The flowing waters of America’s rivers sustain life, transport people and products, and inspire poets.
And rivers power tourism. According to the Washington, D.C.-based organization America’s Rivers, river-related recreation and tourism contributes over $97 billion to the U.S. economy annually.
Many Northeast and Midwest river cities capitalize on a river’s natural vitality and spirit. For example, earlier this year Fort Wayne, Indiana, opened Promenade Park, a key part of its revitalization of riverfront property for recreation and entertainment.
River cruises allow groups to relax and become oriented to a river city. Pair a kayak journey with tours of can’t-miss attractions for a river city adventure.
Fort Wayne was built on three rivers: the St Marys, the St Joseph, and the Maumee.
Today, the city of Fort Wayne is returning to the rivers with the revitalization of riverfront property into spaces for recreation, entertainment and relaxation.
Among the many developments taking place is Promenade Park, which opened in the summer of 2019.
“This one-of-a-kind park joins Fort Wayne’s natural rivers to their thriving urban center and is the Midwest’s newest destination for recreation, arts and culture,” said Kristen Guthrie, vice president of marketing and communications for Visit Fort Wayne.
While at the park, visitors can hike the trails along the water, discover family fun attractions like the treetop canopy trail and kids canal, and take to the water on a paddleboard or kayak rental.
In addition, groups can tour the replica of the original fort that once stood at the confluence of these rivers and learn about the pioneer history of the Midwest.
Restaurants also abound along the rivers, offering scenic and delicious tastes of Fort Wayne.
Don’t miss: Groups enjoy traveling the rivers of Fort Wayne on Sweet Breeze, a reproduction 1840s canal boat that offers guided tours themed around history, nature or relaxation.
Visit Fort Wayne
Set on the northern bank of the Ohio River, Cincinnati delivers top-notch group experiences.
“Cincinnati’s convenient location and wealth of affordable and world-class entertainment options make it a perfect option for groups,” said Jenell Walton, vice president of Communications and Strategic Development for the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Whether it’s a historic tour or riverfront outing or a more urban experience with our sports teams or arts and culture scene, visitors have countless opportunities to connect with each other and with the Cincinnati region.”
BB Riverboats takes motorcoach groups out on the Ohio River on a variety of dining and sightseeing cruises.
Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal is a three-museum complex and OMNIMAX theater in a historic art-deco train station. A $228 million renovation was completed in 2018.
Also newly renovated is the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum, sharing the story of baseball’s oldest professional team.
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center uses exhibits from the era of the Underground Railroad to celebrate freedom’s heroes and inspire modern action by promoting a better understanding of freedom.
Walk down memory lane and experience the American Sign Museum.
Don’t miss: Connect with Scenic River Canoe Excursions for a group canoe or kayak outing on the Little Miami River, a tributary of the Ohio River.
Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau
The Allegheny and Monongahela rivers join to form the Ohio River in Pittsburgh.
“Pittsburgh’s unique attractions, friendly locals and affordability make our city a desirable group travel destination,” said Karl Pietrzak, vice president of convention sales at VisitPITTSBURGH. “From world-class museums such as The Andy Warhol Museum, breathtaking views of the city from the historic Duquesne Incline, a vibrant Cultural District, mouth-watering food tours, scenic river cruises, championship sports teams and much more, Pittsburgh offers exciting group-friendly experiences sure to create lasting memories.”
Sail the three rivers on narrated sightseeing cruises or dinner/dance cruises on a Gateway Clipper Riverboat Fleet vessel.
Connect with Pittsburgh’s steel industry heritage on a guided tour of the Carrie Blast Furnaces National Historic Landmark.
Check out The Andy Warhol Museum, Carnegie Museum of Art & Natural History, the Senator John Heinz History Center and Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum.
The National Aviary, the nation’s only free-standing bird zoo, offers an array of imaginative group-only tour options.
Don’t miss: Kayak on the three rivers with Kayak Pittsburgh for a different view of the downtown skyline. Rent bikes for tours with Golden Triangle Bike Rentals and bike the 24 miles of riverfront trails.
The Merrimack River flows through Lowell, about 25 miles northwest of Boston. The city was founded in the 1820s as the nation’s first planned manufacturing center for textiles.
The Merrimack River and its canal system provided power to the textile mills that lined the river’s banks. Today, the former mill buildings serve as apartment lofts, businesses, museums and artists’ studios.
Lowell National Historical Park has preserved several mill buildings and educates groups about the city’s industrial past. See how the “mill girls” lived with a visit to a restored 19th-century textile mill boardinghouse. Check out the Boott Cotton Mills Museum. Park attractions include 5 miles of canals, gatehouses, trolley rides, and canal and riverboat tours.
New England Quilt Museum exhibitions reflect the scope and versatility of quilt-making, past and present.
The annual Lowell Folk Festival provides traditional folk music, artisan crafts and ethnic foods on the last full weekend in July.
Don’t miss: The Concord River also runs through Lowell. Every spring, the Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust partners with Zoar Outdoor to provide an urban whitewater rafting trip on the Concord.
Greater Merrimack Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau