Wilmington's Riverwalk at sunset. The Cape Fear Bridge reflects off the river.

For centuries civilizations have settled and people congregated near water. Even today, when we don’t need to for pure survival, we love to live near and be near the water. I know for me personally, if I have a chance to eat waterside whether that is on the ocean, a manmade lake, or a river, I’m going to take it.  And many cities across the country have capitalized on that and developed commercialized districts surrounding the water the towns were developed on. Many of these are rivers. And consequently, these cities have developed Riverwalk areas. These tend to be bustling corridors of dining, shopping, art, and outdoor recreation. In fact, Wilmington North Carolina is a local city that has its own Riverwalk.

So when I saw that one of USA Today’s 10 best lists was America’s best Riverwalk, I was interested to see if Wilmington would make the list. And it did. Though some areas across the country I assumed would make the list, did not. One, in particular, that was missing, was Savannah’s River Street. Another well-known Riverwalk, perhaps the most nationally known in my opinion, ranked much lower than I would have guessed.

These rankings come from USA Today’s 10 Best and for this nominees are submitted by a panel of experts. To find the best of these waterfront spots, a panel of experts provided nominations, then readers voted for their favorites. 10Best editors narrow the field to select the final set of nominees for the Readers’ Choice Awards. Readers can vote once per category, per day. Keep reading to see where the Wilmington North Carolina Riverwalk was ranked on this USA Today poll.

  • 10. Canal Walk - Indianapolis, Indiana

    Indy’s Canal Walk is part of the Indiana Central Canal.Today it stretches from White River State Park to 11th Street. The Canal Walk serves as a spot for downtown walkers, runners, bikers, and sightseers. USA Today says “White River State Park, Indiana’s only urban state park, cuts right through the heart of Indianapolis, with 250 acres of green space and a 1.5-mile canal perfect for urban kayaking or pedal boating. The city’s riverfront master plan – a work in progress – has transformed what used to be an industrial canal into a vibrant commercial and cultural center. The Canal Walk promenade stretches through White River State Park in a 3-mile loop, providing convenient access to walkers, bikers and sightseers.”

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  • 9. Milwaukee RiverWalk - Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    The Milwaukee RiverWalk connects three of Milwaukee’s riverfront neighborhoods — the Historic Third Ward, Downtown, and Beerline B. The area is home to some of the city’s best restaurants, brewpubs, shops, and nightlife. Why does it make this list? According to USA Today the area is a 20-block pedestrian promenade on both sides of the Milwaukee River. There’s also the RiveSculpture outdoor art gallery which features sculptures from local and national artists. 

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  • 8. Charles River Esplanade - Boston, Massachusetts

    The Charles River Esplanade is Boston’s iconic riverside park. It’s home to beautiful waterfront gardens, historical monuments, playgrounds, walking & biking trails, and an abundance of local flora & fauna. There’s also a cafe which is open seasonally and an amphitheater that hosts summer concerts.

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  • 7. Wilmington Riverwalk - Wilmington, North Carolina

    As someone who has visited the Wilmington Riverwalk, I have to say it wasn’t exactly what I had pictured. This two-mile walkway features markets, unique boutiques, and art galleries, the Riverwalk is home to outdoor cafes and narrated tours. There is a new concert venue as well as many hotels. The one that surprised me was that most restaurants and shops faced towards the street instead of the waterside being the main entrance. And right across the Cape Fear river sits the Battleship North Carolina, another popular destination for tourists.

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  • 6. San Antonio River Walk - San Antonio, Texas

    When I first saw this list, I knew San Antonio had to be included. I’m shocked it didn’t rank higher, however. The area is rich in history and culture. Today you’ll find restaurants, bars, hotels and an outdoor amphitheater which line the canal. Both sides feature pedestrian paths as well as stone footbridges that span the river.

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  • 5. Mississippi Riverwalk - Dubuque, Iowa

    Iowa’s Mississippi Riverwalk is part of a trail system throughout Dubuque that connects to the Heritage Trail and the nationally-renowned Field of Dreams in Dyersville. One of it’s largest events is the Art on the River which in a yearly exhibit featuring rotating artwork.

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  • 4. Smale Riverfront Park - Cincinnati, Ohio

    Known formally as the John G. and Phyllis W. Smale Riverfront Park, the park connects downtown Cincinnati to the Ohio River and is part of the Ohio River Trail. The park is home to multiple water play features, giant swings, an interactive foot piano, an imaginative play area for kids, expansive pollinator gardens, and Carol Ann’s Carousel. There are also several historical monuments.

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  • 3. Waterfront Park - Louisville, Kentucky

    This 85-acre Waterfront Park along the Ohio River features picnic areas, walking paths, sprawling green spaces, picnic areas, playgrounds, boat launches, and numerous public art installations. Go Louisville describes the park in this way, “We’re a peaceful oasis in the heart of the city. We’re a natural haven for quiet reflection. We’re an ongoing festival of sounds and sights.”

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  • 2. Tampa Riverwalk - Tampa Bay, Florida

    The 2.4-mile long Riverwalk was first developed to create a walkway between the businesses, parks, and museums along the riverfront in Tampa, Florida. It also serves as a hub for performances, art, leisure, and fitness activities.

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  • 1. Detroit International RiverWalk - Detroit, Michigan

    The Detroit International RiverWalk spans more than three miles of trail perfect for walking or biking. There is the RiverWalk Café, fountains, splash parks, a carousel, and nature areas.

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