Five Ways To Enjoy The Great Steamboat Race : Official Travel Source

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Five Ways To Enjoy The Great Steamboat Race

One of the Kentucky Derby Festival's oldest traditions, the original Great Steamboat Race took place in 1963 with a head-to-head battle between two historic vessels, the Belle of Louisville and the Delta Queen. Now scheduled annually for the Wednesday before Derby Day, this half a sixty-year old tradition has seen its fair share of participants. The 2023 race takes place on May 3 and will include Louisville’s Belle of Louisville, BB Riverboats Belle of Cincinnati, and a special guest, the American Countess. Since we love every reason to celebrate all things Derby, here’s a list of 5 ways you can enjoy this year’s Great Steamboat Race.

  1. Take it to the Waterfront
    1. Grab some friends, a bucket of KFC, and refreshing beverages, and take in the views along the Ohio River to enjoy a picnic-style afternoon of steamboat racing. We suggest the Big Four Lawn or Cox’s Park as fun, free viewing areas.
  2. Stroll the Big Four Bridge
    1. Opening to the public as a pedestrian bridge in 2013, the Big Four Bridge is a great place to get a bird's eye view of the action. Close to the race's start and finish lines, you’ll be able to see the integral parts of the event with enough time to grab some grub in Southern Indiana in between. Be sure to wear walking shoes as the span of the bridge is close to a mile from start to finish.
  3. Kroger's Fest-a-Ville and Chow Wagon
    1. Returning to to Louisville's Waterfront Park, Kroger’s Fest-A-Ville & Chow Wagon lets you enjoy the race while sampling a variety of other food, drink and entertainment options. Free with a 2023 Pegasus Pin, the venue will feature an inflatable playground, midway rides, happy hour specials from 4-6pm, and a variety of food trucks providing fair and festival treats.
  4. Ride a Riverboat
    1. While it may not be feasible every year, riding the Belle of Louisville during the Great Steamboat Race is something you'll want to put on your Derby bucket list. Guests dress in Derby attire for this 3-hour event which includes fancy hors d’oeuvres and an open bar, aboard a century old historic landmark. Tickets start at $165 on the Belle of Louisville, but the Belle of Cincinnati and Mary M. Miller also have ticket options available.
  5. Take Cover Indoors
    1. Worried about the weather? There are limited, but good options to catch a glimpse of the race while dining indoors. Swizzle at the Galt House, River House, Joe’s Crab Shack, King Fish on the River, and Captain's Quarters are all places to catch a glimpse of the slowest two hours in sports.

The race begins at 5:45pm at the 2nd Street Bridge, which is considered both the starting and finish line. All boats typically come racing back (at 10mph) around 8 pm, so be sure to be there for the photo finish. Also, don’t forget to bring a jacket because once the sun goes down, being on the river can get chilly! Let us know how you enjoy the Great Steamboat Race this year, and be sure to tag your photos with #LouisvilleLove.

You can find more events happening around town by visiting our event calendar.

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