Boat cruises on the Rhein River offer a relaxing way to spend time with family and friends while taking in some of Germany’s most picturesque vistas.

Today’s excursion boats cruise swiftly from towns such as Rüdesheim and Bingen up the river past the Loreley to St. Goar or even farther while offering passengers descriptions about the many castles and landmarks along the route.

Reasonably priced traditional German culinary fare is also served during the passage. Enjoy a helping of bratwurst and sauerkraut while sampling one of the local wines as the castles and villages glide by the boat’s windows to the accompaniment of the ship guide’s descriptions.

Tickets for trips on boats range anywhere from €11 roundtrip from Rüdesheim to Bacharach or Lorch to €16 roundtrip from Bingen to St. Goarshausen. Students with a student ID are half price and children age 4-13 pay €3.

Families might also want to consider combining a short boat cruise with a couple of cable car rides or a hike and a picnic in the vineyards above Rüdesheim and Assmannshausen.

After wandering through the narrow streets of Rüdesheim and visiting the town’s medieval torture museum, hop on the Seilbahn (cable car) for a ride over the vineyards up to the Niederwalddenkmal — a huge statue of Germania built in the late 19th century to commemorate the re-establishment of the German Empire.

From the monument, one can hike back down to Rüdesheim or continue on to a hunting lodge and the top of another cable car which will transport hikers down to the town of Assmannshausen.

A falconry at the top of the mountain also offers families a unique view of birds of prey while visiting the Niederwald-denkmal.

Visitors have several options when purchasing their tickets for the cable car in Rüdesheim. Single and round-trip tickets, Kombi Karten (for single rides on both cable cars) or a Ring Ticket (good for the two cable cars and a boat ride back from Assmannshausen to Rüdesheim) are also available. Tickets range from €4.50 (€2 for children) for a one-way ticket up the mountain to €10 (€5 for children) for the Ring Ticket.

The Rüdesheim cable car operates from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. in September and stops running one hour earlier in October. Visit www.seilbahn-ruedesheim.de for more information about the cable car.

Several boat cruise companies offer excursion boat rides up the Rhein River. Visit www.bingen-ruedesheimer.de or www.vikingcruises.com for departure times and other special offers.

The Köln-Düsseldorfer excursion boat company is another option for planning longer or themed excursion boat rides between the cities on the Rhein River. Visit http://www.k-d.com for information about special trips and tours.

Or consider stopping by the Rhein Main Area USOs to find out about their upcoming Rhein River cruises.

Local libraries are another option — for delving deeper into the many travel destinations and learning more about the local legends that have been associated with the Rhein River Valley through the ages.