Mississippi River lovers who want to visit Midwest communities that know how to put the ho-ho-ho in holiday cheer should make a Christmastime stop in Davenport, LeClaire and Galena.
That’s according to River Travel Magazine readers who voted in the magazine’s 2021 Best Holiday River Town Contest.
“We found it exciting to find all these special communities tucked away on various rivers around the nation, and great stories for us to tell,” said Brent Hanifl, media director, River Travel Media.
“Thousands nationwide from Texas to California to New York and everything in between” responded to the survey, he said.
Readers were asked to make their selections Nov. 12 – Dec. 3 from among 80 river communities, River Travel Magazine said. Based on those votes, the magazine ranked communities first place through fifth place for the Best Holiday River Towns in each category.
“Survey takers voted on a range of river communities from quaint river towns and small alpine villages with charming holiday traditions to bigger river communities bustling with holiday events and spectacular light shows, coming in from all around the U.S.,” River Travel wrote in announcing the winners.
Here’s how the local winners fared in the 2021 survey.
Davenport double winner
Davenport not only came in at No. 2 in the category of Best Holiday River Towns with a population greater than 70,000, the Scott County river city was named No. 5 in the overall Best Holiday River Town category.
“Explore downtown Davenport this Holiday season and expect to find lots of twinkling lights, holiday cheer, and events,” the magazine urged readers.
Visit Quad Cities was quick to celebrate the honor. “Congratulations to Davenport, Iowa, for ranking 2nd in River Travel Magazine’s Best Holiday River Town list for populations over 70,000 and 5th overall!” the region’s tourism bureau posted on Instagram. “Davenport is being recognized for its holiday traditions including Christmas markets, twinkling lights displays, tours of historic homes, and a sense of holiday cheer!”
Davenport is home to such holiday festivities as Icestravaganza, Festival of Trees, Christkindlmarkt, Canadian Pacific Holiday Train, Christmas Wonderland Holiday Spectacular at the Adler, Christmas in the Village, Quad Cities 4th Annual Saxophone Christmas at Northpark Mall, and the Senior Light Tour hosted by Davenport Police Association.
LeClaire, Galena shine
Nearby LeClaire and popular Galena, Ill., came in third and fourth place, respectively, in the category of Best Holiday River Towns with a population between 1,001-5,000.
“Going on their 37th Annual Christmas in Le Claire,” the magazine wrote before this year’s event, “the city of LeClaire features a three-day festive event full of shopping, fun, and holiday activities for all ages!”
In 2021, visitors crowded the village Dec. 3-5 just a year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 festivities.
“Beautiful weather and people ready to get out and about helped LeClaire’s 37th annual Christmas in LeClaire be quite successful,” said Cindy Bruhn, LeClaire tourism manager. “As a three-day event with something for everyone, we had a wonderful amount of visitors and locals. We had a super fun and sold-out 5k race (it will be back next year – bigger and better); tons of people shopping and having fun; and wonderful volunteers that did a great job as Santa and other characters. Shoppers appreciated the stores being open late and were able to enjoy lunch or dinner and live music in the evenings, too.”
In addition to crafts, baked goods and silent auctions, Santa and Mrs. Claus also greeted visitors and offered a view of the LeClaire levee from a vintage Mercury. Now pictured on the event’s Facebook page are scenes of visitors enjoying the festivities such as trolley rides that got them where they needed to be or simply so they could “see all the decorated shops, ugly Christmas sweaters and Strolling Santas.”
Galena, located an hour and a half north of the Quad Cities, is no stranger to River Travel Magazine’s best lists. The popular tourism destination, which came in at No. 4 in its population category, boasts well over 1 million visitors a year.
The Galena Historic District comes alive with Christmas decorations and holiday events and Galena Main Street boasts 125 independently owned businesses selling many one-of-a-kind products you can’t get anywhere else.
All three area cities honored by the magazine are located on the Great River Road, which follows the Mighty Mississippi through states including Iowa and Illinois. River Travel Magazine focuses on the communities and attractions along the 3,000 mile-long road that borders the Mississippi River from Lake Itasca to New Orleans.
The magazine works with communities and attractions to drive visitors to communities up and down the road, its website said. River Travel Magazine and its e-magazine provide weekly content and podcasts including travel contests, travel blogs, and calendars of festivals and happenings along the Great River Road.