With four indoor water parks (and four outdoor water parks) plus a ton of other things to do, an incredible array of lodging accommodations, a load of dining options, and a whole bunch more spread out among 600 acres, the Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells is an enormous vacation destination.
You heard us right, pardner: four indoor water parks. (And did we mention four outdoor water parks?) The waterparks are the main attraction at the Wilderness Resort. Totaling 240,000 square feet of water slides, hot tubs, spraygrounds, and other water-based fun, the resort can lay claim to the Dells'—and the country’s for that matter—largest indoor water park resort. (Then again, the “largest waterpark” title is a matter of some dispute.)
Wandering Through the Wilderness to Get to the Parks
Unlike most indoor water park resorts, which feature one central park, the Wilderness divides its water attractions among four separate parks. The Wild West and Wild Waterdome are the two primary parks. They include a variety of water slides and other attractions, including one of the largest indoor wave pools in the U.S. The Wild Waterdome includes a translucent rood that allows in natural light.
The two parks are on opposite sides of the property. If it's cold outside, and guests want to remain indoors, it can take a good ten minutes to get from one location to the other. The resort could do a better job directing guests to the parks. While the water parks are clearly the main focus, many of the hotel's hallway signs don't list them.
The key feature of the resort's original Klondike Kavern water park is its lazy river. Extending around the perimeter of the huge building, the river circles Gold Mine Mountain, an interactive play structure with a tipping bucket. The separate Cubby’s Cove park caters to the wee ones (we sincerely hope that description refers to the size of the guests and not what they might be, er, doing in the pools). It includes a large play structure with tiny slides, spray features, and other pint-sized activities.
Giddy Indoor-to-Outdoor Hot Tubs
Among the Wilderness' greatest features are its indoor-to-outdoor hot tubs. You could grab a cold beer at the snack bar, plop into the spa, and watch the day's sporting events on the overhead televisions. Now, that's divine decadence.
Or you could head outside. Even in the dead of winter, guests can slip through the plastic curtains and go outdoors for an exhilarating experience. Shrouded in billows of rising steam, there's nothing quite like the giddy contrast between the hot spa and the 27-degree-below-zero-with-the-wind-chill-factor weather stabbing at your face. If it's snowing, so much the better.
When the weather is accommodating in the warmer months, visitors can enjoy the four outdoor parks at the Wilderness Resort. They include the 3.2-acre Lost World park, which features the Cosmic Drop and Lunar Loop, two drop slides with launch capsules; New Frontier park, which includes a lazy river; the Lake Wilderness waterpark, which has a variety of water slides; and Cubby’s Outdoor Waterpark, which offers activities for younger children.
Other Things to Do
The Wilderness also features a bunch of other ways to have “dry” fun. Among the activities are Wild Rock, an 18-hole golf course as well as a 9-hole course that is located near the Wilderness in Wisconsin Dells. Shuttle buses are available between the resort and the course. If mini golf is more your speed, the resort has Lost World Jurassic, an outdoor course, and Wild Abyss, an indoor course.
At the Timberland Playhouse, kids 12 and under can have fun on the slides, tunnels, rope bridges, and other activities. There is also an escape room attraction that is based on the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition. The Wilderness also offers zip lines, Lazer Maze, Lazer Tag, a climbing wall, a sky ropes course, indoor go-karts, a huge arcade with redemption games, bumper boats, horse-drawn wagon rides, and a paint-your-own-pottery experience.
What’s New at the Wilderness?
- In 2020, the resort opened Take Flight, a “flying theater” attraction (think: DIsney‘s Soarin’) that takes participants on a journey to famous locales across the U.S.
- The Wilderness also opened a new laser tag arena, Legend of the Lost Cabin, in 2020.
What's to Eat (and Drink)?
The Wilderness Resort features some of the Dells' finest restaurants. Field's at the Wilderness is an exquisite steak house. Housed in an adjacent building inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, the decor is elegant, yet simple. This is the kind of place where the host takes your overcoats, and the waitstaff places the napkin on your lap (and the prices reflect the service). The menu features steak, of course, and Field's offers some unique "enhancers", including one in which the cuts of meat are encrusted with parmesan cheese and garlic-soaked mushrooms. Yum.
The Field family has been running its own famous Dells restaurant for years. In addition to operating the Wilderness steak house, the Fields also oversee the resort's Sarento's Italian Restaurant. It offers family dining, and its menu includes pizza. Other options include the casual Monk’s at the Wilderness, which features burgers, the Klondike Pizza Kitchen, the Canyon Ridge Tap Room, Tommyknockers Watering Hole, and an assortment of eateries inside the indoor waterparks.
At Margarita’s, which is located in the Wild WaterDome park, guests over the age of 21 can enjoy its namesake drink while partially submerged in water. The swim-up bar, which serves a variety of beverages, is located indoors as part of an adults-only indoor/outdoor pool.
The hotel rooms come in a variety of configurations, including many suite configurations. The room we stayed in had a main sleeping area with two queen beds. A second area included a sofa that converted into a queen bed and a breakfast nook with microwave, refrigerator, and sink. When we pulled the bed out, we had a hard time figuring out where to put the coffee table that was in front of the couch without blocking the pathway to the bathroom.
The Wilderness does not offer turndown service. In addition to missing the nice touch of a turned-down bed, we also found ourselves running out of towels without a second daily visit from housekeeping. Since multiple showers are likely in a resort that features lots of time spent in chlorinated water, the hotel should provide extra towels on their once-a-day rounds. They're a bit skimpy with the soap as well.
Other room types include amenities such as fireplaces and in-room whirlpools. Frontier condos feature three bedrooms, while the vacation villas have two bedrooms. For large groups that really want to whoop it up, the Wilderness offers five-bedroom "Entertainment Cabins" that include projection TVs and stadium seating. The Wilderness on the Lake is a separate upscale condo resort that includes its own indoor and outdoor waterpark plus offers use of all the waterparks and other amenities in the main complex.
Location and Admission Info
The Wilderness Resort is located on 511 E Adams in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. From Chicago and Madison, take I-90 W to Exit 92, and head north onto Hwy. 12. The Wilderness is on the right. From Milwaukee, take I-94 W to exit 92 and head north onto Hwy. 12. The Wilderness is on the right.
Admission to the water parks are included in the room rates. The Wilderness Resort now offers day passes to the general public as well for both the water parks and the dry attractions. A special Twilight Waterpark pass offers reduced admission for guests arriving after 4 p.m.
Wilderness Wisconsin Dells Visitor Tips
- Bring comfortable sandals. The Wilderness is enormous and you'll be doing plenty of walking. Going barefoot won't cut it, and you'll want footwear in which you'll easily be able to slip in and out.
- Consider bringing a robe. The air temperature in the Wilderness' water parks is a bit cooler than some of the Dells' other indoor water parks. And the long hallways leading to the parks can be a bit on the cool side also.
- Bring in your breakfast. Breakfast every day at the Wild Canyon Cafe or OP's Marketplace can get expensive. Take advantage of the rooms' refrigerators and microwaves. Either bring your own breakfast food with you, or go to a Dells' grocery store for some provisions.
- Escape to the "hidden" hot tub. Among the Wilderness' greatest delights are its indoor-to-outdoor hot tubs. If the ones in the water parks are crowded, check out the Dodge 'Em Eddy hot tub, which is off the beaten path behind the arcade and play structure in the resort's Dodge 'Em City.
- How about a dry sauna? If you really want to turn up the heat, try the dry sauna located near Baby Bear's Fort Wilderness.
- Consider a mid-week stay. During the winter, spring, and fall months, weekend prices remain fairly high. (Remember to factor in the included admission to the water parks when looking at room costs.) But the Wilderness (and other Dells waterpark resorts) often offer some great mid-week deals. If you can pull the kids out of school (or if you don't have school-age kids), you can save some big bucks and avoid big crowds.