A wise man once said, “Life’s a dance you learn as you go; sometimes you lead and sometimes you follow.” OK, well maybe it wasn’t a wise man, but a country singer instead (maybe a wise country singer). We took a family trip to Wisconsin Dells last week and I am pretty sure it was the gang of 10 children (ranging in age from 1-16) that were leading the dance around the hotel/waterpark complex while the nine adults followed.
Wisconsin Dells, the waterpark capitol of the world, was incorporated in 1856 and then known as Kilbourn City, in honor of a railroad president.
During the 1940’s, it wasn’t unusual to see tourists line up to steamboats for a trip to the Stand Rock Indian Ceremonial. In 1946, Mel Flath brought the first WWII land-to-water vehicles known as Ducks to Wisconsin Dells and set up a tour company. In the 1950’s, crowds were first treated to the famous Tommy Bartlett ski show. Attractions like Storybook Gardens and Fort Dells entertained in the following decades. In 1994, Stan Anderson, the owner of the Polynesian Resort Hotel, decided to put a roof over a water attraction at this property, and the first indoor water park was christened. One year later, the Wilderness Resort water park opened. A few years after that, Great Wolf Lodge expanded its offerings. In 2000, the Kalahari Resort opened and then quickly expanded its indoor water park. The rest, they say, is history.
Visitor spending in Wisconsin Dells last year tallied $1,202,674,037. The Wisconsin Dells area is comprised of a little less than 20 square miles with just over 5,500 permanent residents and hosts over 4 million visitors annually. The overall Wisconsin Dells tourism economy contributed $46.7 million in state taxes and $56.5 million in local taxes.
We have been coming on regular family vacations to the Dells for the past 11 years and have contributed our fair share to the economic success of the area.
Over our three days at our resort, we visited various waterparks five times. We supported coffee shops, gift shops and took over the arcade, with the tribe of 16 and under leading the way.
You would think that nine adults to ten children would have been a safe ratio, but it was almost like those kids knew they were in the majority and could at time sense the fear in our eyes.
A trip to the Dells is not for the faint of heart. Germaphobes should stay home. They should keep extremely over protective parents home with them. I promise a trip to Wisconsin Dells will provide unlimited opportunities of cesspool bathing and more than one experience of watching you’re your child plunge underwater (for what seems like a really long time) only to reappear and shout, “Did you see that Mom? It was awesome and I didn’t even drown!”
There were multiple times conversations between the adults started with the line, “I swear he/she was just there a second ago.” In a sea of people, your heart sinks when your child is out of sight for even a split second. My heart sank numerous times during the weekend. I used to think the margarita stations at the waterparks were mainly for the college visitors, but I was wrong. I bet those little booze kiosks make way more money from parents whose nerves are beyond frazzled.
A few things got me through the weekend. First of all, almost every time my husband saw I was near a breakdown, he would whisper into my ear (in his best Bob Marley voice), “Every little thing is gonna be alright.”
Secondly, every single time I started wondering why we do this vacation, I saw the smiles on those ten faces and was reminded of the importance. I also enjoyed the smiles on the faces of my husband and brother-in-laws who at times acted like they were just one of the kids again.
We had a horrifying drive home through the snow Sunday. From the Dells to Eau Claire we counted 21 cars/semi trucks in the ditch. Once we got past Menomonie, the sun was shining and the roads were clear. Once Josh and I uncleanched our jaws and he was able to loosen his white-knuckle grip from the wheel a bit, it was our turn to lead the dance.
A classic tune, George Michael’s “Faith” came on the radio. We danced in our seats, we sang and we watched the back seats of the van with amusement at the kids who stared back absolutely horrified. That payback was the icing on the family vacation cake.
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