We just returned yesterday from a five night vacation in the Dells, with our 3 grandsons, ages 16/10/10. I will do a brief synopsis here of where we stayed and things we did, and I will post individual reviews as time allows.
We left Springfield Illinois at 6 a.m. and drove to Green Bay, stopping for food, gas, and cheese along the way. We stayed at the Best Western International in Green Bay, which is about 1 block from Lambeau Field. Our reason for going to GB was that the two 10 year olds are huge Packers fans and asked if we could visit Lambeau on our trip. It just happened that Family Fun Night at Lambeau coincided with the dates of our vacation, so that worked our perfectly. It is $10 per person for the event, which includes a lot of stuff for kids, tailgating, a Packers scrimmage game, and fireworks after the game. Our hotel doesn't get the best reviews so I was kind of worried, but it was fine. It was a party atmosphere from the minute we pulled in - there was tailgating going on in the hotel parking lot, lots of Packers stuff for sale, inflatables set up for kids, etc. We walked to Lambeau and admired the Packers training facility on the way, and then had a great time at the game. The boys spent a good portion of their souvenir money in the gift shop there (except for the 16 year old who is a Bears fan!). My husband and I aren't Packers fans (he is a Bears fan, I am a Saints fan), but it was fun to visit Lambeau and I have to say that the fans there are very, very polite and respectful, and it is a beautiful facility. The fireworks were amazing. All in all, a very fun night - if you ever get a chance to go to this event, it is well worth the $10 per person - a great bargain!
We arrived in Wisconsin Dells on Sunday afternoon and went straight to our motel, Ambers Hideaway. I chose this because of the great reviews on TA, and they were right! The grounds are beautifully kept, pool is sparkling, and our room was much bigger than a typical motel/hotel room. I will do a separate review - we were very pleased with this reasonably priced motel.
Listed below are things we did during our stay:
House on the Rock - we chose a rainy day for this since our outside time would be limited because of the rain. What an incredible place! I had mixed thoughts about going, as I wasn't sure if the young boys would enjoy it, but we all were fascinated. There is something for everyone here. We spent about four hours here but I could have easily spent much longer. Hope to go back again someday.. Will do a separate review.
Chula Vista Waterpark - we had free passes included for every day of our stay at Ambers. We went twice, both times in the evening, and it was too cool to do the outside waterpark stuff. The boys did want to go to the wavepool - what an absolute joke their wavepool is!! It is so very tiny that we thought it must be a kiddie pool! Seriously, it looks like the size of a pool you would put in your yard. The boys spent about two minutes in it and that was enough. We went inside, and they liked the indoor waterpark much better, but it was very, very crowded. Lots of kids running everywhere, noisy, very strong chlorine which burned our eyes after a while. But, the boys (and hubby and I) had fun here in the slides and lazy river. I think the boys did every slide but that's too many stairs for grandparents to climb. CV was just OK, not our favorite, but since it was free with our stay I'm glad we went.
Noah's Ark - We got discounted tickets at Ambers - it was $130 for all five of us. We all had a great time here. All of us loved the huge wavepool - the boys would have been happy to spend all day in it but we finally lured them out to try other things. We did just about everything there - hubby will be 65 in December and he did the Scorpions Tail!! Actually my husband and I (64/62) are still very adventurous and will do just about anything, but the stairs are too much for our knees. But the boys did just about everything (one of the 10 year olds wouldn't do Scorpion and Point of No Return) and we had a great time here. We brought a cooler with a picnic lunch in it and saved a lot of money by taking a short break from the park to eat at their picnic area. We stayed until closing and then were able to buy $10 per person tickets to come back the next day. So for a total of $180 we spent two days at Noah's Ark. Would definitely do this again - I think the boys would have spent every day of our trip there if we would have agreed to that!
Wizard Quest - fun for an hour or so. Once you find the Wizards, not much else to do, but the boys enjoyed it. It wasn't crowded when we got there, and I think it is more fun when it isn't crowded. It got crowded shortly after we got there, and the problem with that is that when someone else finds a Wizard, you are going to find it too because they are excited about it and their squealing leads you to the right area, ending your search.
Knuckleheads - We went on Tuesday night for their $2 per game bowling. I thought the boys would love this, but it wasn't a big hit because we all suck at bowling. The cosmic bowling was kind of neat, but after one game we were all ready to leave and move on to something else. Nice facility, but once was enough.
Deer Park - possibly the highlight of the trip!! I was a bit concerned because I had read some bad reviews about the park not being maintained well, etc., but we loved, loved, loved this place. The deer come right up and eat our of your hand. We got some amazing pictures of our grandsons surrounded by deer. Just an absolutely delightful way to spend an hour or so - we will definitely go back on our next trip. You can buy crackers, food from a machine, or food in an ice cream cone (sold about 1/2 way thru the park). The deer seemed to like the ice cream cones best, they will snatch them right out of your hand!!
Original Ducks - I will probably get flamed for this, but we weren't really impressed. My husband and I rode the ducks last year in Branson, Missouri, and thought that the duck ride there was much, much better than this one, for several reasons, which I will mention in a separate review. Our driver/guide was very nice, but he had a bad speaker and it was nearly impossible to understand what he was saying, and the duck ride just wasn't exciting. We did see some pretty scenery, but overall - once was more than enough.
Pirates Cove Golf Course - we went here one evening. It was very well maintained and a nice place to play a round of golf. Would go again and try a different course (I think they have five courses).
B&H Trout Farm - we took the boys fishing here and they had a blast! But, the cost adds up very, very fast, so be aware. We probably didn't spend more than 45 minutes there and wound up with $87 worth of fish!! You pay by the size of the fish you catch, and you have to keep any that you catch, they can't be thrown back in. Fun, but expensive.
Witches Gulch - I don't see the appeal of this place at all. It was overrun with tourists from one of the tour boats when we got there, and it is basically just a short walk on a wooden pathway through some rock formations. It was very hard to find and when we did find the road leading to it, the road seemed to be a one-way road. If we had met another vehicle coming/going, one of us would have had to back up to allow the other one thru. Absolutely not impressed with this place but I know a lot of people like it.
We ate at a few places that I will mention: Famous Daves - fantastic meal!!! Wonderful bbq and sides, and our server was very attentive. The only problem was that one of the 10 year olds ate so much that he was afraid he was going to be sick - luckily it passed. The food was so good that the boys wanted to go back the next night, but we wanted to try a different place. We were at the downtown location - would definitely go back again!
Buffalo Phil's - we sat right by the train track and it was fun for all of us, adults included, to have our food delivered by train. The meal was very good, too - not quite as good as Famous Dave's, but still very good. Huge portions!! Will definitely go back.
Paul Bunyan - we had to wait 20 minutes or so to get in for breakfast but we enjoyed the food so it was worth the wait. Those donuts are amazing - everything was good, although we thought the sausage was a bit spicy. Great place to eat when you are traveling with hungry boys (one of the 10 year old eats like an adult, the other one still eats like a kid, the 16 year old eats constantly). We really enjoyed this place and the boys wanted to go back again but will have to wait until next time.
Mr. Pancake - the parking lot was horrible - so crowded that it was hard to drive through it to find a parking space. We had to wait 15 minutes or so for a table. The food was good, but we had to continually ask for everything we needed including more napkins, more butter, more syrup, refills on drinks, etc. Our waitress was doing her best but she had too many tables to be able to keep up. We might try it again as one of the boys loved his chocolate pancakes and wants to go back. Maybe next time we will go at a less crowded time of day.
We did some shopping in the downtown area to let the boys finish spending their souvenir money. The two little boys bought painted crabs. I'm glad that was on our last night in the Dells, because they are treating these crabs like parents treat newborn babies. Constantly checking on them, making sure they have enough food/water, making sure the temperature of their enclosure is just right, etc. It is cute to watch them with them. They each held their crab enclosure the whole 400+ miles home yesterday - I'm sure they will take very good care of them.
We had a great time in the Dells and the boys are already asking if we will take them back there next year. We take them on a vacation every year (two of them are brothers and one is a cousin) and we like to try different places, but they loved the Dells and definitely want to go back next year. There were many things we wanted to do but just ran out of time (Rick Wilcox show, ziplining, horseback riding).
Oh, and finally, just a heads up - Rail Dog is closed!!! We walked over there to have lunch, and there is a note on the front of the caboose. Apparently the owner had to have surgery and is closed for the rest of the season. We will try again next year.
Thanks all for your help - we had a great trip!