by Lisa Meyers McClintick
The retro dotted arrow on this motel’s vintage neon sign blazes like a beacon on Broadway, just north of bustling downtown Wisconsin Dells. It attests to the motel’s mid-century heydays and prepares guests for an old-school experience.
The room we experienced was past its glory days for bedspreads, textiles and furniture, and had a musty odor. Yet, the motel can still sell out with its handy location within walking or stroller distance of downtown and prices that cater to families on a tight budget. The mini-fridge and microwave also make it possible to prep simple meals and lessen dining expenses.
The motel encompasses seven buildings with a total of 46 units. Peak-season rooms can be found for less than $100 per night and include passes to Noah’s Ark, considered America’s largest waterpark; passes are normally $29 to $39 per person. Tweens and teens may get frustrated with the spotty (but free) Wi-Fi, but younger children may appreciate amenities such as nature trails in the woods of the 12-acre property, picnic areas, a playground, Saturday night bonfires, and an indoor and outdoor pool for calmer fun than a crowded waterpark.
Owners Anna and Ed Karas have had the motel for more than 16 years, and the previous owners were there for more than 26 years. The business’s beginnings stretch back to the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, when it was the Scoffield Cottage Hotel. That original stone cottage serves as the owners’ home and is connected to the check-in office and lobby, where guests can grab a coffee or newspaper, use a coin-operated washer and dryer, use a sauna, soak in the whirlpool or dip into the indoor pool.
Motel units are one story with parking spots in front of each one. They have air-conditioning and heating (you may need a chair to reach the controls), and the motel operates seasonally, closing in late-October (usually on the heels of the Dells’ Fall Festival) and reopening May 1.
Our Editor Loves
- Budget prices
- Water park tickets
- Indoor and outdoor pools
- Horse Back Riding
- Theme Park
- Water Parks
- Water Sports
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
All rooms include a TV, table and chairs, phone for local calls, hairdryer, coffeemaker and a mini-fridge and microwave. There is an ice machine at the check-in building if you pack an extra cooler.
Single Bed Rooms
If you have a baby or small child who can use a sleeping bag or rollway bed, the one-bed rooms (either a queen with a table and chairs or a king bed) are the cheapest and come with two waterpark passes. If you have a third person in the room, it's an extra $20 per night for anyone 2 and older. Some of these queen bed units have a shower but no tub, and some are adjoining for extra capacity. There also are six single queen units that include a sleeper sofa. There are about nine units with king beds, two of which include a Jacuzzi.
The motel's most prevalent configuration is rooms with two queens. Five of these units can be connected and sleep up to eight. Most are spacious enough to fit rollaways and bring-your-own portable cribs.
Popular with families, this house includes a full kitchen, dining room, two bathrooms, three bedrooms (two with king-size mattresses, one with a queen) and two sleeper sofas. It's the furthest spot from the road, as well, and next to the play and picnic area. It can sleep up to 10 people, but its rate is based on six people. Anyone above that number is $20 per person, per night.
Our first visit was the beginning of June--pretty much the start of the tourist stampede--then again shortly after Labor Day when things got a lot calmer in the Dells. Regardless of the time of season or quantity of tourists the Indian Trail Motel maintains is able to maintain a good level of quality and positive experiences for their guests.
Loved this old fashioned motel. Spacious room and bath and spotless. Nice to park outside your door! The indoor pool was a bit chilly but the whirlpool was perfect. Enjoyed the sauna too. All the staff was friendly and helpful. Would definitely stay there again.
The resort's outdoor pool parallels Broadway and has room for at least 40 swimmers. It opens at 8 a.m. and closes by 10 p.m. The heated indoor pool can accommodate close to 30 at once and has large windows to let in natural light. The indoor pool ranges from 3 to 5 feet deep and is open from 8 a.m. until 10:30 pm. Parents must supervise any children under age 12 in both pools. Guests can use room towels at the pools and exchange them for dry ones, but it's wise to pack more absorbent and larger beach towels for the lounge chairs or trips to off-site waterparks.
Sauna and Whirlpool
The sauna and whirlpool are by the indoor pool that's part of the lobby and check-in building.
There is an older swing set for kids, paths in the woods behind the motel and room to play if you bring a Frisbee, football or other toys. There are campfires on weekends during the summer, so pack some marshmallows and campfire forks for roasting an evening snack.
Noak's Ark passes let the family thrill-seekers plunge down the 10-story, almost vertical Scorpion's Tail or zip up to 30 mph across the Black Anaconda water coaster. If you take advantage of the Noah's Ark passes, be sure to take $5 to $10 cash for parking, plus flip-flops or water shoes, waterproof sunscreen, a waterproof camera and a swimsuit and beach towels.
Mitzi's American Grill
There technically isn't any dining right at the motel, but Mitzi's American Grill is so close to the property, it looks as if it could be the same business. It's a handy location for early risers hungry for big pancake-and-omelet breakfasts, craving thick shakes and burgers or wanting something homey like soup or a traditional Friday night Wisconsin fish fry. Kids' menus are offered for both breakfast and lunch or dinner.
If there's a wait at Mitzi's and kids are impatient, it's an easy stroll downtown for other options, such as Great Harvest Bread Company. Be braced for begging with colorful and tempting candy and fudge shops downtown, as well. Don't miss the chance to buy squeaky fresh cheese curds at Carr Valley Cheese.
For snacks and picnic fixings, it's about 9 blocks to Zinke's Village Market. There's an ice machine near the motel office if you bring a cooler to supplement the mini-fridge.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
There is a $5.99 amenity fee per unit, per night. It includes free Wi Fi and attraction passes and discounts.
Passes and Coupons
Summertime guests (Memorial Day through Labor Day) can enjoy free passes to Noah's Ark. Other guest amenities include a $3-off coupon for Mitzi's American Grill, which is next to the motel, a two-for-one Passport to Savings and coupon booklets to save money on several area attractions.
Guests can check in by 3 p.m. and need to check out by 11 a.m.
The Art of Smart Timing
This motel caters to tight budgets, but if you need to skimp more, look at traveling mid-week or going in the early part of June or late August when you also face fewer crowds, as many kids are finishing or starting school. Lowest rates land in the off-season of spring or fall.
The closest airport is the Dane County Regional Airport in Madison, which is about 48 miles or an hour away. Other options include flying into Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport, which is 125 miles or a two-hour drive away, or Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, which is a 180-mile or three-hour drive.
For road-trippers, it's just over three hours and roughly 200 miles to reach the Dells from either Chicago or the Twin Cities. The motel is 2 miles or about five minutes from the Highway 13 exit off Interstate 94.
There is Amtrak train service to the Dells, taxi services in town, and a shuttle to the Ho-Chunk Casino, but it's easiest for families to have their own vehicle. Bring your own or reserve a rental at the Madison airport. The Dells' main thoroughfares can be congested, especially during the summer along Highway 13/Broadway and Highway 12/Wisconsin Dells Parkway, but you can walk to downtown, and most attractions are less than 6 miles away and reachable in less than 15 minutes.
For Mom and Dad
If parents can sneak away for a date, it's about a 4-block stroll to the heart of downtown, with restaurants such as Carvelli's, Taste of New Orleans, Nig's and High Rock CafÃ©.