by Lisa Meyers McClintick
The Wilderness Territory claims to be the largest water park resort in the world. Small wonder. It sprawls across 600 acres multiple water parks, and several resorts within one complex. There are 444 guest rooms, plus condos, villas and cabins with some partly on Lake Delton.
It’s often a top choice for travelers to Wisconsin Dells, which claims to be “The Waterpark Capital of the World.” Families could spend a week and never visit the same water park twice. Indoor and outdoor water parks spread throughout the property, totaling more than 500,000 square feet. Different themes fuel young imaginations, whether it’s the frontier, the Wild West or dinosaurs.
The one that makes this water park resort stand out among others — especially on cold winter days — is the sunny, clear-roofed Wild WaterDome. Anchored by a huge wave pool with up to five-foot waves, families can spread out on recliners beneath tropical trees and get a tan.
‘Tweens and teens also love the go-carts, arcade, mini golf and zip-line, which is one of the Dells’ newer attractions and another feature that makes the Wilderness stand out. For adults, there are outdoor pools, golfing, Field’s at the Wilderness Steak House and one of the area’s most buzzed-about place for pampering, Sundara Spa.
Our Editor Loves
- The area's biggest wave pool
- Multiple indoor and outdoor water parks with various themes
- Wide variety of lodging options, including modern condos, reunion-sized vacation homes and lakeside units
- All Inclusive Rates
- Theme Park
- Water Parks
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Family Room 5+
- Game Room
- Kids' Pool
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Wilderness Resort is actually made up of a number of properties, the main of which is the Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort. This 444-room resort has the biggest waterparks on site and is often the top choice if you have children in tow. All rooms come with microwaves, mini fridges, and coffee makers and offers a private deck or balcony and optional hide-a-bed sofas and fireplaces in some rooms.
Then the resort offers condos and cabins, including Glacier Canyon Lodge, a 460-unit upscale condominium complex is connected by skyway to the main Wilderness Hotel. Units have a living room and full kitchen with one to three bedrooms. There is an outdoor pool area next to the lodge with the zip-line between Glacier Canyon and Wilderness Lodge.
Wilderness on the Lake is one of the few condominium resorts overlooking Lake Delton. The 108 units have two- or three-bedrooms, a four-season glass patio, Jacuzzis and fireplace. Lake units have their own indoor and outdoor water park, beach, boat slips, mini golf and a pontoon taxi that shuttles guests to the main resort.
For a more rustic feel, try Wilderness Cabins, 35 two-story cabins, accommodating up to 20 people located around the Wild Rock Golf Club, or Vacation Villas, 40 log-cabined two-story villas. Finally, Frontier Condominums overlook the Little Links par-3 golf course and has close to 80 condos.
Kids, teens and adults will all enjoy this large indoor/outdoor resort.
This water park is so large that they offer a free shuttle to take you around the park.
It’s a huge resort and if you have small children do some research on what park you will be spending most of your time. I’d book a room close to that area.
In the winter it gets cold on the shuttle if you come from the pool. My children didn’t like walking from park to park. So I always pack a robe for the quick shuttle ride.
The dry area is great for kids when they need a break from the pool. Lots of things for them to explore.
Kids will have a great time at this resort.
Tip for parents.. candy store is expensive, but good. Love the chocolate covered pretzels!
We travel to the Wilderness at least once a year and absolutely love all the water park, food and lodging options! Their Miami Vice drink is fantastic and renting a cabana by the wave pool is a must but you have to reserve far enough in advance because they do fill quickly. There is something to do for everyone in the family regardless of age!
While golfing, spa services, dining, and zip-line adventures are open to the public, only guests are allowed at Wilderness waterparks. Guests can hop onto a free shuttle to explore different play areas and eateries throughout the sprawling resort.
Northern Lights Sky Ropes Course
Opened in early 2012, this adventure ropes course is perched 30 feet above the Wild West arcade area. Wearing full-body safety harnesses, families will climb around 42 challenges with varying degrees of difficulty. Children under 48-inches in height must be accompanied by an adult.
This 70,000-square-foot indoor dome with the country's largest wave pool is the best bet as a place to hang out and relax. Grab a tube and ride the waves or stake out a recliner among the tropical plants and trees to get a tan. Waves can reach up to five feet, so hang on to younger children or park the family by the calmer pool lagoon. The lagoon is close to the dueling mammoth family raft ride for older kids (and parents) who crave speed and action.
This 65,000-square-foot indoor water park near the WaterDome is scream-and-shriek central with two five-story tube slides, a body slide, Bonanza Bluff play area, and The Hurricane, a family raft ride that drops into a funnel with fog machines and strobe lights. Sulfur Springs pool and spa flows into pools and play areas outdoors.
Wild West Water Park
Work out sibling rivalry with this 95,000-square-foot indoor water park's bumper boats. Plan B: Compare skills with water blasters and Western-themed targets at Ransack Ridge, a four-story play area with a 750-gallon tipping bucket (hang on to your suit) and slides. The raft ride accommodates five-person families, while the Black Hole tube slide and body speed slides appeal to big thrill-seekers. Spas include a passage to Lake Wilderness Outdoor Waterpark. If everyone gets waterlogged, Wild West is near the arcade, mini golf and Dodge 'Em City.
This 35,000-square-foot waterpark at Wilderness on the Lake appeals toddlers and preschoolers who get overwhelmed in the larger play areas. It has a play-and-spray section, mini slides, indoor/outdoor spas and water basketball.
Outdoor Water Parks
On a sunny day, you can't beat the outdoor water parks, especially if you like regular pools for floating, swimming and cannonballs. Lake Wilderness Waterpark (40,000 square feet) has a 13,000-square foot pool dubbed Lake Wilderness, plus several slides, a lap pool and wading pool. New Frontier Outdoor Waterpark's 95,000 square feet wraps around a lazy river, tube slides, toddler area, outdoor pools and hot spa. Lost World Outdoor Waterpark for the dinosaur theme, multiple pools, lazy river, side-by-side racing slides and location near Lost World Mini Golf and Go-Karts.
Wilderness Canyon Canopy Zip Line Tour
Anyone between 70 and 240 pounds can harness up and whir across cables close to 100 feet off the ground. The two-hour adventure, which includes a safety lesson and suiting up, zips between six towers above the resort's ravine and wooded areas. Tickets: $45 per person.
The west end of the Wilderness Lodge is a hub for younger kids with the four-story Dodge 'Em City play area with ball blasters, slides and crawlspaces. It's like a Nerf-lovers nirvana. There's also an extensive arcade. The OK Corral Lazer Tag Arena appeals to kids and parents who like adrenaline rushes while mini-golf appeals to quieter competitors. The mini-golf courses -- The Wild Abyss with underwater scenes and Wild Buccaneer -- are both dark with black light and neon 3-D settings. The Wild Abyss even has small sharks in a touch tank.
Get a schedule at check-in for WildKids Club, where families can meet for arts and crafts, scavenger hunts, bingo, movies, rubber duck races and other activities.
Families can take free first-come, first-served horse-drawn wagon rides through Lost Canyon near Glacier Lake Lodge Thursday through Sunday, weather permitting.
Wilderness Territory has six restaurants and even more coffee shops and small cafes for quick meals and snacks. Its location along Highway 12 also leads into the Dells' main strip of restaurants. With many villa and condo kitchens on the property, it's also easy to grab groceries and to-go meals.
Field's at the Wilderness
With a heavy Franklin Lloyd Wright influence, this swanky stand-alone steak house screams date night. There are funky bubbly columns of water, white tablecloths, rich woodwork, hundreds of wines, and specialty drinks such as prickly pear margaritas. Add to it $50 lobster tail, pan-seared filet, scallops and a sweet lineup of desserts. If you don't have childcare, all is not lost. The restaurant welcomes families who want dinner together to be a special occasion. Children's menu entrees range from $5 to $13. Reservations recommended.
Wild Canyon Cafe
This restaurant in Wilderness Lodge's New Frontier lobby is best known for breakfast and dinner buffets during summer months and peak times. Kids 11 and under usually eat free with each adult guest. Entrees may include pancakes, waffles, quiche, and biscuits and gravy for breakfast. Ribs, brats, fried chicken and salad bar are typical for dinner. Take a camera in case Molly or Monty Moose make an appearance.
Monk's at the Wilderness
Tucked off the main parkway closer to Glacier Canyon Lodge, this sports bar is an extension of Monk's downtown, a beloved burger destination. Look for fun twists on the usual fare, such as a breakfast burger with egg and bacon and a bruschetta burger with red pepper pesto on ciabatta. Monk's monkey fries are beer-battered, then heaped with bacon and cheese and served with Ranch dressing.
The resort shuttle includes stops at this stand-alone Italian restaurant for pizzas, gnocchi, pastas, meatball sandwiches, Friday fish frys and even lamb over risotto if you want to splurge.
The Cheese Factory
While not part of the resort, this charming blue restaurant thick with flowers sits closer than most of its restaurants if you're staying at the lodge. If you're vegetarian, health-conscious or have any gluten allergies this is the place to go. It's good enough to satisfy meat-lovers, too, with seasonal quiches, mushroom stroganoff, Thai stir-fry, and the Big Cheese, a double-deck grilled cheese with sharp cheddar, Swiss and Roma tomatoes on sourdough. It's also a great afternoon treat with ice cream sodas and thickly frosted, sweetly layered cakes.
Planning & Tips
Zero in on a park
While there are shuttles to any of the resort's waterparks, it can be a hassle getting around a place this big. It's best to decide which waterpark or recreational area you like best and plan lodging near it. If your family is prone to leaving things like bottles and swim diapers behind or if your kids have sonic meltdowns, it can take 15 to 20 minutes to schlep everyone from the WaterDome to Glacier Canyon Lodge.
Budget for extras
Have a cushion with your vacation budget to absorb any extra costs, such as the $9.95 daily resort fee that takes some by surprise, $6 to $8/day for electronic locker fees before or after checkout, and the inevitable souvenirs.
The Art of Smart Timing
If you want to enjoy outdoor water park with thinner crowds in the summer, aim for the last two weeks of August or first week in June. For fall and winter, you'll find better deals and fewer crowds September through early December (excluding holidays). Go mid-week rather than weekends if possible, when rates are lowest. Crowds peak mid-June through mid-August and from Christmas through spring break in March and early April.
The resort is a few minutes from Interstate 94/90, about 90 minutes from Milwaukee, 3.5 hours from Chicago, and four hours from Minneapolis-St. Paul.
Off the Radar
Guests can get free kids' admission (per paid adult) to main attractions such as Original Wisconsin Ducks, the Tommy Bartlett waterski show, Dells Boat Tours and Tommy Bartlett Observatory.
For Mom and Dad
If you can escape while it's still light, try a golf date at Wild Rock Golf Club with ravines, holes carved around a former quarry and a 30-mile view from the elevated sixth tee. For a more relaxing date, Wilderness guests get a discount at the luxurious Sundara Spa.