If you’ve been with me for a while, you know I’m the world’s worst cheerleader of Upper Midwestern tourism.  Great place to live? Yeah, for the most part. Do I want to spent my travel time here?

Heck no.

Wisconsin, in particular, doesn’t appeal. There’s nothing wrong with Wisconsin—it has adventure, culture, and (some) scenery, and is as worthy of exploration as anywhere else. But for me, it’s not a travel destination—it’s my motherland (and the husband’s mother-in-lawland). We’re happy to drive across the state past cow-strewn pastures, cheese sellers, beer makers, Packer bars 🏈, and Amish horse-drawn carriages to visit family, but those are, you know, family visits, not vacations.

Still, never let anyone tell you I won’t contradict my most deeply held convictions, because this Wiscosotan/Minnesconsinite just returned from her first Wisconsin vacation.

Sundara Inn & Spa. Source: wildernessresort.com

Even more surprising is that I vacationed in Wisconsin Dells. Fellow Midwesterners will be scratching their heads right about now and wondering what would possess a seemingly sane, childfree, middle-aged couple to drive over three hours to spend two nights in a town that seems to exist purely for the entertainment of families with young children.

Deserted (and kinda creepy) in mid-April, it will soon be filled with screaming kids.

Known for its copious amusement and water parks (including Noah’s Ark, the country’s largest outdoor water park, and Kalahari, the world’s 5th largest indoor water park)—as well as every other kind of kidtainment you can think of, including something called “The Beef Jerky Experience”—Wisconsin Dells brings to mind adjectives and nouns like gaudy, garish, tacky, and eyesore (and perhaps meaty).

It’s not Michelin-starred, but but it is lumberjack-themed.

Land of 1000 Billboards is one way to think of Wisconsin Dells. Las Vegas for Children is another.

So imagine my surprise when, many months ago, I stumbled upon the town’s Sundara Inn & Spa quite by accident while browsing the web. A lover of hot tubs, hot springs, Jacuzzis, baths, pools, and all things related to relaxed soaking, I’ve been hankering for a visit ever since.  After we returned from our stressful pandemic holiday in England, the husband and I briefly considered getting matching t-shirts emblazoned with “I Survived Omicron Christmas 2021,” but ultimately decided a two-night stay at Sundara was a better reward for all our pain and suffering. With our destination set, we scoured our respective school calendars for some mutual time off, made our reservation, and X-ed off the squares until our big weekend arrived.

This pool wouldn’t open for two more weeks, and it was too damn cold anyway. Source: facebook.com/SundaraSpa
We did do some laps around this fire feature though.

After a drive through western Wisconsin that was hillier and prettier than I’d expected, we reached the antithesis of everything Wisconsin Dells stands for—Sundara—an oasis of quiet, adults-only calm in a sea of chintzy, kid-centered tourist traps.  Entering the scented lobby, we handed over half our life savings in exchange for two nights of lodging and full access to Sundara’s aqueous amenities. Our next step was to agree, in writing, to the Peace and Quiet Policy, which prohibits electronic devices in all public spaces and requires the use of “spa voices,” a term I now use regularly at home when I want the husband to stop shouting at the Arsenal match on TV.

A map of blissful indulgences

We then checked into our room, a “Woodland Suite.” Though it was a bit on the small side, we didn’t plan to spend much time there. Its best feature was the kitted-out, five-nozzle Kohler shower.

Spiralized copper in our room’s toilet alcove helped ease us into the proper spa mindset.

We quickly threw on our swimwear, donned the provided flip-flops and Sundara-logoed robe, and made our way to the ground floor to delight in its watery wonders. Here, and in fact everywhere on-site, you would be forgiven for thinking you were on the compound of some sort of luxury cult, people wandering around as they were in identical bathrobes and slippers, foreheads glistening, and faraway, zoned-out looks in their eyes.

Sundara Spa
The origins of Sundara Spa? Source: nature.com

The next 48 hours were spent engaged in a variety of hedonistic pursuits.

The Cambrian Oasis was our introduction to Sundara’s bathing delights.

The waterfall features made the use of “spa voices” virtually impossible. Source: facebook.com/SundaraSpa

We usually saved the outdoor hot-soak tub and infinity edge pool for after dinner.

Have you noticed the lack of traditionally shaped pools? Amorphous blobs must promote tranquility. Source: facebook.com/SundaraSpa

But the star of the soaking show was the Purifying Bath Ritual:

  1. Shower with gloriously perfumed body scrub
  2. Spray oneself with mysterious aromatic mist
  3. Lounge in steam room
  4. Shower
  5. Laze about in essential oil-infused hot tub
  6. Brave the cold plunge pool (but don’t yelp from the cold shock—shhh… spa voices)
  7. Sink back into the hot tub
  8. Repeat, repeat, repeat
I wish Smell-o-vision were a thing. This is the exfoliating scrub and it smelled divine.

We also walked their Chakra Meditation Trail, and thank goodness, too, because my Chakras were all kinds of messed up.

Energy centers rebalanced, we were able to be fully present during the Culinary Demo and the Mixology Demo, both of which showcased menu items from Nava, Sundara’s on-site restaurant.

One tipple in particular challenged the long-time leader in the “Cocktails Most Evocative of a Summer’s Day” division: Sparkling Gin Tarragon Lemonade.  That drink is Nava’s Cucumber Lime Vodka Tonic. I’ll let you be the judge.

The defending champion
The contender

And of course, it wouldn’t be a vacation without a little unnecessary spending in the spa gift shop, or what I called “activating my Shopping Chakra.” Little did I know that my irresponsible cash outlay would throw my actual Chakras out of whack once more.

All the overpriced spa gear I didn’t know I needed.

Praise must be given to the husband.  This isn’t the kind of getaway he would normally choose, but he jumped in with both feet and ended up taking to it like a duck to water. We even survived hours-long stretches without digital screens (maybe I’m not as hooked as I thought). Even without partaking of the copious body treatments, massages, and energy therapies on offer, we thrived. Deep thoughts and even deeper conversations were had, books were read, muscles were unclenched, skin was rehydrated, and souls were soothed.

To Wisconsin, my homeland, I’m sorry for neglecting you all these years, valuing you only for your cheese output. And to Sundara Inn & Spa, thank you for rehabilitating my image of The Dairy State. I’ll see you again soon, and next time, I’ll be sure to bring my spirit crystals.

37 thoughts

  1. It sounds wonderfully relaxing… though I admit I haven’t soaked in a tub since I was 8. Yes to both the cocktails though I’m hoping that tiny tipple in your fingers turned into a full fledged glass at some point.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hubs and I have travelled through “Whiskey Dells” (as he calls it) many times. Our only stop has been at the Ho-Chunk Casino for a stretch and a “coffee break”. The spa sounds lovely, but I’m sure I’d never convince hubs that it would be a good idea. Thank you for the fun read!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re welcome and thanks for reading. There were definitely women there with female friends, so you can drop Hubs off at Ho Chunk to win the money to pay for the spa, then head to the spa with your friends – haha!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My only ‘vacation’ to Wisconsin, was a weekend to Apple River! Alcohol induced university students float down the river in the blazing hot sun. But yours sounds more in line with my current age 🙂 Sounds like just what you needed. Maggie

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh this place sounds soooo good right now. I could definitely go for a book by the pool and a chakra balancing walk. I have seen so little of the Midwest so I keep trying to make plans to get up there and see more. And I’m thinking that an adult only weekend at Sundara could be the best introduction to it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ll admit that when I saw the words “Wisconsin Dells” I wondered where you’d be going with this post. I mean, I know of them but have avoided them on principle. Obviously you found the best place there, even if I find it difficult to wrap my head around aligning chakras in the land of cows.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s funny because we went to Wisconsin Dells with our (at the time) young daughter. She of course loved it and the water park in our hotel. Maybe this place is trying to break the stereotype. It looks very relaxing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Haha, loving the “healing” humor you have here with the spa experience! I’ve never been to Wisconsin, but I know some acquaintances who are from there. All I know about the state is it’s known for cheese production, and one day I’ll have to make it over to cheese test, as well as explore the state and all that it has to offer!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Isn’t Wisconsin the feature of That 70s Show? Anyway, that’s all I know about the place, until you shared this slice of your travels, and I must say, it looks like you were nestled in the lap of luxury during your stay. And lol at the ‘cult members’ next-level captioning.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Looks like the perfect treat for a bit of pampering after such an awful Omicron Christmas. Wisconsin has never been on my holiday list either, but this spa looks amazing. We did similar in England – Stoke on Trent is NOT a holiday destination, but we found the best hotel we’ve ever stayed at in England there 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh my goodness I was just in the Wisconsin Dells at the beginning of April with my partner who had a work conference he was attending there. All I can remember from the hotel (we stayed at the Wilderness Resort) is that is smelled like chlorine everywhere and passing throngs of chlorine infused children in every hallway! Sounds like you had a great time/made the best of it. For me it was a “no thank you” to ever returning (and the food there was awful…perhaps no one has tastebuds in that part of the country…) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laughing out loud here! What a strange place for a work conference, and your bad experience just proves my point about Wisconsin Dells (but I know lots of families love it, or at least appreciate the distraction it provides their children 🙂 ) Next time your partner has a Wisc. Dells trip, go with, but demand to stay at Sundara and it will be a totally blissful experience!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We may very well pass through your area. If so, I’ll let you know! And yes…please reach out when you’re here. We’ll have company the first week of the month and the last, but hopefully we can arrange a meet-up!

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Omg! Surprisingly, we loved Wisconsin. We stayed off of the beaten path and found ahmazing cherry orchards selling cherry mimosas with baggo boards for entertainment. My favorite were the remote beachfront spots, charcuterie boards with incredible sunsets and the locals were the most inviting people. Glad you found a gem!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Catching up on my blog reading and I am glad I saw this post. I had absolutely no idea this place existed in the Dells and I go thru their regularly. Probably because, as you mentioned, many midwestern travel enthusiasts like us just go thru there and don’t want to vacation there. Much like the Mall of America. I lived in MN for 28 years and have only been there twice.

    Definitely need to check this place out though as it looks incredible!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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