With an abundance of things to do in Minneapolis, you will certainly want to extend your full-length Mighty Mississippi river cruise journey with our 3-day, 2-night city stay package. Discover the rich history and scenic beauty of Minnesota’s capital city of St. Paul and take advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Lake Itasca State Park where the mighty Mississippi River begins its long journey to the Gulf of Mexico. Glacier-created and spring-replenished, Lake Itasca is a breathtaking body of water that feeds our nation’s largest river; and if you have come so far as to explore the Mighty Mississippi River on our epic cruise, you will undoubtedly regret leaving Minnesota without trekking to the very place where it all begins.
Welcome to the beautiful state of Minnesota, where there is no shortage of things to do. After your check-in at Courtyard St. Cloud by Marriott, spend the remainder of the evening independently exploring the intriguing city of St. Cloud, enjoying the shops, attractions, and restaurants all within walking distance from your hotel.
Today we bring you north to the headwaters of the Mighty Mississippi River situated in historic Itasca State Park. Sit back and soak in the beautiful scenery on this two-and-a-half hour ride through northern Minnesota. Watch as farmlands stretch far into the distance, disappearing into the horizon, giving way to massive old-growth pine tree forests that are native to this region.
As we arrive at Itasca State Park, we will make a stop at the Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center, Museum and Gift Shop. This is the perfect opportunity to stretch your legs before boarding the Chester Charles II, a 141-passenger vessel that will carry you across the waters of Lake Itasca. Listen as our expert guide explains the importance of this freshwater lake that feeds into one of America’s most historic and powerful rivers, the Mighty Mississippi.
Along the way, our knowledgeable captain will make certain to bring your attention to native wildlife, including ospreys, whitetail deer, blue herons, beavers, and otters. The most impressive sight, though, is seeing the bald eagle (U.S. national emblem) and the common loon (Minnesota state bird) as both can be seen swooping through the sky.
As we return to dry land, the journey continues at the Douglas Lodge. This rustic lodge, built of tall timbers and natural materials, is home to the Headwaters Café, where you will enjoy a delicious lunch. Savor the flavors of northern Minnesota cuisine, as selections of trout, walleye, fresh berries, and grains overflow the menu.
After our meal, an Itasca State Park ranger will join us for an informative driving tour of the park. Enjoy the ride as we explore Lake Itasca, discovering the historical significance and changes within the park through the years. Brief stops at Preachers Grove and Peace Pipe Vista afford picturesque views of the lake through the 100-year-old-pines and hardwood trees, including Minnesota’s largest white pine tree, measuring a staggering 55 feet in diameter!
As the informative tour of Itasca State Park comes to an end, a final stop brings us to the Mississippi Headwaters—the beginning of this vital river that winds through 2,552 miles of the United States, completing its journey at the Gulf of Mexico.
For those who would like to, we invite you to walk the short path to see where the Mississippi begins its journey. (The walk to the headwaters is about 600 feet along a level, stone road.) Dip your toes in the water, soak in the sun and walk across the Mississippi River, America’s largest and most influential river! Before leaving, make sure to check out the massive Mississippi River map outlining all the connected river towns, as a reminder of its sheer size.
On our trek back to St. Cloud, we will travel through the Brainerd Lakes region, teeming with views of beautiful freshwater lakes and wildlife. Sit back and relax until we arrive at Jack & Jim’s restaurant, a Minnesota experience not to be missed. Try a “fish fry” (a Minnesota tradition) or enjoy steak, fresh seafood, ribs, and salad bar as the perfect conclusion to our truly adventurous day!
Today, enjoy an included full American breakfast before departing for the day. Our journey continues as we tour the rural roads of Minnesota on our way to St. Paul for your guided tour of the Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. Hear the story behind historic, unique buildings and learn about people who shaped the city. You will see local sites and attractions, discover the culture and customs of the region and enjoy free time for lunch on your own.