by Lisa Meyers McClintick
Cedar Lodge’s idyllic location on the Wisconsin River reminds guests of why this part of the state soared in popularity in the late 1800’s. The resort’s 400-foot beach faces a glimpse of the Lower Dells’ famously scenic sandstone formations that were carved out when Glacial Lake Wisconsin broke through an ice damn and roared through the region.
Boat tours take thousands of Dells tourists past grottos and canyons, towers and chimneys every year, but Cedar Lodge guests can skip the crowds and chart their own path down the river by renting pontoons, kayaks and other watercraft next door at River’s Edge. You can also rent fishing boats and buy bait.
Cedar Lodge is nestled along the wooded Wisconsin River corridor, fitting in nicely with its log architecture and balconies that offer serene views. It feels remote and removed from downtown’s carnival of shops and crush of attractions lined up along Highway 12. That makes this one of those rare Wisconsin Dells resorts where staying put is part of the allure.
Families can choose from nine, second-story Riverview Lodge rooms, eight main floor Riverview Villas, five Riverview Suites or seven Cedar Lodge Settlement Cabins across the road.
Kids can cartwheel like crazy on the wide-open riverside lawn that’s ideal for running and playing, swing on the playground and build castles along the beach. There’s also an outdoor pool that overlooks the river and an adjoining deck for teens and parents to kick back, text, read and relax.
Families who crave a water park with plenty of thrills won’t be deprived either. Cedar Lodge provides guests with free passes for the seasonal Noah’s Ark Waterpark, which claims to be the largest water park in America, and the year-round Chula Vista water park with indoor and outdoor features from a water coaster to scream-worthy slides that are almost a sheer drop down.
The best part is that after a busy day of climbing stairs to water park slides, getting soaked beneath splash buckets, lounging by the wave pool and riding a rumbling water coaster, you can return to Cedar Lodge’s quiet corner of the Dells near Lost Canyon.
Campfires crackle near the beach, crickets are the music in the evening, and a bald eagle might soar into the pink light of the sunset.
Our Editor Loves
- Scenic location on the Wisconsin River
- Outdoor pool and beach
- Log-home architecture and balconies
- Theme Park
- Water Parks
- Water Sports
- Family Room 5+
- Free Wi-Fi
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Cedar Lodge's rooms feature the cozy, warm feel of a log cabin with sliding glass doors, a balcony or patio and views of the river. Amenities include a microwave, mini-fridge, electric fireplace, coffeemaker, table and chairs, free Wi-Fi and 42-inch flat-screen TV. Riverview Kitchenettes, Whirlpool Suites and Fireplace Suites all sleep two to four people, and the largest cabin can sleep up to eight. Accommodations are big enough for portable cribs, which are $10 per night. The resort doesn't have rollaway beds, but offers portable cribs for $10 per night. Ironing boards and hair dryers are available, but must be requested.
Deluxe Lodge Rooms
Located on the second floor with all the standard amenities, Deluxe Lodge Rooms sleep two people, with one of the units sleeping up to four with a king bed and a sofa bed.
These sleep between two and four people depending on the unit. Most of them with two queen beds and one unit has one king bed and one sofa bed. They all have a two-burner stove in the kitchenette.
The Fireplace Suite
With room for up to three guests with one queen or one king bed and a sofa bed, these rooms also have a fireplace and a two-burner stove.
The Whirlpool Suite
These rooms also sleep up to three guests with a private bedroom with one queen bed and a living area with one sofa bed. They also have a two-burner stove.
The Great Room Fireplace Villa
These first-floor riverview units include one king bed and one sofa bed, plus a two-burner countertop stove and a deck with a gas grill.
Riverview Lodge Rooms
These second-floor units sleep up to four people with two queen beds and a balcony.
Premier Lodge Rooms
With one queen bed and one full bed and one twin bed bunked together, these are ideal units for larger families as they can sleep up to five.
If you really want to settle in for a longer vacation, the five one-bedroom cabins sleep up to six people and have full kitchens, porches, charcoal grills, a fireplace and various sleeping configurations, such as one downstairs bedroom with one queen bed, two double beds in the loft and a daybed or futon in the living room.
With one extra bedroom, these cabins offer the same amenities as the one-bedroom models, but sleep up to eight guests.
Big or extended families have room for eight people in these first-floor riverview units. There is a master bedroom with one king bed, private bath and whirlpool tub, plus a guest bedroom with two double beds. There is a fully equipped kitchen and a living room area with a queen sofa bed.
The second-floor chalet offers room for six people with two bedrooms, each with one queen bed, and one sofa bed in the living area. It has a fully equipped kitchen with a dishwasher, as well as a deck with a gas grill and patio furniture.
We stayed in one of the deluxe lodge rooms and found it to be very clean, spacious and comfortable and quiet. We loved the woodsy log construction. Staff was very friendly and helpful. We enjoyed relaxing with our morning coffee in the recliners by the window over looking the Wisconsin River. We recommend this place and room type.
Great location overlooking the Wisconsin River (some units). Secluded and very quiet yet easy access to many fun spots. Bold Eagles frequent obove the river. If you are into fishing, the bank fishing right on the property can be productive. The next door rents all sorts of boats as well.
The resort's heated rectangular pool and sundeck provide the hot spot on warm summer days. Located between the club lodge and the west side of Riverview Lodge rooms and villas, the pool and deck overlook the river. The water isn't deeper than 3.5 feet, and the pool stays open during office hours, roughly 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Memorial Day through Labor Day. Bring your own beach towels.
Toddlers and preschoolers can have fun digging into the sand along this 400-foot beach.
Some families swim in the river, but it can depend on how busy it is with boat traffic.
The resort offers a playground and a variety of games to borrow for the wide lawn between the river and Riverview building. Families can fire up a game of volleyball, bocce ball, ladder ball and badminton. There are also basketball hoops and horseshoe pits.
Anglers can toss a line off the dock to reel in sunnies and panfish or rent a boat next door at River's Edge to seek trophy catches such as walleye and musky. Fishing guides also are available to help find the best fishing spots. Other catches include smallmouth and largemouth bass, northern pike and crappies.
River's Edge also rents out pontoons, kayaks and other watercraft for even more water fun.
Every guest at Cedar Lodge receives complimentary admission to the local Chula Vista and Noah's Ark water parks during their stay.
River's Edge Pub & Grub
There is no onsite dining at Cedar Lodge, but guests can walk next door to the River's Edge Pub and Grub. It's casual, family-friendly and continues the log cabin look with fieldstone, paneling, and a 100-year-old oak tree behind the bar. It opens at 8 a.m. for breakfast, and there's a kids' menu for lunch and dinner. The menu has American cuisine with sandwiches, burgers and classics like deep-fried Wisconsin cheese curds.
Several businesses also deliver pizzas to resorts throughout the Dells, including Pizza Pub.
If you want to stock up on snacks, groceries and easy meals for in your room, Zinke's Village Market near downtown Wisconsin Dells is about 3 miles away. There also are several well-stocked convenience stores along Highway 12 and a Wal-Mart Supercenter is 3.4 miles away, near the Interstate. We personally prefer the local grocery store and a trip to Carr Valley cheese for some of Wisconsin's top artisan cheeses, plus regional wines and beers.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Families with young children will appreciate the quiet hours from 10 p.m. to 9 a.m. The main office has a nice selection of DVDs for rent if you want to wind down an evening with a movie or pick one for mom and dad after kids are asleep.
Guests can check in at 3 p.m. Check-out is at 10 a.m.
There's a laundry room for guests near Cabin No. 33.
The Art of Smart Timing
You'll pay the highest rates, but enjoy the balmiest weather and most activities during the prime season from mid-June through Labor Day. New Year's Eve also counts as peak season when it comes to demand and availability.
The pool is usually drained, and campfires aren't set up after Labor Day, but fall visitors can enjoy the lower prices and spectacular fall colors with mid-season rates. Mid-season includes mid-May to mid-June as well.
The best rates are the off-season from November to mid-May. Winter visitors can enjoy the serene winter scenery, cozy game nights and watching for bald eagles and other wildlife along the river.
The closest airport is the Dane County Regional Airport in Madison, which is about 48 miles or an hour away. A rental car is recommended.
Other options include flying into Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport, which is 125 miles and a two-hour drive, or Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, which is a 180-mile or three-hour drive.
A vehicle is needed to get around the Dells, but there are restaurants within walking distance if your kids can't face the car seats one more time without a meltdown.
For Mom and Dad
If you can find a babysitter, there are many restaurants throughout the Dells for a date night and more casual options, such as tasting flights at Moosejaw Pizza and Dells Brewing Co., about 2 miles down Canyon Road. If you prefer something more active, you can go for a paddle on the river at Cedar Lodge or pack a picnic and go hiking at Mirror Lake State Park about 8 miles away. There also are several spas for massages and other relaxing treatments, though most of them at the major resorts, such as Kalahari and Chula Vista.