WISCONSIN DELLS, Wis. – The Waterpark Capital of the World is once again preparing for visitors to descend on the region over the summer months.
Visitor spending during this time of year makes up the majority of all spending, according to the Wisconsin Dells Visitors and Convention Bureau.
Leah Hauck-Mills, Communications Manager for the Wisconsin Dells Visitors and Convention Bureau, says new additions and improvements to the area encourage tourists to return.
“We know to stay ahead of be a tourism destination for people to want to come back to every year, we’ve got to give them something new and exciting,” said Hauck-Mills. “Businesses are constantly investing in themselves in this community.”
KEEPING UP WITH THE COMPETITION
All of these different options are part of what makes traveling to Wisconsin affordable and attractive. The Wisconsin Department of Tourism Secretary Anne Sayers says businesses are always looking to provide their patrons with a variety of choices.
“Whether it’s hotels and restaurants, bars, taverns or the attractions themselves, they’re constantly looking for sort of the next thing to offer the consumers,” said Sayers. There’s always something new on the docket and that’s the kind of thing that keeps a consumer coming back.”
In 2021, tourism was a $20.9 billion dollar industry in the state of Wisconsin with Travel Wisconsin reporting 102.3 million visitor trips two years ago.
The 2022 tourism numbers are expected to be released later in early June, but tourism officials say the state consistently outpaced the national average for travel growth.
“The fact that we’re outpacing the national average consistently says Wisconsin is a place [tourists] are choosing,” said Sayers. “We’re really proud of that and excited about welcoming them.”
Local resorts and attractions benefit from the competition in the Dells.
General Manager of Noah’s Ark Waterpark, Christopher Mortensen, says he’s an important part of the region’s economy.
“It’s good,” said Mortensen. “It keeps us on our toes and keeps us bringing new attractions all of the time.”
He believes the more things there are to do, the longer visitors will make their vacation in the Dells.
“The average guest stays here about two nights,” said Mortensen. “The more attractions we can offer, they’ll keep coming back and stay longer each visit.”
Wilderness Resort spokesperson Heidi Fendos says the region is well-known for refusing to rest on its laurels.
“I always say The Dells is about bigger, better, best,” said Fendos. “We are always trying to better ourselves and offer the latest and greatest in water slide technology.”
She says business owners know the impact their resort can have on a family’s fond summer memories.
“It’s a wonderful thing to be part of a family’s tradition,” said Fendos. “I think that’s what makes this region so special is the fact that we’ve evolved to continue to be of interest to the next generation.”
DOWNTOWN WISCONSIN DELLS
The Elm Street Plaza in downtown Wisconsin Dells is ready to provide live music and entertainment programming, as well as support small businesses along Broadway Avenue.
“It’s really a dream come true to see this place finally finished,” said Hauck-Mills. “This is going to be another reason for people to come downtown and stay downtown.”
The 35,000 square foot gathering space has seating, a concession stand, a mural wall, public restrooms, and a performance area.
“It’s been a long time coming and planning,” added Hauck-Mills. “It’s going to add character and be a spot to come for both visitors and locals alike.”
The Elm Street Plaza will also be the new home for the farmers’ market as well as other markets throughout the year.
RESORT UPGRADES AND WATERPARK ATTRACTIONS
Many resorts in Wisconsin Dells and waterparks are eager to showcase improvements made during the off-season.
At the Wilderness Resort, the Wild West Waterpark reopened last fall after a six-month renovation. Some upgrades include a new dueling tube ride and a multi-level play and spray structure.
Guests will also notice two new food venues and, for adults over 21, a swim-up bar. The resort also recently renovated over 400 guest rooms last year along with adding new waterpark seating including outdoor cabanas.
Visitors, who may have missed its inaugural season in 2022, can enjoy America’s first rotating water slide at Mount Olympus. The Medusa Slidewheel is an 80-foot tall rotating water attraction that combines the movement of a Ferris wheel with the speed of a waterslide.
Noah’s Ark unveiled a transformation of its former Flying Gecko ride, officially opening The Chameleon over Memorial Day weekend. The new 520-foot-long ride takes a four-person raft through a color changing and sound experience.
The Land of Natura, a 150-acre development creating the naturally filtered Lake Wisconsin Dells, will open in mid-June and allow visitors to the area to enjoy the natural beauty of the region. The main attraction includes America’s largest inflatable waterpark to be called ‘Waterworld’.
Construction is underway at the Kalahari Resorts and Conventions as the resort looks ahead to the summer of 2024. The expansion project will create a new building at the resort and include new guest rooms.
One tourism trend gaining popularity in recent years is astrotourism or planning a vacation to popular stargazing sites.
Secretary of Tourism Anne Sayers says Wisconsin is reaping the benefits of people traveling to view the night sky.
“Any summer night, you’re going to have stars to look at, and we have a lot of dark skies that make that easy and beautiful locations,” said Sayers.
One popular location for this is in Door County at Newport State Park, which is a designated dark sky area.
A bit farther north and a ferry ride across the lake, Big Bay State Park on Madeline Island offers some get nighttime views and is also a spot known for frequent Northern Lights sightings.
Wildcat Mountain State Park on the Kickapoo River in Ontario offers cart-in options to campsites in order to provide great views uninterrupted by car headlights.
But you don’t need to travel far to get in on some stargazing – Devil’s Lake State Park in Baraboo offers guided astronomy nights from time to time with the Madison Astronomy Society.
If you do prefer a more guided or educational experience, check out Yerkes Observatory in Lake Geneva. They offer public tours during the day and often hold stargazing events.
To view other stargazing locations, click HERE.