Grab a seat on the upper deck for the best views of Lake Pepin, a 25,000-acre widening in the Mississippi River. Even better: Try to snag a sunset cruise.
This replica 1800s paddle wheeler makes its way around the lake at 1 p.m. most days throughout the summer, with captain Larry Nielson narrating tidbits about the towns, the lake and its wildlife. Some of it can be a little campy, from listening to songs like “Sailing” and “Island Girl” to tales of the alleged Pepie, a Loch Ness-type monster ($50,000 reward for proof!). But it’s mostly a laid-back cruise around the biggest lake along the fourth largest river in the world.
Nielson does about 200 cruises a year, embarking at The Willows in Lake City. He tells about the river’s fishing, its channels and shipping, natural history, the city of Pepin, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Stockholm and its artists, plus helps passengers stay on the lookout for eagles.
Because the boat rents for many private events, it can be hit or miss to get a public sunset cruise, but they have the best views if your timing is right—especially if there’s a full moon. Pearl of the Lake cruises cost $15/person, with reservations recommended a month in advance.