WISCONSIN DELLS – If getting the most bang for your buck is top priority in a vacation package, than Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park in the Wisconsin Dells is worth wading into. For many dates, overnight packages come in lower than other Dells' water park competitors and they include admission to not only the indoor and outdoor water parks, but also to the theme park where all but two of the rides are included in the price.
Opened in 2004, Mt. Olympus features four main areas: an outdoor theme park called Zeus' Playground, an outdoor water park called Neptune's Water Kingdom, an indoor water park called The Parthenon and Medusa's indoor water park.
Noticing a theme is the various parks' names?
Owner Nick Laskaris is the son of a Greek immigrant named Demetrios Laskaris who ran a hamburger and hotdog stand in The Dells, and he honors his family's culture through his water park. Today, Nick and his wife, Eva, own Mt. Olympus, along with the Top Secret attraction, Hotel Rome, six other hotels and a campground. All together, they own 220 acres of land and are the second-largest owner of Dells-area hotel rooms. The couple has two girls, ages 12 and 14, who help out at the park and will someday, possibly, become the third generation of Laskarises to offer entertainment in The Dells.
Lodging options range from on-site hotels and, new this year, "tree houses" which are elevated housing structures nestled in synthetic trees that have a queen-sized bed and a bunkbed. Prices vary depending on date and day of the week and number of guests, but overnight packages range as low as $59.99 a night for a treehouse to $139 per night for a hotel room. Three-roomed suites with a living space and kitchen area are also available.
Although day passes are available for $39.99 each, it doesn't make sense for a family of four to pay $120 in day passes when they could stay overnight and get two days at the water and theme parks for the same price or a little bit more. Encouraging people to lodge at Mt. Olympus is obviously the goal, because even the website states, "Buying tickets is dumb. Stay and play!"
During a recent visit to Mt. Olympus, we met Laskaris for morning coffee and asked him what were must-dos at his massive water and theme park.
"You have to ride Hades," he said. "It's a partially underground rollercoaster. And you gotta experience the nine-foot waves at Poseidon."
Laskaris was referencing what are both stand-out attractions at Mt. Olympus. Hades features a 65-foot drop and the world's longest underground tunnel. At one point there's an unexpected 90-degree turn in total darkness. It's the real deal for thrill seekers.
Poseidon's Rage is thrilling, too, but in a different way. The feeling of having a nine-foot wave approach and then crash over you is both appealing and terrifying – but only a positive experience for adults and kids who can swim and do not easily disorient when underwater. You literally get swept up in the wave and will find yourself many feet from where you began. The best part of this wave pool, unlike other wave pools, is that a wave comes every-90-seconds and then two smaller waves thereafter, making for almost non-stop excitement.
"Everybody's got water slides," says Laskaris. "How many can bring you the ocean? This is something every Midwesterner should experience."
The food options are average sandwich-and-fries-type food. For healthier options, try one of the many restaurants in The Dells or consider renting a suite and bringing some of your own cuisine. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are available throughout the grounds, both indoors and out.
Like most water park experiences, if the weather's warm, it's going to enhance your experience. There is still fun to be had if confined to the indoor water parks, but Mt. Olympus' outdoor offerings are so spectacular that the real value lies with Mother Nature.
Mt. Olympus is clean and well-staffed. It seems to be a well-run operation. Aside from the limited food options, our only complaint was the lack of towel accessibility. They have towels for guests, but they are only available in the indoor portion of the water park. People accessing the outdoor water park should bring their own. We definitely will next time.
Laskaris says his goals for the near future of Mt. Olympus include bringing a new rollercoaster and water park attraction to the park, but he's not sharing details yet.
"For now, I'm happy running the resort, but I have a few ideas," he says.
Molly Snyder grew up on Milwaukee's East Side and today, she lives in the Walker's Point neighborhood with her partner and two sons.
As a full time senior writer, editorial manager and self-described experience junkie, Molly has written thousands of articles about Milwaukee (and a few about New Orleans, Detroit, Indianapolis, Boston and various vacation spots in Wisconsin) that range in subject from where to get the best cup of coffee to an in-depth profile on the survivors of the iconic Norman apartment building that burned down in the '90s.
She also once got a colonic just to report on it, but that's enough on that.
Always told she had a "radio voice," Molly found herself as a regular contributor on FM102, 97WMYX and 1130WISN with her childhood radio favorite, Gene Mueller.
Molly's poetry, essays and articles appeared in many publications including USA Today, The Writer, The Sun Magazine and more. She has a collection of poetry, "Topless," and is slowly writing a memoir.
In 2009, Molly won a Milwaukee Press Club Award. She served as the Narrator / writer-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel from 2013-2014. She is also a story slam-winning storyteller who has performed with The Moth, Ex Fabula and Risk!
When she's not writing, interviewing or mom-ing, Molly teaches tarot card classes, gardens, sits in bars drinking Miller products and dreams of being in a punk band again.