The mighty Ohio, with riverboats, historic sites and beautiful shorelines, awaits as the weather warms and the sun shines.

You don't have to go far to climb aboard a riverboat. Operating from Newport's Riverboat Row, BB Riverboats offers a selection of cruises and options.

Dinner cruises are popular and provide an unforgettable tour of the Cincinnati skyline as the sun sets, "plus you get a meal and entertainment," says Ben Bernstein, vice president of sales and marketing with BB. "If you have folks in from out of town, it's the perfect way to show them downtown and the historic sites, all in one little cruise."

BB Riverboats has been locally owned and operated since it began in 1979. "We're Cincinnati through and through," says Bernstein, a member of the third generation of local owners.

Heading west to Dearborn County, Ind., you'll find a variety of outdoor options, including a "multi-use hiking and biking trail that is very popular with families," says Jennifer Clayton of the Dearborn Visitor Center.

Heading east, there's more. Underground Railroad sites, museums and riverboats.

BB RIVERBOATS
101 Riverboat Row
Newport, KY 41071
(859) 261-8500

Sightseeing tours, dining cruises, holiday trips and charter cruises are available onboard the majestic Belle of Cincinnati or the romantic River Queen, which ply the river from their home docks in Newport. It's on the list of "musts" for visitors to the Tristate, offering unforgettable views of both Ohio and Kentucky with the charm of the riverboat era. One of the most popular ways to enjoy a trip on the riverboats is a dinner cruise that lasts between 2 and 2½ hours. Kids cruises and birthday parties are available.

CAMPUS MARTIUS MUSEUM
601 Second St.
Marietta, OH 45750
(740) 373-3750

This museum, located in the oldest U.S. settlement north and west of the Ohio River, commemorates the history of what was once considered the American West. Campus Martius houses exhibits concerning Native American peoples, the early pioneers and later migration to the area. The Ohio River Museum in Marietta explores the golden age of the steamboat and the ecology of the Ohio River system. A working sternwheeler, Valley Gem, is available for cruises on the Ohio River. The town also offers antiques and art shopping.

CLERMONT COUNTY OHIO FREEDOM TRAIL
Clermont County Ohio Convention and Visitors Bureau
410 E. Main St.
Batavia, OH 45103
(800) 796-4282 or (513) 732-3600

The Clermont Freedom Trail consists of 33 Underground Railroad and Abolitionist sites, including homes and churches that sheltered runaway slaves, as well as the gravesites of several notable abolitionists. A driving tour will take visitors throughout Clermont County, and a brochure with directions and suggested itineraries can be obtained from the visitors bureau.

DEARBORN COUNTY, INDIANA
Dearborn County Visitor Center
320 Walnut St.
Lawrenceburg, IN 47025
(800) 322-8198

In Dearborn, you can hike, bike, boat or just see the sights of small towns. There is a variety of marinas and yacht clubs. Rent a canoe and spend the day peacefully exploring the Ohio River. Dearborn Trails is a multi-use hiking and biking trail open year round, and connects the cities of Greendale, Lawrenceburg, and Aurora, Ind. A paved pathway follows the Ohio River in many places. Other sites include the Lawrenceburg Speedway and the Veraestau House Museum. Only a few miles east, the Oxbow floodplains nature preserve protects the precious wetland habitat where the Ohio meets the Mississippi. Hundreds of species of bird and fish call this area home. You can go exploring yourself, but they also offer regular guided tours, which may be more enjoyable for first-time visitors.

GRANT BOYHOOD HOME
219 East Grant Ave.
Georgetown, OH 45121
(937) 378-3087

This restored and furnished home of the 18th U.S. president was declared a national historic landmark in 1982. Ulysses Grant lived in the house his parents built from 1823, when he was only an infant, to 1839, when he left for West Point. Tourists can also visit the nearby Grant Schoolhouse where the future president spent much of his time.

KENTUCKY GATEWAY MUSEUM
215 Sutton St.
Maysville, KY 41056
(606) 564-5865

The museum features three main collections, including the Genealogical and Historical Research Library, the Regional History Museum and the Kathleen Savage Browning Miniatures Collection. All preserve the history and stories of notable people who hailed from and influenced Kentucky. It also hosts a noted art collection, which includes primitive oils from Mary Bruce Sharon, called Grandma Moses by some Kentuckians.

RABBIT HASH GENERAL STORE
10021 Lower River Rd.
Rabbit Hash, KY 41005
(859) 586-7744

Since 1831, an authentic general store has been the highlight of this historic river town, with a working blacksmith shop, pottery and handcrafted goods.

RISING SUN, INDIANA
(888) 776-4786

Start the day with an exhilarating ride at Dagaz Acres Zipline Adventures.

Let go of your stress and commune with nature as you fly by on the zipline. Next, hike down the Ohio River Scenic Byway, which wanders through cypress swamps, beautiful outlook points, archeological sites, mansions, vineyards and historical buildings.

And if you have time, swing by the Red Wolf Sanctuary, a nature preserve founded to protect these endangered animals.

Make time to follow the Indiana Wine Trail, which includes six regional artisan wineries, a trip sure to be both educational and delicious. Rising Sun offers music, the arts and golf along with Grand Victoria Casino and Resort, which was voted Best in Market by Southern Gaming Destinations Magazine in categories including Employees, Players Club and Restaurants.

SHAWNEE STATE PARK
4404 State Route 125
Portsmouth, OH 45663
(740) 858-6652

The Appalachian foothills make up Shawnee State Park, home to campgrounds and more amenity-rich lodges. Hikers will find fantastic views of the river. Also available are fishing, hunting, bike trails and boating.

PORTSMOUTH, OHIO
728 Second Street
Portsmouth, OH 45662
(740) 354-8807

Portsmouth is a small town that is perfect for a vacation on the river. Stroll by the magnificent floodwall murals and marvel at some of the longest single-wall paintings in the state. With the river only a few feet away, you can learn about the
history of Portsmouth while enjoying the outdoors. Other attractions in this area include the Portsmouth Brewery, the Clark Planetarium, a variety of historic sites and museums and the Shawnee Golf Resort. Indoors and out, Portsmouth is a vacation spot where everyone can have a good time.

RANKIN HOUSE
6152 Rankin Road
Ripley, OH 45167
(937) 392-1627

This 19th-century home of the Rev. John Rankin and his family overlooks the Ohio River and once served as a major stop on the Underground Railroad. A fierce abolitionist, he harbored hundreds of slaves. On a clear day, visitors enjoy spectacular river views. The home also contains several Rankin family artifacts.