The Classic Wisconsin Spring Break

Spring break in Wisconsin starts with a spirited round of "When you wanna leave?" Departure times and travel arrangements create anxiety for all vacationers, but up north it's worse, because there's always some sort of weather coming. In late March, the forecast probably contains snow, which makes for an extra-exciting "When you wanna leave?" match. Will we be driving into the storm? When's it supposed to start? Is it all snow? Sleet? Where's the rain/snow line? Is there anything for us to do if we show up six hours early?

"When you wanna leave?" is so much fun, relatives may call to participate.

"Hey," they'll say, "when you thinking about leaving?"

"If we get out of here by noon, we should be fine."

"I don't know," they'll say. "I just saw an updated forecast. I'd shoot for ten or eleven, if I were you."

"You think?"

"Better safe than sorry."

A good number of people lose their games of "When you wanna leave?" and stay home. They shovel, and maybe take their kids to a movie. Which is fine. The important part is having the time off. They don't have to go somewhere to have a nice time. Those who win get on the highway, enter the snowstorm, and wish they had left earlier.

Spring break in Wisconsin would lead most to assume that the "break" takes place during "spring," which would allow Wisconsin spring breakers to get outside and enjoy the fresh sun. Curiously, "spring break" occurs while it is still "winter," so instead of spending time outside and finding some sort of kinship with all of our beach-going vacationing brethren to the south, we all pack into giant hotels and waterparks and arcades and movie theaters.

But don't worry, it's not sad and pathetic at all, because many of these places have fake palm trees and tropical themes that are nearly identical to relaxing somewhere close to the equator. Ancient Mayan culture or an African safari as interpreted by a Wisconsin Dells hotel feels pretty darn authentic, especially if we pound enough beers from the swim-up bar. Ten or twelve Miller Lites and that jungle panther might as well be hunting us for real. Back to the lazy river; he can't get us there.

Spring break in Wisconsin may seem like some sort of cultural joke, like the Griswolds meet Fargo, but we genuinely enjoy it. Even though we don't get to sample the fresh fish and fresh fruit they have down in the tropics, we go out to eat a lot and order fancier versions of the heavy meats and fried foods we order when we go out to eat back home. And every decent Wisconsin waterpark hotel has a place that sells fudge. Hotel cable TV is hundreds of times more fascinating than home cable TV. If Wisconsin has an obesity problem, on full display in countless dad-guts and two-pieces that fit way better last August, we can't imagine why.

But we do take the opportunity to cut loose, let it all hang out, have a wild time. Kids love hotels no matter what the weather's doing outside. Parents try the water slides, too. And if the family ventures out of the hotel to an indoor go-kart track or a trampoline park, there's no limit to how crazy things can get.

Spring break in Wisconsin ends the same as all spring breaks do. The kids are overtired, mom and dad are crabby, everyone smells bad, but at least Wisconsin spring breakers only face a couple hours on I-90/94, instead of airports and extended layovers.

No matter how the stay went, no matter if we opted for Tuesday through Thursday instead of Friday through Sunday, no matter if we spent way more money than we wanted to, or way less, no matter how sore the adults are from overdoing it in the wave pool, no matter how scraped up the kids are from falling because they wouldn't stop running, no matter what we forgot in the hotel room, no matter if we liked this year's hotel better than the one last year, no matter how many valuable family memories we created, we always talk about the same thing on the ride home. Next year, we should go to Florida. We could get a group of friends together, rent a place on the beach. That would be amazing. The Dells was fun. But Florida...

We'll see.

Eric Rasmussen