Wisconsin Dells, Wis.
Are the actual Dells along the Wisconsin River beautiful? Sure. Do the Duck Boat trips down that river offer great views of the surrounding landscape, absolutely? Are either of those the reason nearly 5 million people a year come to this 2,500-person city each summer? Absolutely not.
Waterparks keep tourist money flowing through the Dells. Sprawling complexes such as Noah's Ark, Mount Olympus, Kalihari and Los Rios water parks at Chula Vista are the big draws, but even hotels from the Great Wolf Lodge down to the Holiday Inn Express have indoor and outdoor waterslides. This is Vegas for the under-13 crowd, with ziplines, mini golf and go-karts running all day and magic and stunt shows drawing the crowds at night. Don't know who Rick Wilcox, Jeremy Allen and Tommy Bartlett are? The two magicians and the late showman/stuntman are to the Dells what impressionist Danny Gans and animal trainers Siegfried and Roy were to the Vegas Strip.
The families that dive into the Dells each year spend like high rollers, too. The Dells were a big reason Wisconsin visitor spending increased from $8.5 billion in 2009 to $9.9 billion last year.
As evidenced by Orlando and the Wisconsin Dells, if a big-draw amusement park's rides can shake loose some family spending, smaller attractions will spring up to catch the loose change.
When the railroad company pulls its headquarters out of town and the local timber industry slowly dies away, what's a little Cascade Mountain town supposed to do? If you're Leavenworth and your only other option is a slow death, you improvise. In 1962, the town put Project LIFE (Leavenworth Improvement For Everyone) into effect and turned its town into a Bavarian village. With the Cascades already doing a great impression of the Alps, Leavenworth decked out its town in Tudor Revival architecture and decked out everything from the motels to the McDonald's (MCD) in Gothic fonts and edelweiss. Now teeming with Nutcracker museums, beer gardens and Oktoberfest celebrations, Leavenworth is a boon for tourists traveling Route 2 and willing to stop in for a bratwurst or a Hefeweissen. -- Written by Jason Notte in Boston. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Jason Notte. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/notteham. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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