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.
1914, James 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
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.
The Idlewild spent a season in Louisville running trips to Rose Island and Fontaine Ferry amusement parks.
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.
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.
Idlewild Master Ben Winters' death-bed wish was granted by renaming the boat Avalon.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In August, the Waterfront Development Corporation assumed the operation of the Belle of Louisville on behalf of Louisville Metro.
The Belle of Louisville celebrates her 100th birthday with a 5-day gathering of her peers on Louisville's Waterfront.
It’s a tradition of river life since the 1850s, and still happening today. During Kentucky Derby Week, the historic steamboat Belle of Louisville will face off with the riverboat Belle of Cincinnati for The Battle of the Belles, in a time-honored tradition of riverboat racing to the finish! Land-based events will take place first, with the crew from each boat competing for points; then the race will bring up the stern of an exciting day. The team with the most points, wins the event!
Please note that the tickets the Derby Festival provides us to sell are upstairs, outside seating (texas deck) without exception. Every passenger is welcome to enjoy any amenities the KDF provides, but seating is first come, first served. This event sells out every year, so make your plans early. Tickets (all ages): $130+tax
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