Daytrippin': Queen's Landing
If you've always thought it would be fun to take a ride down the Mississippi on a classic riverboat, you can get a taste of that adventure without even leaving our state. The beautiful Catawba Queen, which docks at Queen's Landing on Lake Norman in Mooresville, is a custom-designed replica of a Mississippi river boat. Watching those paddles turn as it gracefully makes its way to the dock takes you back to the Old South and brings to mind a time when life moved a little slower than it seems to today.
The Catawba Queen is the main attraction of Queen's Landing, but there are a few other activities to do there as well. Just four miles off Interstate 77, it makes a great day trip destination for families from the Triad, and can even be fun for multiple generations, so plan on bringing Grandma and Grandpa along as well.
Since I was making the trip with two young children and my mother, we chose to do a lunch-time ride. I thought it would be a little more laid-back and fun for the kids. We started out our adventure with a little time to spare before boarding, which provided the perfect opportunity to walk down to the docks and throw out some fish food to some of the largest koi I've ever seen. It also gave us a perfect view of the boat as it came in to the dock.
Just like on the "Love Boat," the captain welcomed each of us on board as we walked up the gangway. The Catawba Queen has seating on the main and upper decks. I suggest the upper deck, because you'll get a much better view and feel the breeze in your hair. Get in line to board relatively early to make sure you get a table; it's a necessity once the food comes out.
Once on board, get ready for a leisurely, one-and-a-half-hour sightseeing tour of Lake Norman. I recommend sitting on the starboard side of the boat; that's where you'll get the best view of some of the magnificent houses built around the lake. You learn a little about the lake's history, how it was built, what landowners did who were in that area before the lake, and some interesting facts about the housing market on the lake, which seems to be unaffected by the current economic climate.
Admittedly, looking at and learning about the homes is a little more fascinating to adults. But the kids will enjoy being on the lake and seeing how a boat that size operates. The captain tells you about the signals before blowing the horn each time and explains the channels of the lake and how to navigate around islands. Perhaps the biggest highlight of the whole trip is that he allows each kid a chance to sit in the captain's chair and drive the boat for a little while. If you're lucky to be on board with mostly adults, you might even get two times at the wheel. It's a great photo opportunity, complete with a tot-sized captain's hat.
Eating is also a great diversion, and while the drink choices are limited to tea and water, the lunch menu is pleasing for kids and adults, with a choice of turkey, ham, chicken salad or barbecue served on a large croissant, or the kid favorite, hot dogs. Each lunch comes with chips and a cookie.
If you'd like to take the little ones but aren't sure whether they're up for an hour-and-a-half cruise, during the summer months there's a Story Time Cruise on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. This one is just one hour, and the trip is filled with fun stories and a snack of cookies and milk.
While the weekend dinner cruises are geared more toward adults and billed as a romantic night out, those with teenagers might be interested in Taco Tuesdays and Wacky Wednesdays. Both of these are all-you-can-eat buffets, and Wednesday's menu includes pizza and spaghetti.
Make sure you allow time before or after your cruise to play a round at Pirate Land Miniature Golf. This well-kept course has the usual fun and larger-than-life attractions and is one of the rare remaining miniature-golf courses this far inland. It really makes you feel like you're on a mini-vacation at the beach, being near the docks, feeling the breeze and playing miniature golf.
Of course, it's hard to be right there at the water without getting in. My son kept asking me when we could jump off the boat, and while life jackets were readily available, I had to spend a lot of time explaining to him this wasn't that type of boat. If you'd like to let your kids dip their feet in the water before heading home, check our McCrary Creek access, located next to Queen's Landing. This boat launch has a nice parking lot and a dock that allows you to get down near the water. It's the perfect end to the perfect day!
If You Go
1459 River Highway
Mooresville, NC 28117
Hours and Fees
Story Time Cruise through Aug. 18
Boards at 8:30 a.m., departs at 9 a.m. and returns at 10 a.m.
$8 for adults, $5 for children 12 and under
Lunch Cruise on the Catawba Queen
Boards at 10:30 a.m. or 12:30 p.m.
$19.50 for adults, $14.50 for children 12 and under