Wisconsin Dells is heralded as the Waterpark Capital of the World, and it’s easy to see why. The area boasts more indoor and outdoor water parks per capita than any other place in the world. It pioneered the indoor water park concept 30 years ago.
But the Dells offer visitors a lot more than slide-based fun. There’s the massive Trojan horse go-kart track that towers over the area’s legendary Strip. A comedic yet skillful lumberjack show. Tours through a curious, upside-down White House. And what many may find surprising: innovative lodging options.
Here are seven places you may wish to stay the next time you visit.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to live in a tiny home, you can give the lifestyle a try by booking a stay at the Dells’ first tiny home rental, from American Resort & Treehouses. The chic, 240-square-foot dwelling opened this year and features a lofted bedroom, a bathroom and a living-dining area with a sofa that turns into a pullout bed. Outside, a small patio set and grill complete the offerings (from $199 a night, americanworld.com).
What kid doesn’t want to sleep in a treehouse? “Treehouse”-style lodging is also available from American Resort & Treehouses, right on the Strip. The units, which sit 10 feet off the ground and are accessed by stairs, sleep up to four via a queen bed and bunk beds. They’re also equipped with a desk, microwave and refrigerator. Showers and restrooms are located in a separate building nearby. Outside, guests have access to a sitting area, picnic table and fire ring.
Visitors staying in one of the treehouses or in the tiny house may use the adjacent natural lagoon, opened this spring. The lagoon features a waterfall and compact cave, plus clear, chlorine-free water. In the winter, the iced-over lagoon will be transformed into a skating rink (from $100 a night; americanworld.com).
Striking silver Airstream travel trailers have been turning heads since their debut in the 1930s. A 26-foot Argosy Airstream trailer, built in 1973, is available for rent at Oak Hill Bed & Breakfast. The trailer features extra-long twin beds, a fully equipped kitchen, fridge and microwave. The Argosy sits in the backyard of the B&B, surrounded by a spacious deck. The deck holds a grill, table and chairs. But the rental’s pièce de résistance is the bathroom. Secreted in a small gazebo off the rear of the deck, it features two side-by-side claw-foot soaking tubs (oakhillbnb.com).
Its windows and doors tilt at crazy angles, and the toilets and showers are in a separate, shared facility, outhouse-style. But that’s the fun of the Hillbilly Hilt’n, tucked into the woods about 15 minutes north of Wisconsin Dells. The 500-square-foot cabin sleeps seven via three bedrooms. There’s a full kitchen, too, plus an outdoor grill and kids’ play equipment, including a slide accessed from a second-floor deck. Guests must furnish their own bed linens, towels and personal items. Owner Joel Taylor also offers guided climbing and kayak tours in summer, plus ice climbing and snowshoe tours in the winter (from $145 a night; vrbo.com/1247869).
Ringling House Bed & Breakfast
Bed-and-breakfast inns abound. But this B&B in nearby Baraboo stands out because it was built in 1901 by Charles Ringling, one of the founders of the Ringling Brothers Circus. The yellow Colonial Revival home, on the National Register of Historic Places, features six guest rooms, a parlor, a music room, a library and more. Guests enjoy a hearty breakfast, served on the dining room table that once belonged to Henry Ringling, the second Ringling brother to own the home. To-go breakfast bags are also available. Tours of the Ringling Estate, which includes a carriage house, cottage and barn, are free for guests (ringlinghousebnb.com).
Seth Peterson Cottage
Seth Peterson was a huge Frank Lloyd Wright fan. He finagled Wright into designing a cottage for him when Wright was nearly 90 years old. The resulting 880-square-foot abode, set on a wooded parcel of land near Mirror Lake, became Wright’s final project, as he died shortly before construction was completed. Tragically, Peterson — at just 24 years of age — also died before the cottage that bears his name was finished. Today, after having been boarded up for years, the restored one-bedroom cottage with sofa bed is available as a rental. But a word of warning: The cottage is so popular, it’s often booked one to two years out. And two-night minimum rentals are required. All rentals include use of a canoe and firewood. While waiting for your stay, take advantage of the cottage’s public tours, offered on the second Sunday of every month from 1 to 3:30 p.m. (from $300 a night; sethpeterson.org).
Yukon Trails RV & Camping Resort
Camping fans know there are lots of campgrounds in the vicinity of the Dells. Yukon Trails, which sits about 10 miles to the north in a pine and oak forest, stands out because it offers Friday night fish fry deliveries straight to your tent or RV. The camping resort also has train rides, free flicks in its outdoor movie theater, disc golf, themed weekends and much more (rvonthego.com/wisconsin).
Melanie Radzicki McManus (melaniemcmanus.com) is a freelance writer focusing on fitness and travel. She lives near Madison, Wis.