According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 48.3 km² (18.7 mi²). 45.1 km² (17.4 mi²) of it is land and 3.2 km² (1.2 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 6.59% water.

There are 22,659 households out of which 28.8% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.7% are married couples living together, 13.9% have a female householder with no husband present, and 37.8% are non-families. 33.3% of all households are made up of individuals and 14.0% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.29 and the average family size is 2.91.

In the city the population is spread out with 24.1% under the age of 18, 9.8% from 18 to 24, 27.4% from 25 to 44, 22.4% from 45 to 64, and 16.3% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 37 years. For every 100 females there are 87.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 82.6 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $31,867, and the median income for a family is $41,333. Males have a median income of $33,429 versus $21,457 for females. The per capita income for the city is $17,968. 15.9% of the population and 12.2% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 20.9% are under the age of 18 and 12.4% are 65 or older.

Self-titled "BBQ Capital of the world," Owensboro holds its own worldwide famous BBQ festival and competition every summer.