Take a Family Road Trip to Wisconsin Dells

You might think the start of a new school year is less than ideal for a family road trip. At our house, that first week creates one stressed out family. So when the weekend arrives, we should lock the doors, shut off the lights, and hide under the covers. We do the opposite. We load the car with luggage, fill the tank with gas, and head out of town. Our destination of choice: Wisconsin Dells.

From our home, it’s about a five-hour trip, so we arrive at our resort of choice, the Kalahari, just in time to put the kids to bed. Saturday morning, though, is all about the resort’s famous indoor waterpark: the largest in Wisconsin—and the main attraction on this family road trip. There are slides at every turn, not to mention different play areas for all ages, including a wave pool. (For those who wish to relax, there’s a wonderful lazy river and plenty of hot tubs.)

This year, we discovered the new Underwater DIVR—the first underwater virtual reality experience in the country. It’s essentially snorkeling in a swimming pool while a VR headset shows you the depths of an ocean. I wish the footage had been more life-like, but it was a very cool experience at a surprisingly low cost.

That sounds like a lot of amazing stuff, and it is. But if the Wisconsin Dells early-September weather cooperates, we get all of that times two—because the Kalahari also has an outdoor waterpark!

Young boy wears a harness while climbing up the Kalahari Climbing Wall

Of course, the allure of two waterparks can only distract the children for so long on our family road trip. Late afternoon and evening are all about “Tom Foolery’s Adventure Park.” The resort’s giant arcade area includes go-carts, a bowling alley, a climbing wall, and even a Ferris wheel.

We’ve found that the arcade eats money pretty fast. So instead, we now opt to buy the boys unlimited wristband passes. While a wristband doesn’t include the arcade games, it provides endless access to Wisconsin Dells fun: mini-golf, laser tag, a 3-D interactive ride/video game (our oldest boy’s favorite), a ropes course—now with a brand new zip line—and more.

For your family road trip menu, you don’t have to venture away from the resort for food, although you’ll pay a premium if you eat under their roof. To save a little money, there are some familiar restaurant options (fast food and otherwise) within walking distance. Local favorite Moosejaw Pizza & Dells Brewing Company is just a short drive away. My family prefers to travel across town to our top Wisconsin Dells eatery: Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty.

Wisconsin Day Trips by Theme front cover

It’s a whirlwind trip, and we wonder every year whether we should do it again. Yet every year, we go and have the time of our lives. It’s proof that there’s never a bad time for a family road trip, and Wisconsin Dells is a perfect destination. To plan your next trip, check out Wisconsin Day Trips by Theme.