Down By The Riverside

Down By The Riverside

Alice Ross

Riverwalks, overflowing with ambience and recreational allures, bring new life to older cities

If I had to select some earthly places where I might spend eternity, high on my list would be San Antonio’s River Walk. I’d drift along the river in one of the little cruisers, past the lush foliage and colorful flowers, beneath the pretty arched bridges, enjoying the aromas of the various foods being served at outdoor cafes and listening to the sounds of Mexican, Irish, and Dixieland music wafting from the night spots. I’d probably have lots of company since the riverwalk is so enchanting. Surprisingly, it almost didn’t exist; after disastrous floods many years ago, some people wanted to cap the river with concrete. Fortunately, that idea was scrapped in favor of what ultimately became one of Texas’ most beautiful attractions.

Following San Antonio’s lead, more and more city planners are seeing their waterfronts as assets and enhancing them with riverwalks. They’re a magnet for tourists, since many older cities were centered around rivers and historic sites are footsteps away.

Some riverwalks are outstanding, with restaurants, shops, hotels, and attractions along the way. Others are less elaborate yet still delightful, offering paved pathways for biking or strolling, playgrounds for children, band shells for entertainment. But grand or small, they’re always a pleasure to visit.

RELATED ARTICLE: At Water’s Edge

Here’s a sampling of city riverwalks where you might want to spend a day–or an eternity:

FLORIDA

Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale. Along the north and south banks of the New River, tropical landscaping graces a promenade linking Fort Lauderdale’s arts and entertainment district to shops, parks, dining, and major attractions. Jazz concerts and art festivals are some of the special events. Several river tours offer narrated sightseeing cruises past millionaire mansions and other points of interest. (954) 468-1541, www.goriverwalk.com.

Southbank & Northbank Riverwalk. Jacksonville has riverwalks along both sides of the St. Johns River. Southbank Riverwalk is a mile-plus boardwalk stretching past restaurants, the Museum of Science and History, the Maritime Museum, and Jacksonville Historical Society. Northbank is a linear park with lush landscaping, 20-foot-wide sidewalks, antique-style streetlights, gazebos, and a band staging area. It’s home to Jacksonville Landing, with shops, restaurants, and entertainment. The neighboring Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts offers concerts and symphonies. (800) 733-2668, www. jaxcvb.com.

GEORGIA

Riverfront Plaza. Savannah’s wonderful mix of shops, restaurants, pubs, and galleries stretches for nine cobblestoned streets along the Savannah River. The establishments inhabit former cotton warehouses supported by original 18th century timbers. A statue of the Waving Girl–who greeted ships for nearly 50 years–is a landmark along the river, where you can board a river boat for a narrated cruise. The historic waterfront hosts music, food, and arts and crafts festivals. Steps and ramps lead to the topside of the riverfront and Factors Walk, where cotton brokers did business when Savannah was a leading cotton exporter. (912) 234-0295, www.savriverstreet.com.

Riverwalk Augusta, A towering fountain marks the main entrance to Riverwalk along the Savannah River. Stroll blocks of brick walking paths and enjoy colorful gardens while the kids amuse themselves at Oglethorpe Park’s playground. Along the upper level, the Jessye Norman Amphitheater offers year-round entertainment; nearby shops, restaurants, and attractions such as the Historic Cotton Exchange and National Science Center’s Fort Discovery make exploring fun. (800) 726-0243, www. augustaga.org.

Chattahoochee Riverwalk. Runners, cyclists, and skaters put to good use the 12-mile linear park in Columbus. The trail links the uptown streets, which offer attractions such as the Coca Cola Space Science Center, and extends to Fort Benning and the National Infantry Museum. The Riverwalk Pavilion is a popular gathering spot; board the Chattahoochee Princess for river cruises. (800) 999-1613, www. columbusga.com/ccvb.

KENTUCKY

RiverWalk. Louisville’s River Walk stretches about eight miles along the Ohio River’s shoreline. Perfect for walking, in-line skating, or bicycling, the asphalt trail offers views of the skyline, a look at the historic McAlpine Locks & Dam, and passes secluded spots and bustling areas. Waterfront Park features concerts and a huge fountain with waterfalls, and the Great Lawn offers 11 green acres for outdoor fun. The wharf area has several eateries, including a floating restaurant, Towboat Annie’s. Take a river cruise on the Star of Louisville or the Belle of Louisville, the nation’s oldest operating steamboat. (800) 792-5595, www.louisvillewaterfront.com.

LOUISIANA

The Moon Walk is the official name of New Orleans’ riverwalk, extending for about a half-mile alongside the Mississippi River. Catch a riverboat ride, relax at Woldenberg Riverfront Park, enjoy underwater intrigue at the Aquarium of the Americas, or shop and eat in Riverwalk Marketplace. Streets along the Moon Walk provide access to the French Quarter. (504) 5665005, www.neworleanscvb.com.

MASSACHUSETTS

The Esplanade. Along the banks of the Charles River, the Esplanade invites picnicking, jogging, biking, and watching rowing enthusiasts. Thousands attend Boston Pops summer performances at the Hatch Shell. A dog sculpture and drinking basin for animals were a gift from animal lover Lotta Crabtree, and another statue commemorates World War II General George Patton, Jr. Bridges spanning the river lead to Cambridge, often referred to as Boston’s “Left Bank.” (888) SEE-BOSTON, www.bostonUSA.com.

MICHIGAN

Riverwalk Manistee. Following the curves of the Manistee River, the riverwalk winds for more than a mile, past restored Victorian buildings, museums, restaurants, antique shops and marinas, and out to Lake Michigan. A gazebo hosts summer band concerts. The walkway goes from river level and up and down the banks to allow for good views of the boat traffic, which sometimes includes freighters headed for the Great Lakes. (231) 723-4325, www.manistee.com.

TENNESSEE

Volunteer Landing. Knoxville’s riverwalk along the Tennessee River is a bit of a history lesson, with names of the state’s rivers commemorated in the walkway and markers recalling its life as a river town. Take a stroll, take it easy, have some barbecue at Calhoun’s, go fishing, take a cruise on the Star of Knoxville paddlewheeler or a scenic train excursion aboard the Three Rivers Rambler. Pack a picnic and let the kids play in the fountains; rent a paddleboat, pontoon, or houseboat at the marina. Enjoy exhibits about the region at Gateway Regional Visitor Center, which offers access to the riverwalk. (865) 215-4248, www.knoxville.org.

Tennessee Riverpark. Chattanooga’s riverwalk along the banks of the Tennessee River features parks, fishing piers, picnicking, a playground and a restored antique carousel, an amphitheater, and more. Miles of trails wind past green spaces and sculptures. Jumbo-size faucets explain water usage and placards describe 19th century boats that coursed the river. The world’s longest pedestrian bridge, the Walnut Street Bridge, connects north and south shores and offers beautiful river views. (423) 493-9244, www.hamilton county.gov.

TEXAS

Paseo del Rio (River Walk). Twenty feet below street level, the San Antonio landmark is 2F2 miles of sheer enchantment winding through the city along both sides of the San Antonio River. Cruisers float past lush green foliage, towering trees and flowering plants, hotels, boutiques, restaurants. At River Walk’s unusual outdoor theater, the audience sits on one side of the river and the performance takes place on the other. River Walk hosts two “floating” annual parades, Fiesta River Parade and Holiday River Parade, when 80,000 lights make it even more breathtaking. (800) 447-3372, www.SanAntoniocvb.com.

COPYRIGHT 2001 World Publishing, Co. (Illinois)

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group