Monday, March 23, 2009

Wisconsin Dells: Tourist Town Guides - Book Review

"It all began with these unusual Dells, and from humble beginnings this quaint little nature-loving community became the number one family vacation destination in the entire Midwest." - Tourist Town Guides: Wisconsin Dells by Dick Vanderwick

With the recent stint of warm weather we've been itching to get outside and also do some traveling, ride a Duck! Wisconsin Dells, a top tourist destination in the Midwest, offers plenty of indoor and outdoor family attractions. Recently I had the opportunity to review the 2nd edition Tourist Town Guides series book, Wisconsin Dells: A Comprehensive Guide to Waterparks, Resorts, Tours and More by Dick Vanderwilt.

As a lifelong Wisconsin resident, I've been to the Dells quite a few times. My family went there on a few vacations, I visited some of the attractions on school trips, in my tween and teen years I enjoyed the waterparks, and as an adult have spent some relaxing time at Sundara Spa. Located in south-central Wisconsin, the Dells with its kind of crazy-quilt mixture of attractions, resorts and recreational spots, has something to offer everyone. Vanderkirk's guidebook highlights all the best places to visit in the Dells area while offering various historical and informative facts along the way.

First of all, in order to fully appreciate Wisconsin Dells, one must learn what the term "dell" means. Vanderkirk helpfully explains the word "dell" (a small valley) and the beautiful rock formations along the Wisconsin River that make Wisconsin Dells stand out from the rest of the region. He also wonderfully summaries the history of the driftless, unglaciated region and highlights a couple of individuals (Henry Hamilton Bennett and Tommy Bartlett) responsible for helping the Dells become the tourist attraction it is today.

As should be, Vanderkirk speaks of the geological attractions first. The Dells Boat Tours and Duck rides are by far my favorite part of the Dells experience. I remember as a child being fascinated by all the interesting rock formations with descriptive names such as "Stand Rock", "Witches Gulch", "Cow in a Milk Bottle" and my favorite, "Pulpit Rock and the Baby Grand Piano." During a ride on the Original Wisconsin Ducks my brother even got a chance to drive the amphibious army vehicle, a huge deal for him!

Given the fact that Wisconsin Dells is "The Waterpark Capital of the World," the book includes quite a bit of information on various waterparks and waterpark resorts to visit. Chula Vista Resort, Kalahari Resort and Noah's Ark Waterpark are listed as must sees. The indoor waterparks make ideal winter vacation destinations and if you look hard enough you can get some pretty good deals on rates. Our neighbors just went on a spring break trip to an indoor waterpark there and had alot of fun.

The book also mentions various downtown attractions, shopping destinations like Tanger Outlet Mall, as well as some state parks and nearby attractions like Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin, places to see in Wisconsin's capital, Madison, and the strange, kitschy destination that is The House on the Rock.

The book is missing a couple of details. Published in March 2008, it does not include any information on last year's terrible flooding on June 9th that destroyed Lake Delton, causing the entire lake to completely empty into the Wisconsin River and sweeping some large houses down the river at the same time. The lake is home to Tommy Bartlett's Ski and Stage Show. Reconstruction and restoration are currently underway and is scheduled to be ready by Memorial Day 2009. Also left out is Sundara Spa, one of the places I love to visit with my girlfriends or husband. Cave of the Mounds, a nearby tourist spot, doesn't make the cut either.

All in all, the book does a good job covering the basics of Wisconsin Dells. An excellent reference resource, libraries especially may want to consider adding this one to their travel section. Parents and tourists - make sure to look into this reference if you are planning a trip to the Dells.
Wisconsin Dells: A Comprehensive Guide to Waterparks, Resorts, Tours and More by Dick Vanderwilt. Channel Lake, Inc.; 2nd edition (March 2008); 161 pages; ISBN 9780979204395
Related links:
Tourist Town Guides
The Official Site of the Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau

Wisconsin Dells photos courtesy of Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau. Used with permission.

Thanks to Lisa Roe at OnlinePublicist and Tourist Town Guides for this review opportunity.


Michelle said...

What a beautiful place. This would be a perfect vacation spot for my family and I. Plus it's close enough to drive since I'm your neighbor in the great lake state. Thanks for sharing all this great info.

Ted Exley said...

Wisconsin looks like such a wonderful place to spend a vacation and this sounds like a great book for someone to read before visiting. Thanks for posting!