Wisconsin Dells – Beyond the Water Parks

You’ve heard about Wisconsin Dells, the water park of capital of the world.  Yes, the whole world!  You can’t drive down the street without seeing crazy tube slides coming out the sides of buildings, or vertical waterslides that are straight down and way beyond extreme.

Your kids could spend days at the waterparks and still not want to leave!  That is, until you tell them about all of the other crazy fun things that you can do in Wisconsin Dells.  The Dells is the jackpot of first experiences!

There are countless activities in Wisconsin Dells, from lumberjack shows, to go-carts, to zip lines, to boat tours, to museums and the science center.  I’m only going to highlight four activities that my family has experienced, but hopefully we’ll get back to the Dells next year for some more fun!

Related Post:  A-Z Guide to Wisconsin Dells Attractions – Current pricing, important info, and money saving tips

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Duck Boat Tours

There is no one who can go through life without sitting on a duck boat and quacking.  It just has to be done.  Whether you are in Wisconsin Dells, Boston, or Seattle, you have to ride the duck boats.

We did the Original Wisconsin Ducks tour and really enjoyed it (except the quacking).  The ride was scenic, exciting with the plunge into the water, and very unique.

The tours are one hour long and are both on land and in the water.  The prettiest part of the tour is when you are floating in the Wisconsin River.  The sandstone cliffs and rock formations are beautiful to see up close.  The tour guide does a great job telling the stories and history of the area.

Original Wisconsin Ducks

The Original Wisconsin Ducks is a very unique way to see the sandstone rock formations along the Wisconsin River.

The tours are offered continuously throughout the day and they move a lot of people every single day.  Tickets cost $30 for adults and $15 for kids.  Those under three years old are free.

We recently stayed at the Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells, and upon check-in, kids are given free tickets to the Original Wisconsin Ducks.  This is a great deal and can save you a lot of money.  Plus, the Original Wisconsin Ducks pick up passengers right at the resort.  Tickets for the adults can be purchased at the counter in the lobby.  Very convenient!

Tommy Bartlett Water Show

This year is the 65th year of the Tommy Bartlett Water Show.  While growing up, Wisconsin Dells and the Tommy Bartlett Water-Ski show were synonymous.  If you went to Wisconsin Dells, you went to the water-ski show.

Tommy Bartlett water show in the wisconsin dells

Now this is what I think of when I hear “Wisconsin Dells”.

I have always wanted to see this, and since I was finally on my first vacation in the Dells, now was the time!  It also helped that by staying at the Wilderness Resort, we were given free tickets to the Tommy Bartlett Water Show.  Yes, everyone gets free tickets!  The show is just a couple of miles up the road and couldn’t be easier to get to.

The show takes place on Lake Delton, and the bleachers are right on the edge of the water.  Some of the show even takes place above the bleachers high up in the sky, but I’m not going to spoil it for you.  During the summer, the water show is held daily at 4:30 and 8:30 and lasts for 90 minutes with one intermission.

If you aren’t lucky enough land some free tickets, Adults pay $21 and kids pay $12 for general admission.  There are other discounted rates available.

There are quite a few acts during the show and it really is entertaining for the whole family.  Besides the water-skiers, there are stunts done with jet-skis, racing boats, a FlyBoard, a Sky Ski and a space shuttle.  You really have to see it all to believe it.

Wizard Quest

This last winter we spent a couple of days at Universal Studios in Orlando, and the kids fell in love with all things Harry Potter.  They now have their wands, are reading the books, and love a good butterbeer.  Once I saw Wizard Quest, I knew we had to try it.  Although it’s not about Harry Potter, it allows a short visit to the wizarding world.

Wizard Quest Wisconsin Dells

The Wizard Quest building is hard to miss from the outside.

Wizard Quest is an interactive game that you play with a tablet and your group of people.  The game covers 13,000 square feet, which includes a ball pit, mirror maze, and slides.  You can’t play all day though.  Your quest has to be completed in 75 minutes or you fail.  You could take on more than one quest, but that could be an expensive day!

There are different skill levels of the game, and since our group was pretty young, we picked a medium level game.  This was more like a scavenger hunt with a few riddles thrown in.  It only took a little while for us to get the hang of the game and to start finding what we were looking for.  There is always help available too, you just have to ask.

The object of the game is to either free a wizard with a magic spell, or to freeze a wizard with a magic spell.  You collect parts of the magic spell as you complete each of your tasks.

We had five people in our group and that was just about the right size.  The kids had a blast trying to find the clues, but they did get a little distracted once we got to the ball pit.

Ultimately we failed our quest, that darn ball pit took too much time!  Wizard Quest is a very unique experience and something we would definitely do again.

The cost to play isn’t too outrageous at $15 per adult and $10 for kids ages 5-11.  You can get a combo ticket for an additional $6 and visit Ripley’s Believe it or Not, which is right next door.

There is a large parking lot behind Wizard Quest and also street parking.  We were there during the week and there were plenty of spots open.

Scenic River Walk

Right next to Wizard Quest is the entrance to the River Walk.  This is a short walkway that takes you along the shore of the Wisconsin River.  It’s a paved walkway that’s about 1/4 mile long.  There are markers along the path that tell the history of the area. Plus there are plenty of benches for taking a break from your crazy day and just enjoying the quiet and the view of the Wisconsin River.

River Walk Wisconsin Dells

The view of the Wisconsin River from the River Walk.

The scenic river walk is probably the most “normal” thing to do in Wisconsin Dells!

My family and I had a fantastic time over the few days that we spent in Wisconsin Dells.  I can’t believe we live 3 hours away, and this was our first vacation there.  We did go during the week and just before the busy season, and that definitely made our trip more enjoyable.  Plus the weather was perfect!

So, don’t let the crowds keep you away from visiting the Dells.  You really don’t need to spend days here to experience it.  Just drive into town the next time you are flying by on the interstate and visit one attraction.  Your family will have an awesome first experience to add to their day!  Who knows, you may make it an annual event.

Here’s more helpful info for planning your trip:


Wisconsin Dells may be known as the waterpark capital of the world, but there's so much more!
Wisconsin Dells isn't just about the waterparks. The town is full of family fun!


  • Connie S. Reed February 2, 2018 at 7:59 am

    Riding the Ducks as a child was my first Wisconsin Dells experience. We were camping with extended family, and we took up the entire Duck. I remember as we were about to go from land to water, the driver asked if we’d like to go fast or slow. Everyone yelled fast, except Grandma. She wanted it slow, so that’s what the driver did. We were not happy with Grandma that day. Thanks for the great memories!

    • Vicki February 2, 2018 at 8:02 am

      That is so funny! Grandma’s are supposed to be FUN…haha! Thanks for sharing! (I’m still laughing…)


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