If you grew up in the Midwest, you either visited Wisconsin Dells every single year, or you have never been there. You love the Dells, or hate the Dells. It’s crowded, weird, crazy, fun, unique, nostalgic, should I go on?
We never visited Wisconsin Dells when I was a kid (poor me), and it was only a few years ago that my family and I stopped in the Dells and rode the duck boats. While driving through town we saw some pretty crazy things. You can imagine how excited my kiddos were to see an upside down White House, a trojan horse, crazy roller coasters, duck boats cruising down the street and extreme water slides. Then and there, we (they) decided a longer trip to Wisconsin Dells was necessary.
Well, I recently survived that trip and am actually looking forward to returning! Why do I actually want to go back? Well, I set us up for a successful first trip to Wilderness Resort Wisconsin Dells.
My two kids, two of their friends and I spent three days and two nights at Glacier Canyon Lodge at Wilderness Resort. We stayed in a two bedroom condo with 1 1/2 baths, kitchen, balcony, and dining area. This insured everyone had plenty of space, sisters wouldn’t be fighting, and we saved a ton of money by cooking our own meals in the kitchen. Win, win, win.
I knew our trip would be so much better if we didn’t have to deal with the crowds, so our visit was from Wednesday – Friday the first full week of June. Crowds were small, slides weren’t busy, and weather was perfect. Three more wins for me!
While your schedule and budget may not permit you to set your family’s trip up for success like mine, there is still hope. I’ve put together a list of 71 tips to help you out with your own first vacation at Wilderness Resort Wisconsin Dells.
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Tips for Planning Your Visit to Wilderness Resort Wisconsin Dells
- Book your room as far in advance as you can. The price for our room kept rising the closer we got to check-in day.
- Check the rates for each room category. Keep in mind you may save a lot of money on meals if you spend a little bit more money on a room with a kitchen.
- Sign up to receive their emails. The emails usually include a promo code that can be applied to new room reservations.
- Read their website. The Wilderness Resort Wisconsin Dells has a ton of information on their website about the rooms, resort, waterparks, dining, activities, and more.
- Look at the map of the resort before you go. Get an idea of which waterparks are where, where the different types of lodging are, and the parking situation. Google Maps is helpful too.
- If you are staying in a room with a kitchen, plan your meals. Make your grocery list and buy what you can ahead of time. For the fresh and cold food, there is a Walmart grocery store at Exit 89.
- A few days before your check-in, the current activities and waterpark hours will be emailed to you. You’ll also get a current copy when you check-in.
- Our condo had a dvd player in it. Bring movies and microwave popcorn!
- Pack band aids. Someone will get a skinned knee at some point while in the water park. Also, don’t forget sunscreen!
Tips for Your Arrival
- Check-in is at 4:00. Your room will probably not be ready for you before then. This info is based on other people’s reviews. We checked in right at 4:00 and our room was ready.
- On the day of your arrival, you can register at the desk as early as noon to get your wristbands. You can visit any of the waterparks at this time. Check-out is at 11:00, but you can use the waterparks all day.
- If you are staying at Glacier Canyon Lodge, you have to check-in at Glacier Canyon Lodge. Do not go to the lobby of the Wilderness Resort.
- When checking in, ask if you are on the side of the building with the waterpark. At Glacier Canyon, one side has a view of the waterpark, and the other has a view of the woods and parking. Ask before you make the long trek to your room and avoid potential disappointment.
- Read the security deposit information at check-in. It applies to some groups. Ask.
- You will get a lot of information at check-in, including free tickets! We received free tickets for everyone to the Tommy Bartlett water show. The kids each received free tickets to a Duck Boats tour (that picked up at the resort, $15 value) and to the Dells Boat Tour.
- If staying at Glacier Canyon Lodge, the road to your parking lot is right after the convention center. The narrow road goes down a steep little hill to the Glacier Canyon Lodge parking.
- The parking lot for our entrance (number 4) was sloped. Watch everything (suitcases, carts) on wheels.
- When you check-in, you are given a parking pass for your car. Leave the pass on top of your registration folder so you see it when you get into the car. Then you’ll remember to leave it on the dash. I forgot and once I sat down to relax in our condo, I found the parking pass when I opened my registration folder of information. Yep, I had to go back down to the car and put the pass inside.
- There are luggage carts everywhere. There were carts on the floor our room was on and a line up of carts by the building entrance.
Tips for Your Room at the Wilderness Resort Wisconsin Dells
Most of these tips pertain to our condo, which was a 2 bedroom.
- The condo we were in did not have paper towels. Bring some. We brought napkins, but ran out right away. The dish towels are pretty small, and there were only two.
- There is a safe in the room. It had enough room for all of my valuables.
- There is a dishwasher in the condo. Read your room description for whats included. There was dish soap provided.
- A copy of your bill will be emailed to you the night before checkout. Be sure to read through it. We didn’t have any problems with our bill.
- Read reviews and check out pictures on Trip Advisor. You can find separate reviews for Glacier Canyon Lodge here. Remember, you’re just getting a general feel for the lodging by reading the reviews. Who knows about some of the people writing those reviews about the 1/4 inch crack in the corner of the ceiling, or the speck of dust on the floor.
- The shampoo provided in the condo is a combination of shampoo and conditioner. I’d recommend bringing your own conditioner for sure. The pool water, sunshine, and wind really do a number on your hair.
- There is a retractable clothes line in the shower. Look for it, it’s there.
- The 2 bedroom condo has a murphy bed in the living room. It is very comfortable and already made up. There is also a privacy curtain that stretches the width of the room. A very nice touch. Plus the kids had fun “performing” on stage once the curtain was pulled back.
- There is a coffee maker. Regular and decaf ground coffee is provided. There are instructions for the coffee maker in the room information. Instructions? Yes, this isn’t your usual drip coffee maker. It looked like this. There was no carafe, so I was convinced I was going to have coffee all over the floor!
- Your room will not get a full cleaning each day. Only the garbage is emptied and the towels are changed.
- Our balcony had two chairs and a small table. There were privacy walls on both sides.
- You check-out of the room by leaving your keys by the phone. You also should be leaving towel cards or waterpark towels in the room too, but you can keep your towels if you are using the parks after you checkout. We brought our own towels for the last day because I didn’t want to risk getting charged $25 per towel.
- You can charge your expenses to your room, except on the last day.
- There is wi-fi. That’s part of the reason for the daily resort fee.
- The kitchen in our condo didn’t have any knives sharper than a butter knife. Bring your own knife if you are doing some cooking.
Tips for the Waterparks at Wilderness Resort
- Many of the areas with water are shallow. At one lazy river, the depth in one section was only 16 inches (remember what I said about the skinned knees?).
- Check the height of your kiddos before you leave. That way they can be bummed they have to miss out on the steep crazy waterslide days before they actually see the slide. Ha.
- Walk around the whole waterpark so you don’t miss anything. You don’t really notice the slides at the wave pool or when you walk into the Wild West.
- There are bags for wet swimsuits in the locker rooms. This is convenient when using the waterparks after you’ve checked out of your room.
- There are life guards everywhere. For the most part they seemed to be paying attention. There are plenty of life jackets available in various sizes for the little ones.
- Most of the tube slides accommodated double tubes or even bigger tubes that fit four people.
- Some of the double tubes have a bottom in the center of the tube for small kids to sit. This was in the front hole of the tube only.
- If you walk or swim with your tube in the lazy rivers, watch out for the shallow parts. You will get scraped up.
- Take a family photo at the inner tube in Wild WaterDome Waterpark.
- Each waterpark really had something for all ages. Proving you don’t need to have kids to go to the waterparks!
- The lifeguards enforce one person on a waterslide at a time.
- The large buckets that dump water on those who are excitedly waiting below, have warning bells. The bucket at Atlantis in Bahamas didn’t have a warning bell, and was much more entertaining for the parents.
- Bring all of your towel cards to the waterparks. You get the towel cards at check-in, one card per person. If you only bring one card, don’t expect to get four towels. If you read the rules, and my tips you will know this. We watched one patron who handed over one towel card, get upset when she couldn’t get four towels in return. The employee calmly explained the rule, said she could get in trouble for not following the rule, and called over a supervisor.
- You can carry your towels from park to park. Or swap out for dry towels as many times as you want.
- The shaved ice in the Wild WaterDome Waterpark costs $4 for a small. I didn’t see a price posted anywhere. You can get up to 3 flavors.
- Some of the parks had shops at the towel stand where you could buy sunglasses, sunscreen, pool shoes, and other relevant goodies. The prices were surprisingly reasonable. One girl in our group bought a nice pair of sunglasses for under $14.
- At the wave pool, keep the beach chairs behind the line. We saw a lot of people carry the chairs a few feet into the water to sit. The lifeguards were blowing their whistles immediately.
- Some of the indoor parks did not have lounge chairs. They only had tables and chairs to sit at. This saved on space, but wasn’t as relaxing.
- You need to have an inner tube in order to be in the lazy rivers. Sit and face the right way when going down the lazy river slide at Lost World.
- The water is warm! Especially in the wave pool.
- There is a walkway to the wave pool at the back of Klondike Kavern.
- Check the waterpark hours the night before. The opening and closing hours for the parks vary. Some open at 9:00 and some don’t open until 11:00. Start early before the parks get busy (you can do this because you’ve eaten breakfast in your room and saved a bunch of time and money).
- There are signs at the waterpark entrances saying no food and beverages are to be brought into the parks. We did see plenty of families who brought their own snacks, water bottles, and juice boxes in for the kids. I noticed more than one mama carrying these huge beach bags, they hold a lot, but do you really want to carry a lot?
General Tips for the Wilderness Resort Wisconsin Dells
- Level 2 is the walkway to the other waterparks. Avoid staying on this level because it will be noisy.
- Level 3 gets you to the parking lots and the Lost World Waterpark.
- Our room was on level 6. When walking from the Wilderness area back to Glacier Canyon, we got into the first elevator we saw. There was no level 6. We walked on level 3 until our correct building for the elevator to level 6.
- There were complimentary newspapers in the hallway on level 2 by the Jurassic Java coffee shop.
- There is a shuttle that will take you to other areas of the resort. On our last day, we noticed employees shuttling people in golf carts to where they wanted to go too.
- Read through the activities paper you get at check-in. There are a lot of free activities available.
- Visit the resort during the week for fewer people in the parks.
- You will be doing a lot of walking. Wear comfortable sandals. You’ll probably want to wear a swimsuit cover-up too.
- If it’s summertime, bring twice the amount of water you think you’ll drink. It gets hot and the kids are constantly on the go in the parks. The water from the faucet is also good to drink.
- This is not a Disney property. Employees will not go out of their way to talk to you or even say hello while passing in the hall. That’s fine, and we didn’t encounter any rude employees.
- Wilderness hires a lot of foreign employees and students. Be prepared to repeat your questions and be patient. We had problems with the server picking the wrong flavors for our shaved ice. You just need to pay attention.
- If you spot the Sundara Spa brochure with the red cover, pick it up and read it. I didn’t get to visit the spa on this trip, but reading about the spa services in the brochure was a spa-like experience in itself.
- There are more than just waterparks at Wilderness Resort Wisconsin Dells. There’s a golf course, mini golf, ropes course, zip-line, arcade, go-carts, pottery studio and so much more.
- Relax, have fun, enjoy your kids, be a kid yourself!
These tips will help set your vacation up for success! Please comment with your own tips! Have a good first trip to Wilderness Resort Wisconsin Dells, and have a lot of firsts!
Plan the trip! Here’s some more helpful info:
- A-Z Guide to Wisconsin Dells Attractions – current pricing, photos, and money saving tips
- Wisconsin Dells – Beyond the Water Parks
- Wisconsin Dells restaurant rankings and reviews on Trip Advisor.
- Click here for a complete list of lodging in Wisconsin Dells
Vicki started That Was a First to inspire families to turn their typical family vacation into a bucket list adventure, by providing in depth information and travel tips for destinations across the country.