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.
Why Go: Augusta's riverfront setting is so idyllic that a movie adaptation of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn was filmed here. Its ferry service—one of the last remaining on the Ohio River—has been operating since 1798.
What to Do: Trace singer Rosemary Clooney's life story (including tidbits on nephew George) at her childhood riverfront home (106 East Riverside Dr., 866/898-8091, tickets $5, rosemaryclooney.org). On June 2, the Augusta Art Guild will hold its annual Art in the Garden festival, with visual art, jazz performances, and food vendors set along the riverbank (augustaartguild.com).
Great Falls, MT
Why Go: Great Falls' ties to the Missouri River go back to the days of Lewis and Clark, when they portaged up the namesake waterfalls on their journey west. Trace their route via footpath along the River's Edge Trail, beginning in the historic downtown and passing through gorgeous prairie canyons (thetrail.org).
What to Do: Of Great Falls' accommodations, La Quinta Inn & Suites Great Falls is one of the few hotels with actual river frontage (600 River Dr. S., 406/761-2600, doubles from $94, lq.com). Two miles east, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center is built into a bluff with dramatic views of the river (4201 Giant Springs Rd., 406/727-8733, tickets $8).
Why Go: Hermann's riverside perch along the Missouri makes it the most scenic of Missouri's Wine Trail towns. Self-guided walking tours of the German town's riverfront include historic German heritage sites, restored buildings, and quaint restaurants and saloons.
What to Do: Taste unique varietals at vineyards like Stone Hill Winery, with its beautifully restored cellar and tasting room (1110 Stone Hill Hwy., 800/909-9463, stonehillwinery.com). Nearby, the Alpenhorn Gasthaus is your best bet for lodging—its four rooms set on several acres of pastoral farmland (179 East Hwy. 100, 573/486-8228, doubles from $145, alpenhorngasthaus.com).
New Orleans, LA
Why Go: You might forgive New Orleans for turning its back to the water, but the Mississippi River will forever be part of the city's blood. Later this Fall, a mile-long riverside greenbelt adjacent to the hip Faubourg Marigny neighborhood is slated to be unveiled, with jogging paths, concert venues, and unsurpassed views.
What to Do: You're in New Orleans, after all: Eat. Just north of the new park sits Elizabeth's Restaurant, whose decadent brunch offerings like duck waffles and praline bacon have garnered a cult following (601 Gallier St., 504/944-9272, elizabeths-restaurant.com). Come evening, kick up your heels at Mimi's in the Marigny (2601 Royal Street, 504/872-9868, mimisinthemarigny.net), a neighborhood fave with live jazz and delicious tapas.
Why Go: Davenport's entire downtown fronts the Mississippi River, with a slew of waterfront parks connected by its Riverfront Trail. Summer music festivals like River Roots Live are a big draw, especially when they coincide with food fairs like Ribfest (www.riverrootslive.com).
What to Do: Catch a Quad Cities River Bandits game at Modern Woodmen Park, a minor league baseball stadium so close to the Mississippi that homeruns land right in the river (209 South Gaines Street, tickets from $5). A crisp Old Davenport Gold from the Front Street Brewery (Iowa's oldest brew pub) is the perfect end to the day (208 East River Dr. 563/322-1569, pitchers $13.50, frontstreetbrew.com).
Why Go: Cincinnati's taken an especially hands-on approach to reclaiming its waterfront, clearing a path through old highways and industrial parks. This Fall, it's slated to open the first phase of a $120 million, 45 acre riverfront park at its center—the crown jewel in a decades' long revitalization effort.
What to Do: Montgomery Inn at the Boathouse is a favorite for local barbecue, as well as its unique riverfront setting (925 Riverside Dr., 513/721-7427, pork loin back $21, montgomeryinn.com). To get even more up close, hop aboard a historic riverboat for a cruise along the Ohio River (bbriverboats.com, Historic Harbor Sightseeing Cruise, $18).