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    Wisconsin Dells,

    Wisconsin

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    Wisconsin Dells is a city in south-central Wisconsin, with a population of 2,678 people as of the 2010 census. It straddles four counties: Adams, Columbia, Juneau, and Sauk. The city takes its name from the Dells of the Wisconsin River, a scenic, glacially formed gorge that features striking sandstone formations along the banks of the Wisconsin River. Together with the nearby village of Lake Delton, the city forms an area known as "The Dells", a popular Midwestern tourist destination.
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    Budget Travel Lists

    10 budget-friendly adventures across the midwest

    Outside exploration close to home became a popular alternative for conventional vacations this year providing a safe and creative chance to rediscover (or even discover for the first time) our own backyards. While travel may look different, there are plenty of safe and distanced ways to find fun and adventure. The Midwest is a treasure trove of unique experiences for every age with a range of exciting opportunities and beautiful landscapes. The Midwest is known for four very distinct seasons and many of the experiences can be enjoyed with a whole new perspective based on season (though some are strictly seasonal) These ten destinations in six Midwest states provide a range of options …from National parks to local U-pick farms, avoiding indoor crowds opting instead for wide open outdoor spaces. 1. Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana. This beach in the middle of the country has a surprising ocean vibe with opportunities to hike, swim, camp, fish, and bird watch. The park offers the “3 dune challenge”, a hike involving a 1.5 mile trail with a 552 vertical feet climb (equivalent of 55 stories) to the 3 highest dunes in the park…through sand!! The views are worth the climb and completion of the hike is an accomplishment in itself. Admission is 7-12$ per vehicle. Starved Rocks State Park, Illinois. Photo by: Vigil Photography. Flickr creative commons license. 2. Matthiessen and Starved Rock State Parks, Illinois. These parks, within a few miles of each other, offer trails that lead to spectacular displays of bluffs and canyons highlighted with scenic overlooks, rock formations and waterfalls. In the summertime, the waterfalls provide a cool respite from the hike and in the winter ice falls form and are climbable. Admission is free. Elephant Rocks State Park. Photo by: Miguel Acosta. Flickr Creative Commons License. 3. Johnson’s Shut Ins and Elephant Rocks State Parks, Missouri. These parks, also within a few miles of each other, are both truly hidden gems. Johnsons Shut Ins is essentially a natural water park with chutes, slides and waterfalls as well as swimming holes and rocks to climb. This adventure is truly one of a kind – a stunning destination to see and experience. Elephant Rocks State Park is made of giant elephantine boulders that are available to climb and explore. The park provides an accessible trail. Both are free. Maquoketa Caves State Park. Photo by: Phil Roeder. Flickr Creative Commons license. 4. Maquoketa Caves State Park, Iowa. A unique park in Iowa with 13 caves suited for different levels of exploration, from caves that are lighted and large enough to walk through on a boardwalk…to small caves well suited for spelunking. The park provides hiking trails through rocky canyons and a spectacular natural bridge. *For added fun, 61 Drive In Theater (just miles from the caves) is a fun way to end the day…a throwback to time gone by, the drive in usually offers current double features, a playground for children before the movie, a concession stand and a train ride. The caves are free. The drive in ranges in price from 7-9$ for children and adults. 5. Drive the Great River Road. A natural scenic byway passing through 10 states along the 3000 mile Mississippi River. In Illinois, a day’s drive might start in the quaint artsy town of Galena to enjoy the vibrant main street shopping and eateries. After which, drive along the river to Palisades State Park to hike the bluffed overlook enjoying the views. Continue with a stop in the Quad Cities, the only place where the mighty Mississippi runs east to west instead of north to south. The Quad Cities are home to John Deere world headquarters and pavilion where construction and agricultural machinery is often available to view on their outdoor terrace. A paddlewheel riverboat cruise is reminiscent of simpler times depicted by Mark Twain in his life and writings on the Mississippi and a perfect way to enjoy the third longest river in the world. End the evening on the sky bridge with a sweet corn flavored ice cream watching the sunset . All free with exception of the cruise (and the ice cream.) 6. Henry Doorly Zoo, Nebraska. This zoo was a wonderful Midwest surprise (similar to the inland beach), as this zoo is constantly ranked as one of the best on the world and is right here in the middle of the country. The zoo has a variety of specialized exhibits including an aquarium, butterfly enclosure and creatures of the night display. The animal population ranges from polar bears and penguins to gorillas, rhinos, elephants, giraffes and mesmerizing jellyfish. Price is $18.95-$25.95 for a child or adult. 7. Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. While this one may be more crowded and a bit pricier – it most definitely deserves a spot in the top ten. From idyllic natural scenery to thrilling water adventures, the Dells is a must see destination. Self proclaimed water park capital of the world, the dells offer water sports, waterslides, museums, amusement parks, and the original duck boat ride – which takes passengers from land to sea on the same craft. The majestic scenery of the sandstone bluffs and the opportunity to explore natural beauty of Witches Gulch or Devil’s Lake State Park is not to be missed. Prices vary depending on activity. 8. Monticello Iowa Canoe Company, Iowa For an afternoon of canoeing, kayaking, or tubing down the Maquoketa River through beautiful bluffs – truly a memorable way to enjoy a sunny summer day. The company provides a bus ride or covid friendly van ride for small groups or families to the beginning of the float and collects the rented equipment at the end of the float leaving only relaxation time for the floaters. 3-6 hours float for 15-30$ depending on canoe, kayak, or tube rental. Chestnut Mountain, Galena. Photo by: Alan Light. Flickr Creative Commons license 9. Sky Tours Zipline, Iowa. This most unique adventure combines adventure with history and nature. A guided tour through the ruins of an entertainment venue from the early 1900’s including hiking through the natural overgrowth and nine ziplining opportunities. 74$ for the ziplining tour lasting approximately 2 hours. *To extend the day’s adventures, nearby in Galena Illinois is Chestnut Mountain which is home to one of the Midwest’s “alpine” slides providing approximately 2000 feet of downhill fun! The tri- state views from the top of the mountain are spectacular and the slide is thrilling way to spend an afternoon. Prices are 10$ per ride or multiple ride passes may be purchased too. 10. U-pick farms. An afternoon to relax and enjoy nature’s harvests is a perfect way to pass the day. The farms are local and seasonal but opportunities to spend an afternoon in an orchard or field are plentiful in the Midwest. Options range from picking flowers, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, apples, pumpkins, and even Christmas trees depending on the time of year. The harvests of the day can be enjoyed long after with fresh bouquets, delicious homemade pies and pumpkin carving or the fresh pine smell of a real Christmas tree for the holidays, An afternoon at a local vineyard can be truly heavenly with friends or as a romantic getaway…a time to enjoy this unique time in history secluded with the ones you love. Miss Effie’s Country Flowers – first You pick flower farm in Iowa – Donahue, Iowa. Pride of the Wapsi – Pumpkins and sunflowers Long Grove IA Wilson’s Orchard and Farms (apples) Iowa City Iowa Shady Knoll Pumpkin Patch Moline IL Lakeside Pines (Christmas trees) – Hillsdale IL Galena Cellars – vineyard and winery Galena IL Prices vary

    Inspiration

    Outdoor holiday celebrations around the United States

    It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and many parts of our country are feeling festive despite the pandemic. If you are still cautious, or on the fence, or simply prefer an outdoor experience, this list is for you! Here are a few places around the U.S. where you can get into the holiday spirit outdoors and admire holiday decorations and lights from walking paths. Here’s where to celebrate the holidays this year— remember to check out our private booking platform with discounted rates! Northeast New York City, New York The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree will be lit daily from from 6am-12am. On Christmas Day, the Tree is lit for 24 hours and on New Year’s Eve it is lit from 6am to 9pm. New Hampshire The 2.5-mile drive-through light show at the New Hampshire Speedway in Loudon features 400 different lighting displays with snow-covered mountains in the background. Woodstock, Vermont Celebrate the holidays Victorian style at Billings Farm & Museum, where you can try your hand at candle dipping, watch traditional holiday cooking demonstrations, create your own gingerbread ornaments—or just head straight to the onsite Dairy Bar for cider donuts. Mid-Atlantic Maryland At Ocean City, Maryland's Winterfest of Lights guests can explore zillions of sparkling holiday lights, animated light displays, and a 50-foot holiday tree on display along a paved path in Northside Park. The Annmarie Sculpture Garden is transformed into an outdoor wonderland until January 1st with many light sculptures of wild animals, winter wonderlands, musical holiday scenes, and magical beings. Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia The White House isn’t the only place in the nation's capital that’s getting in on the holiday spirit. Civilians can enjoy the undeniable festive energy in the District through New Year’s Day by visiting the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. The National Menorah will be lit throughout Hanukkah. About 25 minutes away in Vienna, Virginia, celebrate the season at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens’ Winter Walk of Lights. Stroll the one-way half-mile path full of holiday lights and festive decorations, admire the Fountains of Lights and watch as the “sing to me” tree’s lights dance along with all your favorite holiday tunes. Timed tickets must be purchased online ahead of time and are available on a limited basis. Roanoke, Virginia Treat yourselves to a lovely half-mile walk through the woods, toast marshmallows around the fire, shop for presents at the Artisan Christmas Market, donate canned goods to help others, meet Santa and his elves, and feast your eyes on more than 500,000 lights during the Illuminights Winter Walk of Lights at Explore Park. Purchase timed tickets online or by phone to access this event. Virginia Beach, Virginia Head to Virginia Beach for a unique beach-themed holiday lights display. At the Holiday Lights at the Beach, you’ll drive on the Atlantic Ocean boardwalk that has been transformed into a nautical lights display, including a surfing Santa. Southeast Aiken, South Carolina Enjoy more than two miles of beautifully lit paths with over 100,000 lights and holiday decorations at Christmas in Hopelands Gardens. This year, the colorful displays will be lit up all December long to help keep spirits bright. The Christmas Craft show features handmade crafts and goodies made by talented artisans from across the Southeast. There is sure to be something for everyone’s style, taste, and budget. The Christmas Craft Show is also a great place to shop for your holiday gifts and décor. South Walton, Florida If you’re in the Florida panhandle, don’t miss 12 Nights of Lights at The Village of Baytowne Wharf, located about halfway between Pensacola and Panama City Beach in South Walton. Enjoy a festive light show every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday leading up to Christmas! This sparkling event will also be featured during our special holiday edition of the Wednesday Night Concert Series. Watch three dazzling shows each night! Houston, Texas The Space Center in Houston is hosting Galaxy Lights, a technological holiday celebration featuring kinetic light shows, choreographed light and music sequences, an interactive light pad, a large light tunnel and the chance to see a film about astronauts celebrating the holidays in space, among other themed attractions. Galaxy Lights requires its own tickets, which can be purchased online, and takes about 90 minutes to fully enjoy. Pigeon Forge, Tennessee Dolly Parton’s Dollywood features an award-winning spectacle, set in the backdrop of the Smoky Mountains. The festival features over 5 million lights, and even include fireworks this year. Midwest Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin Visit the Tree of Light, a 55-foot silver maple tree decked out in 30,000 lights near the River Walk in Wisconsin Dells. As the holiday season kicks off, Wisconsin Dells will deliver a little extra cheer again this year with one of the biggest and brightest displays of all. In the open-air located off the River Walk in downtown Wisconsin Dells, a towering 55-foot silver maple tree will showcase 30,000 dazzling points of light, making it the only – and we mean only – light display of its kind in the Midwest. Stroll along the River Walk and view additional lighting in the form of 70 holiday trees, all sponsored by area businesses. Indiana The Santa Claus Land of Lights is a 1.2 mile Drive-Through Family Christmas Light Adventure located inside Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort. Enjoy the largest campground holiday light show in North America and the only light show that tells a story in lights and storyboards! Create new family memories and family traditions this Christmas Season at the Santa Claus Land of Lights – Family Christmas Light Adventure! For more themed light displays cruise through The Christmas Lake Village Festival Lights. The gated community of Christmas Lake Village invites you to drive through nine miles of festive light displays! Awards for Judges’ Favorite, Kids’ Favorite, Reason for the Season, and Best Lights will be awarded to four homes. Cheyenne, Wyoming Celebrate the holiday season Western-style this year in Cheyenne, where you can get your letter to Santa stamped by an Elf and see the mail get picked up by a Pony Express rider, visit holiday horses at Santa’s Saloon and Stables, hear Cowboy Carolers sing and meet Mr. Claus by the fire at Kringle Ranch, part of an event by the Little America Hotel & Resort. Check the calendar for more Old West holiday festivities happening through December 31. West Sonoma County, California Cue that legendary piano music and celebrate trees of all shapes and sizes all December long at Windsor’s annual Charlie Brown Christmas Tree Grove. This year, more than 200 trees were decorated by neighborhood families, classes, small businesses and community groups for you to enjoy on a socially distanced stroll through Windsor Town Green. San Luis Obispo, California Don’t miss San Luis Obispo’s annual Light Up Downtown event, the region’s destination for making holiday memories for more than 40 years. This year, they will feature the return of our annual Holiday Parade, Santa's House, and the Classic Carousel. Explore and celebrate local businesses and check out the lights, sights, and family fun in the Holiday Plaza! Nevada The Polar Express in Carson City, Nevada drive-through lights experience is operating until Christmas Eve. The brilliant light show will feature Santa, Mrs. Claus, and dozens of elves busy at work as they prepare for Christmas. Guests are encouraged to wear their favorite holiday pajamas and bring hot chocolate as they travel through the North Pole experience. Hawai’i Get into the Mele Kalikimaka spirit at the 25th anniversary of Kauai’s Festival of Lights. The displays use recycled and reclaimed materials at the Historic County Building park and can be enjoyed until New Year’s Day. Millions of colorful lights illuminate the park’s looming coconut palm trees wrapped in colorful lights as well as upcycled decorations including aluminum can flowers and water bottle butterflies. Arizona Make the best of the holidays at the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix. The gardens offer a dash of holiday magic with 8,000 hand-lit luminaria bags and thousands of white twinkle lights. Las Noches de las Luminarias includes pre-recorded carols to enjoy during the experience. In Lake Havasu City experience London Bridge Resort's Festival of Lights—the Bridgewater Channel is lit up with over 500,000 lights that set the water aglow and spark the holiday spirit.

    Budget Travel Lists

    10 Most Relaxing Spas in America

    Need a little R&R? Say no more! We’ve scoured the country to find the 10 most relaxing spas in the U.S. If you’re ready to unwind, pack a bag and head to one of these sanctuaries. 1. Acqualina Resort & Spa in Sunny Isles Beach, FL (Courtesy @acqualinaresort/Instagram)Take in breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean from one of the 98 impeccable guest rooms at this five-star resort and spa located on 4.5 beachfront acres in Sunny Isles Beach, Miami (one of our favorite cities for foodie adventures and more). Enjoy a soak in one of the resort’s three oceanfront swimming pools before retreating indoors to the property’s world-class, 20,000-square-foot spa. Its signature spa treatments include a full-body massage using hot volcanic stones, a hot salt stone massage, and a detoxifying body wrap and advanced body massage that targets cellulite, fluid retention, and skin tonicity. The spa also has a Finnish sauna, a crystal steam room, and a shower room with cool Arctic and warm Caribbean mists. 2. Lake Austin Spa Resort in Austin, TX Built on a secluded lakefront, this sprawling Texas getaway is the perfect place to go if you’re looking for a luxury resort with waterfront views. The resort offers more than 100 spa treatments and services, from seaweed body wraps and collagen-boosting facials to Thai massages and acupuncture. Guests can also enjoy any of the resort’s wide range of activities that are included in their stay such as a Mediterranean cooking class, outdoor yoga session, or canyon preserve hike. 3. Auberge du Soleil in Napa, CA Budget Travelers have always loved California wine country. Secluded inside a terraced, sun-kissed hillside amid 33-acres of heritage olive and oak trees, this Napa Valley resort has a spa surrounded by sweeping views of the wine country. Its “best of Auberge facial” uses advanced ingredients rich in marine collagen, powerful antioxidants, and exfoliating enzymes to provide immediate firming and facial contour results. Traveling with your significant other? Get a joint full-body exfoliation using crushed grape seeds, followed by a fragrant bath for two in a private garden where you’ll enjoy fresh fruit and wine before receiving side-by-side scalp and foot treatments, followed by full-body massages. 4. Encore spa at Wynn resort and casino in Las Vegas Sin City tops many traveler’s must-see list. This hotel spa may just be the definition of opulence. Featuring designer treatment rooms, the Wynn’s Encore spa sets a tranquil mood with glowing gold lanterns, life-size Buddhas, and blossoming orchids. For a relaxing full-body treatment order the Good Luck Ritual, which combines a custom massage, invigorating peppermint foot treatment, ultra-moisturizing hand therapy, and botanical scalp treatment. Have tired, achy feet? The Encore Foot Surrender will revitalize them by incorporating the use of steamed herbal poultices, reflex point therapy and a cooling peppermint foot treatment. 5. Shibui Spa at the Greenwich Hotel in New York City This Japanese-inspired wellness center is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. Lanterns that softly illuminate the heated swimming pool set a soft ambience that will put your mind at ease. Consider getting the Bamboo Glow, a bamboo and lemongrass body scrub followed by a private shower with yuzu sea algae wash, a mint mineral bath, and a 60-minute, moisture-binding massage infused with bergamot, vetiver, and wild, Japanese lime. Spa guests also enjoy complimentary tea and dried fruits. 6. The Lodge at Woodloch in Hawley, PA A two-hour drive from New York City, this resort’s luxurious spa draws guests with its selection of creative body treatments, massages, facials, and salon services. Enjoy a soak in the facility’s activity pool with floor to ceiling windows, surrounded by nature, before retiring to one of the 27 treatment rooms for a European deep cleansing facial, Swedish magnesium massage, or Thai bodywork—a technique that uses stretching, point therapy, and breath work to create a sense of balance throughout the body. In addition, the spa specializes in pre-natal treatments that focus on rehydrating skin and promoting circulation. 7. Mii Amo in Sedona, AZ You’ll fall under Sedona’s spell at this ultra-private spa retreat nestled in a red-rock canyon that’s sacred to Native Americans. Guests can choose from a 3-, 4- or 7-night all-inclusive program that includes scheduled fitness classes, lectures, and two spa services per day. Opt for one of its indigenous-inspired therapies, such as the Soul Seeker treatment, where a master therapist uses guided imagery, energy soul journeying, emotional release, and breath work to help you achieve heightened awareness. 8. Sundara Inn & Spa in Wisconsin Dells, WI Tucked in a pine forest on the scenic outskirts of Wisconsin Dells, this resort’s spa is the perfect spot to disconnect and enjoy spa treatments that blend ancient wisdom with modern wellness techniques. Guests can choose from a wide range of spa treatments, including a coffee bean firming body wrap, exfoliating wrinkle reduction facial, or warm oil scalp massage. Also, the indoor bathhouse features an essential oil-infused hot pool with hydro jets, a cool plunge pool that improves circulation, a rainfall shower, and a steam room with aromas of rose and sandalwood. 9. Sunrise Springs Spa Resort in Santa Fe, NM (Courtesy @sunrisespringsnm/Instagram)With 70 tranquil acres of gardens, walking paths, and a scenic high desert landscape, this Santa Fe resort attracts guests from around the world to its wellness spa, which offers the best of Eastern and Western therapies. One of the spa’s cutting-edge treatments is a CBD full-body massage therapy that uses CBD oils and products grown and processed in Colorado to release tension in sore muscles and reduce inflammation in joints. The spa also offers—among many treatments—a facial that uses hot herbal towels and wild-crafted local herbs to gently soothe and tone skin. 10. The Spa at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY Founded in 1869, this Hudson Valley destination serves up skin and body treatments in a 30,000-square-foot eco-friendly spa, which includes 16 treatment rooms, relaxation verandas, solarium, 60-foot long indoor heated pool, and outdoor heated mineral pool. The spa offers more than 80 unique treatments, including a deep-heat massage with arnica oil helps calm the nerves and provides relief to over-used muscles. A nice bonus: both men’s and women’s changing rooms have a eucalyptus steam room and dry rock sauna.

    Destinations

    Top U.S. Water Parks

    1. WILDERNESS TERRITORY WATERPARK RESORT AT WISCONSIN DELLS, WI.  Near Madison, WI. (55 miles) The Wilderness Territory's most popular ride is the Hurricane: Riders experience the eye of the storm as they rapidly descend through a four-story funnel. Flashes of lightning, rumbling thunder, and drifting fog convey the sense of a full-blown natural disaster. Details 511 E. Adams St., Wisconsin Dells, Wis., 800/867-9453, wildernessresort.com. Kids eat free with adult purchase.Other Wilderness locations A new, 150-acre Wilderness resort in Sevierville, Tenn. Parks nearby Other water parks in Wisconsin Dells: Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Park and Noah's Ark. 2. KALAHARI RESORT, SANDUSKY, OH.  Near Toledo, OH. (60 miles) Kalahari doubled the size of the park in December 2007. The highlight is the Swahili Swirl. In a four-person inner tube, you'll be ejected from a steep tube slide into a 60-foot-diameter bowl; it's a dizzying three times around before you're sucked down the drain and dropped into a 50-foot-long landing pool. It's like a really fun toilet bowl. To mellow out, relax under the 40,000-square-foot clear Texlon roof, which houses tropical plants and allows guests to catch sun year-round.Details 7000 Kalahari Dr., Sandusky, 877/525-2427, kalahariresort.com. Look for "Beat the Clock" lodging specials on the website. Other Kalahari locations Wisconsin Dells Wis. And a new water-park resort is under development in Fredericksburg, Va. 3. AQUATIC BY SEAWORLD, ORLANDO, FL.  Near Tampa, FL. (85 miles) The signature experience here is the Dolphin Plunge, 250 feet of clear underwater tubes that plunge riders into a lagoon populated by charismatic black-and-white Commerson's dolphins. For a split second, you'll feel as if you're swimming with them. Aquatica's attractions include something for everyone: 36 slides, six rivers and lagoons, and more than 80,000 square feet of white-sand beaches.Details 5800 Water Play Way, Orlando, 888/800-5447, aquaticabyseaworld.com. 4. DAYTONA LAGOON, DAYTONA BEACH, FL.   Near Orlando, FL. (55 miles) Daytona Lagoon's most hair-raising experience is Blackbeard's Revenge. After you climb the 62-foot tower and mount an inner tube, you'll take a 15 mph, six-story tumble down a twisting, pitch-black tunnel slide. Don't miss the brand-new Kraken's Conquest, either: It's a four-lane, 55-foot-long ProRacer-series speed slide. Friends and families can challenge each other to high-speed, watery showdowns. Details 601 Earl St., Daytona Beach, 386/254-5020, daytonalagoon.com. The park offers a different special each day; for example, every Thursday you can get unlimited use of miniature golf, the carousel, and the rock-climbing wall from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for $10. 5. WATER WORLD, DENVER, CO.  Near Boulder, CO. (30 miles) The 67-acre Water World's calling card is the Voyage to the Center of the Earth. Brave riders hop onto inner tubes and journey into the dark—where they're confronted by large, animatronic dinosaurs, including a 15-foot T. rex. If you're scared of the dark, but not much else, the TurboRacer might be more your style: Jump headfirst onto toboggan mats and race your friends down four stories, eventually launching—at more than 20 mph—onto a straightaway to the finish line. Each rider's time is recorded, so you can tell if you're the fastest waterstud in Denver.Details 1800 W. 89th Ave., Federal Heights, Colo., 303/427-7873, waterworldcolorado.com. Families can bring a picnic into the park; parking is free. 6. GULF ISLANDS WATERPARK, GULFPORT, MS.  Near New Orleans, LA. (77 miles) The most popular ride here is the Horn Island Blaster water roller coaster. The attraction ferries two riders at a time through more than 500 feet of twists and turns, including some thrilling uphill blasts at angles greater than 45 degrees. Families with young children might opt instead for the Ship Island Wreck, a slide for kids as young as 2. Details 13100 16th St. Gulfport, 866/485-3386, gulfislandswaterpark.com. 7. WATER PARK OF AMERICA, BLOOMINGTON, MN.  Near Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN. (13 miles) Given that it's adjacent to the gargantuan Mall of America, it's no wonder that the Water Park of America is a year-round attraction. The highlight is its mile-long indoor Whitewater Family Raft Ride, which propels riders over a river suspended 10 stories above the cars and trucks zipping along Interstate 494. Other standouts include an immense video arcade and the Trillium Spa— the latter for those who would prefer to skip the action.Details 1700 American Blvd. E., Bloomington, 952/698-8888, waterparkofamerica.com. The Radisson, which connects to the park, offers packages that include tickets. 8. SPLISH SPLASH, LONG ISLAND, N.Y.  NearNew York City, N.Y. (73 miles) The most popular offerings pitch you into darkness to up the thrill factor: Dragon's Den, Barrier Reef, Hollywood Stunt Rider, and the super popular Alien Invasion. The last ride begins by blasting your four-person raft down a steep slide before spinning it out of control and launching it into a dark pool. For raw intensity, try the Cliff Diver—you'll drop eight stories in three seconds. 'Nuff said.Details 2549 Splish Splash Dr., Calverton, N.Y., 631/727-3600, splishsplashlongisland.com. 9. MOUNTAIN CREEK WATERPARK, VERNON, N.J.  Near Trenton, N.J. (89 miles) Vertigo, a fully enclosed water coaster, cannons riders around tight curves in total darkness. Passengers on the park's signature ride, High Anxiety, drop four stories in the dark before entering into a funnel at breakneck speed.Details 200 Rte. 94, Vernon, N.J., 973/864-8444, mountaincreekwaterpark.com. Season-pass benefits include two bring-a-friend-for-free days and free parking. 10. RAGING WATERS, SAN JOSE,  CA.  Near San Francisco, CA. (50 miles) The 23-acre Raging Waters includes the winding, 60-foot-long Blue Thunder/White Lightning tunnel slide, and the newest attention-grabber, Dragon's Den, which catapults a two-person tube through darkness before a sudden, gut-wrenching drop into calmer waters. Details 2333 S. White Rd., San Jose, 408/238-9900, rwsplash.com. Other Raging Waters locations San Dimas (near L.A.) and Sacramento, Calif. (season passes are good for all three parks). 11. WET 'N WILD EMERALD POINTE, GREENSBORO, N.C.  Near Raleigh, N.C. (78 miles) Wet 'n Wild is well-known for its speed chutes like Daredevil Drop, with a hair-raising 76-foot plunge, and Double Barrel Blast, a ride which ends abruptly in midair—launching you from a four-foot edge before you hit the pool. Contrary to its name, Wet 'n Wild also lets you skip the water altogether: The Skycoaster combines the thrills of bungee-jumping and hang gliding, allowing up to three people at a time to experience the sensation of flying without getting even a little soggy.Details 3910 S. Holden Rd., Greensboro, 336/852-9721, emeraldpointe.com. Wet 'n Wild offers various promotions throughout the summer, from Girl Scout Day (June 20) and Home Educator's Day (August 20). 12. SPLASHTOWN WATERPARK, SAN ANTONIO, TX.  Near Austin, TX. (80 miles) The 20-acre Splashtown features more than 50 rides and attractions, from simple wave pools to true screamers, such as the five-story Hydras tube-slide tower and the aptly named Wedgie, a precipitous speed slide that tugs on your trunks like an 8th-grade bully as it fires you into the pool below. Details 3600 N. I-35, San Antonio, 210/227-1400, splashtownsa.com. Special events include magic shows and "dive-in" movie screenings. Parking is free.Parks nearby Other area parks include Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels, Texas. If you find yourself in Dallas, Bahama Beach is an option. 13. SIX FLAGS WHITE WATER, ATLANTA  Near Athens, GA. (73 miles) The nine-story Cliffhanger is one of the world's tallest free falls. It's so high that just peeking over the top might be thrill enough. But the signature ride is the Tornado, an intense four-person inner-tube nosedive of greater than 50 vertical feet—all while 5,000 gallons of water swirls around you. Details 250 Cobb Pkwy N., Marietta, Ga., 770/948-9290, sixflags.com/whitewater. Other Six Flags locations Six Flags has many Hurricane Harbor water parks adjacent to existing amusement parks; locations include Gurnee/Chicago, Ill.; Arlington, Tex. Eureka, Mo.; Jackson, N.J.; Valencia/Los Angeles, Calif.; Agawam, Mass.; and Largo, Md.

    Family

    Make Everyone Happy And Take The Family Reunion On Location

    Kris Zahrobsky, a 25-year-old firefighter from the Chicago suburb of Berwyn, Ill., is a member of the Feelys, a family based mostly in the Midwest that for generations has tried to keep in touch and get together every other year or so. When Kris was growing up, the reunions were simple affairs, maybe in someone's backyard or at a state park. There wasn't a whole lot to do besides catch up, eat, and pose for pictures. "It was great to see all the relatives," says Kris, "but I remember being bored out of my mind." For the 2005 reunion, Kris proposed a different kind of get-together--a weekend in the Wisconsin Dells, a destination that overflows with family resorts and water parks. "The Dells was my first choice," says Kris. "In the same building, the kids can go to the water park while the parents sit and relax." The Feelys decided to base the reunion at the Kalahari Resort, which has indoor and outdoor water parks, a banquet hall that can host a big family dinner, and all sorts of rooms and suites. Last fall, Kris even set up a website to post family news and a reunion itinerary, including times for group boat tours, casual gatherings in a hospitality room, and a mass on Sunday morning. The Feelys are expecting this summer's gathering to be the best turnout in years: around 200 people from 18 states, with some members of the extended family who haven't attended a reunion since the 1970s. If you expect people to devote vacation time and endure hours of travel, the least you can do is make the reunion fun. Rather than the traditional backyard barbecue or potluck in someone's crowded living room, more and more families are going on cruises, renting a few beach houses, or heading to all-inclusive resorts. Planning a big reunion is difficult enough. Add in coordinating a vacation that jibes with everyone's budget, schedule, and desires, and the job becomes nearly impossible. Age-old rivalries and differences don't help either. "You find out how dysfunctional your family is when planning a reunion," says Stacey Hopkins of Atlanta, Ga., whose family reunion of 150 to 200 people takes place every other year, usually somewhere in the eastern U.S. "Our family has a lot of alpha females, and it's not pretty when people don't agree. The experience can be traumatic." From the planning stages to exchanging pictures after the trip's over, everyone involved should try to be flexible and keep things pleasant. "Don't talk about religion, politics, and child rearing," says Laurence Basirico, author of The Family Reunion Survival Guide. "Not if you expect everybody to have a good time, anyway." There are many ways to make the experience as painless--and as fun--as possible, and we've done some of the homework for you. The consensus is that you should begin planning a reunion at least a year in advance, to allow time for deciding where to go and when, to give everyone ample warning for taking off work, and to make sure rooms will be available. If you've got a reasonably big group--over 20, say--lodging reservations should be made eight or more months ahead. Memorial Day to Labor Day is prime family reunion season because kids are out of school. The Christmas break is also popular, but prices are sky-high and many people have traditions they like to keep at home, as well as commitments to the other side of the family. It's usually clear who'll be the reunion ringleaders--the same crew of matriarchs (and sometimes patriarchs) who host Thanksgiving dinners and send cards to everyone on their birthdays. "Somebody's gotta take charge, but no one should do it alone," says Basirico. "When things get going, have a travel agent serve as a neutral third party." People won't be offended when an agent says there's a deadline for deposits (and it's handy to have an outsider to blame should things go wrong). After a few casual conversations indicate that there's a fair amount of interest, one of the ringleaders should send out a group e-mail. To keep the conversation from literally going all over the map, offer roughly three possibilities. List a few pros and cons for each, as well as ballpark costs. To avoid any confusion, specify up front who will have to pay for what. Some people will want to go camping while others will lean toward five-star resorts, so compromise is essential. Organizers of the Feely reunion in Wisconsin Dells knew that not everyone wanted to pay over $100 a night at the Kalahari Resort, so they provided booking details for a nearby campground. Have each family pick a leader to voice its concerns and, if necessary, put the decision on where to go to a vote. Don't get hung up if someone doesn't want to go or cancels at the last minute. Carry on with the people who want to be there. Figuring out food and activities on a vacation can cause anxiety for a couple, let alone for a group of 50. That's why cruises and all-inclusive resorts are naturals for reunions. They provide home bases for fun and relaxation, and you always know where meals will be. "Cruise reservations are no-nonsense: X tables at X times," says Kathy Sudeikis, president of the American Society of Travel Agents. "Anywhere else, when you have to do dinner for a big group, it's like moving the Fifth Army." Some families prefer a place that's within driving distance of a majority of the attendees. A beach, mountain retreat, or small town can do the trick--but planners should be sensitive to anyone traveling a long way. No one wants to drive five hours after a six-hour flight. The reunion shouldn't be held in anyone's backyard either, because whoever's local might wind up bearing the burden of playing host and tour guide. Every traditional vacation spot in the U.S. has a convention and visitors bureau (CVB), and you should put these organizations to work for you. Contact the CVBs of your top choices and tell them how big your group is and what you're interested in doing. They'll pass along your info to hotels, resorts, car-rental agencies, restaurants, and attractions--who in turn will send you offers, coupons, and brochures catered to your needs. Hotels and resorts are willing to give perks to big groups, whether it's a corporate retreat, a business conference, or a family reunion. "Put the ball in the venue's court and ask what dates can get you the most value," says Jonathan Miller, former president of the National Association of Reunion Managers (reunions.com). "Leverage the size of your group in terms of how much business you're bringing to the hotel." If you're not staying in an all-inclusive, it's probably worth it to pay a little extra for rooms with kitchens--or ask that the hotel provide them at no additional charge--because you don't want to run to a restaurant every time a child is hungry for a snack. As for activities, the idea is to reunite and be with each other, but people will get burned out if things are too regimented. Give everyone ample free time. There's no need to eat every meal together. "More and more, people are saying lunch is on your own," says Laurie Van Horn, of the YMCA of the Rockies in Colorado, which hosts more than 800 reunions a year. "It usually works well when there's one planned activity a day to bring everyone together, maybe team building on the high ropes course or a hayride." Always bear in mind that the reason for the trip is equal parts family and vacation, and that people will want to take it easy. Besides, if you allow things to happen naturally, the bonds created will be all the more meaningful. Tips for a better reunion Make a family tree to be displayed at the reunion. Bring albums filled with old family photos. Host a "lack of talent" show with singing and dancing. Have a family trivia game (When did the family's first ancestor reach the U.S.?) and give out prizes. The kids will love it if you bring walkie-talkies--and you'll love using them to keep track of the kids. On a cruise, arrange for the head of the family to get a suite, which can double as a group gathering place. Have kids make name tags with crayons and stickers. Skip Christmas presents among extended family for a few years and use the money saved on the vacation. Walt Disney World Orlando's WDW has been an iconic family vacation for so long that it's possible for three generations to have memories of it as a special place. "It's great if you want to do the rides or just sit around the pool and catch up," says Judy Russell, of central New Jersey, who vacationed at WDW last summer with her seven siblings and their families. "You can even party at night if that's your thing." Groups of eight or more people staying at a WDW property can sign up for Disney's Magical Gatherings, a program that opens up options not available to smaller groups or day-trippers--say, an evening cruise capped by a fireworks show, or a special dinner and safari at Animal Kingdom. Groups that fill 10 or more rooms are automatically directed to a special sales office that arranges discounts of 10 percent to 35 percent and other perks. With the events offered through Magical Gatherings, you'll most likely be in the company of other small groups. But if you hit the 10-room mark, dinners and special events can be private. Also, while Magical Gatherings are limited to a handful of activities and programs, the sky is the limit with larger groups. Disney lets you throw parties in cool places like the underwater VIP room at EPCOT's the Living Seas. Or you can rent out an entire attraction for a private dinner--after the giant boulder chases Indiana Jones across the stage at Disney-MGM Studios, your group is invited onstage for dinner, and the rest of the show is performed right around the tables. Prices for special group events are negotiated, and they fluctuate depending on season and demand, but dinners cost around $50 and up a person, dessert parties start at $30, and character breakfasts (with Mickey, Goofy, Donald, or others in attendance) begin at $11 for kids 3 to 11, $18 for adults. 407/934-7639, disneyworld.com/magicalgatherings. Cruises Today's big-ship cruises have something for everyone, from black-tie dining to Ping-Pong tournaments. It's also the easiest reunion to plan. Seating everyone together for all meals is no problem, though just doing a group dinner daily is usually enough. Ships arrange special events, sometimes for free--private cocktail hours, photo sessions, and more. And they all give a discount: The standard tends to be one person free for every eight cabins. "The biggest mistake is ending up on the wrong ship," says Rick White, of White Travel, a cruise specialist in West Hartford, Conn. "If you're couch potatoes, you want an easygoing destination, like the Caribbean. If everyone's active, think about Alaska or maybe Europe." Summer is family cruising season, so it's unlikely you'll be overwhelmed with senior citizens or singles looking to party, but ask your travel agent about the ship's atmosphere regardless. (For that matter, ask your agent about everything. Travel agents book nearly all cruises, and they should know the ships.) Three- or four-night sailings are popular because they cost less in terms of money and vacation time than the standard weeklong cruise. All cruise lines are accustomed to handling groups, though a few have particularly attractive selling points for big families. Carnival Cruise Lines includes "fun points" that groups can use for a private cocktail party, poker chips, or photo sessions with a pro. Through its Royal Reunions program, Royal Caribbean arranges onboard scavenger hunts and trivia contests for groups--and the ships have rock-climbing walls, ice-skating rinks, and teen-only nightclubs. Groups on Holland America ships score extras such as unlimited soft drinks and free snorkel gear. Family favorites on Princess Cruises include movies on a 300-square-foot screen by the pool, as well as a 24-hour buffet.

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    DESTINATION IN Wisconsin

    Lake Wisconsin

    Wisconsin ( (listen)) is a state in the upper Midwestern United States, bordered by Minnesota to the west; Iowa to the southwest; Illinois to the south; Lake Michigan to the east; Michigan to the northeast; and Lake Superior to the north. Wisconsin is the 23rd-largest state by total area and the 20th-most populous. Three of its largest cities are situated on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan, these include the largest, Milwaukee, as well as Green Bay and Kenosha, the third and fourth most populated Wisconsin cities respectively. The state capital, Madison, is currently the second most populated and fastest growing city in the state. Wisconsin is divided into 72 counties and as of the 2020 census had a population of nearly 5.9 million.Wisconsin's geography is diverse, having been greatly impacted by glaciers during the Ice Age with the exception of the Driftless Area. The Northern Highland and Western Upland along with a part of the Central Plain occupies the western part of the state, with lowlands stretching to the shore of Lake Michigan. Wisconsin is third to Ontario and Michigan in the length of its Great Lakes coastline. The northern portion of the state is home to the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. At the time of European contact the area was inhabited by Algonquian and Siouan nations, and today is home to eleven federally recognized tribes. During the 19th and early 20th centuries many European settlers entered the state, most of whom emigrated from Germany and Scandinavia. Wisconsin remains a center of German American and Scandinavian American culture.The state is one of the nation's leading dairy producers and is known as "America's Dairyland"; it is particularly famous for its cheese. The state is also famous for its beer, particularly and historically in Milwaukee. Its economy is dominated by manufacturing, healthcare, information technology, and agriculture; specifically dairy, cranberries and ginseng. Tourism is also a major contributor to the state's economy. The gross domestic product in 2020 was $348 billion.