A great relaxing way to view the river is to go on a boat cruise. There are a few different tour operators offering a variety of experiences with departure points in both Tennessee and Kentucky.
General Jackson Showboat
Leaving from Nashville, this is an old-style paddle boat that you think of when you picture rivers in the deep south. Most paddle boats these days are floating casinos, but the General Jackson is one of the few non-gaming paddle boats in the world. Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturday they have two shows, one midday and one in the evening, and the rest of the week they just do an evening cruise, except for Sundays when they do a Brunch Jubilee. Sometimes there can be changes in the schedule due to private events or holidays, so please check their calendar before going. You are treated to a meal (please note that alcoholic beverages are not included in the ticket price) and a live country music show, on the Sunday brunch cruise the show changes to gospel music. The cruises are 3 hours long and the show starts after the meal has been served. There is also plenty of deck space and a bar up top for you to enjoy the river scenery. It gets mixed reviews on Trip Advisor, most people agree that the show is excellent and the food is just okay, so if you are not really interested in country music and are just looking to go out for dinner there are plenty of restaurants in downtown Nashville that would probably suit you better.
Cumberland River Cruises
This pontoon boat tour is based out of Lebanon, TN which is less than an hour from Nashville by car. You’ll be touring the Cumberland River and Old Hickory Lake with your guide Captain Jesse who has quite the sense of humour and a great knowledge of the area. You can choose to focus on the nature and history of the area during your cruise, or he can show you the homes of celebrities who call or called the area home. Captain Jesse’s prices are quite reasonable, no meals are included but water and soft drinks will be available. There is also a bathroom on board the boat. As Captain Jesse says, travel by boat is much safer than going by cars, which always sink when you take them out on the water! The tour is described as relaxing and fun and is very well reviewed.
Blue Heron Cruises
Similar to the above Cumberland River Cruise, this tour leaves from Ashland, TN approximately 30 minutes from downtown Nashville. Also a pontoon boat (equipped with restroom) you can enjoy an informative 3 hour tour of the river. You are welcome to bring a cooler of your own food and drink provided that it can fit under the seats (aisles must be kept clear for safety), and bottled water is provided free of charge. It’s a great activity for people of all ages and a really fun way to enjoy a day on the river with your family or travelling group!
Cumberland Star Riverboat Cruises
This tour leaves from near Corbin, Kentucky, in the Daniel Boone National Forest, meeting up at the Laurel Boat Ramp which is located where the Laurel River meets the Cumberland River. They offer lunch cruises which serve a buffet style lunch, you can sit up top on the sun deck or in the shaded area down below. The cruise heads uprive, and picks up rafters from one of the tour grops other excursions. There is no charge for children 5 and under, and there is 10% discount for adults aged 65 and up on weekdays. The boat is also available for breakfast, lunch and dinner chartered cruises.