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Urban Kayaking: 5 Cities to Explore From the Water

Love a good weekend getaway to a new city, but still crave an outdoor adventure? Rather than only taking rideshares and public transportation to see the sights, try urban kayaking. It is a great way to see all a city and all that it has to offer, while also getting in a good dose of nature. Take in the architecture and history of a city while also getting some exercise and fresh air. Here are five cities across the U.S. to explore from the water.


Chicago is one of the best cities in the U.S. to see from the water. It was built on the Chicago River and known for its remarkable architecture. With the vibrant blue water of the river—which is even dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day—winding through the city, it’s the perfect place for water transportation. That includes water taxis and kayaks. Whether you choose to rent a kayak and explore on your own or take part in a guided architecture to learn a thing or two about the city’s architectural history, urban kayaking is the perfect addition to any Chicago trip itinerary. After working up an appetite on the river, be sure to grab some Chicago-style pizza or hot dog.

(Photo by Lisa Valentine)

Washington D.C.

What better way to check out the nation’s capital than by kayak? While there are monuments, historical landmarks, and museums that are best seen on foot. When you need a break from the busy city streets of Washington D.C., grab a kayak! Start your paddle at Georgetown Waterfront Park and travel on the Potomac River around Theodore Roosevelt Island. On your way, you can travel past several monuments that are visible from the water, such as the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and the Kennedy Center. It’s a great trip on a sunny afternoon, but also perfect in the evening, right as the sun is setting and the monuments begin to be illuminated, giving the nation’s capital a magical glow.


While Nashville’s downtown area may be known for the bars and honky tonks on Broadway, the city lies right on the Cumberland River, making it ideal to see the skyline from the water. The Cumberland River separates East Nashville from downtown, allowing kayakers the opportunity to start their journey in East Nashville’s Shelby Bottoms park and end right in the heart of the city.

Kayakers can expect to see the city’s skyline, including the famous AT&T building, better known as “The Batman Building”. Other sights include Nissan Stadium—which is home to the Tennessee Titans—concert venue Ascend Amphitheater, the Ghost Ballet art sculpture, the bars and honky tonks of lower Broadway, and more. This trip will take kayakers under Nashville’s architectural bridges and will often include bird sightings along the way. In true Nashville fashion, you’ll know you’re getting close to downtown Nashville when you hear the Country music in the air when you reach the base of Broadway.

(Photo by Lisa Valentine)

Bend, Oregon

A gem of the Pacific Northwest, Bend, Oregon is the perfect spot for a float. The Deschutes River runs directly through Bend and in the summertime it’s full of kayakers and people relaxing in tubes enjoying a leisurely float. Paddling past the shops and restaurants of the Old Mill District, kayakers can stop at riverside parks, and if you time it right, you can even listen to a concert from the Hayden Homes Amphitheater, which is situated right on the river. For kayakers looking to add some excitement to their trip, there are even rapids in Bend Whitewater Park.

(Photo by Lisa Valentine)

Austin, Texas

The Texas climate allows for kayaking pretty much year round in the city’s capital of Austin. It gives visitors the opportunity to explore the city by water, no matter what time of year they choose to visit. In addition to kayaking along the Colorado River that winds through the city, kayakers can also make a stop at connecting Lady Bird Lake.

For those who choose to kayak in the spring, summer, or fall, an evening trip can include not only a beautiful golden hour, but also a sighting of Austin’s famous bat flight from the river. An enormous population of bats who live under the Congress Avenue Bridge, make a nightly flight around sunset drawing crowds of visitors. Catch this spectacular sight from the water for a one-of-a-kind, unforgettable experience.

(Photo by Lisa Valentine)

Urban kayaking is a memorable way to experience a new city. That is especially true if it’s your first time visiting one of these cities. Add in the luxury of finding a unique way to get around and see everything the city has to offer. If you’ve been there before and are back for a return visit, exploring by water will provide a fresh look and perspective. So, on your next urban getaway, be sure to beat the traffic and hop in a kayak!

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