Paducah, located near the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers, is a popular port on steamboat cruise itineraries. Developed as a river and railroad hub, the Kentucky city was once home to a considerable manufacturing base, and its legacy of impressive houses and commercial buildings is testament to better economic times. Visitors coming ashore from riverboats pass through an opening in the flood wall built after the great inundation of 1937. Once inside, everything worth seeing is within walking distance.
What We Love
Flood Wall Murals: Paducah's flood walls have become massive canvasses for more than 50 painted murals that depict the steamboat era, tugs and barges, Native American history, African American heritage, and labor unions.
River Discovery Center: At this riverfront heritage museum and educational facility, not far from where towing industry pilots and mates receive their navigational training, visitors can take the wheel of a simulator to test their own skills — or lack of them. The center also has a working model of a lock and dam.
Best Known For
The National Quilt Museum: Located in the Lower Town Arts District, this colorful museum is a principle attraction for many visitors to Paducah. Both permanent and changing exhibits depict the cross-cultural motifs displayed on the colorful, handcrafted quilts. The museum also offers workshops and instruction in buying fabrics and supplies.
Historic Downtown: Along with the galleries of the Lower Town Arts District, Paducah's Downtown Commercial District is part of a substantial 20-block preservation effort over the past 25 years.
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Who It's Best For
Art and Architecture Buffs: Anyone with a love of art will appreciate the city's galleries, murals, and quilt museum. Those with an affinity for architecture will be interested in the ways the 19th-century downtown's former department, hardware, and drug stores have been preserved and renovated for current tenants.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Check Opening Hours: Not everything of interest is open daily — but on the days steamboats visit, the main attractions typically have the welcome mat out.
Theodore W. Scull is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has written several books on crossings.