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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!