Last Minute Trip to the Dells

My grandma fell and broke her hip last week, you’ve heard me talk about her before -she’s the lady in her upper 90s with a sweet tooth just as sweet as she is. Apparently she is a little stubborn too, that explains my behavior every now and again -thanks Josephine. As I understand it she was out in the rain trying to move her flower pots and then the inevitable happened. My uncle had told her not to move these, that he would, but when grandma Bartz has her mind set on something, it is set.

She had hip surgery on Friday and has had family and friends visiting her since. My mom drove up and has been with her at the hospital, she used to be a PT and I know grandma is in good hands -but keep her in your thoughts if you will. We hope to visit her soon for hugs. It was just a little over a month ago that the boys and I took a last minute trip to see her so I suppose you could say she inspired this post. When I think of Wisconsin, I immediately think of Grandma Bartz. She lives in a small town just outside of the Wisconsin Dells and I have fond memories of visiting as a child, running wild with my 3 cousins.

It was Memorial Day weekend which also coincides with the Indy 500 which is a yearly tradition that my husband partakes in with a number fellows. This meant that I had free reign of the weekend. Last minute I decided to pack up the boys and go visit Grandma Barts for an evening. My parents and youngest sister had already left to make the 5 hour drive and I figured we’d meet them. It’s funny; sometimes I want to have things planned out to a T, other times it ends up being 10PM and I still don’t know if we are driving back from Wisconsin to Illinois that night or staying in a hotel.

At about 10:30 PM I booked a room at the Hampton Inn and Suites Wisconsin Dells Lake Delton while laying on my grandma’s floor looking at family photo albums. We’d spent the last few hours visiting family in a nearby cemetery, paying tribute to veteran memorials, touring my mom’s old stomping grounds, and eating at one of my grandma’s favorite restaurants: Culver’s. Yes, we topped it all off with ice cream. If for whatever reason you end up out this way with kids -the Village of Wilton Campground has a nice park and Lion’s Park in Mauston recently got a splash pad facelift. I said it in my Instagram stories and I’ll say it again here too -if you are passing through Janesville, Wisconsin -they have the nicest McDonald’s that I have ever seen: balloons for kids, touch screens to order, decorations that I’d have in my own home, and friendly employees.

Maybe I was exhausted from laughter over my dad’s short shorts back in the day or maybe it was the picture of my mom holding a skunk…maybe I just didn’t feel like driving another 5 hours with the kids, or maybe it was the fact that I’d hinted we’d go to a water park or pool hours before. Whatever the case was, I found the newest looking hotel that I could that had a pool and off we went to get some ZzzzZZZs. Trying to walk to the hotel lobby holding Jack with our bags and tugging on Chase’s hand at 11PM was hysterical. Chase was a walking zombie and tried to lay down in the parking lot 3 different times. In any case -we got there! The hotel was a perfect choice and I’ll stay there again: clean, comfortable beds, close to everything, free breakfast, and a pool area perfect for my kids age.

Yep, that’s the bathroom door. Nope, I’m not on the toilet.
Hampton Inn’s pool has a very shallow end with a couple different water play features.
The pool wraps around to another side with a basketball hoop that is deeper for older kids or those who are more comfortable swimming.
Our hotel room was clean until they started eating seconds for breakfast, crumbs outta control. They loved all of the pastries.

I had also looked at Great Wolf Lodge, Chula Vista Resort, and Kalahari while also debating a treehouse at American Resort & Treehouses (side note: currently their rates include free tickets to Noah’s Ark Water Park & Timbavati Park; they have been undergoing renovations with Wisconsin Dells’ first natural lagoon and tiny houses) for a hot second. In the end, I liked the room pictures at the Hampton better and it was iffy whether it would be warm enough to be at an outdoor water park the following day.

After swimming and breakfast the next day, we snapped a few photos around town, I told the boys if they saw anything cool we could stop and look at it.

Stop by Buffalo Phil’s and get your food delivered to you on a train!
Outside a gas station…YOLO.
Yet another gas station picture, sometimes they really aren’t hard to please.

Then we stopped at the Outlets at the Dells -love this outlet mall and not even because of the stores, but moreso for the layout. It ended up being somewhat hot that Sunday, but it was nice and airy walking in between the shops, cute landscaping and twinkle lights lining the sidewalk. I’d like to go back in the fall during cooler weather to enjoy the large firepit areas that they have setup. You can imagine with 2 boys I didn’t get to shop much, but I was adament about getting our family picture outfits squared away -which we did in an hour at Old Navy. I won’t lie, this hour was pretty long with some whining here and some tantrums there and some mom overreaction mixed in there too. Thank goodness for all of the kid areas with riding machines (there are like 4 of them) and thank goodness I actually thought to bring a ton of quarters for toles, just in case. Stop here for at least a short time with kids…or a lot longer if your able.

Last, but not least, we headed to the downtown area to buy tickets for the Upper Dells Boat Tour. I’d seen pictures of Witches Gulch when looking for places to hike and found out that you can only access it via boat. Witches Gulch is a narrow canyon looking passageway that is simply put -breathtaking. The company offers a few different tours, but this one in particular lasts approximately 2 hours with a stop at Witches Gulch and then another stop at Stand Rock. Tickets for adults are currently priced at about $32 and children 4 years and up about $16 -Jack was free!

Was I worried about having these two on a boat for two hours? Maybe a little. We took a couple minute bus ride from downtown to the loading dock and then had to wait there for about 30 minutes before boarding -they were getting real antsy. Jack ended up falling asleep about 15 minutes into the ride and that was probably a blessing.

My pictures don’t do it justice -you can check out my highlights on Instagram for video.
We woke Jack up once we stopped at the Witches Gulch. This is the best one out of three…they had snacks at the end of the Gulch. There was a wedding party taking pictures behind us back in the canyons -how cool are those going to look ?!
Snacks make everyone happy and 9 times out of 10 save the day.
We watched a dog make this leap at Stand Rock, I wasn’t quick enough with my camera to catch it!
Exploring all the nooks and crannies. The view of the water behind us here was beautiful.

The two stops on this ride were a nice break from sitting for these guys to stretch their legs and let out a little bit of energy -potty breaks too (they have actual bathrooms)! The second stop had snacks and beverages for purchase as well. We sailed back to the dock during that golden evening hour, I can only imagine that the Sunset Dinner Cruise is a lovely experience. You still get to see Witches Gulch too, but by torch. I wouldn’t do this one with young kids, but for a date night or family with kids a little bit older I wouldn’t think twice. As you might imagine on a tour of this sort, the commentary was filled with all sorts of family appropriate jokes, similar to that of “dad jokes.” I enjoyed this tour more than the Duck Tours that the Dells are also popular for, but pick what suites you best! You can checkout the Jet Boat Adventures, the Ghost Boat, and others that I’m sure I’ve neglected to list here too.

We wandered around downtown for a bit after getting dropped off by the boat, but as you might imagine these guys were wore out and we still had a drive back to Illinois to do. Check out a list of all the places you can go here.

We popped into Swiss Maid Fudge for our last stop and these hams opted for lollipops rather than homemade fudge; whatever makes the trip home better works for me. There are candy shops galore here –Original Wisconsin Dells Fudge and Goody Goody Gum Drop are good options too.

These places are sure to satisfy even the sweetest of sweet tooths (cough, Grandma Bartz, cough). The Wisconsin Dells are a perfect little getaway for these hot summer months, especially for those of us in the Midwest as they are relatively convenient to get to. Due to the nature of this trip I didn’t get into all of the options for adult fun in the Dells, but know it’s not just for the kids, look at all of these wineries, distilleries, and breweries for example. Grab your Dells Travel Guide, grab your pals, and head to the Water Park Capital of the World -notice we filled an entire day without even hitting the water parks!

Notable mentions from previous trips to the Dells area:

Wisconsin Deer Park

Country Bumpkin Farm Market

Mr. Pancake Restaurant

The House on the Rock

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