Wisconsin Dells

  • Making waves

    The ever-expanding resorts in this big playland have so many rides and slides, it's hard to know which one to pick.

    First, we loved the water slides, geysers and whimsical fiberglass figures at the Polynesian's Water Factory. Then, we loved the bigger slides, chutes, lily-pad walk and tubing river at Great Wolf's Spirit Mountain. When the Wilderness opened Klondike Kavern, its second park, we loved its indoor-outdoor hot tub and long tube slides.

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  • Baraboo's gilt complex

    In Ringlingville, the golden age of the circus never ended.

    In the circus, nothing succeeds like excess. And no one succeeded at that more than the Ringling brothers. On the Mississippi, showboats brought entertainment to river towns. In 1869, two circuses - one was Dan Rice's Own Circus, whose proprietor's clown character was the inspiration for Uncle Sam — put on performances in the Iowa river town of McGregor.

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  • H.H. Bennett's Wisconsin Dells

    Thanks to a 19th-century photographer, tourists flooded in to see the famous rock formations for themselves.

    H.H. Bennett wanted tourists to come to the Wisconsin Dells, and thanks to him, they came. Boy, did they come. In Bennett's day, they stayed for weeks, playing croquet and checkers and going on picnics, boat excursions on the Wisconsin River and perhaps to a magic-lantern show of stereoscope slides from Bennett's studio.

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  • Cranes of Wisconsin

    Near Baraboo, a global village of birds lives, loves and thrives.

    In Wisconsin, the rarest birds in the world live not far from the Dells. Not just any birds, but cranes - the tall, elegant birds of art and myth. In ancient Japan, cranes could grant wishes. In India, they're omens of good fortune.

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  • The divine Devil's Lake

    In the Baraboo Hills, a splendid park makes people come running.

    In Wisconsin, a bunch of rocks sets hearts aflutter. They enchant geologists, of course, but also scuba divers, rock climbers and botanists. The rest of us, too — hikers, birders, campers, Boy Scouts. We all go to give Devil's Lake its due.

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  • The quiet side of the Dells

    Sidestep the Strip, and you'll see a lovely area that's little changed since a photographer made the world come running.

    See the FUDGE sign in blinking white lights. See the plane tail protruding from the faux-ruin façade of Ripley's Believe It or Not. See the Wax World of the Stars, the Dungeon of Horrors, the Trojan Horse . . . only Wisconsin Dells.

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  • High drama at Devil's Lake

    Rocks tell the earthshaking story of how the Baraboo Hills were created.

    We're at the end of the Ice Age, at the edge of an endless mound of blue ice whose vast, super-cold surface has sent 200-mph winds whipping into Wisconsin. The winds can strip the flesh off a face in 30 seconds, so the local mammoth hunters have gone south for the winter.

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  • Road trip: Wisconsin's Muir Tour

    In the Baraboo Hills, visit John Muir's boyhood farm, Aldo Leopold's shack and every species of crane.

    In its marshes and woods, John Muir first discovered the joys of wilderness. On its sandy plains, Aldo Leopold became a pioneer of land stewardship. On its meadows, two young ornithologists created a haven for cranes. Leopold inspired legions with such books as "A Sand County Almanac.'' George Archibald and Ron Sauey founded the International Crane Foundation.

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  • Road trip: Wisconsin River

    The valleys and bluffs around Prairie du Sac draw paddlers, hikers and Sunday drivers.

    At Prairie du Sac, the Wisconsin River finally breaks free. Lined with so many dams and reservoirs it's often called the nation's hardest-working river, the Wisconsin devotes itself to play after it passes the town. Then it becomes the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway, beloved by canoeists, who like to play on its many sandbars.

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  • A vintage vineyard

    More than 175 years after its founding by a Hungarian hustler, Wollersheim is basking in success.

    In the wooded bluffs across the Wisconsin River from Prairie du Sac, the Saturday before Thanksgiving is a red-letter day for wine drinkers. That's when Wollersheim Winery releases its Ruby Nouveau and throws open its doors for a tasting party that always draws hordes of loyal fans.

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  • Wisconsin Dells in fall

    For many, the scenery is best when the crowds are gone.

    In the Dells, when the children go home, the adults come out to play. Autumn is a quiet time in Wisconsin Dells. The outdoor water parks are closed and many attractions are shuttered. In the rush of summer, many tourists spend a whole week in Wisconsin Dells and never see the dells that drew tourists in the first place.

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