She’s a hulk of a thing, The Belle of Louisville.
Built in 1914, the oldest operating steam-driven paddlewheeler of her kind in the country adds a historical charm to the city’s waterfront, much more so than, say, that hot pink abomination of a club called Splash that once graced the shore.
The Belle will celebrate her 93rd birthday in October, but until then, she’ll play host to dozens of events and concerts from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
LaDonna Miller, director of marketing for the Waterfront Development Corporation, said the Belle’s interior makes it a choice event location. And in case you wondered, it’s now got A/C.
“It has one of the largest dance floors in the city, and she’s just perfect for all types of entertainment,” she said. “The fact that it can be so versatile really makes her a good product. We’ve spent a lot of time getting her refurbished, so now, what we want to do is bring back the excitement that she first had when she came to Louisville.”
Thursdays: If you think you’ve got moves, dance like no one’s watching at the Belle’s dinner-dances, which take place from 7-9 p.m., and feature a house DJ.
Fridays: Every Friday night, during the summer and into early fall, a different live band will rock the Belle from 7-10 p.m. Slated to appear at the Friday concert series are Karen Kraft, King Sonic, No Excuses, V-Groove, The Legendary Cruisers and Chaz Blakemore. In addition, the Belle will offer Friday night dance cruises for $17. You can upgrade to a full buffet meal for $35 for adults, $20 for children.
This is the second full year of dance cruises, which are back by popular demand, Miller said.
Saturdays: The dance fever continues ballroom style with the Blue Moon Big Band Dinner/Dance, which takes place from 7-10 p.m. on June 30.
Big Band musician David Mehl and his 16-piece group will fill the night with favorite tunes. They also play at John E’s Restaurant in Buechel and Bearno’s by the Bridge on Main Street. It’s the only blue moon of the entire year, “so that’s kind of a special occasion,” Miller said. “It really is ‘once in a blue moon.’”
If you’re looking to throw a birthday party for a friend (or even for yourself), the cost is a little less than the Friday night cruise, at $15 for adults, $6 for children.
Sundays: The lazy day of the week means taking in the state’s native musical genre of bluegrass, from 2-4 p.m. on Sunday afternoons. “We wanted to do something that is traditional to the state of Kentucky, so we chose bluegrass, which is river music,” Miller said.
Sunday afternoon cruises are $15 for adults, $6 for children.
Reservations for the buffets must be placed 72 hours in advance.
Public sightseeing cruises take place from noon-2 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and from 2-4 p.m. on Sundays.
July 4 weekend: Get your mid-week fireworks fix at the gigantic fireworks show slated on the river for Tuesday, July 3, and Wednesday, July 4. Both the Belle and the Spirit of Jefferson will travel up river and drop anchor to offer a powerful, scenic view of the show.
Father’s Day: The Belle pays tribute to fathers everywhere with a special Father’s Day cruise from 2-4 p.m. on Sunday, June 17. A delicious buffet will be featured.
Family reunions: Don’t know your in-laws, your fifth and sixth cousins, great aunt or uncle by marriage? Didn’t think so. Miller said she expects a lot of bookings for family reunions. You can buy tickets on one of the sightseeing cruises, and there are group rates for parties of 10 or more.
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