A world of color awaits travelers in riverfront cities, from river cruises to waterfront festivals and rich local cuisine. Groups can take advantage of these diverse offerings and more at the following five destinations.
St. Charles, Missouri
Founded during the late 1700s by French Canadian fur traders as Les Petites Côtes, or “The Little Hills,” St. Charles, Missouri, is characterized by historic architecture, charming boutiques and a variety of local restaurants. In downtown, visitors can stroll down the same cobblestone streets that Lewis and Clark would have seen over 200 years ago when they stopped in St. Charles just before their famous expedition to the West Coast.
Groups will find a wide selection of dining options in St. Charles, from chic farm-to-table venues like Prasino to elegant, homestyle settings like the Mother-in-Law House restaurant on historic Main Street. One of the most notable landmarks is the First Missouri State Capitol Historic Site, housed above the old Peck Brothers Dry Goods and Hardware store. The Foundry Art Centre, inside a former train factory from the 1920s, hosts special exhibitions and is home to 20 art studios and a Grand Hall for community events.
Travelers can take a walking or driving tour of the historic district to learn more about these unique sites. Motorcoach groups can contact the local convention and visitors bureau about booking a step-on guide. In the Frenchtown district, just a block from Main Street, many religious travelers make pilgrimages to the Shrine of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, which was named in recognition of the French missionary who, in 1818, founded the adjacent school, the Academy of the Sacred Heart, as the first free school west of the Mississippi River.
Katy Trail State Park is a popular destination for cyclists and hikers. The 237-mile trail follows the path of the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, passing four fully restored railroad depots along the scenic route. Every year during the third weekend in August, the city hosts the three-day Festival of the Little Hills, drawing more than 200 craft vendors and food booths to the heart of downtown.
As the largest metropolitan area between St. Louis and Indianapolis, the Quad Cities Metropolitan Area encompasses five principal cities on the Mississippi River: Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa, and Rock Island, Moline and East Moline in Illinois. Thanks to interstates 80 and 74, as well as other adjoining highways, visitors can reach almost every corner of the urban hub within 20 minutes.
“If you’re doing a driving trip, it’s very easy and accessible to get to,” said Jessica Waytenick, public relations and marketing manager at the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau.
For an introduction to the local highlights, many groups enjoy taking a leisurely river cruise aboard the 750-passenger paddle-wheel vessel the Celebration Belle, which docks in Moline. The Celebration Belle offers narrated sightseeing cruises, dinner and dance cruises, and themed cruises throughout the week. Passengers can lounge in the climate-controlled portions of the boat or visit the top deck to relish the surrounding scenery.
In Davenport, groups can take a free tour of the art studio founded by the late sculptor Isabel Bloom. Early in her career, Bloom studied under the celebrated painter Grant Wood and, later, developed an original sculpting style that involved concrete castings of whimsical mermaids, children and animals. During the 75-minute tour, visitors get the chance to learn about her unusual artistic process and even purchase select sculptures available only to tour groups.
In August, the Bix Beiderbecke Museum opened in Davenport, paying homage to another local legend. The museum commemorates Beiderbecke’s contributions to the world of jazz as an influential jazz cornetist, pianist and composer during the 1920s. Every fall, the Quad Cities hosts the four-day Bix Jazz Festival, which features about 20 regional and local jazz artists.
The Quad Cities is also home to the John Deere Headquarters, and groups can visit John Deere Pavilion to learn about the company’s wide range of products, from tractors to dump trucks and seeding equipment.
“Even if you don’t think you’re interested in tractors, many people are surprised by how fascinating it is to see these massive machines up close,” said Waytenick.