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Padelford Riverboat ~ Sail the Mississippi & Learn Minnesota History

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Children and adults alike will enjoy a cruise along the Mississippi River aboard a paddle boat with the Padelford Riverboat Company, especially when plied with the correct number of potato chips! Setting sail from Harriet Island in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, most cruises take about two hours and include educational commentary about the river and its role in Minnesota’s history.

Padelford Riverboat in St. Paul, Minnesota

Explore the Mississippi River aboard a Padelford Riverboat (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Fun for all ages

Last summer my family of four steamed along the Mississippi River with my husband’s parents, Grandma Joni and Grandpa Stu. After sailing with a group with ages 3 to 79, I can attest that this is a fun and relaxing way for all ages to spend a couple of hours.

Padelford Riverboat food

Sharing potato chips with Grandma on the Padelford River Boat (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Learn Twin Cities history

Along the way you’ll float past graineries, which provides an opportunity to learn about the role of the Mississippi during the heyday of Minnesota’s cereal (à la General Mills) and flour (à la Pillsbury) production in the 1920s and 1930s. You’ll sail past the Saint Paul Municipal Grain Terminal, which can be rented for private functions. You’ll also see a few other former grain silos and flour mills. Learn more about how the flour industry played a key role in the building of Minnesota’s Twin Cities, with a trip to the Mill City Museum, also located along the Mississippi River.

Old grain mill along Mississippi River in Minnesota viewed from the Padelford Riverboat

An old grain mill along the Mississippi River ~ a remnant from the Twin Cities’ flour and cereal production past (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

During your cruise you’ll also learn about Minnesota’s fur trading past and see the site of the oldest building in the state, Fort Snelling. This military outpost completed construction in 1825. Now a National Historic Landmark, the fort closed in 1858 when Minnesota became the 32nd state. Today, visitors can step back in time to visit the fort’s many well-preserved buildings and learn about the state’s early history.

Padelford riverboat cruise with kids

I got my day’s workout chasing after my daughter during our Padelford Riverboat cruise (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Sailing with children

Of course, if you’re traveling with young children, you will likely spend much of your journey chasing after young “pirates” eager to explore the boat…and give their parents chase.

Padelford Riverboat food

Kids get a kick out of ordering food from the snack bar on the Padelford Riverboat (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Dining on a Padelford Riverboat cruise

I advise grabbing some chow while aboard, mostly because it will entertain young sailors who bore easily despite the gorgeous river views of the Cathedral of St. Paul, shores lined with plenty of leafy trees, and a handful of families fishing for hobby. Food options include hot dogs, chips, nachos with liquid cheese and the like. If you’re feeling fancy, you can pay extra for a buffet meal during a Sunset Dinner or Sunday Lunch cruise.

Fishing along the Mississippi River in St. Paul, Minnesota, as seen from the Padelford Riverboat

Friendly Minnesota fishermen wave hello to passing riverboats (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Special cruises

Special Holiday cruises are also available, like the Memorial Weekend Brunch cruise with a buffet of pastries, sausages, fruits, and other breakfast goodies. In the fall, take in the view of changing leaves and celebrate Oktoberfest with a lunch cruise bursting with polka music and German fare like bratwurst with sauerkraut, speatzle, and Black Forest cake.

St. Paul skyline from the Mississippi River as viewed from the Padelford Riverboat

St. Paul skyline from the Mississippi River (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

It’s so much more meaningful to travel on the river than just viewing it from afar. The Padelford Riverboat Company‘s fleet of four boats typically sail from April through October. Boats are also available for private charters and parties.

Do you think a paddle boat river cruise is a good way to get to know a destination? Let us know in the comments!

A Note from The Travel Mama: Thank you, Padelford Riverboat Company, for providing my family with an opportunity to sail the Mississippi River!

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show,, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

  1. I do think a river cruise is a great way to learn about a destination, especially if it’s along the Great Mississippi! I recently took a dinner cruise on the Mississippi in the Red Wing, Minnesota, area, and it was beautiful and interesting. Nice article!

  2. When kids take a trip on a river they learn to appreciate nature. When they hear about changes taking place due to droughts they will be able to understand the problems our natural world is facing having experienced it first hand.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Ellen (Mama!) – Good points! I like planning a variety of experiences during a trip (museums, nature, relaxing, active, etc.), and a river boat trip is a fun way to experience a destination!

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