Shooting out of water slides at breakneck speed and endless buffet lunches were fun when you were a kid. But what’s a grown-up to do in Wisconsin Dells, the water park capital of the world? In recent years, more adult-oriented activities have emerged, such as a recently expanded spa, a brand new winery tasting room, and casino nightlife that rocks late into the night.
Indulge in Spa Time at Sundara
Down a woodsy, winding road is one of the Dells’ best-kept secrets: Sundara Spa. The spa flaunts three pools (two are outdoors) with classes in everything from chakra cleansing to yoga. Keep a keen eye open for wildlife, whether on a day trip or while staying overnight in one of the new Woodland Suites, each with its own outdoor plunge pool.
Drop by for Happy Hour at The Del-Bar
Now on its third generation of ownership, the vibe at this supper club—open since 1943—is completely mid-century. Think low ceilings, curved bar, and banquettes. Even if you don’t have time for a steak, happy hour (4:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m., daily except for Monday) means reduced prices on apps, from escargot to cheese curds. Nice weather? Enjoy the patio.
Tour a Cottage Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright
The Seth Peterson Cottage (built in 1958 based on Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs) along Mirror Lake books up for overnight stays well in advance, but if you’re in town the second Sunday of the month, you’re in luck. That’s when tours run, between 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., and a tour will only cost you $5. Dedicated volunteers resurrected this beauty from disrepair, starting in the late 1980s and stretching through 2011.
Enjoy Nightlife at Ho-Chunk Casino
Even if you don’t get excited about poker tables and slot machines, check the schedule at Ho-Chunk Gaming, a casino owned by the Ho-Chunk Nation (an American Indian tribe), in nearby Baraboo, for big-name music acts (such as the Village People). There are six food and drink outlets onsite, including Copper Oak Steakhouse and Wo-Zha-Wa Sports Bar (karaoke, anyone?).
Unwind at New Life Lavender and Cherry Farm
In nearby Baraboo, you'll find this 40-acre farm harvesting cherries and lavender. Poke around the boutique, which retails culinary products (from salsa to tea) as well as scrubs and lotions to lull you into relaxation back home. Walk the fields at your leisure or sign up for a farm-to-table wagon tour, including stops at an observation beehive, lavender-knot garden and herb garden, and five acres of wildlife sanctuary attracting bees.
Start Your Morning with Bella Goose Coffee & Roastery
With two other locations in Southeast Asia (Thailand and the Philippines), this coffee roaster is on a mission to educate people about efforts to stop human trafficking. It's been open since 2014, but a new location with a sweet terrace along the Wisconsin River on Wisconsin Dells Parkway opened last year. Order one of the Belgian waffles and toasted pastries to go with your coffee.
Sip Wisconsin Wine at Broken Bottle Winery
The Dells may be 2,000 miles from Napa, but that hasn’t stopped budding vintners. Broken Bottle Winery’s tasting room debuted in spring 2019 with an onsite vineyard that will take a few years to mature, but in the meantime, it sources grapes from its sister winery (Baraboo Bluff Winery). The wines, which span reds, whites, and rosés, have already won awards in competitions, including the Rowdy (a dry red) and Humble (St. Pepin wine), which were winners at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition.
Shop ‘Til You Drop at Outlets at the Dells
Outlets at the Dells is in nearby Baraboo, five miles from downtown Wisconsin Dells. Pick up some new kicks at New Balance, Adidas, Nike, or Crocs, or flip through tees and dresses at Banana Republic, White House Black Market, and Loft Outlet. Upper-end designers here include Michael Kors, Coach, and Polo Ralph Lauren.
Taste Your Way Around Grateful Shed Truckyard
This food-truck yard popped up in May. Skip kid-friendly eats to nosh on flavorful foods like spicy salmon poke, artisan tacos, or sushi. Then, grab a Wisconsin craft beer at the full bar right in the middle of the action. Plop down into a repurposed VW bus or Ford pick-up truck, and don’t leave without sampling ice cream from a parked Airstream.
Try Stand-Up Paddleboarding
As a kid, you probably boarded an Original Wisconsin Duck—a vehicle with wheels that can also float along the Wisconsin River, and has been since 1946—but now, hit the water with a bit more of an athletic challenge. Nearby Mirror Lake State Park hosts a “no wake zone” (translation: no speed boats whizzing past), making it an idyllic spot for stand-up paddleboarding. Rent your board through Mirror Lake Boat Rentals in the park ($20 per hour).