Big wheels keep on turnin’ – Fantastic Midwest paddle boat cruises

River City Star – Omaha, Nebraska

With summer unofficially kicking off this weekend, it’s time to head back to the water. How about staying dry and maybe sipping a nice refreshment as you cruise one of the great rivers or lakes in the Midwest?

Omaha’s River City Star takes people on cruises on the Missouri River lasting from an hour to special parties. The river boat’s trip runs north and south of Omaha, with the crew pointing out special attractions along the way, such as Freedom Park – home to naval vessels, including a ship and submarine.

I have a couple of favorite attractions on the tour – an old railroad swing bridge that is in the open position north of town and a view from underneath the Bob Kerrey pedestrian bridge.

Of course, the city’s skyline is always a nice view from the river.

In addition to Omaha’s riverboat, we’re fans of other Midwestern paddle boats. From Clear Lake, Iowa, to Stillwater, Minnesota, several Midwestern cities have tourist boats that ride rivers and lakes from the Mississippi to the Missouri.

Celebration Belle – Quad Cities


Our visit to the Quad Cities in May 2017 included a cruise on the Mississippi River aboard the Celebration Belle. The boat conjures up images of Mark Twain donned in his white suit, sitting in a corner maybe sipping a sweet tea as he ponders a story idea.

The Moline, Illinois-based paddle boat has traveled the waters of Old Man River for 20 years, showcasing the Quad Cities’ views of the Rock Island Arsenal and bridges.

Quad Cities
Rollin’ under the bridges on the Mississippi River.

Twilight – Le Claire, Iowa

North of town, LeClaire is home to the Twilight. Known as the birthplace of Buffalo Bill Cody, LeClaire is home to several stars, including the hosts of the television series “American Pickers.” Twilight is a perfect name for a rriverboatthere.

Quad Cities
A look inside the American Pickers store in LeClaire.

Though we didn’t ride the boat (we missed the day’s hourlong cruise because we were driving across Iowa), we toured the boat and do plan to return for a cruise on the Mississippi River.

Quad Cities
The view of the Mississippi River from the Twilight riverboat.

Lady of the Lake – Clear Lake, IA

While river cruises are great, we’re fans of Clear Lake’s Lady of the Lake paddle boat. A converted ferry boat, Lady of the Lake is truly a labor of love, as the owners had their first date on the boat. Their love for the boat and the city remain strong.

The boat’s 90-minute tour takes you along the shoreline, with Capt. Scott Monson highlighting attractions, such as a lodge built during the Great Depression by the Work Progress Administration.

Stillwater River Boats – Stillwater, Minnesota

One of our favorite river cruises was along the St. Croix in southeast Minnesota. Boarding in Stillwater, which borders Wisconsin, our cruise allowed us a view of late fall season while listening to jazz music.

As we traveled the river, the red, orange, brown and yellow colors of leaves were turning darker and gave us a beautiful view of the woods and bluffs that border the St. Croix River.

Stillwater offers great views whether you’re on the water or shore. The city has some great history and beautiful buildings to visit.

As you make summer plans, you may want to include a paddle boat or sightseeing boat excursion. You’ll enjoy yourself, and the views are great.