Wisconsin Dells, the Waterpark Capital of the World!®,” just unveiled nearly 30 new offerings for 2016. Appropriately, waterpark news kicks off the list.
New Way to Slip Slide Away
There’s a new ride at Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort and it’s called a slideboard. Picture a sit-down surfboard/video game combo, with the handles on the slideboard as the game controllers. As you slide past a series of flashing color lights, you press the corresponding button to rack up points. The better you are, the more levels you unlock. Leader boards at the bottom of the slide let you know how you rate against others. There’s even an app for your smartphone and tablet so you can get the hang of slideboarding before you arrive.
New Way to Snow Tube
Christmas Mountain Village has just introduced Cyber Tubing, the first snow tubing attraction of its kind in the United States. After a lift to the top, riders zoom through 5,000 feet of tubing lanes to the beat of high energy music and with the added pop of color-changing LED lights, lasers, black lights and glow sticks. One rider per tube, but tubes can be linked together for the ride down.
New Ways to Be Entertained
Leave it to a classic like the Tommy Bartlett Show to work in a pop culture act. This longstanding water ski and stage show is welcoming “Christian and Scooby” to the line-up for summer 2016. Christian Stoinev, known for his contestant stint on “America’s Got Talent,” has performed his hand-balancing feats for the Big Apple Circus and during NBA halftimes too. Scooby, by the way, is his dog, who also gets in on the act.
Speaking of pop culture, something called “room escapes” are all the rage and two have been built at Wilderness on the Lake. Here’s how they work: You’re locked in a room with 60 minutes on the timer. You and your teammates have to decipher clues, crack codes and interpret riddles in an effort to escape before time’s up. The two rooms at the resort are themed to real-life incidents that happened during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
Palace Theater in the Dells has introduced “Theater for Young Audiences,” shorter, budget-friendly productions designed to introduce kids to the magic of live theater. This new venue has established itself with visitors thanks to a full schedule of Broadway-caliber musicals and Disney classics.
While on the subject of young audiences, kids will surely be drawn to the new VIP Behind the Scenes Tour at Timbavati Wildlife Park. These private tours, accommodating up to five at a time, allow supervised up-close interaction with animals throughout the park. While the park is open seasonally, these special tours are available year-round with advance reservation.
With a name like Mr. Marvel’s Wondertorium, you can’t help but be intrigued. This attraction, based at Wintergreen Resort & Conference Center, is a mix of historic circus side shows, curiosities displayed museum-style, and live acts. At the helm is Logan Marvel, a veritable walking encyclopedia of circus history.
Here’s something that’s part transportation, part entertainment. It’s Dells Trolley Tours, a historic trolley car plucked from the Chicago burbs and renovated for Wisconsin Dells riders. Use the trolley as hop-on hop-off transportation just like in the big cities, or reserve a ticket for a one-hour narrated tour of the town. There’s a winery tour every Saturday and Sunday that takes trolley riders to all three area wineries. In October, watch for haunted tours. The trolley runs year-round and is wheelchair accessible.
Wizard Quest, an established attraction that is best described as a story-driven computer game housed in a full-size labyrinth, has added 16 new quests you can now download on your phone. Plus there’s a new twist this year – players can either “free” or “freeze” the wizards. You’ll just have to play the game to find out what that means.
New Hotels and News of Major Renovations
SpringHill Suites by Marriott Wisconsin Dells opens its doors at the end of February. All 95 rooms here are suites. Plus there’s an indoor pool and workout room. The hotel is partnering with area attractions and will offer group pricing, making it an especially nice addition to the neighborhood.
While this next lodging choice is new as a B&B, its history dates back to 1901. That’s when the Ringling House Bed & Breakfast in Baraboo was built for Charles Ringling, one of the original brothers of Ringling Bros. Circus fame. The circus over-wintered in Baraboo, which also explains how the nearby historic Circus World attraction came to be. The current owners purchased the property from descendants of the Ringling family. There are six suites here, all with private baths.
Looking for a view of Lake Delton? Then check out the Lake Delton Waterfront Villas, boasting the largest private beach on the lake. You have your choice of five spacious room layouts, with the largest sleeping 20. Guests staying here also receive complimentary admission to the waterparks at Kalahari Resort Waterparks.
What kid wouldn’t love to slide from the rafters, and now they can when they stay at one of the 13 new two-story treehouses opening at Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort later this year. Each sleeps up to eight and features an indoor slide from the loft to the main level. Multi-level patios overlook a valley with playground.
The Yogi Bear™ Bungalows at Yogi Bear™ Camp-Resort & Water Playground have undergone a complete makeover, with design touches paying homage to the campground’s namesake. At Flamingo Motel & Suites, the owners are leaving no surface untouched in their renovation work, well, except for the iconic neon pink flamingo sign.
New Food Finds
Kickers Restaurant in downtown Wisconsin Dells is a perfect spot for sports teams famished after a big game at nearby JustAgame Fieldhouse. The menu is loaded with burgers, create-your-own pizza and pasta dishes, and yummy desserts. There’s also a large bar for viewing, what else, sports. Carryout is available.
Belgiis Waffle Bar, also in downtown Dells, offers sweet and savory waffles of the Liège variety, a soft and chewy dough-based waffle with a caramelized sugar exterior. Enjoy the Eggs Benedict waffle at breakfast, lunch or dinner, or the lemon curd and raspberry-topped waffle as a dessert. The waffles are made fresh with natural ingredients and assembled in front of patrons.
The hugely popular MACS – Macaroni and Cheese Shop is adding a second location, this one near Kalahari Resorts & Conventions. The original location is on Broadway in downtown Wisconsin Dells. The menu offers a dozen different takes on this comfort food, a nice kids’ menu, and cheesy sandwich melts too.
In the same area as the new MACS location is the area’s first Qdoba Mexican Eats restaurant. It’s known for its knockout tacos and smothered burritos, plus there’s a kids’ menu.
Finally, Panera Bread joins the food scene in Wisconsin Dells. Fresh-from-the-oven bread and high quality sandwich fixings free of artificial additives are their hallmark. A warm bowl of soup from their seasonal soup menu is a must-try, and the breakfast pastries and bagels are pretty wonderful, too.
There is a real “wow” factor when you pull up to Baraboo Bluff Winery and it has everything to do with that panoramic view to the Baraboo bluffs. Inside this small, family-owned winery, open seasonally, you’ll find a distinctive u-shaped tasting bar with views to the hillside vineyard. The owners even offer picnic blankets, encouraging visitors to bring a picnic lunch, spread the blanket on the hillside, and relax with a bottle of wine. There are eight wines on the menu here, ranging from a sweet Riesling to a medium-bodied red Sangiovese.
New Price – Free Admission to H.H. Bennett Studio
The H.H. Bennett Studio, a state historic site and the original studio of pioneering landscape photographer Henry Hamilton Bennett who’s also widely revered as “the man who made Wisconsin Dells famous,” is now free to tour, thanks to donations from regional businesses and organizations. It’s an inspiring stop for anyone who loves the history and natural beauty of the area.
New Service for Disabled Visitors and Their Families
Assist WI was founded by Wisconsin Dells local Will Meissner as a way to help people with disabilities experience all the area has to offer. The organization’s 80+ volunteers assist people with hikes, trail rides, zipline tours, fishing, kayaking, even waterpark adventures.
New TripBuilder Tool
With so many new offerings, the new trip builder tool on the community’s official website, www.wisdells.com, is going to come in mighty handy. Through a series of questions, the tool curates a vacation itinerary just for you. TripBuilder will launch in early spring. (www.wisdells.com)