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need help planning a trip please

Which Wisconsin Dells hotels are on sale?
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Lexington, Kentucky
posts: 628
reviews: 5
need help planning a trip please

We are thinking of coming to Wisconsin Dells probably next October. Our regular vacation spot is Pigeon Forge/ Gatlinburg Tennessee area. But we are thinking of trying someplace new.

My family is myself and my husband (we're in our 30's and our 2 boys ages 8 and 13)

(If anyone has been to both places please let me know what you thought of both!!)

I don't really know where to begin planning. I ordered a travel guide but it will be a week or two before it comes in. The waterpark resorts look nice, but I just don't know....I want to be able to not spend a small fortune to stay somewhere nice.

If anyone has any tips or info that might get me going in the right direction, that would be great. Thanks!

Karen

Wisconsin
posts: 345
reviews: 56
1. Re: need help planning a trip please

What do you like to do on vacation? That will probably help guide people's answers to your question.

Water parks are big in the Dells, but there is also great hiking and other things to do nearby. I haven't been to Pigeon Forge in 25 years, but I'm guessing they both have some of the same "cheesy" factor- which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Depends on what you are looking for in a vacation.

As for water park resorts, remember that the rate also includes water park admission. The Wilderness is my personal favorite and it has large indoor water and non-water parks. Although it is spread out, I'm guessing your kids are the right age for it. My niece and nephew are about those ages and love it. They frequently run non-weekend specials that time of year for about 100$ per night for a hotel room. They also have condos, which cost more, but in the long run could save you money due to having a kitchen.

Lexington, Kentucky
posts: 628
reviews: 5
2. Re: need help planning a trip please

When we go to Pigeon Forge, we usually stay in a cabin resort outside of the city limits. That way we can have a little more room to spread out. I like being able to have our own kitchen too. And we're away from the hustle and bustle of the town. We have gotten spoiled-- used to having breathing room ad not being cramped up. (We had to stay overnight in a single hotel room awhile back, and we were all miserable. We like to have our extra room.)

As for things to do....we enjoy hiking and outdoorsy things. My kids love the miniature golf and go carts. Our younger son loves the water, the older one not so much. So a waterpark hotel isn't a "must-have" for us. As long as where we stay has an indoor pool we would be fine. :)

We do like to check out the stores. Pigeon Forge has a ton of outlet stores, so we usually hit a few at sometime or another during our trip. We're not hard-core shoppers by any means, just something different to do.

Lexington, Kentucky
posts: 628
reviews: 5
3. Re: need help planning a trip please

Also, can you tell me what the weather would be like then? We are thinking of next October. We live in KY, and it is usually in the 60's for October. But Wisconsin is a lot farther north than us. Plus we've never been to Wisconsin, so I have no idea what to expect.

Originally we were thinking of going during the first week of April. But looking around, I'm afraid that alot of things won't be open yet with it being so early in the year.

Thanks!

Karen

Wisconsin
posts: 345
reviews: 56
4. Re: need help planning a trip please

I've only stayed in water parks- I'll have to leave it to others to make recommendations on Lodging.

As for weather in October- even the weathermen don't always know! Three years ago I was wearing shorts, but we can get snow. Weather underground will have the averages. Leaves usually change early to mid October.

I checked one of the boat tours and one minigolf and they both seem to be open in October. You'll probably get some Halloween themed stuff, hay rides, etc. There is at least one apple orchard within 15 minutes or so of the Dells (near Devil's Lake state park). Devil's Lake state park is a fantastic place to hike. There was a thread some time ago about hiking in the area, if you look through my posts you should find it.

If I had to pick between early April and early to mid October, I'd pick October- leaves and apples!

Chicago Suburbs
posts: 2,299
reviews: 19
5. Re: need help planning a trip please

How long of a vacation are you planning?

Wisconsin
posts: 870
reviews: 15
6. Re: need help planning a trip please

We love the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area and have a seasonal home just outside the Dells. That being said, there are some similarities, but many differences. There is more of everything in PF/Gatlinburg than the Dells. Gatlinburg is store after store, some very high end/artsy. Not so much in the Dells. The Dells has stores, but they are much more on the "touristy" side. There is an outlet mall near the Dells, Tanger, but it's not as large as some of the ones in PF. There is no large arts and crafts community like Gatlinburg has. While you have the Smokies in TN, in the Dells you have the Wisconsin River which provides the historic/geographical reason for the tour boats and jet boats. There is also a lake for pontoon rides or jet skiing. There are many resorts on the lake, from mom and pop to luxury, so you can stay right on the water. Just outside of the Dells area is Devil's Lake State Park which has a lake and many hiking trails. It is one of the most popular parks in the state.

So, I would say that the Dells is similar to PF but on a smaller scale and there are many of the same types of activities: roller coasters, mini golf, go carts, shopping. It is also the waterpark capital of the world with the most concentration of waterparks. Since you are coming in October, the weather will determine what is running and what isn't. Some things might only run on weekends. Mt. Olympus will probably have the usual Halloween activities going on (they change their theme park over to a Halloween theme). The boats should still be running and the mini golf and go carts probably will be open but have limited hours. The indoor waterparks will be open, but of course the outdoor water features will have closed as of Labor Day. The Kalahari and Chula Vista currently sell day passes to their indoor waterparks, so you could go there for a day instead of staying on the properties.

The advantage of October is it is less crowded. Right now the temps have been in the upper 50's lower 60's with some days a little colder. October is always a big question mark here - could be hot or cold - so you want to layer and be prepared!

3rd Chaise to the...
posts: 1,488
reviews: 31
7. Re: need help planning a trip please

I really like the Dells in October -- and you will like it much more than April.

We can still get some pretty good snowstorms in April and the weather is nowhere near as pleasant.

The advantage to staying at the Kalahari is that -- while it may be a long walk -- everything from the movie theaters to the indoor waterpark to all the rooms are under one roof. If the weather gets cold, it's nice to stay inside and not mess with coats, etc.

Be sure to check the individual property websites for the best deals. Not sure how far in front you can book to save.

Not sure there is anything else I can add to what the other posters have offered.

Lexington, Kentucky
posts: 628
reviews: 5
8. Re: need help planning a trip please

Thanks everyone. We are planning a 6 day stay. Arriving on a Monday and staying till the following Sunday. I was afraid of the weather in April. It's not unheard of for us to still have freezing temps well into May, so I figured spring might not be the best time for a visit. Looks like it will be October then.

I love the forums on here. Eagerly awaiting my vacation guide in the mail, but I'll keep on reading the forums. (I am a stickler for planning and list-making, so glad I have this info!!)

Karen

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
posts: 4,267
reviews: 53
9. Re: need help planning a trip please

When we went to Gatlinburg a couple of years ago, it struck us as the Dells on steroids--the epitome of tacky tourist trap. The only thing we liked about it was the GSMNP--which was fabulous.

If you like a cabin, rather than a hotel room, I'd check out vrbo; October isn't high season in the Dells, so it might not be outrageously expensive.

For hiking, here are some places to learn about trails:

dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/activities/hike.html

www.everytrail.com/best/hiking-wisconsin

The area around Devils Lake State Park is beautiful.

Lexington, Kentucky
posts: 628
reviews: 5
10. Re: need help planning a trip please

Is there a cabin resort community that has swimming pool access? Or are the cabins just stand alone?

I understand completely what you are saying about Gatlinburg. It is all a big tourist trap around there. Some of it is ok, but I would rather visit some of the mom and pop places. Or things "off the beaten path," you know?

Karen