Rural beauty is what you’ll find along the Great River Road as it passes through Kentucky. Here are three places you should visit on your next trip along this scenic stretch of the byway.
Traveling north along the Great River Road in Kentucky, your first stop should be Columbus-Belmont State Park. The park located on the banks of the Mississippi River and is home to an interesting Civil War Museum housed in a farmhouse that was once a Confederate hospital. During the Civil War, a fort was built at Columbus and armed with 143 canons. The park includes a snack bar, gift shop, mini golf, a picnic area and campground.
Further north, you’ll find Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site. From A.D. 1100 to 1350, a Native American village occupied the site at Wickliffe Mounds. The settlement included earthen mounds and homes overlooking the Mississippi River. Today, the area is an archeological site. A museum includes exhibits displaying Mississippian-era pottery, stone tools, artifacts and artwork. Climb atop the Ceremonial Mound for great views of the area.
A short drive east from the Great River Road, you’ll find Paducah. This charming community was recently named a UNESCO Creative City of Crafts & Folk Art. Stop by the National Quilt Museum and explore the city’s many shops and galleries.
Saint Louis Art Museum
Traveling along the Great River Road in Missouri? Here are a few “musts” to put on your itinerary.
1. Get to know Mark Twain’s hometown. Hannibal, Mo., which sits about two hours north of St. Louis on the Mississippi River, was once home to a young lad by the name of Samuel Clemens. Now, you can visit this quaint river town and see how it celebrates the life and stories of Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. See where Twain lived and learn about his time here at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum. And, if you’re in town on the Fourth of July, be sure to catch National Tom Sawyer Days, which features a fence-painting competition, a frog-jumping contest and more.
2. Visit the Saint Louis Art Museum. If you’re exploring St. Louis’ Forest Park (which you should, because you can get into great free attractions like the Saint Louis Zoo and the Missouri History Museum), be sure to take some time to take a look around the Saint Louis Art Museum, housed in one of the only surviving buildings from the 1904 World’s Fair. The museum (admission’s free here, too) boasts more than 33,000 works, covering everything from ancient Egypt to contemporary American art.
3. Travel to the top of the Arch. You can’t miss the opportunity to travel to the top of St. Louis’ Gateway Arch when you’re in town. A trip to the top of the 630-foot Arch will put you at the highest point in downtown St. Louis, and, if it’s a clear day, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view. (Be sure to take in the exhibits at the Arch to learn more about the history of St. Louis and the Arch itself, too.)
4. Learn about Missouri’s earthquake history (really). In 1811 and 1812, the river town of New Madrid in Missouri’s southeastern corner experienced three significant earthquakes, all with magnitudes of 7.5 or above. The temblors were felt as far away as New York City, Boston and in Washington, D.C., and caused the Mississippi River to run backwards for several hours. You can learn more about this unique seismic event and more at the New Madrid Historical Museum.