The Traveling Steve's

Spring time in the Wisconsin Dells

This week I was in business in the Dells area of Wisconsin. I should say ‘we’ as Steve (DOS) tagged along on this trip with me, thanks to the complimentary Southwest Airlines companion pass.

While I worked during the day, DOS kept himself occupied at the hotel and surrounding area in this tourist area of Wisconsin; home of America’s largest indoor water parks!

We ended up staying on our own expense for the weekend in Milwaukee (where we flew into) and got a bit of brewski tasting and nice meals over the weekend there.

But first, during the week we stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn (HGI), in the Wisconsin Dells area.

The HGI is conveniently located near many of the attractions, although the summer ones such as the roller coasters, outdoor water parks and shows, and some of the motels and restaurants were not open for the season yet.

While I had driven past the Dells via the freeway on previous visits to Wisconsin, I/we had never spent any time there, or even driven thru the town to see what was there.

The Dells was quite a nice getaway, and especially since it was still off season, quiet and quaint; a toss between Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge, and a mini Orlando with all of the attractions, set amongst the beautiful lakes and hills of Wisconsin.

The two hour drive from Milwaukee to the Dells was mostly via freeway, and was scenic along the way with remnants of the winter snow lightly scattered about. I always like taking photos of silos (especially in the winter months with a bit of snow), and we snagged a few photos on the drive to the Dells.

One thing we especially liked about the Wisconsin Dells (and later Milwaukee), is the majority of restaurants are family owned and have been for multi-generations. Some use the term ‘supper club’, which when we first that term, thought of Desi Arnaz’s band in the old sitcom “I Love Lucy”! Here in Wisconsin though, it refers to family-owned type restaurants that have some type of live entertainment, be it a piano bar, guitarist, band etc. All in all, it was quite charming and reminded us of restaurants from the 1970’s, but in a good way before all of the chain restaurants crowded the market with all to similar decor, service, and food. There were also plenty of one-of-a-kinds we drove by but weren’t yet open for the season.

In the evenings we took a walk around our hotel neighborhood, which had several restaurants close by. We also walked up the street a couple blocks to the large Wilderness Lodge resort, which sits majestically overlooking the huge lake, still frozen from the winter weather, but starting to thaw out now that Spring is in the air.

In the warmer summer months, the Tommy Bartlet waterski show spectacular is performed on the lake, with tickets and seating available just up the street from our hotel.

We had hoped to have dinner at the Wilderness Lodge, but surprisingly they didn’t have a dinner restaurant, other than a small and limited cafe. The Wilderness Lodge did have a huge indoor pool with water activities, and near nonstop bus transportation to their other properties and attractions around town though for its guests.

For dinner, we went to a couple of the local restaurants, which were walking distance from the HGI. The first night we went to Splecher’s, which was an authentic German food restaurant.

The food was hearty, and the portions were huge. As it was more of a German pub-type restaurant, I had the beer sampler, which was six mini-samplings of draft beer of your choice. As this was Wisconsin, there were so many beers to try, but I had a fun time trying out the six I picked! It went great with the pizza appetizer we shared, and later our salads and main course.

Our favorite restaurant in the Dells area, however was The Del Bar Restaurant. The Del Bar is a classy family owned restaurant with fine dining, excellent service, and food.

The supper club as it’s noted in Wisconsin, has been there since 1943, and is now on the third generation of family members. Many of the wait staff and others have been there for many years as well.

We enjoyed the Del Bar so much we went there twice during our stay in the Wisconsin Dells! Our server Darla was wonderful, and we requested her for our second visit there also.

The Del Bar definitely had a subdued ambiance, and reminiscent of the ‘old days’, when restaurants had crackers and butter at your table when you were seated.

We started our meal with an Ahi Tuna entree, which we had sliced and served as our appetizer.

AHI Tuna entree shared as an appetizer.

The next night we also ordered the Ahi for an appetizer, but also “cheese curds” which is a Wisconsin tradition. Neither DOS or I had never heard of before, but we loved them – after all we were staying in the cheese capital of Wisconsin!

Cheese Curds and Ahi Tuna for appetizers

We also had a salad, followed by an awesome prime-aged bone-in ribeye. Paired with a bottle of Trefethen Cabernet Sauvignon, it was quite a nice and unexpected night of fine dining.

As I said, we so enjoyed our first visit to The Del Bar, that we went again our last night in the Dells, although this time having the salmon for entree instead of the rib-eye (trying to be a bit healthier!) As was the first visit, our second visit at The Del Bar with Darla serving us was nothing short of special.

This wraps up our quick visit to the Dells, but next we are moving on to Milwaukee for a weekend of fun! And we will definitely return to The Del Bar when we are in the Dells next time. Next stop, back to Milwaukee!

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