Visitors to Wisconsin Dells should head to the H.H. Bennett Studio (admission $7), one of Wisconsin's 10 state historic sites. Though it may seem like the Dells came about because of water parks and goofy attractions, there's a lot more to the story. Back in the 19th century, locals revered the stunning, untouched Cambrian sandstone formations lining the Wisconsin River. The formations also caught the eye of H.H. Bennett, a top landscape photographer. His stereoscopic images began luring curious visitors, kicking off a wave of tourism.
Bennett's studio consists of three parts: a museum about his life and photography (including his 1875 studio and equipment), a store where visitors can purchase prints and other items and the studio space where Bennett's prints are crafted today. (His studio, incidentally, is considered the oldest operating photography studio in the nation.)
Exhibits reflect Bennett's fascination with the local Ho-Chunk Indian tribe and with inventing things. You'll learn that he was a master pitchman who drew visitors to the area with his intriguing photos, like the iconic image of his son jumping from a bluff to a freestanding rock formation a few feet away. In the museum, the carpet alongside this famous image contains inlays the exact size of the two rocks spaced the same distance apart, allowing guests to take the leap for themselves.