Cincinnati, Ohio, gets a lot of name recognition, but its smaller neighbors in Kentucky, just across the Ohio River, have plenty of ways for groups to enjoy the river.
BB Riverboats in Newport offers lunch, dinner and sightseeing cruises that are a great way for groups to see both the Kentucky and Ohio sides of the river, said Erin Hoebbel, group tour manager for meetNKY, the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Nearby, the Newport Aquarium has water views inside and out, and groups can also splash into the river during a Ride the Ducks tour. The Newport on the Levee shopping center sits next to the Purple People Bridge, an 1872 train bridge that today allows only pedestrian traffic, and where visitors can straddle the Kentucky-Ohio border.
In Bellevue, the New Riff Distilling Company is preparing to release its first batch of bourbon this fall after four years of barrel aging. The distillery sits on the riverbanks, making it the northernmost stop of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour. Groups can take guided tours with a tasting at the end, and the distillery has a rooftop event space and terrace with a fire pit.
At the base of the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge in Covington, the Roebling Murals are a series of 18 panels painted on the floodwall depicting the history of Covington from ancient times to the present day. Groups can view them up close on foot or from the water during a river cruise.
Quad Cities, Iowa/Illinois
The Quad Cities region straddles the banks of the Mississippi River with Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa, and Rock Island, Moline and East Moline in Illinois.
“All the cities have been embracing the riverfront,” said Jessica Waytenick, public relations and marketing manager for the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau. And a seasonal open-air water taxi allows passengers to explore both sides of the river.
On the Iowa side, downtown Davenport has a huge stretch of riverfront with hotels, restaurants and parks. The 512-room Isle Casino Hotel in Bettendorf built a new casino in 2016 that sits on the riverfront between its two hotel towers.
On the Illinois side, the 800-passenger Celebration Belle Riverboat docks in Moline and offers narrated sightseeing tours, lunch and dinner cruises, and themed departures. Also in Moline, visitors can take kayaks and stand-up paddleboards out into Sylvan Slough, a small channel of the river that helps form Arsenal Island.
On Arsenal Island, an active U.S. Army facility and popular tourist destination, the Mississippi River Visitors Center sits on a lock and dam, so guests can learn about the system as they “watch the barge traffic come through,” Waytenick said. Visitors can also tour the Rock Island Arsenal Museum and the 1833 Colonel Davenport House.
In the city of Rock Island, the Quad City Botanical Center sits on the riverfront, and Schwiebert Park has a stage and lawn for concerts, a dock and an “urban concrete beach.”