Think winter in Wisconsin Dells means rocketing down indoor waterslides while the snow piles up outside? Well, it does. But it also means so much more.
1) Sundara Spa Sheltered by a small pine forest, Sundara is one of the Dells' biggest assets. The posh, adult-only spa is a quiet, überrelaxing spot. Its 26 suites and private villas are all beautifully furnished and feature designer baths. The spa offers guests a wide range of treatments, plus free use of its pools, purifying bath ritual and relaxation lounge.
Best winter experience: Lounging in the heated outdoor infinity pool on a snowy winter's day (or night).
Photo courtesy of Joseph Luete
2) Hiking, snowshoeing, skiing There are three state parks within easy reach: Rocky Arbor, Mirror Lake and Devil's Lake. Rocky Arbor is the closest—a mile north of downtown Dells—and has a 1-mile trail for hiking or snowshoeing that's perfect for newbies or small kids. Mirror Lake, southwest of Great Wolf Lodge, grooms nearly 20 miles of trails for cross-country skiing; there are separate paths for hikers and snowshoers. Devil's Lake, 20 minutes south of the Dells, has 7 miles of classic-groomed ski trails, as well as areas for hiking, dogsledding and snowshoeing (snowshoes can be checked out at the nature center, when open). Sledding and ice fishing are also permitted.
Best winter experience: Enjoying one of the parks' candlelight skiing, snowshoeing or hiking events.
3) Ziplining You may have gone ziplining before. But have you done it in the winter? In the Dells, you can "winter zip" at The Wilderness Hotel and Golf Resort and at Bigfoot Zipline. A third business, Vertical Illusions, shuttles you to its ziplining locale north of town.
Best winter experience: Zipping for a mile over forestland and a canyon in Chimney Rock Park (Vertical Illusions' zip site). Before you start, take a minute to appreciate the 120-mile views of the winter landscape.
Photo courtesy of Vertical Illusions
4) Winter Carnival Embrace the cold and snow during a day of winter fun at the annual Winter Carnival, held at Christmas Mountain Village. The carnival features dog sled races, a snowman-building contest, turkey bowling, marshmallow roasting and more.
Best winter experience: Participating in (or watching) the Ski Across the Water competition, which involves skiing down a slope and across a small pool of water. Or trying to!
Photo courtesy of Christmas Mountain
5) Museums and shows The Dells is home to numerous indoor attractions, such as the Tommy Bartlett Exploratory, the H.H. Bennett Studio and Jeremy Allen's Grand Illusions. Although you may intend to visit these places during the summer, often outdoor attractions like the Dells' waterparks, go-karts or mini golf win out. Winter, however, is the perfect time to duck inside a (warm) museum or theater for a few hours.
Best winter experience: Taking in a performance at the Palace Theater, an 800-seat venue showing several Broadway-style productions annually. Bands and comedians also put on shows.