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From Riverboats to Tractors in the Quad Cities

Sometimes names can be deceiving. Consider the Quad Cities, a destination that consists of multiple cities on both sides of the Mississippi River in Illinois and Iowa. Your first instinct would be to think that the Quad Cities consists of four municipalities. Your first instinct would be wrong.

“We are a combination of multiple cities,” said Jessica Waytenick, public relations and marketing manager for the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We have Rock Island, Moline and East Moline on the Illinois side and Davenport and Bettendorf on the Iowa side. Then we have also have some other cities surrounding us.”

No matter what part of the Quad Cities you’re in at any given moment, you can bet the Mississippi River will factor strongly into the place’s heritage and culture. There are a variety of ways to explore the river in the Quad Cities, including a number of special events throughout the year. But, perhaps, the best way for groups to get a classic Mississippi River experience is aboard the Celebration Belle, a riverboat operated by Celebration River Cruises.

“They have lunch, dinner and sightseeing cruises,” Waytenick said. “They have people talking about the river, and the captain narrates as you go. You can go up to see the pilot house. You can sit outside on the top deck or in one of three glass-enclosed decks.”

Lunch and dinner cruises, each lasting about three hours, depart from Moline and sail around the Quad Cities area. The company also offers some daylong cruises and even some overnight excursions that take passengers to spend the night in places such as Dubuque, Iowa, or La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Many groups also enjoy a visit to Le Claire, Iowa, a riverfront town with a walkable downtown and a relatively recent claim to fame.

“It’s the home of the ‘American Pickers’ television show,” Waytenick said. “You can visit the Antique Archaeology store, where they film part of the show, and see actual antiques and things they have bought.”

In addition to these activities, the Quad Cities has a number of other attractions and experiences ideal for church groups. Make sure to include these stops on your itinerary next time you visit.

John Deere Pavilion

The Quad Cities is situated firmly in America’s breadbasket, so it’s no surprise that the area has strong agricultural roots. Among the most notable parts of its farming heritage is the John Deere Company, which was founded in Moline and still has its world headquarters there. Visitors can learn all about the company and see the evolution of its equipment at a large museum called the John Deere Pavilion.

Exhibits inside the museum detail the founding and history of the company and introduce visitors to some of its most visionary leaders. Guests also see many pieces of equipment that the company has produced through the years and experience what it feels like to climb behind the wheel of a modern $300,000 combine.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.