H&LA’s recent research for a project in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin revealed some exciting new hospitality-related developments happening in the area. These developments will have a major impact on tourism, employment, and the general economy in Wisconsin Dells and the surrounding areas in 2021 and beyond. On-going pandemic concerns may alter timelines for some of these projects.
- Downtown Wisconsin Dells will see a handful of new developments in 2021, creating a fresh look and new experiences for visitors to enjoy. Wizard Quest, an interactive gaming attraction, will be relocating to a larger location in downtown Wisconsin Dells in the summer of 2021. With roughly three times the space of its original location, the newly reopened Wizard Quest will feature a restaurant, gift shop, toy store, and ice cream parlor. The area vacated by Wizard Quest will then become the new home of the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum. Asgard Axe & Tap, a popular axe-throwing attraction, will also relocate to a larger space one block off Broadway in 2021, adding the new Asgard Underworld Arcade & Bar to the location’s lower level.
- In March 2021, the Wisconsin Dells planning commission approved initial plans for a new outdoor adventure park on Grand Cambrian Drive near the lower part off the Wisconsin River. This new attraction, dubbed The Land of Natura, would include a three-acre lagoon, zip lines, hiking trails, a mountain bike course, a boat dock, and a natural swim pond with inflatables. This project is now in the early planning stages and will require further governmental approvals in order to move forward.
- The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is planning major improvements on a two-mile stretch of Wisconsin Dells Parkway, from County Road A to East Adams Street. This $10 million to $13 million project will address safety issues on this heavily traveled stretch of road, which runs past high-profile Dells attractions such as the Mt. Olympus Theme and Water Park and Noah’s Ark. Key elements will include a newly added left turn lane, signal improvements, and new six-foot sidewalks on both sides of the road. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2025.
- Plans for a new outdoor entertainment area called the Elm Street Plaza are moving forward in Wisconsin Dells, at the corner of Elm Street and Broadway. A joint project between the city and the Wisconsin Dells Visitor and Convention Bureau, the plaza is expected to host up to 270 days of programming, including concerts, farmers’ markets, and outdoor movies. Scheduled to open in July 2022, Elm Street Plaza will feature a band shell, restrooms, and public art installations.
- In 2019, the Kalahari Resort completed a $35 million expansion of its convention center, funded in part by $10 million worth of tax incentives from the Village of Lake Delton. The expansion more than doubled the facility’s available space, from about 100,000 square feet to 212,000 square feet, adding 10 new meeting rooms and a new 52,000-square-foot main ballroom. This massive project is expected to attract more large-scale events to the area, generating thousands of convention-related room nights each year.
- Chula Vista Resort, on the northern end of Wisconsin Dells, recently introduced a 10-story-tall parallel zip line attraction called Soar Like an Eagle. Billed as the longest racing zip line course in the United States, it allows riders to fly face-forward at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour. The resort is also planning to debut a new 15-story-tall launch ride called The Ultimate Rush in 2021, which is scheduled to open for Memorial Day weekend.
- In September 2020, the Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort in Wisconsin Dells debuted a new 4-D adventure theater called Take Flight. This large domed movie screen has three tiers of seats that move along with the images on the screen, simulating the experience of flying through various landscapes throughout the United States. The resort also introduced a new socially distanced food hall.
- A new outdoor dining area called the Grateful Shed Truck Yard opened along Wisconsin Dells Parkway in May 2020. This seasonal food truck park features four different food trucks, along with a full bar, seating within creatively repurposed VW buses, colorful murals, and an entertainment stage for live music and trivia nights.
- After nearly seven decades as a mainstay of Wisconsin Dells entertainment, the Tommy Bartlett Show announced that it would be shutting down permanently in 2020 due to financial difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The popular water skiing show typically ran from Memorial Day to Labor Day, drawing about 2,500 spectators daily. The owner of the 25-acre lakefront property is now hoping to sell it for future development; however, the property currently remains unsold.