It’s no secret Wisconsin Dells is surging with all the wet-and-wild fun a kid can dream of in the hot summer months. With more water parks per capita than anywhere on earth, this community is bursting with colorful chutes, ladders, and lazy rivers that take center stage as families plan their visits.
With so much slipping and sliding water fun to be had, it can be hard to take a break from all the action. But if you can spare a few hours, we promise, Sauk County, Wisconsin, offers even more adventures just waiting to be discovered. So, when you’re ready, towel off, and hit the road for these quick, daytime experiences the whole family will enjoy just minutes from the Dells.
Wollersheim Winery & Distillery is nestled into a verdant hillside with historic buildings and a vineyard that grew its first grapes in the 1840s. Explore the restored cave filled with artifacts and displays outlining the cave’s history, then find a seat in the Wine Garden to enjoy a glass of wine or a flight of favorites and a view of the grounds, while the kiddos explore their lush surroundings. If you prefer a cocktail or a spirits flight, visit the distillery, which stocks brandy, bourbon, whiskey, gin, and absinthe, all distilled on-site. The distillery serves a small selection of snacks, and the on-site bistro serves local and seasonal-inspired plates.
Just eight minutes from Wollersheim is the Carr Valley Cheese Store, where you can pick up some famous cheese curds beloved by kids and grownups alike, plus all the trappings for a robust charcuterie spread to pair with any Wollersheim wine you purchased to-go.
Across the river, a three-minute drive takes you to Prairie du Sac, and the Great Sauk State Trail bicycle path. For $5 at a self-serve station, you can buy a trail pass and hop on the 10.5-mile multi-use riverfront path dotted with parks and activities. The community V.F.W. Memorial Park has picnic tables and a playground, while the Sauk City Riverfront Park and Splash Pad has everything a busy family needs, from clean restrooms to a zipline.
Within walking distance of the trail, you’ll find a handful of local eateries with family-friendly menus: Ques Bar & River Deck features paninis and mojitos, Vintage Brewing Company offers baked mac and cheese and local brews, and Eagle Inn provides from-scratch comfort food.
Swap pool umbrellas for trees, towering slides for sandstone bluffs, and the wave pool for a majestic lake so calm it was named after reflective glass. Relaxed yet? Mirror Lake State Park offers 2,200 acres of outdoorplayground to explore. We recommend making a day of it by packing up some snacks and heading out for some fishing and hiking and then ending the adventure with campfire s’mores. The lake is full of Northern pike, stocked walleye, largemouth bass, pan fish, and more. (Don’t forget to buy a one-day fishing license — you can purchase and print it in minutes.) There are nearly 30 miles of hiking and nature trails, and a park guide can help you pick the best one for your family.
Get hands-on with wildlife at this unique attraction, where you can feed free-roaming deer right out of the palm of your hand. Buy feed on-site and get your camera ready to capture the whole family posing cheek-to-cheek with a variety of deer you’ll discover along the park’s scenic trails. Summer is an especially precious time to visit, with fawns born in the early months and bucks with majestic antlers grown in by the end of the season. You’ll also see bison, goats, llamas, horses, emus, and lemurs. Tickets are $16 for adults, $12 for kids ages 3 to 11, and free for children under 2 years old. When it’s time to go, there are hand-washing stations all around the park.
Across from the Deer Park, Timbavati Wildlife Park is a 14-acre zoo offering family-friendly, immersive experiences in a beautiful habitat environment. It’s home to more than 400 animals representing over 75 species including flamingos, swans, spider monkeys, lions, tigers, pygmy goats, kangaroos, reptiles, foxes, giraffes, and more.
Duke and Izzy are excited to meet you!
Many of the park exhibits are interactive, with guests becoming part of the habitat. Be sure to experience the parakeet encounter and kangaroo walkabout, then feed the giraffe and goats. You can also take in one of the animal showcases in the park’s amphitheater, presented 4 times daily, or enjoy a safari train ride around the park’s savannah. Tickets are $19.95 for adults 13 and up, $16.95 for children 2 to 12, and free for guests under 2 years old.
Maybe you already knew there was good shopping nearby. Maybe it’s a happy coincidence. Whether you’re in the mood for the thrill of discovery or the art of scoring deals, a shopping bag with your name on it is around the corner.
To shop until you drop — or until you’ve run out of extra room in your suitcase — hit the Outlets at The Dells. It’s got tons of popular brands (Banana Republic, Nike, Coach, Michael Kors, Carter’s, The Children’s Place, Journey’s, and more) at discounted prices, so you can score deals on clothing, shoes, and accessories for everyone in the family, including back-to-school clothes or any items you may have forgotten to pack. Refuel with The Fudgery and Auntie Anne’s pretzels, which you’ll smell wafting down the open-air shopping space. There’s plenty of seating to give your feet a rest and coverage overhead to protect you from sun and rain.
In charming downtown Baraboo, grab fairtrade coffee for you, from-scratch lemonade for the kids, and some freshly-made sweet and savory scones at Bella Vita before strolling and browsing the wares of locally owned shops. Don’t miss The Village Booksmith, with tomes for all ages, Just Imagine Toys to trigger birthday wish lists, and Baraboo Candy Company, home of the original CowPie dessert.
There are few places better to be inspired by wildlife than at this nature center named for Aldo Leopold, a celebrated professor, scientist, author, conservationist, naturalist, and environmentalist, who dedicated his life to protecting the wilderness. He and his family lived on this land in a restored chicken coop, which you can visit on a kid-friendly, 1-mile loop hike. You can also explore surrounding wetlands, woodlands, and prairie lands on other trails, which are free and open every day from dawn to dusk. Check out the Family Trailside Backpack Program. For $5, your crew can grab a backpack with an Exploration Guide and a seasonal activity kit for self-guided fun. The Nature Nook in the lobby is full of hands-on exhibits created to entertain and educate kids of all ages on the wonders of location flora and fauna. Leopold’s legacy is a call for people to form respectful relationships with nature and all its living things. Teaching children why nature matters is one of the ALNC’s top missions, and this little side trip from the water park amusement strikes a nice balance.
Despite its moniker, spending a day exploring Devil’s Lake State Park is heavenly. Perhaps the best way to pass the time? Rock climbing. Nestled along Ice Age Scenic Trail, this swath of nature’s pride boasts 500-foot quartzite bluffs towering over a lake that blankets 360 acres. Of course, you can imagine where the best views are: yep, from the top. The bluffs are home to some 1,600 climbing routes for everyone from beginners to experienced cragsmen, and there are plenty of guides, pros, and outfitters on-site to help get you suited up and bouldering in no time.
Taking the whole family to the circus can feel like a three-ring spectacle of your own. Luckily, this 64-acre complex celebrating the Ringling Brothers’ greatest show on earth has enough exhibitions, performances, and immersive circus culture to keep the entire crew entertained for hours. For the kids, there are pony rides, music, and interactive shows they can star in with their friends; for the adults, there are self-guided tours, historical artifacts, and more than 260 intricate circus wagons to peruse.
Just east of Baraboo and north of Spring Green, White Mound County Park beckons with its 1,110 acres of natural paradise. One of the best ways to take in the area’s 104-acre lake, lofty canopies, and alabaster-hued hills made of limestone is from the back of a horse. Several miles of horseback-riding trails snake through the park, taking riders on a slow-paced scenic odyssey worthy of a nature documentary. There’s also a campground, open April-November, with 46 campsites, 37 of which include electrical hookups.