Wisconsin Dells / Last Minute Trip Tips

August 27, 2019

Last summer, my mom and I took a trip to the Illinois State Fair to see Boy George. This year, we wanted to find something fun to do that wouldn't break the bank (because we've both been saving up to get to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter) and we decided on a trip to the Dells.
Throughout junior high until my senior year of high school, my family would visit the Dells every October and stay at the Kalahari Resort. This year was my first trip to the Dells not staying there with the entire family, so there were moments where it felt like something was missing, but it was amazing to dive back into somewhere close to home and make new memories. 

Tip: Book a hotel room in advance
We went up there without a place to stay and when hotels hear that story, they upcharge their rooms and claim it's their last room available. By booking in advance, unnecessary fees can be avoided. Also, look for hotel rooms with added benefits. Ours has an indoor and outdoor pool and provided tickets to Noah's Ark Waterpark, so we had more options in our downtime for no additional fee.

Tip: Find things to do that don't cost admission, or where you'll get your money's worth
This was easy for two adults going on a trip because we didn't have the need to stop at the large touristy spots or waterparks and have to pay admission for ourselves plus kids. My mom and I found other things to fill our time, like going to the outlet mall my family would visit every year, Ho-Chunk Casino, and putzing around the Downtown Dells. These were all things we didn't need to spend money on to see, and any money we spent was optional because we were buying things or gambling. 

One of the two places we spent some kind of admission on was Deer Park. It was our second day in the Dells and we were driving past it when I told my mom I never went there. This caused her to U-Turn in the middle of the road and we went to Deer Park. We walked in and were able to feed and pet goats and deer.
Well, before it started thunder storming on us. 
We were stuck under the first awning before the downpour. We were under there with some deer for about twenty minutes before it let up just enough for us to get back to the main building, but we couldn't run because we would slip and also scare the deer. Luckily, she girl working gave us a rain check and we were about to come back the next day, it was one of the highlights of the trip.

After the rain and lunch, we went and picked up tickets to see Mamma Mia! We wanted to do the Tommy Bartlett Water Show because it's rain or shine, but because of the storm we decided to find something to do indoors. I don't have any photos, but the show was incredible and such a fun experience to see live with an unbelievable cast. After the show, we thought it was lame to be in our hotel room at 9:00pm on a Saturday night, so we went walking through the Downtown Dells. There are candy shops and kitschy souvenir shops. There are also bars and pubs along the river and they're beautiful, but we're not big drinkers so we spent more time shopping.

Tip: There is a restaurant for every budget and every ambience you're prepared for
For breakfast, we ate at both Paul Bunyan and at Mr. Pancake, both of which were perfect for us. Paul Bunyan would be more ideal for families because you get unlimited food for about $15/person. There is no menu, so there is no fussing over what everybody is going to eat. They bring everybody the same handful of breakfast dishes and you eat as much of everything as you can. 
We sat next to this very sweet family. It was a grandma, her son, and her two grandkids and we were able to speak to each other. It has a very casual atmosphere and the staff runs on organized chaos. 

Mr. Pancake is on the other end of that spectrum. We sat down and took our order, but it was the last morning of our vacation so it was nice to spend some quality time in a more intimate restaurant setting. Out the window were my favorite trees, evergreens. There were a ton of people in there starting off their days, so it got a little loud, but overall it was one of my favorite moments of the trip because we were able to just sit and chat with nowhere else to be.

Now let's talk about my favorite part of the trip.
Our hotel had an indoor pool. We went on Friday when we arrived, but it was packed by one whole family taking up both the indoor and outdoor pool, plus the outdoor pool was dirty so I didn't have the interest in swimming. But, before we checked out of our hotel and went to Mr. Pancake on Sunday morning we decided to check out the indoor pool and see if it was crowded. We had the entire indoor pool to ourselves and we decided to take full advantage of the tacky slides with the three dolphins on top.

Tip: Something my mom has always said when we've gone on vacation is, "Who cares what you do, you're never going to see these people again." 
I've taken that to heart everywhere we've gone, especially in the indoor pool and when dancing to Waterloo at the end of Mamma Mia and when obsessing over the goats at Deer Park. This has been one of the most important lessons I've taken from her while I have grown up and it's allowed me to let go and have as much fun as possible everywhere I go.

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