The St. Charles Park District’s Paddlewheel Riverboats are back in season and cruising along the Fox River now through October.
Both weekend and weekday cruises depart from Pottawatomie Park in downtown St. Charles and travel north along the Fox River. At Red Gate Road, the boat turns around and begins its return downriver.
The picturesque cruise, which includes a pre-recorded narrative about several points of interest, passes a quiet stretch of the river where two forest preserves, a corporate retreat and lots of private estates guard the water. Wildlife and tree cover come in abundance.
“The Norris Woods Nature Preserve is a beautiful natural wetland park, and the cruise gives you great views of that,” says Tera Harvey, manager of cruise operations at St. Charles Park District Paddlewheel Riverboats. “We go past Boy Scout Island, and then we head into Pottawatomie Park. It’s a different perspective, and you see things you’ve never had the chance to see before.”
There are many ways to enjoy the riverboat this summer, from a traditional daytime cruise to special adults-only or private-charter gatherings.
The sunset cruises, which run on select evenings from June through October, disembark according to the day’s sunset time. Remember, it’ll be latest around June and July.
Depending on the day, this cruise can be family-friendly or adults-only with bring-your-own drinks. Music playing over the sound system sets the mood for a picturesque view as shadows and warm sunset tones fall upon the riverbanks and birds chatter their goodnights from the tree cover.
“Guests are welcome to bring a bottle of wine, maybe their favorite beer aboard, and pack a picnic,” says Harvey. “Those are about an hour and 15 minutes long.”
The Cruising with the Breweries tour brings craft beer makers onboard as they share new offerings, talk about their work, share samples and host games.
As the summer lingers, look for fun children’s-themed cruises, including one that’s entirely pirate themed and features a mini-golf component.
“We’re going to have ‘Hocus Pocus’-themed cruises for Halloween,” says Harvey. “It’s a unique offering that we did last year that we will continue into 2021.”
As much fun as public cruises are, the riverboat also plays host to many private cruises this season.
“We’ve had bridal showers, wedding showers, family reunions and company outings,” says Harvey. “We are offering fundraising packages this year. That’s a nice option. It really attracts all different types of outings. You name it; we’ve had that aboard the boat.”
Typical private cruises can last one to 3 hours. For private charters, there’s a preferred caterer who can help to arrange seated meals or appetizers. The sound system is also available.
The best way to purchase tickets this year is online at stcriverboats.com. Look for the Purchase Ticket button, which will bring you to the cruise calendar. It’s best to purchase in advance, says Harvey.
“However, if somebody happens to be in the park and is surprised to see the riverboats, they’re able to purchase a ticket, if we have room available,” says Harvey. “They just go right to Pottawatomie Community Center to get started.”
Ticket prices vary based on the date and time. Generally, adults can ride for $11 on weekdays and $12 on weekends, with children from 3-15 years old riding for $9 on weekdays and $10 on weekends or holidays. Kids under 3 ride free.
“This is a unique option in St. Charles,” says Harvey. “We are right on the Fox River. You get outside and get some fresh air. There are beautiful views on the boat, and it’s not something you can do just anywhere. It’s definitely an educational, picturesque and smooth cruise.” ❚
St. Charles Park District Paddlewheel Riverboat Cruises depart from Pottawatomie Park, 8 North Ave., downtown St. Charles. For reservations, visit stcriverboats.com or call (630) 584-2334.