Money Talks, So Should You

10 great lake and river cruises for as little as $6

You'll want to beat the heat with some of the best cruises on U.S. lakes and rivers.

Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell
by Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell, MainStreet contributor

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Temperatures are skyrocketing with spring and summer beckons, but that doesn’t mean it's time to hide in a darkened living room with the air conditioner going full blast.

Many communities with large bodies of water offer fun river and lake cruises and there’s no better time to get out on the water than during a spring or summer swelter.

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Here are 10 of the best river and lake cruises in the U.S.:

1. Bull Shoals Lake, Ark.: Known as one of the top bass fishing destinations in the country, Bull Shoals Lake contains more than 45,000 acres of water and 700 miles of shoreline. This 1½ hour cruise on a comfortable pontoon boat won’t take you all over the lake, but you will learn about the waterway and dam, and your kids may even get to drive the boat. Cost: A value at $9 for adults, $5 for children. Hours: 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturdays.

2. Wine Tastings Cruise, Sandusky, Ohio: What could be better than a souvenir wine glass after a wine-tasting dinner? Only if that wine tasting and dinner is held on a 2.5 hour cruise on Lake Erie in Sandusky, Ohio. You’ll enjoy a four-course dinner and be able to buy your favorite wine as you leave. Cost: $45.

3. Potomac River, Washington, D.C.: What’s more iconic than that painting of George Washington crossing the Potomac? Get as close as you can to that era on a cruise of the river and tour Mount Vernon on a half-day trip. Cost: Starts at $14 for adults and $7 for children, depending on pickup point and package.

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4. The Mighty Mississippi, Moline, Ill.: This cruise takes you on a part of the Mississippi once known as the Rock Island Rapids, one of the dangerous sections of the upper Mississippi. Today, thanks to dredging, the water is slowed, allowing passengers to enjoy a leisurely cruise. Cost: Adults $6, children $3.

5. Hudson River, New York City: It may not be Broadway, but on The Spirit of New York cruise on the Hudson you will be entertained by singing waiters while enjoying a grand buffet and those breathtaking views of the Big Apple. Cost: Cruises start at $44.90.

6. Mailboat Cruises, Lake Geneva, Wis.: Come rain, wind or, in this case, flood, these 2.5-hour mailboat cruises take passengers on a wild ride as mail jumpers hop from boat to dock and back after delivering residents' mail. A mailboat cruise is also offered on Skaneateles Lake in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Cost: $30 for adults, $17 for children 4-12 and $22 for students 13 and older.

7. Sealife Tours near Gulf Shores, Ala.: If you love seafood and ever wonder how shrimp, blue crabs and oysters are taken from the sea, Sailaway Charters will take you on a two-hour cruise with demonstrations of each. Cost: $34 per person.

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8. San Antonio River Walk Cruise: The River Walk might be a great pedestrian destination in this popular Texas city, but 1.5 million people also take the 45-minute cruise each year that gives a narrated tour of the river. Cost: $8.25.

9. Steamboating the Mississippi in Tennessee: If you want to get a real feel for what it was like during Mark Twain’s time, you can sign up for a three-day to 10-day cruise along the Mississippi that will take you from Memphis to New Orleans and points to the Midwest. Cost: Prices begin at $995.

10. Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon: The largest body of fresh water in the Pacific Northwest offers a lot of nature sightseeing as well as history; passengers on the jet boat cruise can look for pictographs left by Native Americans on Buck Island. Cost: $65.