opened in 1979 and is the largest outdoor water park in the country, adding something new nearly every year.



    More Wisconsin Dells Classics

    There are a number of other classic finds worthy of their own mention. In lodging, Dell Creek Motel, with its pretty courtyard gardens, has some of the best curb appeal in the community. On Lake Delton, there’s Baker’s Sunset Bay Resort, a fun place for family reunions. For shopping, Aunt Jenny’s Got-It-All Store is a third-generation Dells’ family business which prides itself on its fun selection of apparel, souvenirs, moccasins, jewelry and toys. For breakfast, try Mr. Pancake with 30 varieties of pancakes and waffles; Paul Bunyan’s Northwoods Cook Shanty with scrumptious donuts; or Howie’s Restaurant, home of Howie’s self-proclaimed “Huge Breakfast” and, if you’re really hungry, his “Super Breakfast.”


    wisconsin-supper-clubs-100Classic Wisconsin Supper Clubs

    The classic Wisconsin supper clubs in the area deserve a paragraph of their own. If you’re wondering what the requirements are for supper club designation, here goes: clubby bar in which to enjoy that Wisconsin cocktail favorite, the brandy old fashioned, before you sit down to your meal; well trained staff who see to your every need and never rush you; crisp table linens; interesting architecture; relish trays and fresh baked rolls, standout wine cellar; and steaks, seafood and chops that are remarkable. If that sounds mouthwatering to you, then consider one special dinner out at the Del-Bar, Field’s at the Wilderness, House of Embers, Ishnala Supper Club, or the newest entry in the genre of classic supper clubs, Kaminski Bros. Chop House at Chula Vista Resort.



    Drive-In Movies In The Dells

    For one last flash from the past in the Dells, the drive-in movie.  Big Sky Twin Drive-In Theater shows double features of first-run movies on two screens every night during the summer. Its concession stand is kitschy and comfortably cramped, serving everything you’d want from a classic snack bar. Side note, if you stay at Holiday Shores Camp-Resort or the Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort, ask about their seasonal outdoor movies too, shown right on the grounds.

    That’s it, the classic Wisconsin Dells getaway, filled with sweet memories to last until the next time you visit.


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    Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau

    701 Superior Street, PO Box 390
    Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965-0390
    (800) 223-3557
    (608) 254-4293 (Fax)

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