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Water, water everywhere in Wisconsin Dells

Courtesy Wisconsin Dells VCB

Classic Attractions
Wisconsin Dells became a full-fledged tourism destination  in the middle of the 20th century, and several attractions have become fixtures of the community since then. Among the most famous is the “Tommy Bartlett Show,” an aquatic acrobatic show that takes place on the lake.

“The show is popular with both youth and adult groups,” Jones said. “In 2012, their theme is ‘Living the Dream: 60 Years in the Dells.’ It’s a water ski show primarily, but they also have comedy mixed in.”

The show features highly trained water-skiers performing stunts behind speedboats. Tricks include ramp jumps and the famous water ski pyramid. A troupe of acrobats also performs on land, doing dangerous aerial maneuvers 65 feet above the ground.

Many adult groups visiting Wisconsin Dells also make time for a meal and entertainment at Thunder Valley Inn, where a local family gives them a taste of the area’s immigrant heritage.

“It’s an old-fashioned farm dinner with Scandinavian music,” Jones said. “The mom plays piano, and the dad is on the accordion. The daughters both play fiddle, and they do some storytelling and classic jokes from Scandinavian lore.”

Meals at the farmhouse reflect Scandinavian traditions and can include slow-cooked beef pot roast with sauteed onions, mashed potatoes, fresh-baked wheat rye bread and strawberry rhubarb jam.

Exotic and exciting
Because it attracts so many visitors, Wisconsin Dells has also attracted a number of organizations that educate visitors about wildlife.

The International Crane Foundation headquarters gives visitors a chance to encounter numerous species of cranes, a distinctive bird found in many different parts of the world.

“It’s a very scenic campus,” Jones said. “You walk through and see every species of crane known in the world. They’re all represented at that farm.”

Standard group visits at the International Crane Foundation include a multimedia presentation and a guided tour of exhibits of the 15 crane species in the world. Guests learn about crane biology and the foundation’s international conservation efforts and other work. Groups can also opt for more detailed experiences such as extended interpretive tours, guided hikes, radio telemetry demonstrations and discussions with crane care specialists.

This summer, the Dells will welcome Timbavati Wildlife Park, an interactive wildlife show and exhibit that highlights exotic animals from Africa and beyond.

“These folks specialize in big-cat game because they worked with other facilities that have big cats,” Jones said. “So they’re coming here to build an actual wildlife park, where you can actually pet the baby cubs. There will be shows and experiences with giraffes, zebras, tigers, lions and primates.”

In addition to the shows and displays, the wildlife park will feature camel rides, a petting zoo and special events.

Wisconsin Dells 
Visitor and 
Convention Bureau

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.