11 Greatest Riverfront Towns

It's almost beach time! But the beach isn't the only way to cool off. After decades of decline and neglect, cities across America are embracing their riverbanks—and the results are refreshing. From scenic parks to concert venues to wine trails, you might be surprised by what these 11 riverfront towns have to offer.

The New Orleans River Walk at sunset.

(Lawrence Weslowski Jr/Dreamstime)

Beacon, NY

Why Go: Just an hour and a half north of NYC, Beacon's Hudson Riverfront was long dominated by scrapyards and oil tanks. But thanks to a twenty year restoration effort, a prime parcel at Long Dock Park opened to the public in July 2011, with a dedicated kayak pavilion, fishing pier and rehabilitated wetlands (

What to Do: Nearby Dia:Beacon's contemporary art collection includes exhibitions and installations by Richard Serra and Sol LeWitt (3 Beekman St., 845/440-0100, tickets from $10, Just up the bluff, Chrystie House Bed & Breakfast feels like a true Hudson Valley estate, with an elegant, Federal-style main house set on immaculate grounds (300 South Ave. 845/765-0251, doubles from $175,


Hood River, OR

Why Go: Sporting an outdoorsy, Oregon appeal, Hood River is probably best known for its wind and kitesurfing—considered by some to be the best in the world. But the temperate climate and fertile orchards that surround also make for ideal farm-to-table dining—both at local restaurants and the homespun wine vineyards.

What to Do: Big Winds offers windsurfing lessons for folks of all skill levels (207 Front St., 888/509-4210, beginner classes from $65, Nearby, the Best Western Plus Hood River Inn is one of the only hotels in town located on the Columbia; some rooms with private patios overlooking the Gorge (1108 East Marina Wy., 800/828-7873, doubles from $111,

Twin Cities, MN

Why Go: Over the past decade, Minneapolis's Riverfront District has blossomed from a hodgepodge of abandoned flour mills to a magnetic cultural center in its own right—from the Jean Nouvel-designed Guthrie Theater to innovative green spaces like Gold Medal Park.

What to Do: Drink in panoramic views of the Mississippi River from the Mill City Museum's observation deck (704 South 2nd St., 612/341-7555, admission $11, For the river's full effect, cross the pedestrian-and-bike-only Stone Arch Bridge for a close encounter with the St. Anthony Falls.

Memphis, TN

Why Go: Straddling one of the widest points along the Mississippi, Memphis has a rich history of riverboat commerce that dates back centuries. This July, the Beale Street Landing project will begin to open up its waterfront even more, letting touring riverboats dock right alongside its bustling entertainment district and creating additional room for outdoor activities like walking, jogging and cycling.

What to Do: Hop aboard the Mud Island Monorail for a rare bird's eye view of the river. Your roundtrip ticket can be a part of a package that also includes admission to the Mississippi River Museum, with fascinating cultural exhibits on the Lower Mississippi River Valley, such as an interactive exhibit which gives you the opportunity to pilot a barge and experience a flood's devastation (125 North Front St., 800/507-6507, Museum Package $10, closed during winter months,

San Antonio, TX

Why Go: One of the first American cities to fully realize its river's potential, San Antonio created River Walk, an otherworldly oasis, with arched bridges, tiny waterfalls, and quiet reflection pools all set one story below street level. Just last year, the Mission Reach branch extended the trail three miles further, passing through native plants and woodlands.

What to Do: Wash down a mango pork carnita with handcrafted margaritas at Barriba Cantina (111 W. Crockett St. #214, 210/228-9876, entrees from $10, after you're done exploring. Nearby, the 17-room Riverwalk Vista with it's expansive ten foot windows and rustic charm is one of the area's few true boutique hotels. It places you within a pebble's toss of the River Walk (262 Losoya St., 866/898-4782, rooms from $127,

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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