Civil War cannon on Lookout Mountain
Civil War cannon on Lookout Mountain / iStock / RobHainer
1 of 7
American Quarter Horses
American Quarter Horses / iStock / fleischer57
2 of 7
Bourbon
Bourbon / iStock / wawri
3 of 7
Downtown Cincinnati
Downtown Cincinnati / iStock / AndreyKrav
4 of 7
Fried chicken
Fried chicken / iStock / Rebecca Fondren
5 of 7
Clingmans Dome observation tower
Clingmans Dome observation tower / iStock / Roel Smart
6 of 7
Tennessee River through Chattanooga
Tennessee River through Chattanooga / iStock / Sean Pavone
7 of 7
Ohio and Tennessee Rivers
Our Review
Deal Expert / Travel Blogger

Tumbling down from the Appalachians, both of these rivers take their time reaching the Mississippi, meandering routes through the American heartland and some of the nation's most interesting cities. Many of the cruises along these waterways have specific themes — in particular bourbon, music, and the Civil War — but nearly all voyages cover a bit of all three. There's also a choice of old-time paddle wheelers or modern ships, and departures either in the summer or (in a limited capacity) in the fall.

What We Love

Americana: From quilts and quarter horses to bluegrass music and Jim Beam, many of the things we now consider quintessentially American originated in this part of the nation.

Famous Americans: Likewise, the region nurtured many of the giants of U.S. history and culture — naturalist John James Audubon, boxer Muhammad Ali, and Abe Lincoln, just to name a few.

Best Known For

Bourbon: The rivers wrap around three sides of America's whiskey country with plenty of chances to sample the precious liquid along the way.

Civil War Sights: The rivers run past some of the most storied battlefields of the War Between the States including Shiloh, Chattanooga, Lookout Mountain, and Fort Donelson, as well as Civil War museums in Paducah, Kentucky, and Decatur, Alabama.

Best Ports

Louisville: The Kentucky city's rich sporting legacy is on view year-round at Churchill Downs' Kentucky Derby Museum, the Louisville Slugger Museum, and the Muhammad Ali Center. And did we mention bourbon?

Chattanooga: Tucked into a deep Appalachian valley, the southern Tennessee metropolis lays claim to plenty of Civil War sites as well as the Tennessee Aquarium and the riverside Hunter Museum of American Art.

Cincinnati: Spread across seven hills, the Queen City is rich in ethnic history, including the Over-the-Rhine (OTR) German-American neighborhood and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. It's also got a pretty cool zoo.

Paducah: Perched near the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers, this Kentucky town features the interactive River Discovery Center, museums devoted to the Civil War and American quilts, and a lively arts district. 

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

Summers Are Sultry: Hot temperatures and humidity during the summer months make any journey through the Ohio and Tennessee valleys a rather sticky undertaking … even if you're on a riverboat.