When the Story Ends Too Soon

cff99f5a82aba7b1a277c1028071d752The Before

Pregnant! July 15. It’s a Friday and Kris is out of town until Tuesday and I am getting ready to dig into my first night home alone in quite some time with a bottle of red. There’s nothing I like more than falling down a slightly drunk YouTube black hole by myself. But before I pop a bottle, I pee on a strip and there is the faintest fainty faint line, but Google tells me a faint line is still a real line, and there’s a baby in me and holy crap. We were trying for this for a few months, and now it’s real. I calmly tell the dog and cat first because I want to wait to tell Kris in person on Tuesday. The dog shakes her head and the cat wanders off. Later that night, the cat pukes. I don’t think they want a sibling.

It’s a long weekend to keep this to myself. I go to a baby shower on Sunday and I keep my little secret under my hat. I’m pregnant, too! I whisper it into a mirror when I’m in the bathroom at the shower. Me, too. I’m going to have a baby. It’s still sinking in. My boobs are sore, pants are tight, I’m hungry and tired. Is four weeks pregnant too early to buy maternity pants? I go to the library and check out Pregnancy for Dummies. I go nuts on my Pinterest. I buy presents to tell our parents and other family members. I download the app that tells you the size of the baby by week, and charts baby’s development. It is already a baby, from moment one, to me.

Telling Kris is fun. I bought a University of Michigan onesie (even though I vow to myself that baby will wear a University of Wisconsin onesie first) and I pin a cute note on it to let him know he can have fun scooping the litterbox for the next nine months. He is elated about the baby, resigned to the litterbox. I enjoy reading him the gross bits from Pregnancy for Dummies. Linea negra. Mucus plugs and bleeding nipples. Episiotomies.  What the actual hell. I mean, I knew all of this stuff in theory, but now it’s going to be me in March. Me.


One person in this photo is pregnant.

We go to his brother’s wedding in Denver a week later, and we keep our secret. It’s fun, just the two of us knowing, and we’re sitting at a table at the wedding with a pregnant woman who is ready to pop. Me, too, I think. I’m pregnant too and no one knows! It’s a giddy, tight thought that runs circles in my brain, wearing down a track. I ask the bartender to give me a diet Coke in a lowball glass so that people think I’m drinking a cocktail. We eat cake in bed after the wedding, and Kris watches TV and I read. In the book I’m reading, All the Way Home, which I picked up because it is supposed to be primarily about a home renovation, the wife in it has two miscarriages in a row. I just got done reading The Light Between Oceans. There were a ton of miscarriages in there, too. Miscarriage. The word is a far away iceberg. I eat more cake, telling myself that the baby wants more cake.


Oreos in lieu of cake.

We tell our parents. His first, then mine. We just made four people grandparents. We talk about the future. The baby’s due date is my mom’s birthday. I start looking up astrological signs. Aries or Pisces, depending on the actual birthday. Gemstone: aquamarine. Baby will be class of 2035. It will be four months old when I turn 33. It will be eight months old for Christmas next year. I will look very pregnant by this Christmas. Baby is the size of a blueberry. Then a raspberry.

We countdown to our first doctor’s appointment, August 11. On that day, we take half a day off from work, grab lunch, talk about the baby and future in the endless, circular way we have been doing for four weeks. We go to Menards and buy new outdoor lights and talk about renovation plans. The bedroom we have slated for the nursery is going to need blackout curtains because it faces east.

We’re early to the appointment. I’m giddy. Nervous but excited. There will never be another moment like this for me, for us, in which we get to see our first baby on the ultrasound monitor. We wait to go from one lobby to another, then the exam room, then the ultrasound room where we wait some more. My doctor arrives. She congratulates us warmly before getting down to business.

The ultrasound wand goes in and there’s my uterus and there’s the yolk sac and there’s the embryo. The embryo is tiny. Too tiny for eight weeks, she tells us. It looks more like six weeks instead of eight and you need to come back in two weeks so we know everything is growing correctly. Here, she says, pointing to the barest flicker, is the heartbeat.

The Middle

Stunned, we are dismissed from the doctor’s office abruptly. No prenatal counseling, no picture from the ultrasound. Just go home and hold your breath for two weeks.

Still, I hold on to that heartbeat. It’s better than nothing. We still have a sliver of hope, but the doubt is worming its way in. I get asked by a friend if I’m pregnant. Am I? What is going on? I should be able to answer that question. You either are or you aren’t. No one is a little pregnant.

The days tick by slowly. Each night I count on my fingers how many days are left until the next ultrasound. 13 days. 9 days. 5 days. I still feel very pregnant, nauseous and tired and hungry in rotating intervals. My lower stomach even puffs out, although that could be the recent overindulgence in cake. My boobs still hurt. I am no longer complaining about these symptoms. They are all signs pointing to my rising pregnancy hormones and a growing baby.

We talk about the possibilities, but what good is talking about them? Nothing can happen. Everything can happen. We wait it out in exquisite agony. We are flying blind, completely helpless. Maybe this is our first taste of really being parents.

The next appointment is August 25, the day before Kris’s mom’s and my dad’s birthday. We can’t have bad news. We are much more somber when we get to the ultrasound room. No joking anymore. Just nerves. My doctor doesn’t make us wait this time. She starts the ultrasound, finds the shadow she has been looking for, and she searches and searches, and is silent and I know before she speaks, but knowing doesn’t make a difference.

“I’m seeing the yolk sac. But what I’m not seeing is an embryo,” she says, and I’m grateful for her tone, which is measured, and conveys the right amount of sorrow. I feel bad for her in this moment. How many times has she had to deliver this news to people? A dozen? A hundred?

Our secret joy becomes our secret loss.

She gives me three choices: have a D&C surgery where they go in and remove all the fetal tissue, or I take some pills which start the process of getting rid of everything, or I just wait for my body to do the job. I opt for the pills because I don’t want to take time off of work for a procedure. I don’t trust my body to do anything right, not anymore.

The After

I poured myself a glass of wine that night, which feels weird and makes things more real. Later, we filled the prescriptions at Walgreens. I made a mental note for the future that the next time I am getting a prescription someone in line could be standing there waiting for pills to start their miscarriage. I bought giant maxi pads that I haven’t had the pleasure of since 7th grade. Hello, wings, long time no see.

The physical pain was nothing, a footnote. I woke up early at 6:00 a.m., ready to be done with the whole process. I took the pills, and then the pain pills. Numb was where I wanted to be, and I mostly was. I spent the day in bed watching Snapped and making frequent trips to the bathroom. The cramps got worse and worse, and I grew tired in spite of the pain. I made one trip to the bathroom and knew that was it, and it was. Everything was over.

The following days were a blur of normalcy. I still went to work, even though I was fighting back tears at my desk, biding time until I could cry in my car at lunch. Kris and I went on a vacation we had planned for months before. We did the things we always did. I cleaned the litterbox. I checked the option on the pregnancy app that indicated miscarriage. The app emailed condolences. Pregnancy for Dummies went back to the library.

The pregnancies that were on the same timeline as ours had been began to crop up on Facebook, and my heart clenched. Why did they get to be pregnant and not me? They will be the ones holding a baby in March, not us. I tried to get back to my routines, looking for any distraction. I exercised. I meditated, I read, I wrote, I worked. I cleaned and meal planned, made plans for the near future. I smiled when I didn’t feel like it, and made bad, dark jokes. I cried more than I’ve ever cried. I’m still crying.

Was this punishment for being ambivalent at various points in my life about motherhood? For my always cavalier joking about babies? Are our genes some sort of toxic combination? What if this happens next time? Will there even be a next time? If I was waiting for a sign to have kids, isn’t this the sign I was waiting for? A big fat no, do not attempt? The questions kept coming, and keep coming. Is this because I’m asking for too much from the universe? Or is this just a case of cells not dividing properly, a 20% outcome of all pregnancies, like my doctor explained? Surely it can’t be something as simple and random as that.

It’s been almost two months. It hasn’t all been sadness. We’ve laughed since then. We’ve had fun, we’ve joked. Gone out to dinner, argued, read books and watched movies. We’ve celebrated and felt happy for friends expecting babies, and we still like seeing babies in our Facebook feed. I’d love to end this post with something happy like a “but we’re pregnant again!” line, but life doesn’t work that way. I’m not pregnant.

Instead, today I’m thinking about our baby that couldn’t stay and everyone else with a secret joy that turned into a secret loss.

Fav Things From September

Along with browsing AirBNB (I feel like they should pay me to work for them), these are a few of my favorite things lately.

This planner from Bloom. I loved my Some eCards planner, but this one is far superior. It give a monthly view, a weekly view, and lots of pages to set yearly goals, monthly goals, weekly goals. You can even track water intake if you want. I feel so much more productive and well-rounded with this planner. Some of it is too gooey for my tastes—I don’t dig quotes like “Don’t stop until you’re proud,” but eh. It’s a welcome change of pace. I should really just paste some funny eCards in there and it’d be perfect.

And yes, that’s my special Staedtler pen that I use specifically for this planner, and no, I’m not a nerd. You’re the nerd.

This ring from Etsy. I needed some writing inspiration and decided on part of a Hemingway quote: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” It reminds me of how much fun writing is!  Eh, or something like that.


This magical tea from Good Earth is a nice addition to my tea stash. It has caffeine and makes me feel like there are calories in it, but there aren’t. This is my winter jam because my office is perpetually freezing and sometimes I can feel my fingers if they’re wrapped around a mug of this stuff. But, be warned that the tea bags come with lame quotes. Fortune favors the brave. Thanks for the reminder, Good Earth. Again, something that would be improved with Some eCards.

When Kris wasn’t home for dinner one night, my cat took his place at the dinner table. I was highly amused.


I revived the morning smoothie ritual, and am really on board with the current mix: frozen banana, chocolate protein powder, spinach, and a few mint leaves. It’s sweet and refreshing and takes two minutes.


I probably won’t want something cold in the winter, so I’m enjoying this while it lasts. Has anyone tried a hot smoothie? I am disgusted and intrigued.

Wearing all black to workout makes me feel like a ninja, especially in my Body Combat class where we punch and kick and pretend we have swords. The real feat of ninja-ry is getting out of the house without being covered in cat hair. I never really put much effort into gym clothes because, c’mon, I’m just going to get sweaty, but I’m permanently retiring my workout t-shirts which also doubled as pajamas sometime and weekend wear (sometimes all in the same day, ha!). I love my New Balance tank. Very flattering, and nice and long, which is a problem I have with workout clothes.


That’s what has been rocking my world lately. Hello, October!


45, 46 and 47

We earmarked Labor Day weekend and beyond for working on a goal of ours: getting to all 50 states by the time we’re 35. Luckily, due to lots of previous travel, this shouldn’t be too hard to accomplish with some planning. My family road trips left me bereft of Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. In a happy coincidence, Kris has family in North Carolina who graciously let us use their guest house, so the rest of our plans fell into place.

Here are some of the highlights, in no important order:

AirBNB for the win. We stayed at some really cool places that allowed us to get a flavor of the area. West Virginia was our first stop, and after a long day of driving, we realized our mistake of not making a more concerted effort to get to our AirBNB before dark. The roads were winding, dark and narrow, and GPS was long gone. I relied on my phone as a flashlight and reading good ol’ fashioned directions, just like early settlers. Terrible! Somehow we pulled in to our final destination, and got a case of the creeps. A gigantic white mansion loomed in the dark (no one was home) and we nervously punched in the key code to the above garage apartment that was our stop for the night. After speculating on how many murders had occurred/ghosts existed, we barricaded ourselves in our room and fell into uneasy sleep.

In the morning, all was well. We sheepishly put back the furniture we had moved and explored the beautiful country setting we found ourselves in. The apartment was perfect, and we should have stayed longer to enjoy it, but we had to hit the road…

West Virginia AirBNB

To get to the Peacock Cottage in Virginia! When we arrived (after a spirited navigational “discussion”) we were greeted with mini bottles upon mini bottles of wine. Thankfully, after a full day romping around Shenandoah National Park, Kris didn’t feel like doing much in terms of dinner and he dug into the treats and and I cracked open the wine, and we explored the farm.

The Peacock Cottage had an attached enclosure that housed two peacocks, Bonnie and Clyde. Bonnie was braver than Clyde, and Kris, for some reason fell in love with her and was calling her “Bon-bon” and “Bonnie Bun” every time I turned around. He wasn’t even the one swilling the wine. We heckled Clyde and demanded that he show us his feathers, but he mostly ran away from us. Clyde was an asshole. A beautiful asshole.

We spent the next few nights in the aforementioned guest house in Marshall, NC. There weren’t any peacocks to heckle, but there was a dog named Clyde, and a few cows.

Knoxville was just a stop over place to cut the long drive back in half. We stayed in a room in a nice family house and enjoyed a king-sized bed. I couldn’t figure out how to work the hot water in the bathroom, but Kris assures me I was just turning the wrong handle. Not sure about that, but I gave myself credit for trying to shower as I doused my hair in dry shampoo.

Even though this place was no frills, it did come with an excellent breakfast of gravy and biscuits. I would never order a breakfast like that, mainly because I don’t like gravy, but I was more than pleasantly surprised. The biscuits were delicious and the sausage gravy had a little spicy kick that I’m still thinking about. The owners’ three kids entertained us with stories at breakfast. They mainly involved people crossing the road and getting run over. Coincidentally, we almost got rear-ended right outside this AirBNB.

Knoxville and the Wigsphere? Oh, Sunsphere.


Last stop was by Turkey Run in Indiana. This vintage camper lives in a private campground. The owner of it clearly put a lot of time into decorating it and I could’ve spent hours looking at all the little knick-knacks, but in reality I was more intent on finding the s’mores supplies, which I did. I ate two and Kris only had one because he was ‘full.’ I don’t know how I married someone who stops eating when they are full.

Inside of the camper:

So, in case you can’t tell, I really, really dig AirBNBs. It can be a little awkward for me to make small talk with the hosts, but sometimes, if you are lucky your husband will do that for you, or the owner will be out of town anyway. Consider it if you are traveling! We’ve had lots of good luck with them, and they are usually cheaper than a hotel, or you can splurge one night (Peacock Cottage) and skimp another night (Knoxville) according to your needs.

Oh yeah, we did stuff on this trip, too, other than stay in cool places.

We visited Shenandoah National Park, and did some hikes there. The park ranger who sold us our pass bought a car in Wisconsin. He said he bought it in “Sun City, by Madison.”

Went to Monticello. TJ seems like he was a pretty interesting guy. We saw an original pair of his boots, and I must say he had shockingly skinny calves.

We explored the Biltmore. This is easily an entire day adventure, and worth the steep admission price ($75+ each with the audio guide). After exploring the house and gardens, we made our way to the winery. The wine pourer lady was too slow for us, so we destroyed their free sample snack area in revenge. Which led to us dropping another $60 buying presents, so I guess the Biltmore really won that round.

Asheville was fun. I highly enjoyed the Omni Park Grove Spa, which we don’t have any pictures of because we were too busy relaxing. Obligatory stop at Honey Tupelo Cafe, even though Kris was full. Full means nothing!


Side trip to cross the border into South Carolina to see Table Rock, and the home of the Blair Witch.

Grandfather Mountain was hot and the elevator was broken. We were both sweaty and gross and one of us was cranky. That person is not pictured out of respect for their privacy.

Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Clingman’s Dome, which I kept calling Klingon’s Dome to annoy Kris.

Also not pictured: two different alpine coasters that we rode. Very fun. Pro tip: do the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster in Pigeon Forge. Another pro tip: do not drive through Pigeon Forge on a Friday afternoon when there is a convention for vintage cars because it will make you murderous or suicidal.

Turkey Run State Park in Indiana: a childhood haunt of Kris’s that we revisited. Just a little hike, he said. Yeah.

All in all, a good time and three missing states checked off for me.

PS-We also saw Dinosaur Kingdom 2. Don’t ask me. Ask Kris.







Prague and Croatia

Prague was my favorite. I have always wanted to go here, fueled by, of all things, the scenes from Mission Impossible that made Prague look romantic and mysterious. The architecture and cobblestones made it look like something out of a fairy tale. This was one city where my thoughts were not, “When will I be back?” but “I must come back.” I can’t wait to explore more of eastern Europe someday, and we’ll have to stop by Prague again.

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Our last stop was Croatia. We flew into Split, Croatia and took a ferry to Hvar. We couldn’t stop taking pictures of the water.


That’s all! Thanks for looking. We had a great time and made some amazing memories.




Amsterdam and Vienna

Only a day in Amsterdam and a few hours in Vienna, but we made the most of it.

Vienna: we had time to take a quick walk and grab dinner and I got to practice my 5+ years of German for a few hours. We will have to get back here and explore a bit more.  Also, some pictures from our overnight train car. We splurged for a private car and felt like royalty.



We had a full day and night here. The food was amazing. Alas, the space cakes did nothing for either one of us. We stayed at Hotel Not Hotel, where our room was behind a bookcase. We also visited a cat museum, wherein I found an apt drawing of what it’s like to own a cat.



Photo dump. In random, jumbled order: the Globe, St. Paul’s, Trafalgar Square, London Bridge, the London Eye, Highgate Cemetery, Prime Meridian Line, Brangelina, Westminster, Big Ben, the Great Fire Monument, Tower of London, and the British Museum. And other things.IMG_2279IMG_2285IMG_2287IMG_2300IMG_2319IMG_2332IMG_2340


Wisconsin Water Park Review Part 2

Did you think we forgot Great Wolf and Kalahari? Ha.

Great Wolf

This park is fresh in my memory because we just stayed there last month. Great Wolf is one of the big parks you can see from the highway. You’ve probably seen the giant tornado shaped ride that juts out of the side of their park, or their dark brown log cabin inspired hotel. Great Wolf is the medium water park, not too big, not too small, but just right. Great Wolf is the biggest water park chain in the U.S., so they know what they’re doing.

The rides at Great Wolf are like most of the other parks, with body slides, tube rides, a very tiny lazy river, and a medium sized wave pool. There are two hot tubs, one for everyone and another one for just adults, which was nice. There are quite a few areas for kids to play, and many rides geared toward them.

The ride with the biggest thrill was the Howlin’ Tornado. This was almost the exact same funnel ride that Wilderness Territory has, but this one struck me as more terrifying. We rode this one four times, and the thrill was still there on the last ride. Highly recommend, but remember to hold on! It could very easily toss you out of your tube if you don’t.


Photo from greatwolf.com

At different times, some of the rides were closed due to lifeguards rotating around the park. The wave pool area didn’t open on time the day we went. That being said, there were a ton of lifeguards who were very active.  The lifeguards are required to pace back and forth, which was bizarrely hypnotizing to watch. If I were a parent, active lifeguards would be a huge plus. Even as a general adult human being, it felt very, very safe.

We did eat inside this park, and the food was your standard fare, overpriced and extra salty. For reasons that are unexplained, we ended up buying their $13 all you can drink mug, so we made sure to fill that up as much as we could. There was a self-service station for the mug in their small convenience store, and within the park Icees were available, so after all was said and done, we might have gotten our money’s worth. For real dinner, we walked five minutes to Panera and didn’t have to pay out the nose.

Great Wolf is partners with MagiQuest, so they push that experience, but we didn’t do it. They had a medium sized arcade that we took a stroll through. Great Wolf is adjacent to outlet shopping and a larger arcade/restaurant, which we checked out and enjoyed.

A few things to note about Great Wolf…

-it wasn’t very busy when we went, which was great. We didn’t wait for any of the rides we wanted to go on, which may also explain why some rides were closed from time to time.

-middle of the road prices

-your wristband is linked to your credit card and it opens your room! Cool but maybe dangerous if you are prone to spending money.

-a large portion of the park is devoted to kids

-their cable package is missing E!. If you’re like me and don’t have cable at home, missing E! is extremely upsetting. Especially if it’s a Sunday and you want to watch the Kardashians. Note: this was not a problem (actually more of a bonus) for Kris.

I recommend this park for…families who are ready to advance from Chula Vista. There’s a lot to do for the kiddos, and enough to keep parents engaged. This felt like a very safe park in regard to lifeguards.


This is a huge park, second only to the Wilderness Territory (the overall park, not the indoor water park. Kalahari’s indoor waterpark is the biggest in Wisconsin, to be clear). It’s also one that you can see from the highway. You might have glimpsed their giant six-story ferris wheel through the windows as you drive by, as the resort also houses a gigantic indoor amusement park as well. Kalahari is a chain with two other resorts.

The indoor water park’s coolest ride is their Flo Rider, which simulates surfing. Kris tried it and almost lost his swim trunks, which was fun for me to watch.

Flow Rider

Photo from wisconsin-dells-fun.com

They have an indoor roller coaster ride that isn’t as jerky as Chula Vista’s, along with a medium sized lazy river and a small indoor wave pool. They offer tube rides and body slides, along with a body slide where the bottom of your platform drops out from under you, which was too scary for me to try. They also offer a toilet bowl ride, Tanzanian Twister, that swirls you around and then drops you out the center. I made the mistake of not riding this one properly and I knocked my head pretty good and had a miserable experience on this one because I wasn’t expecting to be under water (something I avoid as a contact wearer). So, be careful on that one!

The highlight of this one for me was their indoor/outdoor hot tub and swim up bar. We had a great time in the hot tub, and it was cool to be outside as snow fell into our tasty tropical drinks. We even had entertainment as a super drunk patron climbed up on the bar and was making a scene. There are also five (!) other hot tubs sprinkled throughout the waterpark. We tried them all out, but be careful…getting in and out of hot water repeatedly can make you light-headed or worse. 

Kalahari Bar

Photo from pinterest.com

There is something special about Kalahari. They pay great attention to every detail and cultivate a unique experience. They had wildlife trainers and a lion cub on display in their lobby that you could get a photo taken with, for a price. Their park had the greatest variety of rides. Their indoor arcade was insanely huge and we spent a fair amount of time playing some fun games in it, including Bejeweled, which I enjoy. For sheer variety, Kalahari wins.

A few things to note about Kalahari…

-it was medium busy on a Sunday, so this place probably gets quite crowded at times.

-the water was consistently chilly for me. I had goosebumps in their wave pool and lazy river.

-the wave pool and lazy river were subpar, especially compared to Wilderness Territory

-make some time for the arcade because it was surprisingly fun

-prices were average

I recommend this park for…just about anyone, but especially for your thrill seekers. This park gets the adrenaline pumping. Ideal for families with teens who want independence as they explore.

Final thoughts:

-All of the parks had the same amount of cleanliness. Look, you’re going to spot a used bandaid or a piece of gum if you look hard enough. So take a deep breath and remember there’s enough chlorine going around to kill almost anything.

-The food within the parks is also going to be about the same, so don’t expect amazing eats. The Dells offers plenty of good food outside of the water parks (probably for cheaper), so try and find a restaurant that suits your taste.

-Prices range from about $150-$200 for your hotel room, which includes a park pass. Kalahari and Chula Vista sell day passes if you want to stay somewhere else. All of these places offer larger accommodations (2 bedrooms or more) for the whole family.

-It’s  good to remember that not only will there be a lot of walking, but there’ll be stairs for rides and you might be hefting a huge tube up those stairs, so unless you’re going to park it in the lazy river, consider an indoor water park vacation to be on the more active side of vacations.

Richanda’s final rankings:

  1. Wilderness Territory
  2. Kalahari Resort
  3. Great Wolf Lodge
  4. Chula Vista

Kris’ final rankings:

  1. Kalahari Resort
  2. Wilderness Territory
  3. Great Wolf Lodge
  4. Chula Vista

-We only tested the indoor water parks, but we look forward to testing the outdoor parks in the future. Noah’s Ark here we come!


Wisconsin Indoor Water Park Review Part 1

We’ve tried four of the biggest and best Wisconsin Dells indoor water parks and we’ve gracefully come to share our thoughts and feelings so you don’t waste your money and vacation time on a sub par experience.

Few things can rival frolicking around in your swimsuit as the temperature hovers around freezing outside. Every winter we’ve made a point to take off a Monday and spend a Sunday night at a Wisconsin Dells water park. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that Wisconsin Dells is a tourist town in southern Wisconsin (about 45 minutes from Madison) that boasts some serious natural scenery along with quite a few water parks and other attractions like magic shows, Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty, and an overwhelming amount of tourists traps and shops. Let’s not forget about the Ducks or Top Secret, either. Warning: Top Secret is as fun as lighting a five dollar bill on fire.

I could go on and on about things to do in the Dells, but just know if you’ve never been that it’s a fun, completely wild and random little town. Here’s a rundown of our thoughts on four of the largest indoor water parks in Wisconsin Dells.

Wilderness Territory

This was our first adventure into indoor water parks in the winter, back in 2012. Maybe those early romantic dating days colored my view of this park, but it was my favorite. The Wilderness is one of the colossal parks tucked in Wisconsin Dells proper. You can’t see it from the highway like some of the other ones. According to Wikipedia, this is THE LARGEST water park. As in ever, as in the whole wide world. So, be prepared to walk, or figure out how their shuttle system works.

What does the Wilderness Territory have going for it other than size? My favorite times were in their immense wave pool. The wave pool has huge waves, not the puny ones that most wave pools churn out. The roof to the wave pool is glass, so if the sun is shining, you’ll get a dose of Vitamin D. I spent a good chunk of time in the wave pool enjoy peace and chaos in turns. The clear roof also helped heat the water so I wasn’t constantly fighting goosebumps.


Image from budgettravel.com

Their lazy river was pretty nice, although it doesn’t really stick in my memory as much as The Hurricane, which is a funnel-like ride that lifts you right up out of your tube. My heart was racing, especially that one time Kris decided not to hold on to his tube…ahem. We rode the Hurricane quite a few times, and it never got old.

Photo from themeparkreview.com

There were a nice variety of other rides that gave some good thrills, but what made this park stand out was the wave pool. There is nothing like it in the Dells, at least not indoors.

As for the rooms, they were about average. Honestly, there aren’t any hotel rooms here that will knock your socks off because that’s what the water parks will do. Kris and I sprang for a Jacuzzi tub, but in hindsight that was not necessary, especially after spending all day in the park.  For food, we ate off site at Monk’s, which was okay. I would highly recommend bringing at least snacks and your own booze because the food prices at all of these parks is inflated.

The Wilderness also has a big indoor video arcade that brought back memories of being a kid and desperately trying to get enough tickets to collect novelty pencil erasers. I wasn’t the only one collecting those…right? Right?

A few things to note about Wilderness Territory:

-they don’t sell day passes to people that aren’t staying overnight. This can be good or bad, depending on your wallet and vacation preference.

-one whole water park section was closed when we visited. There was so much to do I honestly didn’t notice, but that would be upsetting if you had your heart set on a certain ride or park.

-they’ve made quite a few changes since we visited in 2012, including a swim-up bar and a ropes course

-their prices are on par for the rest of the Dells.

-it was medium busy, even on a Sunday in February. I can only imagine that it would be very busy during a weekend or Friday.

I recommend this park for everyone. There was plenty to do for kids, couples, and teens.

Chula Vista

Chula Vista is nestled among a more scenic setting than the other water parks, away from the highway and most of the Dells bustle. It has the best natural scenery of all the water parks. When we were planning our wedding, Chula Vista was one place we checked out because it backs up to a beautiful expanse of the Upper Dells. Chula Vista apparently has a river walk that would be cool to check out sometime, but, alas, during our winter overnight we didn’t walk it.

This is was the smallest indoor water park we went to, but it was still pretty big at 80k square feet. The highlight of this park, for me, is tucked away from the main water park. There is a giant hot tub that backs up to the woods with a huge fireplace. I need this for our backyard! Since it was a million degrees below zero it was a shock to the senses, in a good way, to get in and out of the hot tub. This hot tub was perfect for relaxing, and it was mostly adults in the area.


Photo from chulavistaresort.com

Chula Vista’s indoor water park also boasts a ‘water coaster’, tube rides, body slides, a lazy river, a ‘mat-racing’ slide, and a huge play area for kids. The tube rides were fun and I rode those quite a few times. That being said, the roller coaster bumped and jerked around quite a bit and it was slightly unpleasant as a normal size adult to do that ride.

The drawbacks to Chula Vista were that I found the water to be slightly chilly. I got goosebumps once or twice, but that could just be because of getting in and out of the water. Unfortunately, I think we should have done this water park first because it paled in comparison to the other parks in terms of variety of rides and general enjoyment. By the fifth time I did a tube ride, I realized it was because I didn’t really have anything else to do.

That’s not to say that this park doesn’t have its perks. This, in my opinion, would be a great park to go to if you have small kids. The smaller size of it means you can keep a close eye on the kiddos. The tamer rides would also be ideal for younger children. They also have a small arcade that would be manageable with the young’ins. There was also a sizable outdoor area that appeared to have some unique rides that was obviously closed in February. All the parks had outdoor rides, but Chula Vista and Wilderness had the largest outdoor areas that we ignored in the wintertime.

Chula Vista houses a very fancy steakhouse that we didn’t try, but it looked good. I am curious to know what $17 worth of mashed potatoes looks like. We have some food vouchers and went to their Market Fresh Buffet instead. We paid under $10 after all was said and done, but our consensus was that it would have been better to spend that $10 at McDonalds. The rooms were average. Ours had a nice deck that overlooked the woods.

A few things to note about Chula Vista:

-it was cheaper to book a room here than anywhere else. There are frequent Groupons for it.

-ask how to get to the outdoor hot tub or get a map because it is tricky to find.

-avoid the buffet.

I recommend this park for…families or parents with young children who are dipping their toes in the indoor water park pool. It’s perfect for a little taste, and may whet your appetite for a bigger and likely better experience elsewhere.

Part 2 coming soon.