The Wilderness Indoor Waterpark Perfect Escape From Cold and Snow

I know Minnesotans like to talk about the weather, but when your forecast calls for snow in April—watch out. For awhile it seemed like every other Facebook message was a weather complaint, ranging from “What a nice winter we’re having this spring” to hopeful images of sunny beaches and colorful wildflowers. This has been a very weird spring.

My husband and I booked a trip to Wisconsin Dells months ago, never thinking that we’d be driving through a snowstorm on April 14 to get to our destination—The Wilderness waterpark—3.5 hours later. Driving conditions were terrible, with limited visibility, dangerously slippery roads, and fearless semis flying by in the fast lane, ignoring the little Mazda 6 going well below the speed limit, two excited little boys oblivious to it all in the backseat. The Winter Wonderland changed to sleet, which eventually changed to rain, and by the time we were in Wisconsin Dells there was hardly any white stuff on the ground. I could not wait to be in a tropical-like indoor environment, where people walked around in swimsuit cover-ups and flip-flops. If we couldn’t be on a plane to a sunny destination, this was the next best thing.

We kicked off our waterpark vacation by meeting good friends from Green Bay at the Moosejaw Pizza and Dells Brewing Co. before checking in at The Wilderness Hotel and Golf Resort, located on 600 acres in Wisconsin Dells.

Adam at the waterparkMy first impression of the hotel was that it was enormous. We stayed at the neighboring Kalahari Resort last spring, and I knew how tired my boys would be after a full day playing in the chlorine, so I was glad that the resort offered complimentary shuttle buses every 10-15 minutes.

My second impression of the resort was that the property itself—and our room—was very clean, and the employees working at the resort were helpful and friendly. That’s always a good sign.  

My lasting impression was that there was so much to do—how would we possibly fit it all into our limited three-day vacation? From the time we woke up until the time we fell asleep (exhausted), we took full advantage of the hotel’s amenities and didn’t have to leave the property once (there was no way the kids would have wanted to go anywhere else).

Our first “stop” was the 65,000-square-foot Klondike Kavern indoor waterpark, perfect for the adventure-seekers in our group, complete with a thrilling Hurricane waterslide, body slides, and a lazy river (my favorite). There was a large kiddy area (my two-year-old’s favorite) and a pool with a basketball hoop (my five-year-old’s favorite). We spent all day Sunday here.

On Monday, when we were inside the 70,000-square-foot Wild WaterDome, it felt almost like we were outside on a summer day, complete with humidity, warm water, and the sun shining through a massive see-through roof (you can get sunburned in here, even though you’re not technically outside). We made sure the kids had on lifejackets the whole time, especially in the deeper-area Great Wave pool, reportedly “America’s largest indoor wave pool.” The waves were high, and I saw more than one kid get knocked off their tube or coughing up water after being sucked under by the force of the waves. The kiddy play area was boring compared to the wave pool (at least according to my boys), but they did like the Dueling Mammoths family raft ride.   

Ben at the waterparkThe waterpark where we spent the most time (Monday and Tuesday) was the 70,000-plus-square-foot Wild West waterpark, complete with raft waterslides, an indoor/outdoor hot tub, bumper boats, and a large kiddy area with slides, a dump bucket, and water blasters. The hotel advertises four indoor waterparks, but really—if you have older kids—there are only three. The fourth waterpark is geared toward very small kids.

Not only did the kids burn off energy in the waterparks, they spent a lot of time playing in the four-story Timberland Play Park (a giant indoor play structure complete with a foam ball blaster in the center—a free amenity included with your room charge), and tried their luck at 3D mini golf and various arcade games. Our friends’ older kids also played laser tag and tried the ropes course. I never once heard any of the six kids—ages 2 to 10—say “I’m bored.” Everyone had a good time.

After a brutal winter and a spring season that doesn’t seem to want to arrive (snow, melt already!), our indoor waterpark vacation was the perfect escape from reality.


  • For the lowest rates, shortest lines, and smallest crowds, stay during an off-peak time. We stayed from Sunday to Tuesday, weeks after spring break was over. I don’t think we’d have the same experience if we went over a weekend or during spring break.  
  • Try to reserve a room on the first or third floor if you don’t want to listen to constant hallway traffic. The second floor is the main thoroughfare between the waterparks.
  • You receive four towel cards, and if you don’t leave your cards or towels when you check out, you are charged $25/card. The small, thin towels are not worth $25 each. We were worried that we’d lose a towel, so used our own beach towels instead.
  • Make sure your kids wear socks to the Timberland Play Park. It’s a rule they strictly enforce. They sell socks in a vending machine for $3/pair if your child doesn’t have socks on. (Same rule goes for parents.)
  • The Wild Canyon Café offers a good selection of breakfast items (eggs, pancakes, fruit, oatmeal, etc.) and a special that includes buying one adult meal, getting one kids meal free.
  • Bring plenty of water and snacks for the room. All of the activities make the little ones extra thirsty and hungry.