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USA Road Trip: The Great River Road

Follows the course of the Mississippi River for 3,000 miles from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. The scenic route passes through 10 states and hundreds of river towns. It is arguably the longest and most important scenic byway in America. Need some  road trip ideas in midwest? Check out this itinerary!

10:00 am

Lake Itasca State Park​

Lake Itasca State Park

Minnesota

This lakeshore has been “improved” from its naturally marshy state, the surrounding old-growth pine forest—the most extensive stand of virgin timber left in the state—and outdoorsy amenities such as paved bike trails, boat launches, and a café.

Location:
36750 Main Park Drive, Park Rapids, MN 56470, United States

14:00 pm

5 hours

Minnesota to Wisconsin via Car

07:00 am

Maiden Rock

Maiden Rock

Wisconsin

Small towns, populations numbering only in the hundreds, cling to the margin, competing for the distinction of having the longest Main Street in the nation, if not the world; for some of these long hamlets the GRR is nearly the only street.

Location:
Wisconsin, United States

10:00 am

1.5 hrs

Maiden Rock to Trempealeau via Car

12:00 pm

Trempealeau

Wisconsin

A sole survivor of an 1888 downtown fire—maybe that’s why the whole joint is smoke-free. The hotel dining room offers a surprisingly eclectic menu, from steak and seafood to burgers and vegetarian dishes.

Location:
Main Street Whitehall, WI 54773-0067

07:00 am

1.5 hrs

Wisconsin to Iowa via Car

08:00 am

Marquette & Effigy Mounds

Iowa

Preserves 2,500 ac (1,012 ha) of natural riverside ecosystems plus more than 200 distinct burial mounds, many shaped like animals, for example, the Great Bear Mound. 

Location:
151 IA-76, Harpers Ferry, IA 52146, United States

10:00 pm

Pike's Peak​

Pike's Peak

Iowa

It is one of the highest points anywhere along the Mississippi River and has been protected at the center of spacious green Pike’s Peak State Park (563/873-2341), with hiking trails, scenic viewpoints, and a campground.

Location:
Iowa, United States

07:00 am

35 min

Pike’s Peak to Guttenberg via Car

08:00 am

Guttenberg

Guttenberg

Iowa

Another postcard-pretty old river town that has a downtown that lines the Mississippi. In fact, it’s one of the few riverfronts where the river itself has not hidden away behind leaves.

Location:
Iowa, United States

17:00 pm

6 hrs

Iowa to St. Louis via Car

07:00 am

Gateway Arch National Park​

Gateway Arch National Park

St. Louis

Eero Saarinen’s stunning 630-ft (192-m) stainless-steel monument, officially called the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, rises up from the riverfront.

Location:
11 N 4th St #1810, St. Louis, MO 63102, USA

10:00 am

Forest Park

Forest Park

St. Louis

1,300 beautifully landscaped acres (526 ha), museums of fine art, history, and science fill buildings that date back to the 1904 World’s Fair, St. Louis’s world-class swan song.

Location:
5595 Grand Dr, St. Louis, MO 63112, USA

12:00 pm

5 hrs

St. Louis to Memphis via Car

17:00 pm

Beale Street​

Beale Street

Memphis

Has been Memphis’s honky-tonk central ever since native son W. C. Handy set up shop in the early 1900s with the blues he’d learned in Mississippi. 

Location:
Memphis, TN, USA

08:00 am

Sun Studio

Sun Studio

Memphis

Where Elvis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, and many others recorded their historic tracks in the 1950s, is a short walk northeast.

Location:
706 Union Ave., USA

10:00 am

Stax Records

Stax Records

Memphis

An excellent museum documenting the soulful impact of Sam & Dave, Otis Redding, Al Green, and other greats during the 1960s.

Location:
926 E. McLemore Ave

13:00 pm

National Civil Rights Museum

National Civil Rights Museum

Memphis

Where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968. Aided by extensive multimedia and life-size dioramas, museum exhibits let you step as far as you like into the powerful struggle of the Civil Rights Movement.

Location:
450 Mulberry St

15:30 pm

Mud Island

Mud Island

Memphis

A small peninsula in the middle of the Mississippi River, connected to downtown by a pedestrian bridge and a monorail. This 50-ac (20.2-ha) “island” holds a five-block-long mock-up of the Mississippi River.

Location:
Mud Island Park, Memphis, United States

11:30 am

2.5 hrs

Memphis to Mississippi  via Car

14:00 pm

The Natchez Trace Parkway​

The Natchez Trace Parkway

Mississippi

The parkway follows the route of the old Natchez Trace, a pre-Columbian path that grew into the major overland route between the Gulf Coast and the upper Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys in the years before steamboats provided a faster alternative. 

Location:
Mississippi, USA

14:15 pm

6 hrs

The Natchez to Port Gibson via Car

08:00 am

Port Gibson​

Port Gibson

Mississippi

Decades of economic doldrums have spared the town from the Walmart sprawl that at times seems to have enveloped the rest of the South. Fine homes still grace the pleasantly shaded main drag, but most eye-catching is the giant Monty Python prop.

Location:
Port Gibson, Mississippi, USA

10:00 am

The Ruins of Windsor

Mississippi

Once the state’s most lavish Greek Revival mansion and a landmark to river pilots, it was reduced by an 1890 fire to its bare Corinthian ribs.

Location:
Rodney Rd, Port Gibson, MS 39150, USA

13:00 pm

Emerald Mound

Mississippi

Emerald Mound (daily), a prehistoric platform over 400 ft (122 m) wide and 35 ft (10.1 m) tall. The second-largest mound in North America, it was built around AD 1250 and was still in use as a ceremonial center when the first Europeans arrived.

Location:
Emerald Mound Rd, Natchez, MS 39120, USA

06:00 am

3 hrs

Mississippi to New Orleans via Car

09:00 am

New Orleans Jazz Museum​

New Orleans Jazz Museum

New Orleans

Holds excellent collections tracing the history of two New Orleans institutions: jazz and Mardi Gras

Location:
400 Esplanade

11:00 am

A photo of Preservation Hall

Preservation Hall

New Orleans

Live music aplenty in all styles and modes with redolent ambience and the live traditional Dixieland jazz, still going strong after 50 years!

Location:
St. Peter St., New Orleans, USA

15:30 pm

Fort Jackson

Fort Jackson

New Orleans

Built following the War of 1812 to help protect the river from invasion, Fort Jackson was flooded and badly damaged by the Hurricane Katrina storm surge.

Location:
Fort Jackson, New Orleans, USA

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Relaxing (64)

Weekend (31)

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Hike, Dive, Eat, Sunbath.
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