Ever wondered what Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn might've felt growing up on the Mississippi? Pack a few things and find the Iowa Great River Road to Lansing. We suggest an early start to experience 'Life on the Mississippi,' just as it was in days gone by. Days before your arrival, call ahead to S&S Houseboats and ask Sue to book your group a half-day pontoon rental. Arrive before 8 am to check in and have Sue answer any of your questions about the river. (For the early riser, head up to NutMeg's Bakery & Cafe for an early morning treat before hitting the river).
Hint: Packing a lunch may allow for an early snack on the sandbar with the iconic Black Hawk Bridge as your backdrop.
Enjoy your time on the river as you see Lansing, Mt. Hosmer, and the river from a whole different point of reference. Enjoy the Mighty Mississippi with the same serenity that Huck & Tom enjoyed growing up. Get a close-up of the abundance of birds that make up the river’s habitat. Experience the thrill of traveling under the massive Black Hawk Bridge. Imagine yourself as one of the early settlers to the area.
Wow, it's only noon and you've seen all that! Now let's head to Lansing's Main Street to visit the many shops they have to offer. When it comes to Lansing, a visit to Horsfalls Variety Store is what many call "an experience." Also, try to hunt out the two or three shops on the riverfront just south of Main Street. Their ever changing inventory makes it worth the effort.
NOTE: As with many river towns, Sundays can be hit and miss with the shops’ hours of operation.
The Lansing business district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, with many buildings dating as far back as the late 1800's. Enjoy the architecture as you stroll the town.
Food and Lansing has always been a good match, so ask around and chances are it’s there. Just off Main Street is an ice cream shop called The Skinny Dip (ice cream & sandwiches). You'll recognize it by the huge ice cream cone displays outside.
Getting thirsty? Clark's Lounge and The Other Place are smack dab in the middle of town. If you want to be closer to the water, try to hunt down The Tiki Bar at the City Marina. You’ll also find food & drink at Milty’s, Shep’s Riverside, The Safe House Saloon along with the Red Barn Campground & Resort that is a couple of miles west of downtown. And should you decide to stay the night or for a weekend, the incredibly beautiful and modern Lansing Loft will take your breath away.
Don't leave town without a trip up Mt Hosmer. Hopefully you still have some juice in the camera. Mt Hosmer has a three-state panoramic view and great sight lines of the cantilever-designed Black Hawk Bridge.
Whether it's sitting on the benches to just take a break, the time spent on the river or something you found shopping, we're sure Lansing will provide the feel of how life in a river town used to be. Have fun on your adventure, but don't let anyone talk you into painting a fence.
Editor's Note: Lansing does a great job of preserving their heritage and history, while at the same time being able to offer the modern amenities.
For the active group, Lansing has miles of bike trails, hiking trails, kayak rentals with marked routes, stand-up paddleboards and all the hunting & fishing that Mississippi River Pool 9 has to offer.
Photo courtesy of Daniel M. Fisher