America has over 30 river walks. Although they all have their own unique characteristics, they all serve the same basic purpose - to provide a natural escape in an urban environment that lets locals, tourists, and everyone in between come together to relax, unwind, and recharge. Whether you bike them, stroll them, jog them, or even rollerblade them, they're a great place to enjoy a city from a very different perspective from normal. Here's our pick of the 20 best river walks in the US.
20. Big River Crossing, Memphis, Tennessee
If you're in the vicinity of downtown Memphis, you won't want to miss the Riverwalk & Big River Crossing. Covering a 3-mile loop from Martyrs Park to Union Avenue, it offers scenic river views, endless opportunities for recreation, and over ten miles of walking and biking routes.
19. Riverwalk, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
If you're looking for a relaxing place to spend a few hours in Fort Lauderdale, look no further than the Riverwalk. The recreational opportunities are endless - rent a paddleboard or kayak and head out onto the water, jump on a bike and ride it along the path to Fort Lauderdale Beach, enjoy a picnic at one of the 10 interconnecting parks, or take a seat by the tropical waterfall and enjoy a pleasant afternoon of people watching.
18. Charles River Esplanade, Boston, Massachusetts
The Charles River Esplanade (or simply “the Esplanade,” as it's more commonly referred to) is a vast, 64-acre riverfront park with pathways that stretch along the banks of the Charles River in Back Bay and Beacon Hill. When the weather's nice, there's no better place in the city to while away a few hours. If you're up for an adventure, there's the chance to rent a kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddleboard and get out on the Charles River. If you'd prefer to stay on dry land, there are endless opportunities for walking, jogging, bicycling, or rollerblading. It also hosts regular events throughout the year, along with programs like the River Front Summer Fitness Classes and GroundBeat Music Series. Come the 4h of July, it's the best place in the city to watch the fireworks.
17. Historic Arkansas Riverwalk, Pueblo, Colorado
The Historic Arkansas Riverwalk was modeled after the San Antonio Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas, in an effort to attract tourists to the city. Suffice to say, it's worked a treat. Comprising over 32 acres and boasting three unique environments (a lake, a manmade channel, and a natural area with a stream), it's the perfect place to enjoy a stroll, a gondola or pedal boat ride, tuck into some tasty food at one of the many restaurants or cafes, or join in the festivities at one of the regular special events or concerts.
16. Milwaukee Riverwalk, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
With its cobblestoned streets and half-timbered buildings, the Milwaukee Riverwalk has charm-aplenty. Stretching three miles in total, it's perfect for a stroll, a bike ride, or some good old-fashioned people-watching. Along the way, be sure to call in at the Wisconsin Cheese Mart - with over 175 varieties of cheese, it's dairy heaven. Keep your eyes peeled for the bronze statue of the Fonz from "Happy Days" just south of Wells Street as well.
15. Idaho Falls Greenbelt Trail, Idaho Falls, Idaho
Stretching along 5 miles of the Snake River, the Idaho Falls Greenbelt Trail is a great place to enjoy a relaxing stroll. Lined with local shops and restaurants, it offers multiple opportunities for recreation. The star of the show, and the reason it draws so many visitors, is the stunning 600-foot wide waterfall that spans the river. On a sunny day, there's no better way to pass an afternoon than enjoying a picnic and listening to the cascading water.
14. Three Rivers Heritage Trail, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Named as one of the top river walks in the US by wheretraveler.com, the Three Rivers Heritage Trail in Pittsburgh covers an impressive 22 miles of pathways along the riverfront. Along the way, you'll pass by numerous sights of historical interest (check out the interpretive signage to learn more about each one), along with landmarks, native wildlife, and, on the North Shore, a very intriguing tribute to TV icon Fred Rogers (aka Mister Rogers).
13. Bricktown, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Bordered by gardens and studded with red brick warehouses, parks, cafes, and shops, the Bricktown Riverwalk in Oklahoma City is a lovely place to while away an afternoon. If you want to see it from a different perspective, jump in a water taxi and listen as the captain regales you with fun facts about the history of the area. If you've got time on your hands, be sure to stop by the American Banjo Museum to check out the instruments, some of which date back as far as the 1920s.
12. Detroit RiverFront, Detroit, Michigan
Stretching for 5.5 miles, the Detroit RiverFront is one of the most impressive river walks in the US. With a marina, a cruise ship passenger terminal and dock, and a score of parks, shops, restaurants, hotels, and skyscrapers, it promises entertainment by the shedload. As one of the city's main entertainment hubs, it hosts regular events and festivals, including the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, Detroit Free Press International Marathon, the Detroit International Jazz Festival, Motor City Pride, the North American International Auto Show, River Days, and Detroit China Festival. Even if you happen to visit on one of the few days when there's nothing scheduled, it's still a great place to hang out and soak up the lively atmosphere.
11. Tampa Riverwalk, Tampa, Florida
At 2.6 miles long, Tampa Riverwalk isn't huge, but it manages to pack a lot in. Just a few of the attractions you'll pass along the way include the Curtis Hixon Park, MacDill Park, Tampa Museum of Art, Glazer Children's Museum, Rivergate Tower, and Florida Museum of Photographic Arts. Designed to "enhance the image of Tampa as a beautiful and unique destination," the city has put a lot of effort into making the river walk a first-rate tourist attraction, even to the extent of illuminating it with different lights for special events. Although you can access it from various points, it's best to start at the South Plaza, which not only marks the beginning of the mile marker system but also boasts the Riverwall, a collage of over 550 photographs by Bruce Marsh that highlights various points of the waterfront.
10. Scioto Mile, Columbus, Ohio
Located in downtown Columbus, the Scioto Mile is a vast collection of parks and trails that cover over 175 acres of verdant parkland on both sides of the Scioto River. An interconnected system of parks, boulevards, bikeways, and pedestrian paths, it's a stunning place to enjoy the natural beauty of the Whittier Peninsula. The entire area is exceptionally well maintained and safe, making it an ideal destination for families who want to enjoy a pleasant stroll, a bike ride, or simply relax in the grass and enjoy a picnic.
9. Riverwalk Augusta, Augusta, Georgia
The Riverwalk Augusta consists of a series of multilevel walkways running alongside the Savannah River and connecting some of the city's most significant parks, gardens, and museums. Visitors can expect to enjoy sights like the Jessye Norman Amphitheater and the Heroes Overlook Memorial, as well as numerous fountains, play areas, and picnic sports. As one of the cultural centers of Augusta, it regularly plays host to live music events, festivals, and other special events throughout the year.
8. Tom McCall Waterfront Loop, Portland, Oregon
A few decades ago, Portland’s Willamette River western waterfront was a six-lane highway called Harbor Drive. After enough local residents complained about the lack of public space in the city, the authorities transformed it into the three-mile Tom McCall Waterfront Loop, a gorgeous play space filled with tree-lined walkways, trickling fountains, and green areas. Visited by armies of couples, commuters, joggers, bicyclists, and even the occasional gaggle of Canadian Geese, it's a lively, vibrant place that's buzzing with energy.
7. River Street, Savannah, Georgia
Described by savannah.com as a "glittering, multi-faceted gem along the broad Savannah River," River Street is perfect for people who like their river walk to come with a hefty dose of history on the side. The mile-long walk passes by century-old cotton warehouse buildings, quirky specialty stores, antique shops, charming little breweries, elegant turn-of-the-century inns, and tempting restaurants. Charming, quaint, and always busy, it's unquestionably one of the most fun river walks in the US.
6. Reno Riverwalk, Reno, Nevada
As travelnevada.com points out, the Reno Riverwalk is at the heart of Reno’s downtown urban renaissance. Stretching along both banks of the Truckee River for half a mile, it passes through a glorious assortment of bars, taverns, bistros, cafes, shops, and entertainment venues. For those looking for a little more adventure, there's even a whitewater park where kayakers can test their wits against the churning waters. If that sounds like too much hard work, grab a Ring Toss (a prosecco-based cocktail named after the city's divorcées habit of tossing their rings in the river) at one of the bars and watch the people go by instead.
5. Miami Riverwalk, Miami, Florida
The Miami Riverwalk might be one of the smallest river walks around, but it's more than worth a visit. Winding alongside the Miami River in Downtown Miami, it's a scenic, landscaped path bordered by pretty green spaces and lined with palms. Encircling the walk are dozen of high-rise residential apartments that offer some great photo opportunities. If you get peckish along the way, stop by the Brickell Center shopping mall to grab a drink and rest your feet before you tackle the rest of the route.
4. Tennessee Riverwalk, Chattanooga, Tennessee
The Tennessee Riverwalk covers a 13 mile stretch of riverside path that runs from the Chickamauga Dam to downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee. As part of the Tennessee Riverpark System, it features a series of historic sites and landmarks, including the Tennessee Riverpark, Coolidge Park, Renaissance Park, Ross's Landing, the Walnut Street Bridge, and the old U.S. Pipe property. As you walk along the pathways, boardwalks, and bridges that make up the walk, keep your eyes peeled for the nine stainless steel silhouettes that mark each milestone - if you complete the entire walk, then according to Wikipedia, you should pass by a bird watcher, bluegrass musician, bicyclists, a man in a wheelchair and another strolling, a jogging father and daughter, and a family group.
3. Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway, Minneapolis, Minnesota
As nsbfoundation.com notes, the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway offers a little bit of everything. Along its circular 50-mile asphalt path (which ranks as the longest continuous urban public parkway in the US), you'll find gorgeous scenery, historic sites, artwork, outdoor recreation, and superb shopping and dining opportunities. If you want to experience it like a local, walk it. if you want to experience it like a tourist, join a Segway Magical History Tour, where you'll be treated to a whistlestop tour of all its main points of interest while listening to a guide chatting away about local legends and history.
2. Chicago River Walk, Chicago, Illinois
According to the principal designer of the Chicago Riverwalk, Carol Ross Barney, the central challenge of designing the walk was "taking a formerly working riverfront that had fallen into disuse and making it easy to get to—a relaxing place to be and a green environment on a quieter level below the busy city.” Suffice to say, she succeeded. Voted as one of the coolest river walks in the US by nbcnews.com, the walk leads all the way from Lake Shore Drive and Lake Michigan to Lake Street, passing by multiple cafes, small parks, restaurants, kayak rentals, and historic sites along the way.
1. San Antonio River Walk, San Antonio, Texas
The San Antonio River Walk is quite possibly the most famous river walk in the US, and for very good reason. A four-mile path that leads through the very heart of the city, it attracts over five million visitors each year. Despite being studded with cafes, shops, hotels, and bars, the natural beauty of the river still shines through. The wildlife spotting opportunities are legendary (expect to see yellow-crowned night herons, barred owls, and red-eared slider turtles), but there's also plenty of opportunities for people watching too. Described by travelandleisure.com as the "granddaddy of river walks," its most unmissable feature is the extraordinary art installations under every bridge along the Museum Reach river walk section.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn