Owensboro’s Riverfront: Scenic Views and Activities

Seeing Owensboro’s Riverfront should be on your bucket list! With the weather warmed up and the sunshine lighting up the sky, it’s time to feature all the beautiful outdoor spaces we have right here in Owensboro. The downtown riverfront is the #1 most frequented place our out-of-town visitors come to see while they’re here. Constructed with the idea of bringing people downtown to enjoy stunning views of the Ohio River, it promotes economic development and creates a walkable, open environment for everyone to enjoy.

Key Takeaways

  • Owensboro’s downtown riverfront offers stunning views of the Ohio River, making it a must-visit destination.
  • Smothers Park, named the top playground in the world, features a massive playground, a splash park, and a soothing waterfall.
  • The RiverPark Center provides cultural experiences with Broadway shows, concerts, and local art exhibitions.
  • The Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum offers interactive exhibits, live music performances, and educational programs.
  • Visitors can enjoy a variety of dining options with riverside restaurants, picnic spots, and food festivals.

Stunning Views of the Ohio River

Owensboro’s downtown riverfront was constructed with the idea of bringing people downtown to enjoy our absolutely stunning views of the Ohio River. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, the riverfront offers a picturesque setting that is sure to captivate your senses.

Family Fun at Smothers Park

Smothers Park, established in 1816 and revamped in 2012, is a gem in Owensboro. Named one of the best playgrounds in the world by the Landscape Architect Network, it offers a plethora of activities for families.

Award-Winning Playground

The playground at Smothers Park is a must-visit. With its extensive play structures and engaging design, children of all ages will find something to enjoy. The park’s reputation as one of the best playgrounds globally is well-deserved.

Splash Park Adventures

During the summer, the spray park is open, providing a refreshing escape for kids. The dancing water fountains add an extra layer of fun, making it a perfect spot to cool off. Concessions are available on-site, offering drinks, snacks, and more.

Relaxing by the Waterfall

One of the park’s highlights is the cascading waterfall, which flows into the Ohio River. It’s a serene spot to unwind and enjoy the scenic views. The waterfall, along with three other water fountains, is operational during the season, adding to the park’s charm.

Smothers Park is not just a playground; it’s a destination that brings families together to enjoy the beauty of Owensboro’s riverfront.

Cultural Experiences at RiverPark Center

The RiverPark Center is a vibrant hub for arts and culture in Owensboro. This non-profit regional performing arts and civic center entertains and educates nearly 135,000 people annually through a diverse array of events. Whether you’re a fan of Broadway shows or the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra, there’s always something exciting happening here. Get RiverPark Center tickets to enjoy a memorable evening of entertainment.

Broadway Shows and Concerts

Take in a Broadway show or an Owensboro Symphony Orchestra concert at RiverPark Center. The venue hosts a variety of performances that cater to all tastes, making it a must-visit for anyone looking to experience top-notch entertainment.

Local Art Exhibitions

Explore the renowned collections at the Owensboro Museum of Fine Art and the Owensboro Museum of Science and History. These exhibitions offer a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the region, making them a perfect complement to your visit to the RiverPark Center.

Community Events

The RiverPark Center is also a focal point for community events. From local festivals to educational programs, there’s always something happening that brings the community together. Check the event calendar to find out what’s on during your visit.

Exploring the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Interactive Exhibits

Whether you’re a bluegrass fanatic or a casual listener, the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum is a must-visit in Owensboro. Through interactive exhibits, galleries, and one-of-a-kind memorabilia, you can learn all about the history and artists of this toe-tapping style of music native to the region. There’s even a "pickin’ parlor" where you can try out different bluegrass instruments. Be sure to check the museum’s event calendar to catch a live bluegrass show.

Live Music Performances

As you walk through the exhibits, you’ll be transported back in time, tracing the roots of this beloved genre and the incredible musicians who have shaped its legacy. From interactive displays that bring the music to life to treasured artifacts that celebrate the legends of bluegrass, the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum is a true celebration of the genre’s profound impact on American music culture.

Educational Programs

Owensboro is known as the bluegrass music capital of the world. Right down the road in Rosine is where Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass music, was born. The museum offers educational programs that delve into the history and significance of bluegrass music, making it a great learning experience for visitors of all ages.

Dining with a View

Owensboro’s riverfront offers a delightful dining experience with stunning views of the Ohio River. Whether you’re looking for a romantic dinner or a casual meal with family, the riverside restaurants provide the perfect backdrop.

Riverside Restaurants

Enjoy a meal at one of the many riverside restaurants that offer both indoor and outdoor seating. City Walk of Owensboro is a popular choice, known for its diverse menu and excellent service. The ambiance is perfect for a relaxing evening by the water.

Picnic Spots

For those who prefer a more laid-back dining experience, there are several picnic spots along the riverfront. Pack a basket and enjoy a meal surrounded by nature. The scenic views make it an ideal location for a family outing or a romantic date.

Food Festivals

Owensboro hosts several food festivals throughout the year, celebrating the local cuisine and culture. These events are a great way to sample a variety of dishes while enjoying live music and entertainment. Don’t miss the chance to experience the city’s vibrant food scene.

Staying at Waterfront Hotels

Holiday Inn Riverfront

The Holiday Inn Riverfront offers a perfect blend of comfort and convenience. Located right on the river, guests can enjoy stunning views of the Ohio River from their rooms. The hotel features modern amenities, including a fitness center, an indoor pool, and an on-site restaurant serving delicious local cuisine. It’s an ideal choice for both business and leisure travelers.

Hampton Inn & Suites

Enjoy your visit to Owensboro with a stay at Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown Owensboro/Waterfront. Guests can indulge in massages or mani/pedis, and seafood is a specialty at the on-site restaurant. The hotel also offers a complimentary breakfast, free WiFi, and a fitness center. Its prime location makes it easy to explore the nearby attractions.

Booking Tips

When planning your stay, consider booking in advance to secure the best rates. Weekdays tend to be less crowded, offering a more peaceful experience. Additionally, check for any special packages or discounts that may be available during your visit.

Staying at one of Owensboro’s waterfront hotels ensures a memorable experience with breathtaking views and top-notch amenities.

Outdoor Activities Along the Riverfront

Walking and Biking Trails

Owensboro’s riverfront offers a variety of scenic walking and biking trails that cater to all fitness levels. Explore diverse outdoor activities as you stroll or cycle along the picturesque paths, taking in the natural beauty of the Ohio River. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely walk or an invigorating bike ride, these trails provide the perfect setting for outdoor enthusiasts.

Fishing Spots

For those who enjoy fishing, the riverfront is a prime location. Cast your line and relax as you wait for a bite, surrounded by the serene backdrop of the river. The fishing spots here are well-maintained and offer a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Bird Watching

Bird watchers will find the riverfront to be a haven for spotting various bird species. Bring your binoculars and enjoy the natural beauty of Owensboro’s great outdoors. The diverse habitats along the river attract a wide range of birds, making it a perfect spot for both novice and experienced bird watchers.

The riverfront in Owensboro is not just a place for relaxation but also a hub for outdoor adventures. From walking and biking to fishing and bird watching, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Gardens and Green Spaces

Western Kentucky Botanical Garden

The Western Kentucky Botanical Garden is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts. Explore historic buildings, including a country doctor’s office, and marvel at a record-setting basket sculpture. Be astounded by the garden’s extensive collection of hybridized daylilies. This is a perfect outdoor trip for kids, families, and people of all ages.

Seasonal Flower Displays

Throughout the year, the gardens transform with the seasons, offering a stunning array of flower displays. From vibrant spring blooms to the rich hues of autumn, there’s always something new to see. Seasonal changes make each visit unique and memorable.

Community Gardening Events

Join the local community in various gardening events held throughout the year. These events are a great way to learn more about gardening, meet new people, and contribute to the beautification of Owensboro’s green spaces. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a beginner, there’s something for everyone.

Annual Festivals and Events

Owensboro is a hub of excitement with over 20 annual festivals that draw visitors from near and far. One of the most anticipated events is the International Bar-B-Q Festival, where the aroma of smoked meats fills the air and the streets come alive with music and fun. Another highlight is the ROMP bluegrass music festival, a must-visit for music lovers. The Western Kentucky Botanical Garden Daylily Festival is perfect for those who appreciate nature’s beauty.

BBQ Festivals

The International Bar-B-Q Festival is a culinary delight, featuring a variety of smoked meats, family events, and live bands. It’s a community favorite that brings people together to celebrate Owensboro’s rich barbecue heritage.

Bluegrass Music Events

ROMP is a bluegrass music festival that attracts top talent and fans from all over. With its lively performances and interactive workshops, it’s a celebration of bluegrass culture that you won’t want to miss.

Holiday Celebrations

Owensboro’s holiday celebrations are magical, with events like the All-American July 4th Celebration and festive activities throughout the year. These events are perfect for creating lasting memories with family and friends.

The festival includes live bands, family events, food trucks, and more, making it a highlight of the community calendar – June, 2024.

Shopping and Souvenirs

Owensboro riverfront shopping

Local Boutiques

Owensboro boasts a variety of charming local boutiques where you can find unique fashion pieces, handcrafted jewelry, and home décor items. Byron and Barclay is a must-visit for those seeking one-of-a-kind gifts and stylish accessories. Located at 121 East Second Street, this boutique is a testament to the thriving small business community in downtown Owensboro.

Craft Markets

For those who appreciate artisanal goods, Owensboro’s craft markets are a treasure trove. These markets feature local artisans showcasing their handmade crafts, from pottery and textiles to paintings and sculptures. It’s the perfect place to find a special souvenir that captures the essence of Owensboro’s creative spirit.

Unique Finds

If you’re on the hunt for vintage items or rare collectibles, The Trading Post is the place to go. This store is packed with antiques, old fishing lures, vintage signs, and much more. It’s a haven for collectors and anyone looking to discover something truly unique. Note that The Trading Post only accepts cash or check, so plan accordingly.

Shopping in Owensboro is not just about buying things; it’s about experiencing the local culture and supporting the community. Whether you’re browsing through boutiques or exploring craft markets, you’ll find that each purchase tells a story.

Planning Your Visit

Owensboro riverfront

Owensboro’s riverfront is a year-round destination, but the best times to visit are during the spring and fall. These seasons offer mild weather and vibrant scenery, making it perfect for outdoor adventures in and around Louisville. Summer is also popular, especially for families looking to enjoy the splash parks and playgrounds.

When planning your trip, consider booking accommodations in advance, especially during peak seasons. The riverfront area is walkable, but renting a bike can be a fun way to explore. Don’t forget to check the local calendar for festivals and events that might coincide with your visit.

Getting around Owensboro is convenient with several options available. The city offers public transportation, and ride-sharing services are also readily accessible. For those who prefer to drive, ample parking is available near the riverfront attractions.


Visiting Owensboro’s riverfront is an experience that should be on everyone’s bucket list. With its stunning views of the Ohio River, family-friendly attractions like Smothers Park, and a variety of entertainment options, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you’re taking a leisurely stroll along the waterfront, exploring the local museums, or simply relaxing and taking in the beautiful scenery, Owensboro’s riverfront offers a perfect blend of relaxation and excitement. So, pack your bags and come see for yourself why this charming area is a must-visit destination!

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes Owensboro’s Riverfront a must-see destination?

Owensboro’s Riverfront offers stunning views of the Ohio River, a variety of family-friendly activities, cultural experiences, and beautiful outdoor spaces. It’s the #1 most frequented place for out-of-town visitors.

What are some of the best spots for sunset watching on the riverfront?

Some of the best spots for sunset watching include the viewing areas at Smothers Park, the RiverPark Center, and the riverfront trails.

Are there any hotels with waterfront views in Owensboro?

Yes, there are several hotels with waterfront views, including the Holiday Inn Riverfront and Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown Owensboro/Waterfront.

What family activities are available at Smothers Park?

Smothers Park features an award-winning playground, a splash park, dancing water fountains, and a soothing waterfall feature. It’s perfect for family fun.

What cultural experiences can I find at the RiverPark Center?

The RiverPark Center hosts Broadway shows, concerts, local art exhibitions, and community events, offering a rich cultural experience.

Is there a place to learn about Bluegrass music in Owensboro?

Yes, the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum offers interactive exhibits, live music performances, and educational programs dedicated to Bluegrass music.

What outdoor activities can I enjoy along the riverfront?

You can enjoy walking and biking trails, fishing spots, and bird watching along the riverfront.

When is the best time to visit Owensboro’s Riverfront?

The best times to visit are during the spring and fall when the weather is mild, and many festivals and events are taking place.

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