Family Fun, travel

Mini-fall getaway recap: Wisconsin Dells

I wanted to write a recap of our mini fall getaway last weekend to Wisconsin Dells! We stayed overnight just one night, but spent most of 2 days there.

October 15th, Saturday:

We had gone to that UW Badgers hockey game Friday night, so we were a little slow moving on Saturday. The idea was to get to the Dells relatively early, to enjoy most of the day, but we decided we’d aim to leave home around 11 a.m. or so. I think I lounged around a little, wrote a blog post, and had tea in the hot tub. Eventually we all got cleaned up and packed up and headed out.

The drive from our house is only about 45 minutes or so. It was a pretty drive! Colors were not maybe quite at peak level, but there were definitely a lot of pretty leaves.

Asher took this pic from the van window:

We arrived at the hotel and got checked in and also met up with my parents, who were already there. The city of Wisconsin Dells has a whole bunch of different huge indoor and outdoor waterpark resorts- that’s why it’s nicknamed “The Waterpark Capital of the World”.

We stayed at Glacier Canyon Lodge, which is part of the Wilderness Resort. We’d been to this one before when the boys were little and it always seemed nice. Also, they don’t grant day passes like some places apparently do, which helps control the crowds.

There was a great “fall” display at the entrance, so of course I wanted some pictures.

Waterpark tour:

Our room wasn’t ready yet, but we got our waterpark wristbands and went on a walk around the property. (It had been a long time since our last visit.) The place is ginormous. Almost too big for my liking, honestly. It took for.ever. to get anywhere.

There are 3 main waterpark areas, plus arcades, activity zones, imax type theater shows, restaurants/ bar, indoor go karts…. you name it. With only 1 night, our main focus was just the waterparks, really, though.

The waterdome area is my favorite- it’s a wave pool, but it’s also designed to just be super toasty warm in there, so you feel like you’re at the beach, but indoors- even in the cold or winter.

There are slides and water features for all ages- from little kiddie slides and splash areas, to big thrill ride water slides for the older kids. It’s hard to get good pictures of the biggest slides, because the tubes actually go outside! I mean, you’re enclosed inside the tube, but they jut out to the exterior and twist around that way. Also, the bigger slides are at the back of the rooms, so not really pictured here.

Hike at Chapel Gorge Trail

Despite the boys kind of begging to just go put on their suits and get in the water, we stuck to my plan- which was to go on a fall hike! My birthday weekend, I call the shots. haha.

It was a relatively warm and sunny day, and the weather forecast called for rain and cold on Sunday. Besides, we were planning to spend ALL evening at the waterpark, plus all day Sunday. They’d have plenty of water time.

So, we got in the car and drove about 10-15 minutes to a trail head I had found. There are several great state parks in the area, but as we weren’t planning to spend all day hiking, I didn’t really want to pay to get in. I found this short ~2 mile hike loop instead (not in a state park- just off the side of a road somewhere) that had free parking and looked nice, so we went with that.

drive to the trail head was looking promising

Started our hike, which was easy and beautiful and peaceful! For a random internet find, I was very happy with the choice.

Again, not all the trees had vibrant colors- there was more yellow than red in this area, but it was still gorgeous.

I loved that the trail was all covered with leaves, because I love a good crunchy leaf sound. 🙂

We eventually arrived at the river.

It was steeper to get down to the little beach than it looked, and kind of slippery on pine needles, etc. We made it, and it was a beautiful view!!

For being October near peak season, there weren’t many other people. It was great. A handful, but I had thought maybe the trails would be packed.

We spent a while just enjoying the view, taking various family pics and the boys scrounged up some rocks to skip.

with the parents 🙂

We hiked the loop back out, and then, time for food!

Early dinner at Riverwalk Pub and walk on the Wisconsin Dells Riverwalk

On the way to the hike, we’d passed a place on the water called Riverwalk Pub that looked cute. We always like a good brewpub, and we hadn’t researched any other restaurants, so we stopped there.

The boys were both into really good books- Ethan: Two Degrees, the new Alan Gratz book, and Asher: the new Spy School book, Project X.

I got some steak tacos that I really liked!! They had fresh peppers and onion and pico de gallo on top. All very fresh tasting.

The restaurant was located right along the Wisconsin Dells Riverwalk, so after our meal we took a little stroll down the river. Not too far- only took 10-15 minutes. But it was pretty.

wide views of the river where we stopped to turn around

Hotel check in and WATERPARK!

Back at the resort, we got all checked in and settled into our 2 bedroom condo. My parents’ room was like, a mile away down the longest hallway on the planet. lol. Oh well.

Everything is “wilderness” themed at this place.

The boys were excited for bunk beds- always still a novelty for them. 😉 Our condo kind of had a “fall” view- I mean, there were some trees. But it mostly looked out at the (closed for the season) outdoor waterpark. Really didn’t matter as we wouldn’t have much time in the room, anyway.

Then, we hit the waterpark(s).

I’ll just take a moment to say: MAN is it nice to go to a waterpark when your kids are teenagers. And you can just sit on a chair, relaxing. The last time we were there it was all hands on deck, in the water with them at all times. Not anymore, baby!!!! 😁

The boys took off, and my parents, Ivan and I found a nice table in the wave pool area.

Ivan and I did get recruited soon after to go down a big slide that required total weight of riders to be at least 200 lbs. Even together, the boys alone still don’t hit 200 lbs. Add mom and dad in and we definitely surpassed the 200 lb. mark. 😉 It was super fun!!! Over the course of the weekend, I went on basically all of the big slides at least a couple times. We also floated in the wave pool (which had very nice, warm water!) with the boys, too.

(That being said, I greatly enjoyed not having to be in the water constantly!)

This slide features a 12 foot pitch black drop- I was scared at first to go on!! But I did, and it was very fun. 🙂

The four of us all floated several times around the lazy river. (Also had warm water.)

The waterpark closed at 10, so around 9 pm we ordered a pizza to share as a “snack”… (dinner was early, and the boys had worked up an appetite). They also ordered this $15 “birthday cake” shake to share… omg. There was an entire cupcake on the top.

I normally would not really encourage purchasing something like this?! But now and then a special treat is fun. 🙂

We had brought some board games along, but by ~10:15 when we got back to the room, I was exhausted. While the kids got changed and stuff, I laid down on the couch to “rest my eyes for a second”, and ended up falling asleep by the fireplace. Oops.

I then moved to bed just after midnight and didn’t wake up until 8:15 the next morning! I guess I was tired out. Ha.

Sunday, October 16

Everyone slept in some Sunday, and we weren’t in any big rush. The plan was just to basically go back to the waterpark. We had to check out by 11, but we had waterpark access until it closed at night.

The boys meandered down by my parents’ room, and started playing pool in the lobby down there.

I just felt lazy, so I made tea in the condo and turned on the fireplace. It was a rather gloomy day, which set the mood perfectly. I read a couple chapters of my book, and just took it easy.

It was very tranquil, until Ivan came back and turned a soccer game on the TV…. 🙄

Eventually we got ready to clean up the room and pack up and head back to the waterpark.

And that was basically it for the rest of the day!! The boys swam and slid over and over and over again. Ivan and I alternated sitting at a table and occasionally joining the boys for water slide rides.

We all took a break and had lunch in a big bar/grill overlooking the wave pool area, and watched the (disappointing) Packer game. It’s nice because you can just throw shorts on over your suit and head right up- no need to officially “clean up” or anything.

Watching the game… I got a big Ceasar salad that was very tasty.
My two favorite guys on my b-day eve! 🙂

Not much else to report! It was a great little getaway. One night can sometimes feel “too short” to me (if you’ve read my other trip recaps, you know we lean toward loooong vacations whenever possible….). And with just one night, it annoys me sometimes to not have a full day in the hotel without either checking in or checking out! But in this case, it just worked- and it was plenty. A fun, fall, birthday escape!

We didn’t head home until close to maybe 6:30 or 7 p.m., I think. We hit a drive thru when we stopped for gas, and made it home by around 8 p.m.

Very grateful that this actually fit in– I swear, between kids’ activities + life, it just feels like it’s getting harder and harder to carve out time to do stuff like this.

10 thoughts on “Mini-fall getaway recap: Wisconsin Dells”

  1. My husband actually has the kids at the Wilderness right now! My friends and I ran the Door County Fall 50 which was wonderful but the rest of the family wanted a different adventure.

    So glad you had a special weekend together!


      1. I did the Fall50 too. It was gorgeous and perfect weather. Your weekend getaway looks perfect! When we lived in Madison we did an annual fall hike at Devil’s Lake, which was amazing but pretty busy with lots of people having the same idea. Sounds like you found a great alternative!


      2. Congrats on your race!! Devil’s lake… yeah, that’s one of those places we also rarely go because it’s just so popular, I get turned off by the idea of going sometimes!! Even though it is beautiful. I always say I should take a week day off some fall and drive out there but never do.


  2. What a wonderful weekend as a family and with your parents! The fall colors are gorgeous and I am sure the waterpark was so much fun! Thanks for sharing your weekend trip!


  3. This all looks so fun. Especially the part about things being warm and toasty. I mostly avoid all things water related because I get cold SO easily. So this waterpark complex sounds like a great place for me to visit!
    Of course, I’m most in awe of the gorgeous foliage. This is my favourite thing about fall and while I’m NOT a fan of snow/winter, the 2-4 weeks of gorgeous fall weather/stunning leaves, almost make the 6 months of snow and ice worth it. I just LOVE fall. Looks like a great hike.

    And I 100% agree – things like this get so much easier as the kids get older. I’ve been thinking this about playgrounds recently. We sometimes rendezvous with friends so the big kids can play basketball or soccer and the younger kids have access to play structures. I do not have to watch my kids at all anymore and it is SO much more relaxing than tensing up every time my toddler tries to climb up the stairs to access a slide etc. I do miss many elements of them being younger, but there are also so many awesome things about having kids grow up!!


  4. What a fun getaway! And it gives me a sneak peak of life in like 10 years. 🙂 We are in that ‘active management’ stage of parenting right now. I’m really trying to convince Paul to try swimming lessons again. Really hoping I can talk him into this winter because he HAS to learn to swim. Then we could go to places like this when they are a little older. My SIL in Chicago had always talked about meeting up in the Dells since it’s pretty much half way. But then they got divorced… 😦 I would love to meet her and the kids sometime but that would be tricky w/ the family dynamics right now… it was a messy divorce. But maybe in a couple of years we can do that although my niece and nephew might age out of water parks by then? We’ll see…


  5. Gracious, this looks fun! I love how you talk about how WARM it is. It’s so dang tempting to reserve a room for mid-week in, say, January, when the kids are in school and it’s not likely to be as crowded, and just hang out in the covered, warm waterpark… then again, I could also save up for an adults-only spa experience. 😉


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