Fall wraps the Midwestern United States in a brilliant coat of jeweltoned colors, and there's no better way to enjoy the scenery change than from your boat, where seasonal cruising benefits include pleasant temperatures, less crowds and discounted rates. Whether you seek the solitude of natural sanctuaries or the excitement of cityscapes, wonderful venues can be found along inland waterways like the Mississippi, Ohio, and Tennessee rivers, as well as on welcoming lake destinations. To assist you in planning one more trip before you put the boat into storage or head to warmer climates until next year, we've created a list of some of the top fall foliage destinations in the Heartland.
Whether the game plan calls for a day of Bengals football at Paul Brown Stadium or a city getaway, there's always something exciting to do, including some mega events in the Fall. Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati USA is a worldrenowned German celebration, while the MidPoint Music Festival rocks with some 250 national and international bands playing an array of genres.A unique departure from Cincinnati's bright lights is the Little Miami River, a Class I tributary of the Ohio flowing 111 miles through five counties in the southwestern part of the state. Designated as a National Scenic River, it joins the Ohio just east of Cincinnati and invites boaters to discover several state and county parks, which are dotted with peaceful trails built alongside abandoned rail grades running along the shoreline.The Four Seasons Marina (513-321-3300, fourseasonsmarina.com), east of Cincinnati, is an ideal port for visitors who want to spend time exploring the both the big city and the Little Miami.
The Tennessee River flows into the stunning region of Kentucky known as the Western Waterlands and makes its way to Kentucky Lake home to the quaint town of Grand Rivers.Nicknamed the Village Between the Lakes, Grand Rivers is a charming village dotted with antique shops, boutiques, restaurants and bike paths. It boasts a spectacular view from the jetty (especially at sunset) and a wonderful two-mile trek along its walking trail.Lighthouse Landing (270-362-8201, lighthouselanding.com), a picturesque resort and full-service marina, affords those with an appreciation of the outdoors a secluded yet convenient stay tucked along the Kentucky Lake shoreline just a mile north of the entrance to Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area and three blocks to area landmark, Patti's 1880s Settlement & Restaurant. But, truly, the natural beauty of the area makes it an outdoor destination all its own.
A short distance from Bloomington is a delightful spot. Lake Monroe, the state's largest lake at 10,750 acres, provides ample boat ramps, beaches, picnic areas, state operated camping facilities, the Fourwinds Resort & Marina (812-824-2628, fourwindsresort.com), two private camping resorts and 24,000 acres that house state-owned forests encompassed on three sides by Hoosier National Forest.The Fall delivers exciting events, including the Lotus World Music Festival and Harvest Moon Weekend, which features programs and activities celebrating autumn and the harvest season at Paynetown State Recreation Area.For incredible, early morning or sunset views, be sure to climb the fire tower at Hickory Ridge or make a trip in town to sample the restaurant fare. If you're there Saturday morning, the Bloomington Community Farmers' Market is a must.
There's a variety of things to see and do at this interesting port along the Ohio River. Waterfront Park, located downtown and adjacent to the Louisville Wharf and Riverfront Plaza/Belvedere, provides boaters with at-your-own-risk dockage from June 1 to November 1. Boaters are urged to check that the channel is free of traffic upon approaching or leaving the area.The complex is center stage for outdoor concerts and festivals, including the annual Birthday Bash for the Belle of Louisville, set for October 20. The Belle, built in 1914 and moored at the Wharf, is the oldest operating Mississippi-style sternwheeler steamboat in operation so book your passage for back-in-time voyage.When taking in the downtown sights, the Brown Hotel offers an amazing stop with its impressive English Renaissance architecture. Baseball aficionados will be mesmerized with a visit to the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory.
The Gateway City is a splendid Heartland getaway, with a downtown comprised of historical and in-the-now attractions. Alton Marina (618-462-9860, altonmarina.com) (adjacent to Riverfront Park) and the St. Louis Yacht Club (636-250-4435, stlouisyachtclub.com) afford easy accessibility for cruising this city along the mighty Mississippi.St. Louis' famed riverfront area, Laclede's Landing, is housed in century-old buildings along cobblestone streetsdating back to the early days of explorers and traders. The Landing boasts an array of restaurants, shops, theaters and is a short distance from the city's foremost landmark, the Gateway Arch. A thrilling, 630-foot ride to the top of the stainless-steel monument leads to an outrageous view of the city and Mississippi River. Make sure your sightseeing list also includes a horse-drawn carriage ride during the cool evening, the Museum of Westward Expansion or a stroll the St. Louis Riverfront Trail.One of season's biggest events, the Big Muddy Blues Festival, takes place every Labor Day Weekend and features legendary and local performers at Laclede's Landing.