CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - Riverboats are returning to the Heartland in April.
With five boats docking in downtown Cape Girardeau from April through mid-December, local merchants hope to see a boost in area tourism.
“The best thing about our location is we are the first business that gets to welcome the tourists coming off the boats.”
Stephanie Gardiner opened Bon Bon’s Restaurant last December and said she’s excited more tourists will be coming back to the area.
“We expected them last year but COVID kind of ruined that, so we are overjoyed,” she said. “It’s going to bring so much more tourism to Cape. And it’s going to bring Cape Girardeau residents down to check out the boats.”
Bringing with them the possibility of more customers into her restaurant.
“We have so many treats and sweets and goodies and coffee and beer and wine and we will just be welcoming and it’s just excited to see where people are coming from.”
Just months ago, the dining area at Bon Bons was completely empty as the restaurant catered to pick up orders. But now, Gardner said with the weather change, mask mandate lifted and riverboats returning, Bon Bons couldn’t be any busier.
“It is amazingly buzzing around Cape,” she said. “There is walkers, there’s bike riders, there are runners. People are ready to get out. They are excited to get out. The activity level of downtown is definitely increasing.”
Brenda Newbern heads up the Cape Convention and Tourism Bureau.
Newbern said with the county mask mandate lifted, visitors may see different rules for different shops.
“So everyone now has the ability to ask you to wear a mask if they would like in their establishment,” she said. “And we hope that those passengers will abide by that.”
Newbern said riverboat season really gives folks a chance to learn more about her community.
“When they stop, those individuals have never been to Cape Girardeau,” she said. “And with us being a river town, there’s always the potential for them to come back.”
The 2021 riverboat docking schedule was released early Tuesday afternoon with the American Duchess making its first stop in Cape Girardeau on Thursday April 8 at noon.