Enjoy one of these trips along America’s greatest byway The Great River Road runs for 3,000 miles through 10 states and is one of America’s longest and oldest National Scenic Byways.
Explore the Great River Road with a trip along the greatest byway in America. The Great River Road offers many different historical, cultural, natural and culinary attractions. A great way to explore the Great River Road is to pick an area of interest and create an itinerary around it.
Here are some ideas to help you plan your trip along the Great River Road.
A Tasty Tour of the Great River Road
Traveling the Great River Road, you’ll pass through a broad array of American cuisines. Choose from an incredible selection of Wisconsin-made cheeses at the Nelson Cheese Factory in Nelson, Wis. Visit Baxter’s Vineyards in Nauvoo, Ill., established in 1857. Or, sample wines on a deck overlooking the countryside at Wide River Winery in Clinton, Iowa. Discover incredible barbeque in cities throughout Missouri. Enjoy the very best in Southern cooking at Felecia Suzanne’s in Memphis. Savor Creole classics in the many restaurants of the French Quarter in New Orleans. A trip down the Great River Road is a trip through the culinary history of America.
Soak Up the Suds along the Great River Road
Foodies aren’t the only ones who can find a wide variety of offerings along the Great River Road. Beer lovers are in luck, too. In Wisconsin, stop by the Potosi Brewing Company and National Brewery Museum to get an in-depth look at the history of brewing, from bottles and cans to memorabilia and advertising materials. Or, take a free tour of the Anheuser Busch headquarters in St. Louis and see the famous Clydesdales. You can also find lots of options for ales, lagers and stouts in New Orleans (Abita, Crescent City, NOLA Brewing Company) and Minneapolis (Fulton Beer, Surly Brewery).
A Sports-Lover’s Trip along the Great River Road
Sports fans can find plenty to cheer for along the Great River Road. Baseball fans will enjoy seeing Major League teams like the St. Louis Cardinals and Minnesota Twins, but there are also plenty of other opportunities, like seeing the La Crosse (Wis.) Loggers summer-league team or the Memphis Redbirds, a Triple-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. Football fans will find NFL teams up and down the Great River Road, including the Twin Cities’ Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints. And that’s not even mentioning the great collegiate sports you can find everywhere along the river, from the University of Minnesota to Tulane University in New Orleans.
Fall Color Tour along the Great River Road
Fall is an ideal time to drive the Great River Road. With numerous bluffs and dazzling waterscapes, the Great River Road is truly breathtaking in the fall. Observe the changing of the colors at the Mississippi River’s source at Lake Itasca in Minnesota. See the autumn beauty of Trempealeau Mountain at Perrot State Park in Trempealeau, Wis. Look down at the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers at Pikes Peak State Park in McGregor, Iowa. Capture the heavenly hues at Pere Marquette State Park in Grafton, Ill. Go to the top of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and see the city adorned in yellow, red and gold. See the cypresses at Lake Chicot State Park in Lake Village, Ark. View fall from the bluffs at Natchez, Miss. And, escape the coming cold with a trip to New Orleans, where the warmth of the food and the people will make you feel like winter will never come.
Great River Road Journey through American History
Historical sites and museums along the Great River Road put you in contact with some of America’s most important people, places and events. In the French Quarter of New Orleans, you’ll encounter some of America’s oldest architecture and you’ll experience a mix of cultures that dates back five centuries. The Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Miss., reveals the history of this completely American art form. At the Vicksburg National Military Park in Vicksburg, Miss., you’ll learn about some of the Civil War’s most decisive battles. At the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis, you’ll hear about the story of our nation’s westward growth in the early 1800s. At Trail of Tears State Park in Jackson, Mo., you’ll encounter one of the most tragic stories in American history. The life of Mark Twain lives on at the Mark Twain Museum in Hannibal, Mo. Stand atop the remains of an ancient city at Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville, Ill., or tour the beautiful Villa Kathrine in Quincy, Ill. Visit the Buffalo Bill Museum in LaClaire, Iowa. And, take a trip back to the frontier era at Historic Fort Snelling in St. Paul, Minn.
A Kid-Friendly Trip Along the Great River Road
The Great River Road is made for families, offering interesting attractions, wonderful views and lots of fun things to do. In New Orleans, visit the Audubon Nature Institute, which includes a zoo, aquarium, insectarium and IMAX Theatre. Kids can learn about Civil War history at the Vicksburg National Military Park in Vicksburg, Miss. See interesting artifacts at the Parkin Archeological State Park in Parkin, Ark. In Memphis, the Mississippi River Museum at Mud Island River Park includes a scale model of the Mississippi River. A ride to the top of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis will thrill any child. The Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Illinois reveals an ancient culture that rivaled many European cities of its day. The National Mississippi River Museum in Dubuque, Iowa, with its massive aquariums and hands-on exhibits, will entertain people of all ages. In Pepin, Wis., the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum is a must-see attraction for any young reader of the Little House on the Prairie series. And, the Science Museum of Minnesota in Minneapolis is a great place for the whole family to learn.
Great River Road Treasure Hunt
Would you like to go on an epic treasure hunt? Well, grab your GPS and head down the Great River Road for some of the best geocaching in the nation. For those unfamiliar with the sport, geocaching is a treasure-hunting game in which players hunt for hidden caches using only coordinates and a handheld GPS unit. It’s a fun activity for all ages. The 10 states located along the Great River Road offer thousands of hidden caches. Many of these caches are hidden in the scenic overlooks, historic sites and natural areas that line the byway. Your treasure hunt will take you to bluff tops, Civil War battlegrounds, beautiful natural areas and unique businesses. Geocaching is simply one of the most exciting ways to travel. To learn more about geocaching or to find geocaches along the Great River Road, visit www.geocaching.com.
Discover the Great River Road’s Agritourism Attractions
The Mississippi River and the Great River Road cut through some of America’s richest farmland. The land and water of the Mississippi River region produce much of the food that feeds the nation. Visit the LSU Rural Life Museum in Baton Rouge, La., and learn about agriculture in the South. Sample Mississippi-made wines at the Old South Winery in historic Natchez, Miss. Visit the Delta Cultural Center in Helena-West Helena, Ark. In Tennessee, visit the Cotton Museum at the Memphis Cotton Exchange. Visit one of the many Missouri wineries. Stop by the John Deere Pavilion in East Moline, Ill., and learn about the tractors that helped feed America. Visit the State Agricultural Museum in Cassville, Wis., and learn about the advances in farm technology over the last century. And, don’t miss the Mill City Museum in Minneapolis, where you’ll learn how the city dominated world flour production for half a century. You’ll find it all on the Great River Road. Find more agritourism attractions by visiting ExperienceMississippiRiver.com.
Great River Road Great American Music Tour
American music was born in Mississippi River Country, and the Great River Road connects you with some of music’s most important people and places. Experience fantastic food and world-class jazz at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis. Visit the River Music Experience in Davenport, Iowa, for a taste of the many varieties of music that follow the flow of the Big Muddy. Check out Elvis Presley’s famous digs at Graceland in Memphis. Learn about the king of the blues at the B.B. King Museum in Indianola, Miss., or immerse yourself further in the world of blues at the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Miss. Head to the French Quarter in New Orleans for the very best in traditional jazz at Preservation Hall.
What to See in Each Mississippi River State
Here’s a “greatest hits” selection to help you plan your trip along the Great River Road.
Itasca State Park, source of the Mississippi River
Historic Fort Snelling, St. Paul
National Eagle Center, Wabasha
Stonefield Historic Site and State Agricultural Museum, Cassville
Potosi Brewing Company, Potosi
Villa Louis, Prairie du Chien
Effigy Mounds National Monument, Harpers Ferry
National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, Dubuque