Louisville provided me the opportunity to cross something off my bucket list: ride America’s last operating river steamboat. Okay, this wasn’t actually on my bucket list before, but you can bet your bottom dollar I added it to the list and then crossed it off after we hopped off board!
The boat I speak of is none other than the Belle of Louisville. This beauty will be celebrating her 100th birthday in October 2014, an occasion that has never been achieved by any other steamboat in our dear country. She holds the proud status as a National Historic Landmark.
We joined the Belle for her sightseeing and lunch cruise. You heard the little lady before you saw her…a few blocks away sounded music being pumped out of her pipes…everything from the theme to Gilligan’s Island to the latest Lady Gaga hit. For being almost a century old, she’s quite the energetic thing.
Traveling on the Belle is taking a trip back into time…a time when working riverboats were the backbone to America. We had the opportunity to go up top to chat with the captains a bit, where I saw first hand that navigating the Belle down the Ohio River and back was no easy feat. It’s been said that if you catch your shorts on the helm, it’s strong and fast enough to throw a grown man clear off the ship.
The two hour lunch cruise ($32) included a buffet with all your southern favorites (fried chicken, mac-n-cheese, collard greens, Derby Pie…need I go on?), as well as a live DJ, dancing, and narration of historical tid-bits throughout the cruise. We even had an onboard magician, entertaining both the kids and parents alike.
You also have the option to just purchase the sightseeing ticket ($21), which gives you access to the onboard concession cafe and full service bar.
Whichever option you choose, definitely take the time to learn the history of the boat. You can view the boiler room, take in the photos of the Belle over the years and her transformation, and head to the back to watch the paddle wheel do her magic. The crew were all incredibly knowledgable and helpful in answering any questions I had, definitely leaving you with not only a greater appreciation for a piece of American history, but also a great impression of Louisville and its people. And, bucket lists aside, isn’t that what travel is all about?
WHAT: Belle of Louisville 401 W. River Road Louisville, KY 40202 Ph. 502.574.2992
A very special thank you to the wonderful folks at the Louisville Convention & Visitor’s Bureau.
Jessica, Wonderfully written piece on Americana. Concise, engaging, and accompanied by great photos. Made me wistful of trips made on the Ohio River on the Belle long ago. Thank you. You captured the experience perfectly.