Belle of Louisville

The Belle of Louisville, left, and the Spirit of Jefferson on the Ohio River. (Bill Griffin)

Five riverboats will gather in Louisville, Ky., in October to celebrate one of its own: the Belle of Louisville. The National Historic Landmark turns 100 years old with a splashy six-day Centennial Festival of Riverboats on the Ohio River.

The Belle, originally named the Idlewild, is a paddlewheel steamboat built in 1914 that was originally designed as a ferry and freight mover, according to its website. Visitors may hop on board for a birthday cruise Oct. 18 that includes a boat parade, hors d'oeuvres, music and a slice of birthday cake topped off with a fireworks show.

On Oct. 19, the Belle squares off with the American Queen, which will be docked on the Indiana side of the river, in a race. (Riverboats will race daily during the festival.)

For those who want a ride on the historic steamboat during the festival, the Belle offers other cruise options such as an opening ceremonies cruise; breakfast, lunch and dinner cruises; and bourbon-tasting cruises where guests sample some of Kentucky's finest.

The festival spills over to Jeffersonville, Ind., on the north side of the Ohio River. Other riverboats include Louisville's Spirit of Jefferson, which once cruised out of New Orleans as the Mark Twain; the River Queen from Newport, Ky.; the Spirit of Peoria from Peoria, Ill.; and the Belle of Cincinnati, also docked at Newport.

When: The festival runs Oct. 14 to 19 in Waterfront Park.

Price: Tickets for the Belle of Louisville vary according to activities, from $37 for a sightseeing cruise up to $132 for the birthday and fireworks cruise. Sightseeing, history and family fun (think pirates and ice cream socials) cruises on other boats start at $32. 

Info: Centennial Festival of Riverboats, (855) 259-0350