5 Small Towns You Can Visit on a U.S. River Cruise

These unexpected gems will soon become your favorite ports of call.

Aerial of an American Queen ship on a river in St. Louisville
Photo: Courtesy of American Queen Voyages

Forget the big cities. It's time to get out and explore some of America's best small towns. And thanks to American Queen Voyages, you can do just that all from the comfort of a river cruise.

The cruise company is known for taking passengers through the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, up and down the Eastern Seaboard, the gulf, and the western coast of Mexico and Central America.

You can also choose to hop aboard its river cruise and excursion options, which take passengers to delightful corners of nation's interior via the Mississippi River, the Ohio River, the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers, and the Columbia and Snake rivers, as well as to remote corners of Alaska. Here are five adorable small towns you can discover on one of the American Queen Voyages journeys.

Paducah, Kentucky

Paducah is as charming a place as they come. As a UNESCO Creative City, it's a spot where culture and art collide in the midwest. Known for Southern hospitality, crafts, and a growing LGBTQ community, it's a must-see destination for those looking to feel inspired. Via the cruise line's Louisville to St. Louis journey, guests can stop in at Paducah and meet with Miss Maggie at Hotel Metropolitan, which was known as a safe haven for traveling Black musicians in the early 1900s. Guests on the cruise can also take part in the included excursion to visit the town's National Quilt Museum.

An American Queen ship in front of the arch St. Louis
Courtesy of American Queen Voyages

Vicksburg, Mississippi

Travelers on the New Orleans to Memphis cruise can hop off the boat in Vicksburg, a small town known for its big history. Known as one of the significant battle sites during the Civil War, the port town carries a history unlike any other. Here, visitors can learn about the historic conflicts of the city by visiting the Vicksburg National Military Park, created to preserve the infamous siege line. At the park, guests can also visit the USS Cairo Gunboat and Museum. For more cultural context, cruisers can also visit the Lower Mississippi River Museum and Vicksburg Riverfront Murals, painted on Mississippi River floodwalls. The murals, which first began in 2002, depict the past, present, and future of Vicksburg.

An American Queen ship in Memphis
Courtesy of American Queen Voyages

Astoria, Oregon

Stop by the adorable town of Astoria on the cruise company's Round Trip Portland itinerary. In Astoria, guests will get to explore the stunning port city, well-known for its Victorian-era homes that sit along the hillside overlooking the Columbia River. The cruise company suggests guests make the most of the town's majesty by visiting The Garden of Surging Waves, a gorgeous park honoring Astoria's relationship with China. Visitors can also meander down the Astoria Riverwalk, seek out the Astoria-Megler Bridge, and visit the Maritime Memorial to round out the visit.

The side of an American Queen ship in Hanniabal
Sean McVeigh/Courtesy of American Queen Voyages

Petersburg, Alaska

American Queen Voyages' Ocean Victory ship is one of the view boats that can access the quaint Alaskan village of Petersburg. On the company's ​​Sitka to Vancouver itinerary, guests will get the chance to stop into the village, which is home to just 3,100 year-round residents. Guests can take part in three premium excursions, including a jet boat ride through LeConte Bay to LeConte Glacier, a day of fishing in the hopes of catching a famed Alaskan salmon, or a visit to the United States Forest Service to mine for ruby red garnet, which they get to keep following the trip.

The American Queen ship in Cincinnati
Courtesy of American Queen Voyages

Bar Harbor, Maine

As one of New England's most idyllic towns, Bar Harbor makes for a perfect stop on the Boston to Halifax cruise for those looking to dive head first into lighthouses, lobster rolls, and public lands. During the stops, guests can explore Acadia National Park, soaking in the beautiful national park's views, including its pink granite and massive evergreen trees. Guests also have the opportunity to hike the Deer Isle Lighthouse Trail and spot all eight lighthouses along the way and can even hop aboard a working lobster boat when the excursions are available.

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