Looking for More – Advice on Waterparks in the Wisconsin Dells

Hi folks, I’m looking for advice from anyone that has vacationed at a waterpark in the Wisconsin Dells recently, or who is familiar with the area. I’m asking you instead of relying on comments in tourism websites, because to be honest, I value your opinions more than those of other people, even on stuff that has nothing to do with WoW.

Here’s the deal. We’re trying to plan a quick weekend get-away, heading out right after our son’s school lets out in June. 

We haven’t been to the Wisconsin Dells in almost 2 years, but Alex keeps asking when we’re going back. He loves the waterparks there. Specifically, he loves the wave pool and the toddler/under 48″ mini-slides at Great Wolf Lodge.

The last few times we’ve visited, we’ve stayed at Great Wolf Lodge, so that is what he is most familiar with. 

Here’s where asking for your advice comes in.

Alex is 8-years-old now, but he is very anxious about trying new things. He is not very adventurous, and he doesn’t like ‘scary’ rides or attractions. Dark tubes or tunnels, super high slides, and loud noises are all out. He also doesn’t like the big 750 gallon dumping buckets most resorts have over their play areas. I’m hoping that he’s grown out of that fear in the last two years.

He does like big wave pools he can float on a tube in, and he likes small castle or climbing structures that have smallish slides into shallow water. 

What we’re concerned about is if we go to Great Wolf Lodge again, now that he’s 51″ tall he might be ordered to stay out of the toddler area that has a 48″ height restriction. The lifeguards at Great Wolf are good, but they are also literal.

If that happens, and if he also still won’t go in the climbing area because of the big bucket o’ dumpin’ doom overhead, then the only thing he will be willing to do for three days will be float on a tube in the wave pool.  

Now, we could do something else for a vacation for three days. Sure. But we are both very conscious of how precious these early years of his life are. He’s going to be a jaded teenager in no time at all, so we want him to have as much chance to enjoy the things he loves most now while he still can.

Call it my desire that he doesn’t have a childhood that sucks as much as mine did, if you’d like.

What we’re doing is looking at other waterparks, trying to find one that will have a very warm (read – indoor) area that will be intended for kids bigger than 48″ max toddlers, but is not intended to scare the shit out of teenagers. We’re looking for that middle ground.

We’ve checked out one waterpark, The Wilderness Resort, and it looks like they might have more “little” kid areas and don’t seem to have as strict a height maximum set for those play areas.  However, Cassie has done a ton of research and the Wilderness gets slammed pretty hard in consumer reviews for having incredibly lousy customer service, rooms badly in need of repair, very loud hall noise all night, having way too many people in a waterpark to even make it fun, having way too much walking from one park to another for adults, let alone smaller children, etc, etc.

Does that bother us? In answer I shall refer you to my above statement about wanting him to have fun NOW, and learn how much life sucks LATER.

So, we’re stuck in this weird stage between him being too big for the areas he likes, but not interested yet in going on the wilder stuff that he is height appropriate for. 

We’re hoping some of you out there may have hands-on experience with the Wilderness Resort, and could let us know if you think it might work for what we’re looking for, or clue us in if the reviews we’ve read really are accurate about the state of the place.

If not the Wilderness, maybe you have stayed at a different waterpark that aimed at satisfying the very picky interests of a bigger-than-a-toddler but not yet a crazy teen like Alex and could give us an idea how your stay went.

Thanks in advance!

6 thoughts on “Looking for More – Advice on Waterparks in the Wisconsin Dells

  1. I actually worked at the Wilderness, Great Wolf, and Kalahari, for at least a year or more at each, and honestly, I wouldn’t suggest any of them for the age your little dude is at now. My oldest is my seven year old sidekick, and he is absolutely in love with Mount Olympus ( http://www.mtolympuspark.com/ ). I no longer work in the dells as the hours are a bit hard with two small kids, but I still frequently go to attractions, and have a large amount of friends who still work the resorts, and it is a consensus that if you are looking for a nice relaxing vacation with children that has a large opportunity to provide plenty of fun and distraction that is the place to go. I usually hit it up quite a few times when the warmer months start, and family and friends that come to visit stay there frequently as well. If it is a matter of wanting to stay at one of the big ones, I would personally stay at Great Wolf and just go buy a day pass to Noah’s Ark, what with the large wave pool, the multiple rides, and the 4-D Spongebob attraction it has always been a hit with the kids.


  2. We tend to shy away from the Wilderness Resorts anymore. While the facility is pretty nice, the staff seems to range from apathetic to downright rude. Now I don’t need to be waited on hand and foot when I go to a waterpark, but I’d like to think the lifeguards give a damn and not get attitude from a desk agent when they’re asked to do their job.

    Could be that the last three times we’ve gone we’ve just gotten the most sour folks of the bunch, but I sort of doubt it. We were fortunate enough to stay at a Wilderness Resorts in TN about a month ago and they were fantastic.

    In contrast, the staff at both the Kalahari and Great Wolf Lodge have always been excellent. I’d give the slight nod to Great Wolf over Kalahari, but both are very enjoyable. If you’ve already done Great Wolf, you’d probably get a kick out of the Kalahari. It’s right across the street from Great Wolf and pretty much EVERYTHING is in one place, which can be nice with smaller guests.


  3. Have you taken him on the Duck boats yet? This seems like something he might enjoy. You get to drive through water and look at cool rock formations.


  4. My daughter stayed at the Kalahari when she went for a class trip, and absolutely raved about the place. We will likely stay there next time we go, at her insistance.

    As to other attractions, I love Noah’s Ark, though it caters to an older crowd… maybe in another year or two when Alex is more into large water slides and such. My whole family also had a great time riding the Wisconsin River on the Ducks, it was a couple hours well spent.

    I have not stayed at the Wilderness, but I have heard things similar to the concerns Cassie found in the reviews.

    Another thing to think of is the waterpark (outdoor) and theme park of Six Flags located perhaps another two hours or so east between Chicago and Milwaukee.

    Enjoy the vacation =)


  5. I have not been to the dells since my teenage years some time ago, but I would have recommended The Wilderness Resort. My opinion is outdated and my personal experience was the indoor ares during winter. We also ended up staying in one of the “Vacation Villas” with another family. Also, omg has their site not changed like at all. Anyways, I know the villas were new when we stayed, so there was little to no damage. We did end up in one of the ones furthest from the waterpark area, which sucked for winter. I think my mom had some problems with the customer service too, but I wasn’t really a part of those conversations. If you got one of the villas near the waterparks it would probably be pretty neat, though cost more. Of course my experience was winter, which probably changes a lot of factors.

    As for other hotel/waterparks my family being from Wisconsin and frugal we tended to go more often staying at the cheaper hotels and paying via deals to get into the large waterparks like Noah’s Ark. Having read way too many of the Wisconsin Dells books I always liked the ads Great Wolf Lodge did, but you mentioning it’s more for younger kids makes a lot of sense. The Kalahari was being built and newly opened over the course of going there. Having to see it every time we went while driving always made me want to stay there. The Kalahari looks more expensive and is slightly further away from more attractions so may cut down on crowds, but I also have no idea what kind of waterparks they have. I can’t say how good it is, but you’ll probably see it either way XD Those are the main three I really remember sticking out as having waterpark themed things.

    Some other outdoor only ads stick in my mind, private lake kind of thing with slides. Though I don’t know any of their names, or stayed there. They just had interesting ads. Really I guess I’d suggest a trip to Noah’s Ark :X I know they had lots of new kid stuff I wasn’t allowed near but wanted to when I went last. The Wilderness probably will be crowded, noisy, and crowded XD


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