Written by Aaron-Michael Fox.
The largest river steamboat ever built, the American Queen, will return to Harris Riverfront Park in downtown Huntington on Thursday, July 19, as part of her 2018 Ohio River cruise from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Louisville, Kentucky.
Originally constructed in 1995 at a cost of $65 million, the American Queen is 418 feet long, 89 feet wide, and 109.5 feet tall with her smokestacks up. She has 222 staterooms for a capacity of 436 guests and a crew of 160. She also features a gym, spa, 24-hour café, and numerous restaurants.
While the riverboat is closed to the pubic for security reasons, the passengers will spend the morning on shore with various tours being offered around the city to welcome them. Last year 374 people visited Huntington via the American Queen.
“Of course, we love this because they come with a boatload of people who come out into the city and explore and who get to see Huntington and have a nice time while they are spending some money here,” Tyson Compton, president of the Cabell-Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau told the Herald-Dispatch.
The American Queen’s cruises include two buses that travel with the boat that will offer tours around the city to attractions such as Pullman Square, the Old Central City Antique District, Ritter Park, the Huntington Museum of Art, Heritage Farm Village, the Special Collections at Marshall University, and the Shops at Heritage Station. The CVB will also be presenting a pop-up market under the pavilion at Pullman Square featuring roughly a dozen local artisans.
Compton said the response from passengers has been noteworthy in previous visits. “We are showing off the city to these 300-plus people, most of whom have not been to Huntington, and I know last year we had an overwhelmingly positive response and several of them asked for visitor information because they planned to come back on their own and stay longer. Some of these people are not from far away. They may be from Cincinnati or the Pittsburgh area, so it is still close enough where they can come back and visit.”
The charm of Huntington’s recent renaissance has not gone unnoticed on these new visitors either. “They love the downtown area and are very drawn to Pullman Square, and many of them commented on the architecture of buildings that have been renovated and how pretty and vibrant the downtown area is,” Compton said.
The American Queen will be docked at Harris Riverfront Park from roughly 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The public is invited to come see the boat, take pictures, and welcome passengers. There is no admission fee.