Great River Road
The Great River Road follows the length of the mighty Mississippi, linking 10 states that border the river. Beginning in Minnesota and ending in Louisiana, this meandering route is meant to be enjoyed like a leisurely trip downstream. With so many sights to see and places to explore, you’ll want to take your time.
Created in 1938, the Great River Road (or GRR) is a group of roads stretching over 2,000 miles, connecting the states of Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Wisconsin. From farmlands and forests to sleepy river towns, historic landmarks and wildlife preserves, this is a trip with a bit of something for everyone—even incredible shopping at the Mall of America!
The Great River Road begins in Lake Itasca State Park, Minnesota and winds along the quiet country roads. Once you arrive at Grand Rapids, Minnesota, the Mississippi itself will have changed from a small brook to a massive river. Head to the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota to meet live American Bald Eagles, the only species of eagle unique to North America.
Through the state of Wisconsin, this trip along the Great River Road winds you through a 250-mile scenic byway with riverboats, winding streams and all kinds of birds. Wisconsin is famous for its cheese produced by the hundreds of dairy farms found throughout the state. Be sure to sample one of the many varieties before you leave the state. Foodies will also enjoy a stop to try the savory French toast and baked goodies at Bogus Creek Cafe and Bakery in Stockholm.
Across Iowa, you’ll pass the North-South Divide where you find the rolling plains of corn and soybeans. On this trip you’ll also find the landmark that symbolizes the gateway from east to west—the St. Louis Arch. Located in St. Louis, Missouri, this sparkling structure was designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen. As you head down south make a stop at celebrated 19th-century author Mark Twain’s boyhood home in Hannibal, Missouri. Further down the road is the charming old river town of Sainte Genevieve, Missouri.
Continuing your journey south, you will reach the famed Mississippi Delta, which sits between Memphis, Tennessee and Vicksburg, Mississippi. Known as much for its Southern cuisine as its music, the Delta is the rightful birthplace to the music we call “the blues,” and home to rock‘n’roll legends like Elvis Presley. A tour of Elvis’ Graceland Mansion in Memphis is definitely worth a visit. While in town make sure to grab a platter of dry-rubbed ribs at famous barbecue joint Charles Vergos’ Rendezvous Restaurant. For a taste of Mississippi, visit legendary blues musician B.B. King’s hometown of Indianola, which houses the B. B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center.
Finally you’ll arrive in Louisiana with Creole-style bungalows and restored antebellum plantations. You’ll end your journey along the Great River Road in New Orleans’ famed French Quarter, where you can savor the region’s Cajun cuisine from Cochon or sit at the bar with freshly chucked oysters at Acme Oyster House. Afterwards, take a stroll on the vibrant Frenchmen Street for some live jazz.
What to bring: binoculars for birdwatching, your favorite blues music and an appetite for discovery.
Basic Route Information