What is a ‘dell?’ According to the dictionary:
a small valley, usually among trees: lush green valleys and wooded dells.
As we were planning this trip, when people heard we were going to The Wisconsin Dells, they would either nod in agreement or say that it was too touristy and that we should stay away. Both were right. The Dells are where the Wisconsin River cuts through layers of Potsdam sandstone to create some picturesque views. Boat tours of The Dells have been offered here for over a hundred years. Over time, amusement parks, water parks (including the largest one in the world), miniature golf courses (included the largest in the world, containing five 36-hole courses), Ripley’s Believe It or Not, T-shirt shops, and other attractions have grown up in the area. It has a feel much like Gattlinburg and Pidgin Forge. The main street has a lot of shops, but they have more of a beach feel than a Gattlinburg, crafty feel.
We began the day with an all-you-can-eat, family-style breakfast of pancakes, eggs, potatoes, sausages, ham, and biscuits with gravy at Paul Bunyan’s. I really enjoy the Phineas and Ferb cartoon. Those who watch the show will remember the episode Greece Lightning, in which the kids race chariots past a restaurant, called Paul Bunyan’s and the song that plays, “Paul Bunyan’s, where the food is good, but not too good, eh.” So, we just had to eat here. The food was good, the price was reasonable, and the services was excellent.
After breakfast we took a two hour boat trip to the Upper Dells. This included two opportunities to get out and walk through some of the interesting rock formations. At one of the stops, a trained German Shepherd leaped from a cliff to a tall rock formation, called Standing Rock. It was pretty silly, but fun, and it happened so fast, I missed taking a picture of it.
The boat tour was very hot. When we got off the boat to wander around, the sandstone formations provided some natural air conditioning.
After the boat ride, we went on the Bigfoot Zip Line “Tour.” This was crazy expensive, but we had a great, three-hour adventure. After a safety briefing and having our equipment triple checked, we boarded a “Duck” to get us to the first tower. There were six towers with slides that ranged from 580 to 1300 feet in length. The folks running the place were personable but professional. This was a quality outfit.
There were fifteen of us in our tour group, so we never had to wait too long. We had the same pair of guides with us the whole time, one hooking us in at the top, and the other one “catching” at the bottom.
All of us had been on a zip line before, but some of the other folks in our group were petrified for the first few runs. A couple of people panicked and got caught in the middle, so one of the guides had to slide out to them and pull them to the landing tower by hand.
Because of Sam’s weight, she didn’t have to break on the way down. She could just enjoy the ride. This place even encouraged us to “do tricks.” We took running leaps off the tower to start our runs. We rode upside down. We leaped backward off the tower.
At the end I felt bad, because a larger percentage of our guides’ pay is based on tips, and most of our group stiffed them.
By this time, we were very hot, so we went back to the motel to spend an hour in the pool. The pool had two things you don’t often see at motel pools any more: slides and a diving board.
The water was a very comfortable temperature and was welcome after a hot morning on the boat and a hot afternoon (about 106 degrees) on the zip line.
Because the pool had a diving board, it offered the kids a chance to practice diving.
After the pool, we went to dinner and then drove down to the main part of the town to walk around the various junk shops. We also had to get our obligatory old-time photo taken. It wouldn’t be a vacation without the old-time photo! One store we found was called Root Beer Revelry. The entire store was dedicated to different kinds of root beer from different vendors, most in glass bottles. Tommy and I bought a six-pack of assorted root beers. Candy and Sam also bought a four pack of assorted other nostalgic pops. As we were walking back to the car with these packs of glass bottles, we got LOTS of strange looks from the passersby who obviously thought Tom was carrying real beer. In fact, at one point we saw a policeman rushing toward us, and I thought someone had called the cops on us! It was very funny.
So, were the Wisconsin Dells touristy? Certainly. Did we have a great time. Absolutely.