My turn

My Chicago family finds ties to Wisconsin Dells

2013-07-03T00:00:00Z My Chicago family finds ties to Wisconsin DellsJennifer Pallay Times Columnist
July 03, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Wisconsin Dells has the best of many worlds as we found out during a recent two-night visit. At only three-plus hours from Hegewisch and with a special last-minute deal at a water park resort, it made for a perfect mini-family getaway.

It had been a few years since I actually stayed overnight in this tourist attraction of a town. I usually just pass through and stop at my favorite cheese shop for the greatest candy I’ve ever eaten — pecan logs of ooey gooey goodness. I didn’t realize how much I’d been missing as the Dells has really come a long way in family entertainment. It also wasn’t as expensive as I remember. Our room included passes to the water park as well as two other Dells attractions so our only additional costs were food.

As a child, visiting the Dells for a night was the highlight of an annual fishing trip that included staying at a cabin in Birchwood, Wisc., where the grownups fished and I freed the minnows. The Dells offered something more exciting and was always the part of the trip I most anticipated.

Visiting now as an adult with a toddler, it was even better.

Our hotel stay included tickets to see the Tommy Bartlett Ski, Sky and Stage show and it was great to relive past shows and make new memories. The show was celebrating its 60th anniversary. I was excited to learn that Bartlett actually had ties to Chicago, where he was one of the pioneers of Chicago radio. “Welcome Travelers” is considered his most well-known program and featured Bartlett interviewing Chicago tourists.

Even Bartlett’s most famous work — the Wisconsin Dells show — had roots in Chicago. After seeing a ski performance at the Chicago Railroad Fair, he decided water shows were the way of the future and started a touring company. After taking his show around the world, it found its permanent home in Wisconsin. Seeing the show was great and its theater surrounded by a lake and towering pine trees reminded me of the Wisconsin I visited as a kid.

Other trip highlights included visits to our hotel’s indoor and outdoor water parks, which are incredible to see; a special dinner at a supper club on Mirror Lake, two miles from the hotel but worlds away from the hustle and bustle of regular Dells tourism; a stop at the new wildlife park that opened a few weeks ago; and, of course, a stop for my favorite candy on the way home.

The Dells of today has all the best of yesteryear but plenty of updated and modern attractions to enjoy.

Visit for information and special deals.

Happy Fourth

Don’t forget tonight is the Freedom’s Eve celebration hosted by Calumet Memorial Park District. Gates open at 4:30 p.m. at the Superior Street Complex behind T.F. North High School, 755 Pulaski Road in Calumet City. Admission is free and there will be a Kiddie Carnival, live music and fireworks. Food and novelty items will be sold.

The opinions are solely those of the writer. She can be reached at

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