Suites Above Massive Indoor Water Park
High above Fort Mackenzie—the four-story waterlogged treehouse that feels like a mixture of Swiss Family Robinson and Pirates of the Caribbean—a 1,000-gallon bucket slowly fills with water. Suddenly, the big bucket topples, drenching those gathered below in a torrent of water. Heated to a balmy 84 degrees, Great Wolf Lodge’s indoor water park sports 17 splash-filled attractions, including a wave pool, a six-story funnel slide, the Crooked Creek lazy river, and two Hot Springs warming pools.
The 80,000-square-foot aquatic arena is merely one of the many activities at the hotel's multi-entertainment campus. During the MagiQuest live-action adventure, kids wield magic wands and journey through a kingdom to meet mythical creatures, including a pixie, a dragon, and a Bob Dylan. Scooops Kid Spa gives manicures and pedicures to pintsize patrons sitting atop ice-cream-cone stools and banana-split thrones—free ice cream predictably and happily completes each visit.
The family-friendly suites vary in size, but all are large and able to accommodate at least six guests. Loft suites have a semiprivate living area with a corner gas fireplace; Black Bear and Wolf Pack condos have full kitchens and extra bedrooms. With all accommodations, you can take in views of the surrounding area from a private balcony.
Wisconsin Dells: Picturesque Scenery and Family Entertainment
Before the Dells became synonymous with water parks and amusement rides, the Midwestern destination's claim to fame was its scenery. Visitors in the mid-1940s came to see the craggy rock formations that frame both sides of the Wisconsin River. These bluffs—or dells—are still visible today from the downtown area, which is rife with kitschy attractions, from mini-golf courses to go-kart tracks.
But it's safe to say that most visitors nowadays come for the water parks. In fact, the Dells area likely has more water slides per capita than any other spot on the planet. The fun doesn't stop in the cooler months, either, thanks to a slew of indoor aquatic centers, many of which are nearly as elaborate as their outdoor rivals.
For a break from all the chlorinated excitement, take a stroll along the river, where you’ll find antique stores, candy shops, and a Bavarian-themed village. At a handful of German restaurants, you can wash down plates of schnitzel with pints of lager to the sounds of glockenspiels. The H.H. Bennett Studio museum makes for an interesting side trip. Exhibits recount the early history of the Dells through the life of the 19th-century landscape photographer whose work originally attracted tourists to the area. Just down the road, in the town of Baraboo, Victorian buildings and quaint shops lie on the outskirts of Devil's Lake State Park, where 500-foot bluffs present a challenge for intrepid rock climbers.