The Wisconsin Dells is a popular midwest resort region, a short drive from Chicago, Minneapolis and Milwaukee. What’s the draw? The Dells’ is known as the waterpark capital of the world. In summer, you’ll splash outdoors, but most of the area resorts have insane indoor waterparks too for plenty of winter fun. But there’s way more to explore beyond the waterpark scene. Try outdoor winter activities like snowboarding, snowshoeing and snow tubing, then warm up inside with outlet shopping and indoor amusement parks galore. Here’s a roundup of all the fun things to do in the Wisconsin Dells in winter.
Where in the World?
“The Dells” is one of the top getaway spots in the northern region of the country because it has so many things to do and is a short drive from city centers like: Chicago, Minneapolis and Milwaukee. The winter wonderland experience ranges from wave pools to snow tubing hills, and from skiing to chasing bad guys in virtual reality experiences and more. If you’re a foodie, The Dells has you covered as well, offering pizza, family friendly restaurants, food trucks and on-site dining at most resorts.
The waterpark resorts command more square footage than the ski resorts in this part of the country, so don’t expect much in the way of backcountry powder. But if you’re looking for wading, jumping, bumping, climbing, sliding and splashing in the middle of winter, there is no better place to go.
And should you find yourself in The Dells in summer, most of the waterpark resorts also have outdoor waterparks. Don’t forget the sunscreen! You actually need to remember your UV coverups or sunscreen when visiting the massive WaterDome at Wilderness Resort in winter!
For the ultimate Wisconsin Dells waterpark tips, make sure to check out our comprehensive firsthand guide to the major waterpark resorts in Lake Delton.
Tom Foolery’s Adventure Park (Connected to Kalahari Resort)
Kalahari Resorts and Conventions, a chain waterpark resort with locations in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and of course, the Wisconsin Dells is an expansive property with an African safari theme which is pretty consistent no matter where you visit. The resort at The Dells has large and small water slides (indoor and outdoor), a water tree fort for kids, a Master Blaster water rollercoaster and a lazy river. These are just some of the waterpark highlights…there are so many attractions there! Parents can visit the swim up bar or indoor whirlpools while keeping an eye on older kids.
Dry Land Fun at Kalahari Resort
If you don’t want to stay at Kalahari Resort, you can buy a day pass to enjoy the resort.
Kalahari Resort has a series of underground tunnels connecting some of the buildings to the indoor amusement park, Tom Foolery’s. Some of the indoor fun includes black light mini golf, laser tag and go-karts. There are rides including an indoor Ferris wheel, the Mt. Foolmore climbing wall and a Kalahari Carousel. If you want to be more adventurous, try the zip line and a ropes course.
She Buys Travel Tip: Activities like an escape room, virtual reality experience and arcade can really raise the cost of your getaway, so manage expectations in advance.
Great Wolf Lodge
Great Wolf Lodge, which also has locations throughout the US, is a popular place to let your pack run wild. The animal theme extends from the lobby to wolf den accommodations, a daily clock tower show in the main entrance of the hotel and Great Wolf character meet and greets. This is the “OG” Great Wolf Lodge site, the very first in the chain of locations and it’s still thriving. Holidays are especially magical at Great Wolf, with festive activities on top of the regularly programmed family fun.
The giant indoor waterpark features a wave pool, a four story water treehouse, lots of water slides and a lazy river. A kiddie pool and playground offer lots of fun for young kids. Kids can even mine for gold at an on-site sluice. There is also an arcade and a Build a Bear Workshop.
Great Wolf Lodge also has daily story times and an evening dance party if your cubs are on the hunt for more activities.
She Buys Travel Tip: Get the Paw Pass! It will help cut costs and make your kids feel like they have the keys to the kingdom, leaving no activity unexplored.
Chula Vista Resort
Chula Vista Resort has an indoor waterpark, Lost Rios, with a rainforest, rapids, lazy river and a water roller coaster. The Fly’n Mayan rollercoaster is unique and thrilling but not so scary or intense that you won’t get in line over and over.
You can buy day passes if you aren’t staying at Chula Vista Resort. A nice bonus here is the resort is under the Wyndham property umbrella, so guests can gain points with their stay. This isn’t the case with most of the Wisconsin Dells resorts; they’re not affiliated with the major hotel brands and therefore you do not bank points. So at Chula Vista, you’re getting a little bit back on your stay for future fun.
The waterparks at Chula Vista are the main draw but, in winter, the outdoor activities – sledding, cross country ski trails and a river walk trail – can’t be beat. The location along the Wisconsin River is a stunner.
She Buys Travel Tip: Make sure your child meets the height and weight requirements for the roller coast – at least 50 inches tall and 115 pounds – before promising a ride.
Wilderness Resort has FOUR indoor waterparks, including one that is bathed in sunlight, the WaterDome, mentioned above which is a great spot to sun yourself even in the middle of winter. Within the WaterDome, there is a giant wave pool, a family raft ride and a swim-up bar. Another indoor waterpark focuses on tube and body slides, a lazy river and an indoor/outdoor hot spa. The third, a sport pool, has basketball hoops and a ropes course.
After you exhaust all three indoor waterparks, check out Take Flight. This simulated flying ride has several different ‘flights.’ You don’t have to stay at the Wilderness Resort to experience this.
She Buys Travel Tip: Riders must be at least 4 years old and 32 inches tall to ride. The minimum height for unaccompanied riders is 42 inches tall. And the maximum weight allowance is 300 pounds.
Weather dependent, Wilderness Resort offers short, horse-drawn wagon rides. Even better, these wooded rides are free with your stay!
Read More: Best Ski Resorts in the Midwest for Families
Dry Indoor Winter Activities
When you skin begins to prune, you need to seek out other winter activities in The Dells
MagiQuest at Great Wolf Lodge is a live action game played throughout the resort. Groups play together, with wands, to defeat ogres and dragons. ShadowQuest is for older kids. You can play these games for the entire day, so allow enough time.
Tommy Bartlett Exploratory
The interactive science museum, Tommy Bartlett Exploratory has over 175 hands-on exhibits. There are brain-teasers, optical illusions and scientific experiments. A generator makes your hair stand on end.
Outdoor Winter Activities in the Dells
If you want to participate in these outdoor winter activities in the Wisconsin Dells, you will have to pack everything for your getaway. You need bathing suits and water shoes for the indoor waterparks and all your warm winter gear for the cold and fun outdoor winter activities.
Cascade Mountain is a soulful but small ski resort for beginning and intermediate skiers and snowboarders. There’s a snow tubing hill for those who don’t want to strap on skis or snowboards. There are 48 trails, four terrain parks and a 900′ long chute for snow tubing. Despite the size, the park packs a fun punch for those looking to get out on the slopes.
She Buys Travel Tip: Cascade Mountain offers kids 12 and under a free lift ticket when accompanied by a paid adult.
Christmas Mountain Village
Christmas Mountain Village has 16 downhill runs for skiing and snowboarding. There is also a snow tubing hill, with a tow line to bring you back up to the top. There are cross country ski trails, too.
If you stay at the resort, you can use the indoor pools, which include a slide. Christmas Mountain Village has a 27-hole championship golf course, mini golf and paddle boats open during warmer months.
The Dells Scenic River Walk
The Dells Scenic River Walk, overlooking the Wisconsin River and the surrounding bluffs, is free and open year round. In winter, the River Walk sparkles under a cover of snow. A great base camp for this adventure is Chula Vista Resort, which has front row views of the river and the majestic pines which line it.
Devil’s Lake State Park
Devil’s Lake State Park allows cross-country skiing anywhere in the park, but does not groom trails or have rentals. If you want to go snowshoeing, the The Nature Center lends snowshoes for free.
Since Devil’s Lake reliably freezes over, you can also go ice fishing here. The state park is hilly enough for sledding, but you need to provide your own toboggan.
Mirror Lake State Park
Mirror Lake State Park has trails groomed for cross-country skiing. Snowshoeing and winter hiking is allowed on non-groomed hiking trails. There are no rentals here, so bring your own cross country skis or snowshoes.
She Buys Travel Tip: Cross country skiers ages 16 years and older have to purchase a trail pass.
Rocky Arbor State Park
Rocky Arbor State Park is open year round for winter hiking and snowshoeing. There are no rentals, so bring your own gear.
Indoor Family Fun at Buffalo Phil’s Pizza and Grille and Knuckleheads
Knuckleheads is an indoor theme park attached to Buffalo Phil’s restaurant which offers hours of indoor fun including a trampoline park and bowling.
They have a Virtual Reality game arena with quests varying from an alien invasion game to a dance competition. The 7-D Theater is a full family fun choice. We went with a mining game which was an interactive experience with full-motion seats, wind, sound and fun blasting bad guys.
The jumping pillow made our younger kid jump for joy, another big hit. You must purchase wristbands in a variety of packages including the trampoline park, bowling, arcade and all the other attractions for a few hours or for a full day. Knuckleheads has bowling, a trampoline park, some theme park style rides for smaller kids, an arcade and bumper cars. Birthday parties are popular here, too! Beat the winter blues with high energy entertainment at Knuckleheads.
Buffalo Phil’s Pizza and Grille is the best spot in Lake Delton to bring the crew to enjoy great food and fun! This family-friendly restaurant has small trains that deliver your order to your table. Kids adore the bubble train which comes out to blow bubbles across the room. As a real bonus, the menu is sprawling and the food is absolutely mouth-watering. They are well-known for their barbecue options.
Moosejaw Pizza & Dells Brewing Co.
Moosejaw Pizza & Dells Brewing Co. has a family-friendly menu including pizza, burgers and pasta. There is a children’s menu and a long list of microbrews for the adults. You’ll see the delivery car zipping around town, with its moose atop the roof, so getting it served up to your resort doorstep is always an option!
Palace Theater in the Dells
The Palace Theater is open year round with Broadway shows and concerts. The month of December at the Palace Theater is devoted to the Christmas show. The theater, across the street from the Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort, offers meals with shows, but you can see a show without dining.
Outlets at the Dells in Baraboo
If you forget a bathing suit, mittens or boots, or just want to get some deals, head to the Outlets at the Dells in Baraboo.