Friday, June 12, 2009

Escape to the Dells

Did you know that Wisconsin Dells holds the honor of being “The Waterpark Capital of  the World”? Neither did I but this becomes quite obvious as you drive around the Dells and Lake Dalton. You are bombarded with a vast array of both indoor and outdoor water theme parks everywhere you look. Some are very cheesy while others are spanking new and very high-tech for a waterpark. The kids and I chose high-tech over cheesy for this trip.
Being the native Wisconsinite, I have been visiting Wisconsin Dells for decades now. There is so much to see and do in our time limit of 3 days and 2 nights that we focused on Wisconsin’s largest water park, The Kalahari, and a day trip to the Circus World in nearby Baraboo, WI. (I’ll fill you in on Baraboo in a later entry.) We couldn’t possibly do Wisconsin Dells on our own so we met up with our fellow waterpark-tripping friends from Chevy Chase, Maryland who were en route to Colorado. This is our second Wisconsin Dells meeting as we did the Great Wolf Lodge together the last time so don’t think I’m a waterpark novice.
The Kalahari is incredibly huge with a sprawling hotel, conference facilities, and what looked like condos. It had five restaurants, three gift shops, a movie theater, and a new Indoor Amusement park complete with ferris wheel. Despite it’s vastness, it was very easy to navigate. 
The indoor waterpark was all in one huge room unlike the Great Wolf Lodge which was spread out over 2 or 3 rooms. (This means it is much easier to hunt for lost kids.) Kalahari also had two really good large raft rides that weren’t terribly scary and were family friendly, i.e., you can take your little kids on these rides without being terrified and coming out soaked to the skin. We did avoid the water slide that dumped you out in toilet-bowl fashion into a 9’ deep pool. We all loved the abundance of hot tubs and the separate little kid climbing and slide area. There were tons of attentive lifeguards, the wave pool was fun, the water and air was warm, and lines were quite short. We felt very comfortable letting the pack of older kids run around on their own while my friend and I hung out with the little boys. 
The outdoor part of the park was perfect as the weather cooperated. The slides were fun and one included a boogie board/surfing run. The lazy river was long, winding, and VERY relaxing. The kids adored the outdoor pools and the opportunity to dump buckets of water on their unsuspecting friends from the top of one of the slides.
On the downside, it was the week for middle school field trips. They arrived at the Kalahari in massive packs at 9:30 am and stayed until 3:30 pm. We left when they arrived and returned later in the day when they had loaded up their school buses and left. (Note that we visited the Great Wolf Lodge at approximately the same time of year and the Great Wolf did not have any field trip traffic.) Also the housekeeping service was really lacking. They only emptied the trash once and never bothered to tidy the room or swap out the towels.
On the upside, we requested two rooms together and were upgraded to a “Royal Suite” area of the hotel that required your room key to even enter the hallway. Fancy! Our suites had two cavernous room with comfortable beds, a fridge, fireplace, and two baths. Being on the ground floor was also a plus. We had an outdoor patio with a large table and chairs enabling us to seat and feed six kids all at once with a view of the outdoor waterpark and surrounding gardens. The pizza delivery service was lightening fast leaving no time for kids to complain about starving for their dinner. Best of all. I found Krispey Kreme doughnuts (and good coffee too) in the lobby cafe for one of our breakfasts. 
I think the kids and I would love to return to the Kalahari but not during the end of the year field trip weeks in mid-June. The Great Wolf Lodge is definitely quieter. The Wisconsin Dells experience has left me thinking back to one similar “park” experience a few years ago when we lived in Virginia. While wandering around the Hershey Park Amusement Park in Hershey, Pennsylvania, my good friend summarized his experience which is poignant for our recent Wisconsin Dells trip...”I feel so thin!” Very true unfortunately. So if you want to feel really good in your bikini, head for the waterparks at the Dells! (The kids will have an amazing time in their bathing suits as well.)  
OOPS...did I offend again?!
For more information, check out the following websites:
The Wisconsin Dells is about a 31/2 hour drive from the Twin Cities. Don’t have a lead foot and be sure to watch out for those pesky WI State Patrol officers.

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