USA Radio
May 3, 2014

Great River Road


There’s nothing like the freedom of the open road. And for 11 days we explored a collection of winding roads along the Mississippi River known as the Great River Road.

We started in Minneapolis, Minnesota with our friends from Australia and dove right into the fun inside the famous Mall of America. After dinner at the FireLake Grill House, we hopped on some of the exciting rides right inside the mall, and put our creativity to the test at the LEGO Store (our favorite activity of the day).

From Minneapolis, we drove to its Twin City, St Paul. It offered so many unique experiences like historic neighborhoods, a speakeasy frequented by famous gangsters like John Dillinger, and a bed & breakfast on a tugboat. Of course, we had some amazing meals along the way and a great beer flight at Harriet Brewing Company. But one of our favorite adventures was at Extreme Sandbox, where we got to operate heavy machinery! After “playing” in the Sandbox, our Australian friends got a real American treat at the National Eagle Center, where we got up close and personal with the country’s national bird. We snapped some great pictures and then headed to the Minnesota Marina Art Museum followed by the Mid West Music Fest. We definitely experienced all aspects of American culture in just one day!

Wisconsin was next, and along the way we stopped at at Grandad Bluff Park, where we enjoyed scenic views of Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. It felt great to absorb the beauty of the landscape. Once we arrived in Wisconsin, we visited Prairie du Chen, a historic Native American city where we got to climb the largest carved sturgeon in the world. Our day in Wisconsin ended with a great dinner at Pete’s Hamburgers and drinks at the National Brewery Museum.

After Wisconsin, we headed into Iowa where we zip lined through the beautiful landscape. Later that day, we visited the shortest and steepest railroad in the USA, the Fenelon Place Elevator. But one of our favorite surprises was waiting for us in our hotel, where we discovered a martini bar and bowling alley in the basement.

Our sixth day on the road took us to Missouri, where we visited Mark Twain’s historic hometown, Hannibal. It was such a blast from the past walking around the recreated town and visiting his Boyhood Home and Museum. From Hannibal, we drove to St. Louis, the state’s second-largest city. We visited the famous Arch and the Libertine, voted one of Missouri’s best restaurants.

From Missouri, we drove into the Deep South to Kentucky, where we learned about the Mississippi’s river system at the River Discovery Center. After our learning tour, we hopped back in the car and followed the Mississippi to Memphis, Tennessee where we visited Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel and toured his Graceland Mansion. From one king to another, we visited the historic Civil Rights Museum and the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King was shot. Even though it was very solemn, we all felt honored standing there.

After a few more stops, we were back on the road towards Mississippi. Of course we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to snap pictures of the “Great River Road” sign! In Mississippi, we stopped by Vicksburg, a town that perfectly mixes old world charm with a modern eye towards the future. We took a great tour and even met some Civil War reenactors.

Our last stop on the Great River Road was beautiful New Orleans, Louisiana. We walked along the infamous Bourbon Street, grabbed some great souvenirs at the French Market, and danced the day away at the Jazz & Heritage Festival. We all agreed the Big Easy was the perfect city to end such an adventurous road trip!

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