Channel your inner Rhett or Scarlett on Great American Steamboat Company’s newly refurbished American Queen. Life aboard is genteel, but don’t miss exploring the many charming towns along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. Namely:

Red Wing, Minnesota: Known for the salt-glazed pottery made here since 1865, not to mention the Red Wing Shoe Museum (315 Main St.; 651/388-6233). Don’t miss the size-638 work boot.

Helena, Arkansas: Bubba’s Blues Corner (105 Cherry St.; 870/338-3501), near the Biscuit Row historic district, stocks hard-to-find vinyl.

Louisville, Kentucky: See works by such artists as Chuck Close and Ivan Navarro while sampling from a new library of more than 50 bourbons in the lobby of 21c Museum Hotel.

Natchez, Mississippi: Tour the antebellum homes of the Natchez Trace. Linden, circa 1800, inspired Gone with the Wind’s Tara. Three-day cruises from $995.