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.
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 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.