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Wisconsin Dells

May 25th, 2008

Thursday we left the house around 9:30-ish so we’d “miss” the morning rush-hour traffic. We made it to the Dells around 12:30 pm just as we anticipated.

We located our hotel just so we knew where it was but it was too early to check-in, so we rode around the area scoping out where everything was. The first thing we did was play 18-holes of miniature golf at Pirate Cove’s Golf. We hiked up to the hardest course, Pirates Challenge 18, and enjoyed the sunshine while working up an appetite.


After golf we headed to the downtown area to find a place to eat. I had read about how good the burgers were at a place called Monk’s, but we got really poor service and didn’t end up eating there. I gave them a lovely review over at Yelp if you’re interested. Instead we ate at Sharky’s Sports Bar and Grill. The food was your typical bar fare but at least we were waited on promptly. Plus they had a dart board with which we occupied ourselves while waiting for our food.

After lunch we walked around the downtown area for a little bit but there’s only so many t-shirt stores (it seemed as if they sold nothing but clothing that said Wisconsin Dells on it) and candy shops one can take, so we made a pit-stop at Walgreens to pick up some snacks and then headed back to the hotel to check-in.


The hotel I chose, the Hilton Garden Inn, was a good pick. Not only was it very clean and modern, the rate was reasonable ($99/night) and since it doesn’t have an indoor waterpark, it wasn’t overflowing with kids. Our room had a king bed, fridge, microwave, and a desk with a complimentary high-speed internet access. The alarm clock had a line-in which allowed us to listen to our iPods which was nice touch. The bathroom was very clean and bright. Inside was a sink with a granite counter-top and a shower with more than adequate water pressure. Complimentary Shampoo, conditioner, mouth wash and lotion were provided. My only complaint was the lack of fan in the bathroom. Otherwise this was one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever stayed in.


I got online at the hotel to scope out places to eat and we decided on Buffalo Phil’s Grille which turned out to be really good (their coleslaw is the best I’ve ever had) and in retrospect the best place we ate at during our stay. Before dinner we checked out the attached place called Knuckleheads Bowling and Family Entertainment Center. In addition to the bowling, Knuckleheads has pool tables, air hockey, go-karts, small rides for the youngsters, and an arcade. We played air hockey, skee-ball and some other games before dinner and afterwards played a few more games including Deal or No Deal and a Lord of the Rings version of a pinball game. I’m not a fan of LOTR but I do love pinball machines. In addition to the pool, air hockey and poker tables I plan to have in the game room of my dream house, I would like a pinball machine.


The restaurant and amusement center are located directly in front of Tanger Outlet Center so we headed over there before they closed because I wanted to check out the Old Navy store. What a disappointment! There’s nothing outlet about their prices. I saw no better deals than at the regular Old Navy store at home. It’s official – I’m completely over outlets and won’t bother ever shopping at one again.

Friday began with breakfast at Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty. The food was good, nothing spectacular, but it’s breakfast food so I’m not sure how it could be. Although I will say the sugar donuts are some of the best I’ve ever tasted. So light and fluffy with lots of sugar. Mmmm. It’s called a “buffet” but instead of helping yourself your waiter brings you a bunch of food – pancakes, sausage, scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy, fried potatoes, and your choice of beverages – and you can get as many helpings as you’d like. One helping between the two of us was plenty, however. I liked the atmosphere of the place and our waiter was really nice.

After breakfast we made another pit stop at Walgreen’s, this time for some allergy pills since my nose was running like crazy and I was sneezing. Then it was on to Canyon Creek Riding Stable to go horseback riding! As I wrote over at Flickr, I almost chickened out because they make you sign a waiver stating they’re not responsible if you fall off the horse and are paralyzed or die. Yikes! Luckily I have Joe who said, “Just sign it and don’t read it”.

Horseback Riding in the Dells

We had an uneventful one-hour trail ride up and down some hills which made me feel bad for the horses. Plus my butt is all kinds of sore! That bouncing up and down in the saddle was murder on my backside. I could barely stand afterwards. My horse, Wyatt, was pretty well-behaved, although he did stop at least three times to try and eat, so I had to pull on his reigns to get him to focus on walking. It was a pretty cool experience, though. I wouldn’t mind riding a horse again if I could pad my ass somehow!

After our ride we checked out the stable’s little petting zoo and fed the goats. There was one in particular who was really cute and sweet; he even allowed us to pet him. They had dwarf bunnies too. I took a little video of a fluffy grey one.

After the petting zoo I started to get really sleepy. We stopped at Cracker Barrel for lunch and I made the mistake of ordering their beef stew instead of the chicken and dumplings which I know I like. Luckily I have the best husband ever and he gave me his chicken and dumplings and he ate my yucky beef stew. By the time lunch was over I could barely stay awake – apparently the allergy meds were kicking in – so we went back to the hotel and I took a nap.

I felt much better after my nap so we went to Ho-Chunk Casino for the evening. I’m not a big gambler – in fact I avoid casinos – but we had a ton of fun. Why? Because instead of playing the dull no-skill-required slot machines, we played Blackjack! I’ve always been intimidated by the card tables at casinos but our curiosity got the best of us. At first just Joe was playing but finally I got intrigued and started playing too. Between the two of us we only lost $20 and played for over an hour so that’s not too bad at all. I’m actually looking forward to playing again now.

Once we got our fill of Blackjack (actually, my sore butt started hurting from all the sitting), we headed back toward the hotel and stopped at Moosejaw for dinner. By this point I was getting sick of eating out already, so I just had a BLT. The place was ok – nothing to write home about but decent if you have kids.


Saturday we took our time checking out of the hotel and drove to Madison to visit the Henry Vilas Zoo. It’s pretty small and cute – about the size of Lincoln Park Zoo – and free. We walked around for an hour or so before leaving and getting “lost” trying to find our way back to the interstate. We eventually made it and stopped at a Red Robin for a quick lunch before getting back on the interstate again and heading home.


I know we missed out on a lot of traditional Dell activities like riding the ducks or seeing the Tommy Bartlett Show, but we’ve decided we’re going to take the kids there later this summer so I’m sure we’ll find time for that then.

Wisconsin Dells
Henry Vilas Zoo

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