48 Hours to Explore Wisconsin Dells

A place that turns winter into summer, flips the outside in and recasts night as day. Seems impossible, even by magical standards, yet the original thinkers in Wisconsin Dells have made it so. Round up the kids, grandparents and anyone else who wants to ride along for a winter weekend getaway to the Dells. Just be sure to pack both snowsuits and swimsuits.

Day One

2 p.m. – If you’re hungry from the drive, pop in to Cheeze Factory Restaurant when you arrive. As the name implies, it’s located in a former cheese factory that looks more cottage-y now. The menu here is vegan, but the flavor profile is downright delicious, so the kids won’t even know.

3 p.m. – Check in as soon as you can to take full advantage of the waterparks that await. This is the world’s waterpark capital, after all. For extended families, book a freestanding cabin at the Wilderness Resort or one of the spacious villas at the Kalahari Resort. If your kids are still little squirts, Great Wolf Lodge is the spot for you. Not to be missed: the massive wave pool housed inside a see-through dome at the Wilderness delivering a “reverse snow globe” effect, the water roller coaster and surf machine at Kalahari and the water fort tree house at Great Wolf.

Grown-ups should take turns minding the kids so each can sneak away for a little me-time. Book a stress-melting massage at Sundara Inn & Spa and be sure to allot plenty of time to swim in their outdoor infinity pool which is heated year-round. When you reserve a facial or body treatment at the spa at Chula Vista Resort, you’ll receive access to their outdoor hot springs.

5 p.m. – If craft beers are your thing, mosey on over to Port Huron Brewing Company for a sip of one of their seasonal brews, like the malty Oatmeal Stout, just the thing for a cold winter day.

6 p.m. – You will be famished after all that waterpark fun, that is a certainty. Try B-Lux Grill, a family-owned restaurant that cuts a wide menu swath, from Ellsworth Creamery cheese curds to foodie-worthy ahi tuna sliders. The shakes – regular for the kids and hard variety for oldsters – are beyond words.

Day Two

9 a.m. – Rev up your engines with a candy cane latte and baked-fresh-that-day scone at Bella
Goose Coffee House, and then break out the snow apparel. Try a combo snowshoe-then-zipline eco-experience offered by outfitter Vertical Illusions. If you prefer to be closer to the snowy terrain, try horseback riding at Woodside Ranch. Just watch out for plops of snow falling from plumped up pine branches.

Noon – For lunch, there’s High Rock Café with its “season’s freshest” menu. MACS is another yummy family option, thanks to lots of gooey variations on the mac and cheese theme. The burgers at Monk’s are classic fare. All three are located right downtown, making it easy to stroll across the street to visit the H.H. Bennett Studio, a historic site featuring the work of one of the pioneers of landscape photography and the “man who made Wisconsin Dells famous,” Henry Hamilton Bennett.

2 p.m. – Still have hours to fill? Head for the hills! Go downhill skiing at Cascade Mountain, where they just plowed $9 million into new lifts, trails and snowmaking equipment, or try the winter version of the waterslide – snow tubing – complete with a moving sidewalk that takes you back to the top of the hill. Christmas Mountain is also in the vicinity of the Dells.

6 p.m. – Make it a traditional Italian dinner with everyone seated around a big table at Sarento’s. If you’re more in the mood for thick crust pizza, try Moosejaw Pizza. Then enjoy an evening performance at the Rick Wilcox Magic Theater.

Day Three

9 a.m. – Here’s your insider tip for breakfast: Eat at The Keg, a popular tavern that also serves a.m. food. This is where the locals go for the house-made corned beef hash. Fill the last hours of your getaway playing at the Kalahari Indoor Theme Park with mini-golf, go-carts, a ropes course and climbing wall, or jump around in the trampoline park at Knuckleheads.

Noon – Before you head out of town, stock the cooler with mint chocolate fudge from Swiss Maid Fudge and Wisconsin cheese from Market Square Cheese. Then dash through the drive-thru at Hot Dog Avenue for your choice of a Chicago Dog or Green Bay Dog, depending on your loyalties.