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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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In Travel & Visitors Guide Commentary

Water parks don't slow down when the snow is flying.

In Travel & Visitors Guide Commentary

In fact, they get even busier during spring break.

In Travel & Visitors Guide Commentary

Who's ready to get wet?

In Travel & Visitors Guide Commentary

Pottery classes are an interesting winter indoor activity.

In Travel & Visitors Guide Commentary

Cold on the outside, hot on the inside.

In support of the winter water park experience


WISCONSIN DELLS – Apparently, my 4-year-old daughter loves hotels. We already knew she loves water parks, but her question last week was not "When can we visit another water park?" Rather it was, "When can we stay in another hotel?"

The last hotel we visited was the Wilderness Resort in the Wisconsin Dells, and our summer vacation there was amazing. I had wanted to return to scope the place out in the winter, so our daughter's timing was perfect. Graciously, the resort offered to host us last Sunday night.

The gigantic water park is a difference experience when the outdoor portions are closed. Obviously, it feels more crowded, since the eight separate parks within the 600-acre complex are reduced to four. That, however, provides a little more focus, because visitors feel less inclined to wander through the entire property and feel more inclined to stay put and have fun.

The crowdedness didn't bother us; rather it made the trip a little more festive. It felt neat to revisit the specific rides and attractions that our daughter discovered last summer. This time, we didn't have to cajole her to try the orange and blue slides that she's been talking about since her first nervous trip. She talked a big game about "the family tube" ride, as she called it, but backed out when she saw it. However, this time, she loved spending some daddy time in the indoor/outdoor hot tub; she was amazed that we could stay warm from our necks down, while we sat outside with snow falling on our chilly heads.

In other words, I was reminded that as fun as water parks are for grown-up kids, the trick here is to defer to every occasionally silly whim of your little kid. They will enjoy the water parks at their own pace.

It also takes patience to deal with some frustrations for an adult – issues that a child will never notice. Indeed, this trip had its rocky moments. When we checked in at 1:30 p.m., the line was practically out the door. This was because the front desk spent at least 10 minutes checking us in; filling us with extraneous information off their script, which seemed extra unnecessary when we informed the staff that we had visited before. Yes, we knew how the towel cards worked. Yes, we knew how the shuttle bus worked. Yes, we knew how to read a map. And no, we still didn't want to be sold a timeshare.

Because our room wasn't guaranteed to be read until 4 p.m., we spent some time revisiting the arcade, the ice cream shop, the obstacle course and the 3-D indoor mini golf course. Then, at exactly 3:59 p.m., we received the text informing us that our room on the third floor was ready. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

The beds in this great suite were half made, the pull-out couch was pulled out, and a table was flipped over. Nothing major, and housekeeping quickly fixed it, but this is the kind of stuff you have to mention when reviewing a hotel.

The bigger problem came from the other guests. It must've been spring break for some people, since both children and adults were on their worst behavior. Kids screamed and played floor hockey outside our room until I asked them to take the party elsewhere while we put our daughter to bed. And after that, loud, obnoxious, beer-drinking adults held an party in the hallway.

At 10 p.m., I had to be the guy to call the front desk to get them to quiet down, as our daughter was being awaken by their shouting. Unfortunately, they weren't successful. Only after the third call at 11 p.m. did they take the party inside. Obviously, this isn't the resort's problem, but they didn't do much to make this a family-friendly night.

But, our daughter loves hotels. She didn't even want to leave the property, so we ordered a great pizza from Sarento's (on the property) and had it delivered to our room. On Monday morning, we ate breakfast at the amazing buffet at the Wild Canyon Cafe on site (try the creme brulée French toast). We picked up a little candy from the excellent candy store at Wilderness, and our daughter was in heaven the whole time. She thought the trip was perfect.

And that's what matters, right? A warm, fun trip indoors while it's cold and gray outside. She's already made plans for our next visit.

True, we left a little frazzled. But a stop at the Disney outlet store on the way out of town capped off a trip in which our daughter never stopped smiling. Challenges aside, our daughter now loves both hotels and water parks – even a little more.


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