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Visiting the Dells — a ‘happy place’

Published: Monday, June 16, 2014 3:23 p.m. CST

As the result of the generosity of a couple of friends, my family and I recently headed to the Wisconsin Dells for three days of fun and relaxation. I’m not sure if we relaxed, but we did have fun.

I always find the Dells to be an interesting place. Originally named by some French explorers as “dalles” a French word meaning rapids or narrows on a river, the Dells have become a mixture of history, exploration, water parks, thrill rides, etc.

This was not our first visit as a group including adults and grandchildren. We visited there when the first grandson was under 3, when the second grandson was under 2 and now when the third grandson is just over 1. We teased the oldest grandson on this trip about his first visit to the Dells and how he was petrified on the jet boats — he screamed every time the boat made a turn and sprayed water. Of course now he knows his bravery has increased with his advanced age of 8. He has, I must admit, become an advertisement for enjoying the water at the Dells. Several times during our stay he extended his head over the water spouts at the indoor water park, shaking his head and flinging water on anyone unlucky enough to be passing by. He closely resembled those seen in the television commercials for the Wisconsin Dells.

If you go to the Dells and stay, as we did, in a condo at one of the larger resorts, you can, if you want, avoid the downtown area of the Dells and also some of the long-time attractions that always make a stay at the Dells unique. But, would going to the Dells be the same without some of those things? Not for me. We didn’t make it onto the Ducks this time, but we did throw in a round of miniature golf.

And, what stay at the Dells would be complete without visiting the downtown strip? Downtown is a mixture of the old and the new. Ripley’s Believe It or Not, moccasins, candy and fudge, ice cream and T-shirt shops are still very popular. Thrown into the mixture are some upscale clothing and jewelry boutiques and smart new restaurants. My family spent a few hours one afternoon strolling among the shops. The boys tried on hats, bought keychains, slingshots and candy. Oh, yes, there was candy. After the visit to the candy shop, the youngest grandchild needed a long bath and a hose to remove all of the stickiness! When you hold your sucker from the candy end, rather than the stick, you get a little sticky.

I have to admire whoever came up with some of the tourism ideas on display at the Dells. I read that originally tourists were attracted to the area by the “dells” and the limestone formations along the river. A boat tour on the Upper and Lower Dells gives evidence to the beauty of the area. But somewhere along the way, someone came up with the idea that the area could offer so much more in the realm of tourist attractions.

In 1956 the Tommy Bartlett Water Show came from Chicago for a performance on nearby Lake Delton. The popularity of the show encouraged Tommy to relocate the show to Lake Delton on a permanent basis. The show is still providing family entertainment today. In 1989, one of the hotels in the Dells came up with the idea of building an indoor water park, the first of its kind in the United States. Having been to Wisconsin, even in the summer, having an indoor water area certainly was a brilliant idea. It can, as we all know, be pretty chilly in our neighboring state! Now, indoor and outdoor water parks are everywhere at the Dells. Actually, it is pretty amazing. How does someone come up with the ideas for the twists and turns and drops that are involved in these watery experiences? Crazy!

Anyway, my family and I enjoyed our three days at the Dells. It’s quite a place. Someone told me recently, that the Dells is her “happy place”— it just makes her happy. I have to agree. Those days did make me happy, happy to be with my family, happy to see the faces of the kids, and happy to make more memories to last for the rest of my lifetime.

It really doesn’t matter where your “happy place” is. It can be your deck, your living room, your backyard pool or somewhere near or far, I hope you get a chance to visit that place this summer. It can make a new happy memory for you and your family.

Nita Wyatt of Wyanet can be reached at golfingfor2@ymail.com.

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