Enjoy the sights (and the food) of the top public cruises in the Twin Cities

Image courtesy of Paradise Charter Cruises

By Kyle Smelter

Summertime in the Twin Cities may not last very long, but for Minnesotans it is all about quality over quantity, and making sure we take advantage of the small window we have. This usually equates to getting out and enjoying all the outdoor activities the state has to offer combined with the warm and sunny weather. But not all outdoor endeavors were created equal, and there’s one that’s truly the cream of the crop—spending time on the treasured lakes and rivers. When it comes to bodies of water in Minnesota, the options are pretty much endless (we are the Land of 10,000 Lakes after all). And what better way to experience them than by getting out and voyaging across their waves on a public cruise?

Paradise Charter Cruises and Minneapolis Queen

Owner of the only luxury charter yacht in the Twin Cities—the Paradise Lady—this charter cruise company sets sail on not one but two of the metro’s most cherished bodies of water, Lake Minnetonka and the Mississippi River.

Lake Minnetonka
Depart from The Port of Excelsior and glide through the waters of one of Minnesota’s largest lakes (more than 125 miles of shoreline) for an abundance of cruises, including Sightseeing, Happy Hour & Cocktail, Margarita Monday and their Sunday Brunch Cruise. Relax and dine while you take in the views of the lake’s many islands and extravagant homes dotting the shoreline.

Mississippi River
As the starting point for the largest river in the country, Minnesotans love to take pride in this blue gem and show it off to friends and visitors alike. And what better way to do that than by cruising its waters? Come aboard and see what all the fuss is about as you skim by iconic Minneapolis landmarks such as the 35W Bridge, St. Anthony Falls, the Stone Arch Bridge and more.

Padelford Packet Boat Co.

Docked at Harriet Island Regional Park in St. Paul, this small fleet of river boats has accommodated more than four million passengers since the company was christened in 1969—a testament to the quality of service and adventure they provide. Riders can partake in a variety of cruises, including Sunset Dinner, Lunch and Lock, and their wildly popular Beer and Bacon Cruise while enjoying the sights of the St. Paul skyline, Pig’s Eye’s Cave, the St. Paul High Bridge and more.

St. Croix Boat & Packet Co.

The north shore equivalent for the central and southern part of the state, the St. Croix River Valley is one of the most visited spots in Minnesota year-after-year. For anyone who’s ever been there, it’s easy to see why—the craggy cliffs, lush forests and blazes of colors in the fall are can’t-miss natural beauty. And the town of Stillwater has been voted one of America’s “Most Picturesque Small Towns.” Hop aboard any of their public cruises that depart from this charming river town to get up close and personal with the area’s beautiful natural features.

Al and Alma’s

A grocery store turned supper club, Al and Alma’s has been entertaining guests on the waters of Lake Minnetonka since 1973 when they launched their first cruise as a way to entertain guests before they sat down for their meal. The maiden voyage went so well, that Al and Alma’s now boast the largest and most modern fleet on the waters of Lake Minnetonka today. And as their popularity grew, so did their cruise offerings. Guests can enjoy one of the greatest sunset views the state has to offer on the Genuine Lake Minnetonka Sunset Cruise (touted as the original Lake Minnetonka dinner cruise), partake in libations of the adult variety on the Sips and Sights Cruise, and chow down on breakfast food staples during the Signature Sunday Brunch Cruise. With their award-winning crew and fleet, your venture is sure to be as iconic as the lake itself.

Afton*Hudson Cruise Lines

This St. Croix River fleet of boats explores all the splendor found between us and our neighbor Wisconsin to the east. Hop on board to explore the densely forested area’s explosion of color during their Fall Colors Cruise, laugh all night long during their Comedy Dinner Cruise, where nationally touring comedians take the stage, or treat yourself to a taste of Italy on the Italian Dinner Cruise.


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