Introduction If you grew up taking summer road trips to Wisconsin Dells, packed into the back of the family sedan, counting Tommy Bartlett Show bumper stickers as the miles ticked by and squirming with barely contained excitement at the thought of your first roller coaster ride or waterslide of the season, then you know the Dells. But for those who were raised outside the Midwest, the word itself may be mysterious.
To put it simply, Dells refers to the scenic sandstone gorge in south-central Wisconsin through which the Wisconsin River flows. French-Canadian fur traders used the term dalles to describe a narrow passage between rock walls and the rapids usually found there. For them, this section of the river was both an obstacle and a landmark on their way to someplace else, but by the late 1800s, the Dells had become a destination in its own right, especially for urbanites escaping the burgeoning cities of Milwaukee and Chicago for a peaceful, natural setting.
Wisconsin Dells CVB
In 1931, community leaders renamed Kilbourn City after the area's famous geological feature, and since then Wisconsin Dells has been the name of a town as well. Scenic boat tours, popular since the 1870s, were expanded after World War II with the introduction of repurposed military DUKW amphibious landing vehicles known as “ducks.” Acrobatic water ski shows were added to the mix in the early 1950s, and the first water park opened in the late 1970s, setting off a development boom that continues today.
Indoor waterslides where families can frolic and splash in the dead of winter, miniature golf courses outfitted in a spectrum of themes, twisting go-kart tracks, thrill rides, ski shows, fudge shops, scenic boat tours, picturesque weather-scarred bluffs and heavily wooded campgrounds: after more than a century as a tourist destination, Wisconsin Dells has come to mean all these things.
Wisconsin Dells, WI
AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.