It’s not just a boat.It’s a time machine.

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About the Belle

Steamboat travel and transportation revolutionized our river, our city, and our nation. To board the Belle of Louisville is to do more than to see Louisville and the Ohio River from a unique perspective — it’s also to step into a piece of living American history. And no matter what you’re boarding for — a river cruise, a corporate event, or a wedding — it’s always a very special occasion.

1914James Rees & Sons Company, Pittsburgh, PA, named Idlewild

Comfort Passenger Capacity
650 • 180 Dining

Seasonal Passenger Capacities
April–October, Cruises or Dockside: 650 • November–March, Limited Cruises and Dockside: 200

Fully heated and air conditioned • Concession stand and bar • Dance floor • Stage • Full on-board Sound system • Indoor and outdoor seating • Non-smoking

Line art of the Belle of Louisville
View our history
  • 1914

    The Idlewild was launched on October 18th at Pittsburgh, PA. She served as a ferry between Memphis, Tennessee and West Memphis, Arkansas and moved freight as a day packet.

  • 1931

    The Idlewild spent a season in Louisville running trips to Rose Island and Fontaine Ferry amusement parks.

  • 1934

    After years of traveling U.S. waterways from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and Montana to Pennsylvania, the Belle returned to Louisville and stayed through World War II.

  • 1940's

    The Idlewild offered moonlight cruises during the Big Band era and occasionally served as a USO nightspot on the Mississippi River to help the war effort.

  • 1948

    Idlewild Master Ben Winters' death-bed wish was granted by renaming the boat Avalon.

  • 1949

    The Avalon was sold to a group of Cincinnati investors. Over the next 13 years, she became the most widely-traveled river steamboat in American history.

  • 1962

    The Avalon was put up for auction at Cincinnati. She was purchased by Jefferson County Judge Executive Marlow Cook for $34,000 and renamed the Belle of Louisville.

  • 1963

    Countless hours were spent rebuilding and repairing the Belle. On April 30th, she began her new life by racing against the Delta Queen in the first Great Steamboat Race.

  • 1988

    The Belle was highlighted as the nation’s oldest and most authentic river steamboat at the first celebration of the steamboat era, Tall Stacks in Cincinnati, Ohio.

  • 2005

    In August, the Waterfront Development Corporation assumed the operation of the Belle of Louisville on behalf of Louisville Metro.

  • 2014

    The Belle of Louisville celebrates her 100th birthday with a 5-day gathering of her peers on Louisville's Waterfront.

  • Get on board

    There’s no time like the present to preserve the past.


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