- Driving Distance- Anything that required a flight was out. Flight costs for 6 of us and the “joys” of flying with an infant would not work.
- Budget Friendly- We wanted something that wouldn’t cost us an arm and a leg. This would most likely mean somewhere we could bring food vs eating out for every meal.
- Family Friendly- We have 4 kids that at the time ranged from 9 months to 7 years.
After debating a few different locations we settled on the Wisconsin Dells, and it could not have been a more perfect family vacation! The dells are about a 3.5 hour (easy) drive from here and are made up of large hotels with indoor water parks. We decided to stay at The Great Wolf Lodge as the many reviews read listed it as the most small child-friendly one.
We stayed 2 nights at the hotel but arrived extremely early on the first day. They let you go into the water park on the day of check-in and the day of check-out, and you can stay there as long as you would like.
The water park itself had 3 major areas that appealed to different age ranges. One area had a kiddie pool and climbing structure, and we spent majority of the time with our littlest two here. The 2nd area had a kiddie slide, pool to play in, hot tubs and a large tube slide. The third area had a wave pool, 4 large slides and another kiddie pool.
Check the height requirements before going to make sure your kids can enjoy the slides! My slightly tall 5 year old was a few inches above the requirement line…had he not made it, he would have been devastated!
Bring Food! Food is SO much more expensive up there. There is a Walmart about 5 minutes from the hotel so we didn’t bring anything in advance, but I ran over there and grabbed breakfast and lunch items. We only ate out for 2 dinners.
Book in Advance! Book as far in advance as you can. If you go to the Great Wolf Lodge website and sign up for their newsletters, you get access to their early bird pricing. It saved us almost half the price!
OTHER VACATION TIPS
Consider a Room Upgrade: We decided to upgrade from the standard room to a kids cabin room in the end, and it was COMPLETELY worth the cost. The cabin made the kids feel super special, provided a little separation from the master and their room, and just all around made the room more fun!
Magic Quest: Beside the water slides this was my kid’s favorite part of the trip. You buy a wand and the kids use it to complete a number of scavenger hunts/tasks and earn different titles. This quest takes place in a 4-story building attached to the hotel, and we spent easily 5 hours there.
A couple notes though...
- Wear tennis shoes. I’m pretty sure I climbed a million stairs that day as the tasks require you to go up and down on repeat
- Avoid strollers if you have little ones. We had our front pack with us which was a lifesaver! The elevators took forever and the space was tight in some areas
- Don’t bother buying the game/wand for anyone under the age of 4 or 5. My 3 year-old had a blast just following his siblings while they did it and every so often we asked them to let him wave the wand and do the task.
Hotel Activities: If your kids are anything like my 3 year-old, there is only so much time he can spend doing the water park. Great Wolf had us covered! They have activities planned in the lobby almost hourly such as Bingo, coloring, yoga and story time. So, once he had hit his max for the day, I took the younger two and we did those instead of the pool for a little while.
Buffalo Phil's: It is definitely a tourist restaurant and the food is slightly pricey, but it was worth the experience. All the food/drinks are delivered by a miniature train, and my kids were in heaven!
Moosejaw Pizza: Another fun and family-friendly restaurant we enjoyed. The pizza was delicious, the kids loved their moose hats, and it was a fun dinner out.
Denny’s Diner: Not to be confused with the chain breakfast place, this was a fun local breakfast stop on our way out of town! Whether you stop here for a meal or not you HAVE to get their cinnamon rolls to go. They are AMAZING.