A town that was never really on my radar but now is so close to my heart, there is a bunch to do in this midwestern travel destination. When I first booked this gig in Wisconsin Dells, or The Dells for short, I thought I’d be flying to the middle of nowhere, surrounded by cows. That is not untrue for the surrounding areas. After all, Wisconsin is the land of dairy; however, when I told friends about where I was going, the midwesterners grinned with nostalgia. Apparently I was going to the Orlando of the Midwest.
I arrived on a Friday afternoon off-season. Our taxi driver, Jonas drove us from Milwaukee to The Palace Theater where I’d work for the next six weeks on Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story. We were greeted by my now good friends Nico and Ryan. Have I mentioned that the people in the Dells are so nice? I had a “Take off your stilettos Dorothy we’re not in Manhattan anymore,” moment as they told us they were going to take us on a tour of town. A tour? The best welcome I got when I moved to New York was “Good luck, you’ll need it.” Anywho, Nico and Ryan drove us all over and as we drove down the main parkway, colorful water parks, kitschy attractions, and everything you didn’t know you needed until you came to a place like this emerged into the horizon.
Here are the top 5 tips I got from a local:
1) Don’t try and eat Mexican food in this town, unless it’s Qodoba.
2) We call Dynasty (a Chinese restaurant in town) Die Nasty and there is a reason.
3) If you ever need a touristy t shirt (or 12) you can find them in almost any store in downtown Dells.
4) The Sandbar is the best because they have a Nico Burger and she is the best (I made up that last part.)
5) Go on the Duck Tour. Seriously, do it.
So keeping those things I mind, I settled into our housing at The Delton Grand Resort and Spa (highly recommend) and got ready to make this place home for the next month and change.
As my cast and I got assimilated to the area the one thing to do in town became apparent: drink and dine. Not only is Wisconsin the land of dairy and some of the best fried cheese dishes ever (bye vegan diet) but it’s also known for it’s countless breweries. Below is a list of favorite places for drinks and food.
1. House of Embers
This might as well have been our second home here in the Dells and with good reason. If for frugalness alone were enough, they have an amazing happy hour of 1/2 off appetizers and discounted drinks ($5 wine, $2.75 beer, $3 cocktails) everyday from 4:30-6. They also have amazing deals that vary Monday-Sunday, my favorite being $14.99 full ribs on Thursdays. Have I convinced you to go?! If their stellar deals weren’t enough, they have the most amazing staff I’ve ever experienced, ever. If you’re there, ask for Raj and Josh at the bar and tip them well. They took care of us our 20+ trips to Embers and Josh even came to our show!
2. The Sandbar
The Sandbar is another local family-owned restaurant and bar. We frequented the Sandbar every Saturday night for their karaoke. They have a great selection of beers and daily specials on shots and drinks. This is a great spot to try cheese curds and other similar fried and cheesy delicacies of Wisconsin; although, my favorite thing to eat at the Sandbar was their chicken tenders and fries.
Singing a soulful duet with my best friend!
sprecher’s was around the corner from our housing which made it easy to walk or bike to. They too have awesome specials like $7 apps and $4 draft beers and sodas M-F 3-6 and everyday 9- close. My favorite special is their Tuesday burger and beer deal where you could get one of their delicious burgers (my favorite is their turkey burger!) and a beer for $9.
I only went to Moosejaw once while in town but it put a smile on my face every single time I drove by and saw their hilarious delivery cars topped with a full moose. When I did go, I had their veggie personal pizza and it was delicious! Honorable mention that they also have hilarious moose hats that they encourage you to wear for your stay. Photo creds to Matt for this hilariously awkward photo of my Moosejaw experience.
5. Denny’s (not the chain)
Denny’s was a breakfast place not too far from our housing. Unlike the chain, this Denny’s is locally owned and brags famous cinnamon rolls. I had one and while that wasn’t my favorite thing there, their blueberry pancakes, kind staff, and quirky vintage decor was.
6. The Cheeze Factory
For any vegans visiting (I was when I got here, but what cheese lover could resist cheese in Wisconsin?!) fear not! The Cheeze Factory is another locally owned restaurant known for its delicious vegan dishes. Basically anything you have there is great in my opinion! One of my favorites being the coffee/sweets addict that I am was their Italian Espresso float. A creamy delicious espresso shot topped with a dollop of vegan ice cream. For gluten free folks, this is also a good spot to find GF options that are yummy and filling.
7. The Palace Theater (of course!)
The Palace is the theater I performed at while I was here. I was awestruck when I first saw how beautiful the venue is. The Palace is on my must-visit-to-eat list because their dinner is to die for! Before we began rehearsals, they had another show in the space that they invited us to see. I had their chicken cordon blue and it was everything! For around $40-50 you can see a show and get a full meal with a salad, entree, and desert. Drinks are extra but moderately priced at around $5 a drink. They also make a signature cocktail for each show! Ours was the La Bamba in honor of the late and great Richie Valins.
I did have to balance all of the eating and drinking with some exercise. Aside from my daily Lake walks and dancing at rehearsal, my boyfriend and I took a day trip to Devil’s Lake near Baraboo, a short 25 min drive away.
All and all, the Dells is a great place to visit and I loved living there for the short time I did! It can get expensive while you’re then but if you’re with great people you can have fun doing just about anything. Definitely the best part of my stay was the amazing people I was with! Make sure to stay somewhere cozy so you can have all of the potlucks and parties like our easter party pictured below!