Fun Things to Do, Sight Seeing

13 Iconic Southern Cities with Rivers Running Through Them

The Reedy River in Greenville, SC
Published on June 1, 2023

Cities that have rivers flowing through their downtowns possess a unique charm that captivates both residents and visitors alike. From the tranquil Cumberland River in Nashville to the lively Mississippi River in New Orleans, these cities in the southeastern United States offer a harmonious blend of urban vibrancy and natural beauty. Float along for the ride and decide on your favorite as we make our way through 13 of the most iconic cities in the region where rivers gracefully weave their way through the heart of the metropolis.

  1. Nashville, Tennessee: The Musical Meanderings of the Cumberland River

Nashville, the vibrant capital of Tennessee, is renowned as the Music City, but its allure extends far beyond its melodies. The city owes part of its charm to the meandering Cumberland River, which winds its way through downtown. This picturesque waterway provides a stunning backdrop for the city's energetic atmosphere. Visitors can take a stroll along the riverbanks, enjoy live music at riverfront venues, or embark on a relaxing riverboat cruise to soak in the city's scenic beauty from a unique perspective.

  1. Greenville, South Carolina: The Serene Sophistication of the Reedy River

Nestled at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Greenville is a city that effortlessly blends natural splendor with urban sophistication. The Reedy River, gracefully flowing through downtown, adds an enchanting touch to this already charming city. The centerpiece of Greenville's riverfront is the award-winning Falls Park on the Reedy, where a picturesque waterfall cascades directly in front of the highly-acclaimed Liberty Bridge. This serene oasis invites visitors to relax, explore the network of trails, and revel in the breathtaking views of the city skyline reflected in the gentle flow of the river.

  1. Chattanooga, Tennessee: The Majestic Journey along the Tennessee River

Chattanooga, surrounded by the awe-inspiring beauty of the Tennessee Valley and the Appalachian Mountains, boasts a scenic riverfront along the mighty Tennessee River. As the river courses through the heart of the city, it creates a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and urban adventurers alike. Visitors can delight in the Riverwalk, a revitalized promenade that offers stunning views of the river and connects the city's attractions, parks, and waterfront restaurants. From river cruises to kayaking adventures, the Tennessee River provides endless opportunities for exploration and leisure.

  1. Jacksonville, Florida: Embracing the St. Johns River's Coastal Charm

In Jacksonville, the largest city by land area in the United States, the St. Johns River takes center stage, offering a unique blend of urban and coastal beauty. The river, one of the few in the country that flows northward, provides a picturesque backdrop to the city's downtown skyline. The Jacksonville Riverwalk, a scenic pathway that hugs the riverfront, invites locals and visitors to enjoy a leisurely stroll, indulge in waterfront dining, or simply sit back and admire the tranquil waters and passing boats. The St. Johns River effortlessly infuses the city with a distinct sense of coastal allure.

  1. Wilmington, North Carolina: Embracing the Cape Fear River's Historic Heritage

Wilmington, a historic port city nestled along the southeastern coast of North Carolina, owes much of its charm to the graceful Cape Fear River. The river, which played a pivotal role in the city's development, adds an intriguing layer of history to Wilmington's picturesque downtown. The Riverwalk, adorned with vibrant shops, restaurants, and historic landmarks, allows visitors to immerse themselves in the city's maritime past while reveling in the river's tranquil beauty. A sunset stroll along the Cape Fear River offers breathtaking views, and boat tours provide an opportunity to explore the river's meandering path.

  1. Augusta, Georgia: The Graceful Flow of the Savannah River

As the Savannah River winds its way through Augusta, it creates a captivating landscape that blends nature and culture. This riverside city, best known for hosting the prestigious Masters Tournament, embraces the charm of its waterway. The Riverwalk in Augusta offers a scenic pathway for walkers and joggers, providing panoramic views of the river, the city's downtown skyline, and the charming Riverwatch neighborhood. Visitors can also explore the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area, where guided boat tours reveal the city's rich history and natural splendor.

  1. Mobile, Alabama: Celebrating the Mobile River's Nautical Legacy

Mobile, a city steeped in Southern charm and maritime heritage, owes much of its allure to the Mobile River. This historic waterway flows alongside downtown Mobile, creating a picturesque setting that reflects the city's vibrant culture. Visitors can experience the river's magic by strolling along the vibrant waterfront, indulging in fresh seafood at dockside restaurants, or venturing aboard riverboat cruises that offer glimpses of the city's architectural gems and scenic landscapes.

  1. Baton Rouge, Louisiana: The Mighty Mississippi's Southern Symphony

As the capital of Louisiana, Baton Rouge proudly sits on the eastern bank of the mighty Mississippi River. The river serves as a symbol of the city's historical, cultural, and economic significance. Baton Rouge's Riverfront Plaza offers a bustling hub where locals and visitors can enjoy riverside festivals, live music, and picturesque views of the flowing water. The USS Kidd Veterans Museum, an iconic naval destroyer docked along the riverfront, adds a touch of history and nostalgia to the city's vibrant river scene.

  1. Memphis, Tennessee: Dancing to the Rhythms of the Mississippi River

Nestled on the banks of the iconic Mississippi River, Memphis is a city steeped in musical history and cultural richness. The riverfront area, bustling with energy and excitement, offers visitors a chance to experience the soulful beats of Memphis while admiring the majesty of the Mississippi. The Tom Lee Park, a riverfront park named after a local hero, provides a perfect spot for picnics, concerts, and panoramic views of the river. Additionally, a stroll along Beale Street, renowned for its blues clubs and vibrant nightlife, immerses visitors in the city's rhythm and blues heritage.

  1. New Orleans, Louisiana: The Mystique of the Mighty Mississippi

New Orleans, the crown jewel of Louisiana, owes much of its unique character to its deep connection with the magnificent Mississippi River. As the river flows past the city's iconic French Quarter and historic neighborhoods, it weaves a tale of history, culture, and enchantment. The Mississippi Riverfront, adorned with bustling riverboat casinos, lively waterfront parks, and scenic promenades, offers an array of experiences. From steamboat cruises to riverside jazz performances, New Orleans' love affair with the mighty Mississippi is woven into the very fabric of the city.

  1. Columbia, South Carolina: Discovering Tranquility along the Congaree River

Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, embraces the natural beauty of the Congaree River, which winds its way through the heart of the city. The Three Rivers Greenway, a network of trails along the banks of the Congaree and Saluda Rivers, offers a serene escape for outdoor enthusiasts. Visitors can explore the lush scenery, rent kayaks or canoes, and witness the harmonious blend of urban amenities and natural splendor. The Congaree River adds a touch of tranquility to Columbia's bustling downtown, inviting locals and tourists alike to unwind in its gentle embrace.

  1. Columbus, Georgia: Discovering Southern Hospitality on the Chattahoochee

Nestled on the banks of the majestic Chattahoochee River, Columbus is a city that effortlessly combines Southern charm with outdoor adventure. The Chattahoochee RiverWalk, a 15-mile scenic pathway that winds along the riverfront, offers breathtaking views and recreational opportunities for visitors of all ages. From cycling and fishing to picnicking and paddling, the riverfront is a hub of activity. Columbus' revitalized downtown area, with its vibrant riverfront district, invites visitors to explore eclectic shops, savor local cuisine, and embrace the city's warm hospitality.

  1. Knoxville, Tennessee: Embracing the Tennessee River's Natural Splendor

Knoxville, tucked in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, finds its identity intertwined with the graceful Tennessee River. The city's downtown, with its charming waterfront district, offers a delightful blend of urban amenities and natural beauty. Visitors can enjoy scenic riverfront parks, take leisurely walks along the Tennessee River Greenway, or embark on thrilling water-based adventures. From kayaking and paddleboarding to riverboat cruises, Knoxville's connection to the Tennessee River provides a picturesque backdrop for outdoor exploration and relaxation.

Winding Down

Cities with rivers flowing through their downtown areas possess an inherent magic that captivates and enthralls. From the musical vibes of Nashville to the coastal call of Wilmington, and the cultural richness of New Orleans, each city on this list showcases a unique blend of urban vibrancy and natural beauty. Whether you're captivated by the melodies of live music, fascinated by architectural wonders, or simply seeking a moment of tranquility, these cities offer an extraordinary experience where the flow of rivers intertwines with the pulse of city life.

For more articles and community releases from Community Finder, sign up for our newsletter.