Most visitors to this town of 2,400 spend time twisting down water slides or floating in wave pools. What almost certainly ranks as one of the most kid-friendly vacation spots in the Heartland revolves around giant indoor and outdoor water parks, such as Mount Olympus (left).
But be sure to see the Dells, the unique, craggy bluffs rising over the Wisconsin River like stacks of sandstone pancakes. Some of the best views are from double-decker excursion boats. And attractions in nearby Baraboo, including Circus World Museum and the International Crane Foundation, are worth leaving the pool for as well.
A trip to the Dells means you're only minutes away from this Baraboo animal habitat, the one place in the world where all 15 species of cranes live. Take guided or self-guided tours through savanna and tallgrass prairie, see whooping cranes in a wetland and learn about preservation efforts. (608) 356-9462; savingcranes.org 
See the Dells' signature sandstone cliffs and rock formations from a slow-moving double-decker boat or a full-throttle jet boat. Sunset dinner cruises include a stop to walk on a torch-lit path at Witches Gulch. (608) 254-8555; dellsboats.com 
In Baraboo (12 miles south of the Dells), see exhibits and shows on the grounds of the original Ringling Brothers Circus winter quarters. Kids can create a circus performance at KidsWorld Circus. (608) 356-8341; circusworld.wisconsinhistory.org 
Two miles south of Baraboo, Devil's Lake attracts more visitors annually than any other Wisconsin state park. Fishing, swimming and boating are popular on the 360-acre spring-fed lake. Nearly 30 miles of trails wind along the shoreline or though rocky forests. (608) 356-8301; dnr.state.wi.us 
Three miles from the Dells, this park--named for its calm lake that reflects a wooded shoreline--offers a quiet retreat. Bike, boat, canoe and kayak rentals are offered; the lake also has a beach. (608) 254-2333; dnr.state.wi.us 
The Seth Peterson Cottage overlooking Mirror Lake was one of Frank Lloyd Wright's last commissions, in 1958. In disrepair by the early 1980s, it is now restored and open for overnight stays. Call well in advance. (800) 822-7768; sethpeterson.org 
The Dells area is home to a wide variety of accommodations, from huge family-friendly complexes, with both indoor and outdoor water parks, to adults-only resorts. Just a few of our favorites:
Baker's Sunset Bay Resort This family-owned resort along Lake Delton offers bonfires, an indoor pool, horseshoes, a beach and free rowboats. (800) 435-6515; sunsetbayresort.com 
Chula Vista Resort In addition to 200,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor water parks, this sprawling retreat has a golf course, spa and eight eateries. (800) 388-4782; chulavistaresort.com 
Great Wolf Lodge This family-friendly resort has 436 suites, indoor and outdoor water parks, an Elements Spa for adults and a Scoops Kids Spa for ages 12 and under. (800) 559-9653; greatwolf.com 
Kalahari The African-theme Kalahari is home to indoor and outdoor water parks, a massive indoor theme park, and eight restaurants. Pictured at left. (877) 525-2427; kalahariresorts.com/wi 
Sundara Inn and Spa For adults only, this resort has 26 suites and 12 villas primed for romance and relaxation. (888) 735-8181; sundaraspa.com