Illinois River Cruise Highlights

The Illinois River is a great place to enjoy an inland waterway cruise. The Illinois is an important tributary of the Mississippi, and its passage through several key towns makes it important to area trade. The Channahon and Gebhard Woods state parks are found along the river. Most Illinois River cruises take place on beautiful paddlewheel boats. Cruises can range from sightseeing cruises of several hours in duration to longer cruises consisting of a few days. Whether you're interested in sightseeing, watching birds and wildlife, or just relaxing, one of these cruises has something to offer for everyone.

Pretty Sights to See

One of the top things to see on an Illinois River cruise is fall foliage. The gentle hills along the Illinois River have a number of trees that put on nice foliage displays. Most of these cruises take place at the peak of the foliage season, around mid-October. These are normally day cruises that include lunch.

Regular sightseeing cruises usually take place in the general Peoria area. The area is especially attractive between late spring and early fall. Animal and bird lovers won't be disappointed. Some of the species you might spot include Eastern bluebirds, otters, muskrats, and ribbon snakes.

Lively Entertainment

River cruises often have little-known but great entertainers onboard. Popular entertainment offerings include family-friendly comedians, storytellers, nature experts, and musicians.

Storytellers will often weave local history and even music into their storytelling, keeping passengers of all ages amused. You might even be introduced to some of the tales and legends of the native tribes. Nature experts can tell you all about the area's plant and animal species. Musicians often introduce passengers to folk music connected to the area's history.

Cruise companies in the area frequently offer fun theme cruises. These include popular offerings such as Murder Mystery cruises and Jazz or Big Band cruises. Other offerings include special cruises for Mother's or Father's Day, Gospel music cruises, and cruises with Christmas themes, featuring excellent lunches or dinners. If you take a cruise through the Peoria area around the holidays, you're very likely to see some impressive light displays.

Shore Excursions

Illinois River cruises spanning more than one day will have fun excursions. Starved Rock State Park is a sight that must be seen to be appreciated. The park has 18 caves formed from glacial activity. Guided tours are offered to allow you to get the most out of of your visit. The park has a beautiful lodge with a great restaurant. Pere Marquette State Park, Illinois's largest park , is also located on the river. You'll want to spend some time exploring and photographing this park if you get the chance.

You may also get to stop at the village of Florence, IL, one of the smallest places in the state. Only about 70 people live here full-time. Longer cruises that venture into the Mississippi usually stop at St. Louis for a day or two before returning to Illinois.


Submit a reviewfor this Port All Cruise Types

Find a Cruise

Ask questions and get advice from other cruisers on our popular discussion board,