On the border of Illinois and Iowa, where the mighty Mississippi River runs “sideways,” the Quad Cities was born. The “QC” is made up of four main cities and, many locals would say, countless other surrounding towns and villages. The main cities are Davenport and Bettendorf on the Iowa side, and Rock Island and Moline in Illinois. With two docks on either side of the river, the Channel Cat Water Taxi is an efficient, relaxing, and entertaining way to explore the Quad Cities.
The Channel Cat
Ever since its beginning more than 20 years ago, the Channel Cat water taxi has been the fun way to cross the Mississippi River and explore the Quad Cities of Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa side, and Rock Island and Moline, Illinois. With two docks on either side of the river, the Channel Cat Water Taxi is an efficient, relaxing, and entertaining way to find local “hidden gems.”
Passengers can board at any of the four docks and can buy tickets, cash only, from a captain before boarding or via a credit card on the brand-new Channel Cat mobile app. All-day tickets cost $8 for adults and $4 for children. Boats dock about every half hour and the ride from one dock to the next takes about 15 minutes.
I remember taking the Channel Cat with my parents when I was a little girl. I loved the idea of taking a short boat ride and ending up in a different state. I still love this idea. I’ve lived in the Quad-Cities for most of my life and riding the water taxi still brings excitement to exploring the cities I know so well.
The boat ride itself is a pleasure. On a hot summer day, nothing beats feeling that Mississippi River breeze blow your hair back.
There are many things to see within a short walk from each landing. It’s a good thing tickets for the Channel Cat are valid all day long. Historically significant restaurants, local shops and breweries, and even a place to rent stand-up paddle boards are just some of the businesses near to the docks.
Iowa Channel Cat Landings
On the Iowa side, the East Village in Davenport and the Isle of Capri casino in Bettendorf are the Channel Cat’s two stops.
The East Village
Davenport’s East Village is home to some of the area’s best tasting sandwiches and unique local shops. For lunch, head to the Village Corner Deli, a local favorite. The deli serves soups and sandwiches, made daily in-house from locally sourced ingredients.
The Village is also home to the second location of Lagomarcino’s, an ice-cream, candy and soda parlor that has been serving the Quad Cities since 1908. There, you’ll find vintage-style candies and chocolates, as well as homemade sandwiches and ice cream treats. Show off your Channel Cat hand stamp to get 50 cents off on one of Lagomarcino’s famous hot fudge sundaes.
The Isle of Capri Dock
The Isle of Capri Casino will not be around much longer, the boat where it operates has been sold and will make its way down the river in the coming year. However, the Channel Cat dock near it will still allow passengers to access downtown Bettendorf and the river front bike path.
John Deere Commons Dock
The John Deere Commons Dock is arguably the most popular dock for the Channel Cat. It’s in the heart of downtown Moline, which has plenty of child-friendly attractions near the dock.
The dock’s name sake, the John Deere Commons, is a very popular attraction for families because it has a little something for everyone. There, children and parents can see, climb and pretend to drive some of John Deere’s newest machinery. Giant combines, tractors, and even the “lawn mower of the future” are on display.
There are also educational activities and exhibits, prototype machines, and vintage tractors for visitors to learn about the Quad Cities’ most famous manufacturer.
Also near this dock, the original Lagomarcino’s location still stands. The same family still owns and operates both locations, but visiting this original location truly makes you feel like you’ve stepped into a time machine.
This dock also provides access to unique local coffee shops, vintage stores, and popular restaurants.
Celebration Belle Dock
The Celebration Belle is yet another well-known Quad Cities transportation vessel. This old-fashioned riverboat is made for dinner parties and receptions and is docked just feet from where the Channel Cat lets off passengers.
A new dock will replace the Celebration Belle dock soon and will include restrooms, accessibility for disabled passengers and signs providing real-time information on arrivals and departures. The new dock will be located only 300 feet from where the old dock sits.
A full day
The Channel Cat experience is meant to give passengers enough locations to explore to fill an entire day. To me, this attraction really does show some of the best aspects of the Quad-Cities area; the river, the history, and the connection between Illinois and Iowa.
This post was written by Alexandra Olsen, a college student intern for TravelingMom.com. Her love of travel began at a very young age–traveling with her family to little beach towns growing up in Brazil. Alexandra also has her own personal travel blog, Trail Mix, which she started while spending a summer studying abroad in Norway.
What is your town’s local “gem”? Let us know in the comments section!