Showing posts with label Iowa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Iowa. Show all posts

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Quick Stop in Burlington & Highlights of the American Queen

My friend, Lynn, and I continued down the Mississippi River on the American Queen to our last stop in Iowa. We only had half a day in Burlington so we were up early to have a quick breakfast and get started on exploring.

President Thomas Jefferson sent Lt. Zebulon Pike to explore the Mississippi River in 1803. When saw the bluffs of Burlington, he placed an American flag above them, and recommended construction of a fort. It was easy to see why this town needed to be a stop on the river.

At one point this city was considered part of Wisconsin, but it earned its place in Iowa and downtown buildings on the National Register of Historic places. Before we got on the hop-on, hop-off bus, we had a preview of more of what the city had to offer.

 The Port of Burlington Welcome Center was by far the most advanced port we had been to on this trip. It was filled with items made in the city as well as the state of Iowa. There was even a tasting of Lindon Wines and plenty of brochures and maps of places to visit.

The bus stopped at the Des Moines Heritage Center and Mosquito Park, which gives you a good look at the bluffs Lt. Pike was intrigued by. Next was the Garrett-Phelps House Museum, a home on the hill built by an early merchant who has a ballroom on the third floor that later became the first Protestant Hospital.

There was a stop that I got off to only take a look. I wasn’t taking a chance on my scooter going down Snake Alley, the most crooked street in the United States!

We did spend time at the next stop to see some of the other downtown sites in Burlington, which included the grand Capitol Theater and the Art Center of Burlington, which highlighted a lot of local artisans.

Before heading back to the ship, we also made a quick visit to the Burlington Gem shop. Unfortunately, there was a lot of construction downtown and it was difficult to navigate with my scooter.

We arrived at lunch a little late and weren’t happy with the dessert choices left so we went to the Front Porch Café for lattes and ice cream. As with all other food and drinks on the boat, these were always complimentary.

It was then time to go back to our cabin to rest, shower, and get dressed for dinner. We had the routine down and it worked well for us. We were in the John Wesley Powell Junior Suite. Powell was a soldier and a geologist. He was also a professor at nearby Illinois Wesleyan University.


It was not your usual cruise suite. It was smaller than suites I’ve had and decorated differently. The American Queen reflects the steamboat period, with antique furnishings. Only the bathroom was modern (and very big).

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the food on the American Queen is the best I’ve ever had on a cruise ship, and I’ve been on dozens. Nearly every single dish was done carefully to perfection and presented beautifully.

 After dinner, I did what had become another habit, I went out to the deck to watch the sunset over the Mississippi. It was different every night. I always find sunsets to be very relaxing.

I met Lynn outside the balcony entrance to the show. It was pianist Gary Peterson performing a variety of music. We then finished the night at the Engine Room Bar with a nightcap before heading back to the cabin.

 We would be heading to a place I’d been to and loved, Hannibal, Missouri, the next day.


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I was hosted by American Queen on this voyage, but opinions are my own. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

2 for One: LeClaire and Clinton from the American Queen

After an unexpected day on the river, we had a busy day on and off the American Queen.

I got up early and went to breakfast in the dining room. It looked like another picture-perfect day and I sat by the window for my pancake breakfast. My friend Lynn joined me in a little while and then we headed off the boat to Clinton, Iowa.

The low water levels on the Mississippi had kept us from Dubuque the previous day and had changed the Bettendorf stop to Clinton on this way.  

I had made arrangements to visit Le Claire from our stop in Dubuque. It took some reorganizing, especially since the Clinton stop was shorter than Dubuque, but I was able to keep that appointment.

I still wanted to see some of Clinton, so I took my scooter around the scenic waterfront and a bit of the town. I saw the Veterans Memorial and lighthouse in a town that once had more millionaires than anywhere else in Iowa.

Lynn met me at the curb in front of the ship, where Bob Schiffe, Executive Director of the Buffalo Bill Museum, was waiting to drive us to Le Claire.

The Buffalo Bill Museum was the highlight of the town and it did not disappoint. Although Buffalo Bill, aka William F. Cody, spent most of his life in Colorado, he was born on his family’s homestead in Le Claire in 1846.

The museum offered many details and artifacts of the man who was a Border Scout during the Civil War and earned his nickname from all the buffalo he killed to supply meat to the Kansas Pacific Railroad. He would later go on to start and star in the Wild, Wild West Show.

Although most of the museum is dedicated to Buffalo Bill, it also offers history of Le Claire, the River Pilots that fought the strong rapids on the Mississippi in this area, and other famous natives, including inventor James J. Ryan III (seatbelts), Musician Cecile Fletcher, and American Pickers Mike Wolf.

I wish we had more time to explore the downtown restaurants, bars, and shops in Le Claire. Before leaving, I couldn’t resist stopping at The Shameless Chocoholic to pick up a few goodies, including their signature White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Truffle. We also made a quick stop at Mississippi River Distilling.

Bob took us back to the boat in time for lunch in the dining room. We spoke to some guests who stayed in Clinton and were able to go to the Windmill Cultural Center, Sawmill Museum, and George M Curtis Mansion on the complimentary hop on, hop off bus the cruise line provides at each stop.

Breakfast and lunch in the J.M. White Dining Room is a combination of table service and buffet. There are a few menu items (different each day) you can get delivered to your table and a nice spread (also changing each day) on the buffet. I usually had something from each.

I chose a little of everything for this lunch too. We went upstairs after for the traditional Calliope Sail Away but chose to go back and rest and shower before dinner, foregoing the activities of Match Game, Riverside Chat with Riverloarian Frank, and Jazz in the afternoon.

We made it to the cocktail hour and music before dinner. The food never let us down on the American Queen and my favorite part of this dinner was the short rib & polenta main course.

I liked all of the shows on the cruise, but this was the night of my favorite show, Curtain’s Up, Sounds of Broadway. The performances of top Broadway shows, in full costume, were outstanding.

After the show and our nightly ritual of a little music and a nightcap in the Engine Room Bar, we headed back to our cabin to get a good night’s rest for the next day on our American Queen Voyage.

I am beginning to expand my YouTube Channel.
Subscribe to see my past videos and many more to come.

I was hosted by American Queen on this voyage, but opinions are my own. 

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Unexpected Ship Day on the America Queen

With the Mississippi River still running low from the lack of rain, we ended up with a day without a port. As much as I wished we hadn’t missed Dubuque, it was nice to have some time to rest and enjoy my American QueenVoyage.

I have always liked small cruises and I think I like them even more now that I travel in a scooter. It doesn’t take long to find your way around and the elevators hardly have a wait.

Lynn and I took our time in the morning with a room service breakfast. It was a day full of exploring what the boat had to offer.

I went around the ship from the outside first. It was interesting to see the calm Mississippi river and its small islands as we went through. A steamboat goes a lot slower than a cruise ship and you get to really take in the scenery.

The weather was about 70 and there was plenty of shade around the boat.   I settled in for awhile in a rocking chair on the Porch of the Riverview Bar and watched the Mississippi go by.

After lunch, I went through the inside of the boat. This is where you can truly see that this is an old-fashioned steamboat. The furnishings in the Ladies Parlor, Mark Twain Gallery, and Gentlemen’s Card Room were antiques, yet comfortable. Had this been a longer cruise with more days at sea, I would have spent more time in them.

I stopped along the way for an ice cream sundae, another of the complimentary offerings available any time. It was at the Front Porch Café. They also had specialty and regular coffees. As well as fresh baked cookies.

After some rest in the room, Lynn and I went to the main dining room for dinner. It was another delicious meal. We started with the Spring Rolls, and had a Seasonal Salad, filled with fruit.

The main course was my favorite dish, Eggplant Parmigiana. It was done a little differently than I’m used to, as a stack rather than casserole, but was fantastic. Dessert was Carrot Cake for me and Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding for Lynn.

The view of Iowa from the boat in the evening was beautiful and I took time to enjoy it before meeting back up with Lynn to see the show.


I had seen this show before with a different actor. One of the wonderful things about it was that each show is different. Peter Lebron did Mark Twain in Hannibal this night, reading from the author’s stories and telling a tale about his life. It was really good and gave a glimpse into Hannibal, which we would be visiting in two days.  

As much as I enjoyed the day on the American Queen, I was ready to get up in the morning and explore Burlington, Iowa.

I was hosted by American Queen on this voyage, but opinions are my own. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

More Water Fun and Mississippi River Exploration

It’s not easy to sleep in a room with three kids, but the rooms at Grand Harbor Resort in Dubuque, Iowa, was a nice size and we were all pretty exhausted from the previous night.

In the morning, we stayed at the hotel for breakfast thanks to the Dubuque Convention and Visitor’s Bureau

They set us up at the Tony Roma’s in the hotel and I found out they do breakfast as well as they do ribs.

I had the Banana Nut Pancakes and the kids also enjoyed pancakes with chocolate chips, while friend Amy went the low carb way and ordered a loaded omelet. We were all full when we left the restaurant.

While Amy and the kids stayed at the waterpark at Grand Harbor Resort, I headed over to check out Betty Jane Candies.

When I had mentioned on Twitter that I was heading to Dubuque, I got a few different messages about stopping at Betty Jane’s. I have to say that some of my best places have come from Twitter recommendations so I had to follow up.

Walking into Betty Jane Candies is a bit overwhelming for a chocolate lover like me. Luckily, I had already come with a specific purpose in mind.

I was told to get the Gremlins, which is Betty’s version of a turtle, complete with nuts and caramel. 

They were so popular they were even put in the Academy Award gift bags this year.

After sampling one I agreed they were the ones to get, and bought a box for my Mom, and for my friends at CI Living, whom I usually brought a special Midwest chocolate during my television appearances.

I also wanted to bring something back for the kids. There were bags of old time favorites such as Nonpareils, and non-chocolate candies like licorice, but I settled on some chocolate lollipops. 
Back at the Grand Harbor Resort, I took a turn on the lazy river myself, and splashed around in the water with the kids until it was time to go.

Directly across from the hotel is the Diamond Jo Casino. In addition to casino games for adults, they have a bowling alley and sports restaurant which are both family friendly.

We didn’t have time for bowling, but we did have lunch at Mojos Sports Bar. My burger wasn’t anything special, but the kids enjoyed the nachos and chicken tenders.

After lunch, we went to the National Mississippi RiverMuseum and Aquarium. There was a lot to see about the environment, land, and marine animals in and around this area. The displays also included a lot of history.

The best part was the large selection of hands on activities for the kids. They had a lot of fun with it and I think they learned a bit too.

By the time we left the museum, they were exhausted. It was a quiet ride home from a great trip to Dubuque.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Waterpark and True Italian in Dubuque

I’ve loved living in the Midwest because I can get to so many different states within a few hours. One of the (very) few things I don’t love about Champaign, though, is the lack of good Italian food. 

Coming from Long Island, you could find a pizzeria with great Italian on every corner. I have yet to find one place within two hours of Champaign that I can compare to those.

On a recent trip to Dubuque, Iowa, I was happy to discover a new city and a restaurant that makes pasta like my aunts used to.

I felt comfortable as soon as I walked into Vinny Vanucchi’s in downtown Dubuque.  The checkered tablecloths and family photos were very welcoming and I knew instantly it was a great family place. 

That was what I was looking for as I had brought along my friend Amy, her two kids, and a third child.

Amy was driving, but I tried one of their martinis from the cocktail menu. The Chuck Berry was simple and perfect, with vodka and raspberry liqueur.

We got a pizza for an appetizer. It was quite good and we probably could have finished it if we hadn’t ordered entrees too. It was packed up to take back to the hotel for the next time the kids – and adults – got hungry.

Vinny Vanucchi's also served a family style salad with Italian dressing, of course.  It was served with a garlicky bread.

I had Uncle Paulie’s Baked Mostaccioli. It is made with baked penne, tomato sauce, and three different cheese. I always find it funny that they don’t have Baked 

Ziti in the Midwest because there’s no ziti in the macaroni aisle! Baked pasta is made with rigatoni or penne. One of these days I’m going to find out what the Midwest has against ziti!

Amy got Fettuccine Seafood. It is fettucine with scallops, shrimp, and crabmeat in a cream sauce. She said it was fantastic.

The kids shared the ravioli with Alfredo sauce and kept enjoying the pizza, although it seemed like we didn’t make a dent in it.

It was ice cream for dessert for the kids while the adults shared a chocolate cake.

We went straight to the Grand Harbor Resort and checked in quickly. The standard room was a nice size, and also had a small refrigerator.

It was just minutes later that the kids begged us to take them to the waterpark and we were curious to check it out too, so we headed downstairs.

I don’t know that the Grand Harbor indoor waterpark would have been enough for teenagers, but it was more than enough for the kids we had with us, who were six and three. They loved the slides, lazy river and the kiddie play area.

I don’t think we would have gotten them out of there if the park hadn’t been ready to close for the night, though I have to admit we were having a lot of fun too.

Everyone was more than ready for bed by the time we got back to our room at the Grand Harbor Resort. We needed to rest up for a full next day in Dubuque.