Cities across the United States have transformed their riverfront areas into multi-use spaces for recreational purposes, cultural activities, dining and nightlife. And residents and visitors alike could easily spend an entire day hanging out at these riverwalks, which offer so many things to see and do. To find the best of these waterfront spots, a panel of experts provided nominations, then readers voted for their favorites. These are the 10 best riverwalks across the U.S. for 2023.
Photo courtesy of Downtown Indy, Inc.
No. 10: Canal Walk - Indianapolis, Indiana
White River State Park, Indiana's only urban state park, cuts right through the heart of Indianapolis, with 250 acres of green space and a 1.5-mile canal perfect for urban kayaking or pedal boating. The city's riverfront master plan - a work in progress - has transformed what used to be an industrial canal into a vibrant commercial and cultural center. The Canal Walk promenade stretches through White River State Park in a 3-mile loop, providing convenient access to walkers, bikers and sightseers.
Photo courtesy of VISIT Milwaukee
No. 9: Milwaukee RiverWalk - Milwaukee, Wisconsin
The Milwaukee RiverWalk connects three neighborhoods via a 20-block pedestrian promenade on both sides of the Milwaukee River. This area is home to some of the city's best outdoor dining at the restaurants and breweries that line either side of the river. The RiverSculpture outdoor art gallery along the RiverWalk features a collection of temporary and permanent installations from national, regional and local sculptors.
Photo courtesy of Jessica Dyer / Esplanade Association
No. 8: Charles River Esplanade - Boston, Massachusetts
The Charles River Esplanade in downtown Boston features a 64-acre park and 17 miles of running trails along the waterfront. The riverfront is also home to a community boat launch, a small seasonal cafe and an outdoor amphitheater for summer concerts.
Photo courtesy of iStock / pabradyphoto
No. 7: Wilmington Riverwalk - Wilmington, North Carolina
Located along the Cape Fear River, Wilmington's riverfront is home to a colorful riverwalk lined with more than 200 cafes, bars and shops. Just across the river, history buffs can tour the moored battleship USS North Carolina. The annual Riverfest, held each October, brings hundreds of craft and food vendors to the riverfront for three days of live music, fireworks, a mock pirate invasion and a standup paddle race.
Photo courtesy of San Antonio River Walk
No. 6: San Antonio River Walk - San Antonio, Texas
The iconic San Antonio River Walk has a history dating back to 1937 when the Texas Legislature created the San Antonio River Authority. Since then, this vibrant downtown attraction keeps getting better and better. Restaurants, bars, hotels and an outdoor amphitheater line the canal, with pedestrian paths to either side and a series of picturesque stone footbridges spanning the water. Water taxis shuttle visitors along the canal, and everything's in walking distance of other attractions, including the Alamo.
Photo courtesy of City of Dubuque
No. 5: Mississippi Riverwalk - Dubuque, Iowa
The Mississippi Riverwalk in Dubuque makes up part of the 26-mile Heritage Trail, which links the Mississippi River to the Field of Dreams site in Dyersville. The Art on the River exhibit features 11 pieces of public art that rotate each year.
No. 4: Smale Riverfront Park - Cincinnati, Ohio
At Smale Riverfront Park in Cincinnati, visitors can watch the river traffic float by, cycle along the Ohio River Trail, buy fresh produce at the Castellini Esplanade farmers market, cool off in the Fath Fountain or stop to smell the flowers in the Gardner Family Grove and Rose Garden.
Photo courtesy of Steve Grider
No. 3: Waterfront Park - Louisville, Kentucky
Since 1986, Louisville's frontage along the Ohio River has undergone quite the renaissance with the introduction of the 85-acre Waterfront Park, an expanse of picnic areas, walking paths and sprawling green spaces. Visitors to the riverwalk enjoy picnic areas, playgrounds, boat launches and numerous public art installations.
Photo courtesy of Visit Tampa Bay
No. 2: Tampa Riverwalk - Tampa Bay, Florida
The Tampa Riverwalk was created to connect the businesses, parks and museums along the riverfront in Tampa, Florida. It also serves as a central spot for performances, art, leisure and fitness activities. At 2.6 miles long, there are plenty of places to stop and enjoy along the way, from restaurants to museums, not to mention the scenery.
Photo courtesy of Stephen McGee
No. 1: Detroit International RiverWalk - Detroit, Michigan
The riverfront redevelopment in Detroit, a city with 14 miles of shoreline along the Detroit River, is one of the city's most exciting initiatives. The east riverfront of the Detroit International RiverWalk stretches from Joe Louis Arena to Gabriel Richard Park and includes several parks, restaurants, splash parks and natural areas.