The Great River Road’s network of nearly 100 Interpretive Centers shares the history of the Mississippi River, its people, and its cultures at museums, Civil War battle sites, national parks, and more. Here are four you shouldn’t miss on your next road trip.
Mill City Museum, Minnesota
This might be the best-smelling museum along the Great River Road. Located along the Mississippi River in Minneapolis—in the ruins of what was once the world’s largest flour mill—this unique museum tells the story of the Mississippi River and how it shaped the people and industry of Minneapolis through multimedia exhibits, hands-on displays, and yes, even baking classes and demonstrations.
Gateway Arch National Park, Missouri
Initially founded in 1935 as a national memorial to commemorate Thomas Jefferson’s dream of westward expansion, this iconic St. Louis attraction—which includes the Gateway Arch, the Old Courthouse, and the park grounds along the Mississippi River—was dedicated as a National Park in 2018. Take a tram ride to the top of the Arch to get a bird’s-eye view of downtown St. Louis and the river or visit the Museum at the Gateway Arch to learn about the city’s role in westward expansion.
Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi
Another National Park Service in west-central Mississippi highlights one of most consequential campaigns in Civil War history. Vicksburg National Military Park commemorates the battle of Vicksburg, which took place from March 29 to July 4, 1863, and was a key event in determining control of the Mississippi River between Union and Confederate forces. The park includes the largest burial site for Union soldiers and sailors, historic monuments, a museum, a cannon display, battle fortifications, and more.
Drive west of New Orleans along the Great River Road, and you’ll come to the Great River Road Interpretive Center and Museum, located on the grounds of the Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow. The museum educates visitors on what life was like along the Mississippi River through the centuries, from native tribes and early explorers to enslaved peoples to wealthy plantation owners. Exhibits include information on ships and steamboats, river folklore, Civil War and Reconstruction, and more.
(Photo: Chris Hardy/Unsplash)