Spa Del Sol has outdoor hot springs and a trendy nail bar
River walk provides paved walking trails along the Wisconsin River
Interactive arcade and miniature golf course
Free Wi-Fi throughout
Activities like wagon rides and a corn maze (seasonal)
Free on-call shuttle service throughout the property
Ballrooms, conference centers, and meeting rooms
Outdoor water park open seasonally
Housekeeping and maintenance can be spotty
Some wear and tear in the public areas
Breakfast not included
Busy and noisy with kids, especially in the winter
Farther from area attractions than competing hotels
Early check-out time
For families who want a water park vacation in Wisconsin Dells, it doesn't get much better than Chula Vista Resort. The upper-middle-range resort has over 200,000 square feet dedicated to an indoor and outdoor water park, hot springs swimming pool, luxury spa, 18-hole golf course, a river walk, giant arcade, and several restaurants including a steakhouse. Passes to the water park are included with every booking and all-inclusive packages are available. The 620 rooms, suites, villas, and condos can include fireplaces, views of the Wisconsin River, and hot tubs, though some rooms are a bit worn. The place is bustling year round with weddings, conferences, and huge groups of families who descend on the property from throughout the Midwest. For a quieter stay, and free passes to Noah's Ark water park, check rates at Aloha Beach Resort & Suites.
Massive resort with a Southwest lodge inspired theme
Chula Vista is a family owned hotel that started 60 years as a few cabins on the river and has since grown into a sprawling and massive resort with everything from a golf course to a water park to condos. The theme here is here is Southwest Native American, and the burnt orange color palette and artificial cacti are definitely more akin to the Southwest than the Midwest. Gray stonework and drop ceilings look a bit dated in the lobby. Guests can linger on brown leather furniture in front of a fireplace and mantel decorated with seasonal items like leaves in the autumn. Advertisements for the resort's restaurants are presented in untreated wood frames. There's a carved totem pole and forest display complete with a stuffed moose, adding to the lodge-like setting. Overhead, tiered chandeliers are outfitted with deer antlers.
A free on-call shuttle is available to take guests around the property, and some rooms are farther from the action than others. When making a reservation, guests can select whether they want to be closer to the water park, spa, or golf course. Families with younger kids are the main clientele, but wedding goers, golfers, and business travelers visit too. Wear and tear from the masses is evident, though the resort is clean.
Chula Vista means beautiful view and the resort lives up to its name with some gorgeous natural views of the Wisconsin River and 100-foot Nordic Pines on the grounds. A paved river walk meanders along the Wisconsin River, with benches where strollers can rest and admire their surroundings. Though the property has a scenic view, it's a bit of a drive to area attractions and a car is required for exploring the Dells.
Two hour-drive from General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee
One-hour drive from Dane County Regional Airport in Madison
There are a whopping 620 units at Chula Vista Resort, with almost every possible amenity available, from views of the Wisconsin River to fireplaces to a two-story house that sleeps 12. The cheapest rooms are found in The Tower. These come with either two queen beds or a king bed and sofa sleeper. Junior Suites are in the same tower and include a separate living room area, private balcony with some river views, and possibly a fireplace. Decor includes Aztec-print bedspreads, black-and-white photographs of the Dells hanging above beds, and heavy drapery. Shower/tub combos and a single sink make up the bathroom. Most rooms come standard with a mini-fridge, coffeemaker, flat-screen TV, and microwave. Wi-Fi is free in all rooms.
Villas overlooking the golf course are an excellent pick for larger groups and those that want to avoid the noise from the water park. These units are lofted and include stainless steel appliances in the kitchen, a fireplace, and bunk beds upstairs. Views of the golf course are picturesque. Standalone rental homes are also available. The Chalet sleeps up to 12 people and has a wrap-around porch overlooking the fairway.
Past guests have complained about everything from spotty housekeeping to loud air conditioners to musty smells, though we didn't notice anything amiss on our most recent visit. Note that check-out time is early -- at 10:30 a.m. at the time of this writing in 2015.
Chula Vista prides itself on providing everything visitors need at the property, and since they cater to everyone, there's plenty going on. Wi-Fi is free throughout the resort and there's a staffed business center open during the weekdays. There is 200,000 square feet of flexible convention and meeting space available, along with ballrooms, meeting rooms, and space for wedding ceremonies. A dedicated event staff can assist with photography and catering.
Spa Del Sol is one of the best spas in the area. Highlights include an outdoor hot springs swimming pool, two-story adobe fireplace, organic products from Eminence Skin Care, and six treatment rooms. Pink Nail Bar provides manis and pedis in a trendy atmosphere, complete with cocktails. Less impressive is the fitness center. It has just two treadmills and an elliptical machine, though individual television screens are a nice touch.
Parking is free at the resort and there's a free shuttle to take guests within the resort. A seasonal shuttle around Wisconsin Dells is available for a fee in the high season. Surf N' Shop gift shop sells candy, T-shirts, and local souvenirs.
Every guest that books an overnight stay gets free access to the indoor and outdoor water parks at Chula Vista Resort, though the outdoor park is seasonal and both parks are open to the public, meaning they can get crowded. The indoor parks get especially busy in the winter months when Midwesterners are desperate for a break from the cold.
Lost Rios is the 80,000-square-foot, multi-level indoor water park, open year-round. Highlights here include the Flyan Mayan, supposedly the fastest indoor water coaster in the world, and a rapid lazy river with replicas of Mayan ruins. There's also a kiddy area and splash pads for younger kids.
Chula Vista outdoor water park is more exciting than the indoor version, and better suited for older kids: a wave pool, adventure lagoon, waterslide with an 80-foot drop, and a 350-foot long waterslide are thrilling and give nearby Noah's Ark a run for its money. Families can rent private cabanas with TVs and personal attendants, or hang out at The Beach, which has 1,000 seats, a tiki bar, inflatable castle, and fire pits in the evening. This is where the 18-hole mini-golf course is located, too.
Seasonal activities include a corn maze and hay rides. The indoor arcade is open year-round. Cactus Kids Corral organizes fun events like cookie decorating and scavenger hunts.
Guests can play nine or 18 holes at Cold Water Canyon Golf Course, also open to the public. The Pro Shop sells and rents gear, and golfers practice their long game on the driving range. The Tavern restaurant is a nice spot for lunch, dinner, or after golf cocktails.
A la carte or all-inclusive meals at eight eateries
All-inclusive packages are available for guests who want to pay extra for unlimited dining and drinking. Otherwise, there are eight (some seasonal) eateries to choose from at Chula Vista Resort.
Kilbourn City Grill serves a hot breakfast buffet, and then pub food and wood-oven pizzas for lunch and dinner. It has a sports bar vibe with flat-screen TVs. Kaminski’s Chop House is more formal, but still has a kids' menu. The focus here is on steaks and prime rib, for happy hour, dinner, and late-night dining. Luigi’s Pizzeria delivers pizza and pasta to the rooms. Market Fresh To-Go cafe sells Starbucks coffee and lighter options like salads and paninis for takeaway. Crash Landings offers an indoor air-conditioned dining room, for a snack and break from the sun in the water park. Margaritas Mexican Grill & Cantina is open in the summer, next to the beach area of the water park. Cactus Bar and Grill is next to the Adventure Lagoon in the water park. The Tavern is located next to the golf course, and serves sandwiches and steaks in a country club-like setting.
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