Category Archives: Activities & Recreation

Five reasons to be thankful about the Great River Road

Monday, November 18, 2019

In 1938, states along the Mississippi River had the foresight to establish a driving route along America’s greatest river. The route was named the Great River Road and it spanned 3,000 beautiful miles and 10 states. For generations, people have been following the green and white pilot wheel signs to unforgettable adventures. There are probably as many reasons to be thankful for this route as there are travelers, but here are a few reasons why so many return to this beautiful byway.

Culinary adventures

The Great River Road leads travelers to some unforgettable meals. From Arkansas hot tamales to Louisiana beignets, you’re never far from a delicious local specialty. Need some recommendations? Check out our fan favorites- they’ve shared some of their favorite restaurants, bakeries, breweries, farmers markets and more. Search their tips by state to find great food stops for your trip.

Interpretive Centers

Travelers on the Great River Road will pass a network of more than 70 Interpretive Centers—these museums and historic sites showcase and preserve the incredible story of the river and its people. Centers include such treasures as the Delta Cultural Center in Helena, Arkansas, the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Collinsville, Illinois and the Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site in Little Falls, Minnesota.

Music

The Mississippi Delta is Blues country, and the route is your ticket to the show. Start by taking a trip through the Magnolia State and drive through the land of legends. Here are some of the sights you won’t want to miss along the route.

Scenic beauty

The Mississippi River Valley offers spectacular scenery that changes dramatically along the route. Northern stretches will take you through forests and past towering bluffs. You’ll discover impressive vistas in places like Perrot State Park in Trempealeau, Wisconsin and Pikes Peak State Park in McGregor, Iowa.

Beautiful birds

Look up, when you’re on the Great River Road and you’ll likely find you have company. This Great River Road travels along the Mississippi Flyway, a migration route used by 40 percent of North America’s waterfowl and shorebirds. There are abundant birding locations along the route; here are a few good bets.

 

Notes from an epic adventure

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

While many people travel part of the Great River Road every year, a select group drives the entire 3,000-mile route. Here are some stories and photos from people who have taken on the whole 10-state route. Sound like fun? Order the free Great River Road 10-State Map, the Drive the Great River Road App and start planning your own adventure. And let us know when you’re done – we’ll send you a certificate!

 

I received the map and I thought that this would be a nice trip, so I got in my car by myself and took off on one of the most enjoyable trips in my 82 years. I could write a book on this trip all good things about the trip. This summer I am going to finish the trip from St. Louis down to Venice, LA.. To sum it up, FANTASTIC,” – Robert B, St. Louis

 

We have visited the USA on many occasions and our plan was to visit those state we had not visited. Our road trip started in Nashville, TN. We then traveled through KY, WV, OH, IN, IL and WI before commencing our adventure down the Great River Road in MN. The river was covered in snow for many miles through MN, WI, IA, IL, MO, KY, TN, AR, MS and LA – despite the extreme weather, there were many wonderful sights and places to visit. We have now visited all 48 states and Hawaii – only Alaska to go!” – David and Cathie M., Queensland, Australia

My favorite part of the drive involved travel on the levees… from the area between Baton Rouge & Natchez, up the Mississippi Delta, from Memphis to Cairo, IL, the Cahokia mounds, and the Driftless Area.” – Lucas P., New York, New York

My husband and I spent periods of time in several river towns when he was working temporary jobs in them and were enchanted by the river. Decided to one day drive the Great River Road. He passed away before we could, but I drove it accompanied by our little rat terrier, Buck. It was a beautiful drive and I loved visiting with people and learning the history of different areas. I have a 50,000 words journal with pictures of the trip and am looking for a publisher.” – Pat W., Manhattan, Kansas

I drove the entirety of the GRR from North to South – covering almost every mile on both sides (a few were underwater thanks to the flooding last Autumn). I can be mobile for work, so I’ve started driving the long roads in the Lower 48 in an RV – it was your 80th, so I took the opportunity to explore. It was a 90-day trip, including all the loop backs – I started on the 7th of Sept at the Headwaters and wrapped it up south of the Venice Marina on the 6th of Dec.” – Sara N., Land O Lakes, Florida

I traveled the first half of the GRR in 2016, from Venice, LA to St Louis, and back to NOLA… then in 2017, from St Louis to Grand Rapids, MN and back to Chicago. I have spent the past five years documenting the scenic backways of the United States. My favorite part of the drive was finding dirt roads, old abandoned routes, remote places, and especially driving up on levees. Mississippi Delta, Driftless Area and Cahokia Mounds were some favorite parts.” – Randy R., New York, New York

We traveled the Road last Summer from 8/9/18 to 8/25/18. The reason – just wanted to experience the whole trip from North to South. Plus, we like road trips that include lots of 2 lane highways…from the beautiful Headwaters of Itasca State Park, where we could walk across the Mississippi, all the way down to Venice, LA where it ends into the Gulf of Mexico, it was a spectacular road river ride!” – Howard B, La Quinta, California

“I love road trips. Having done Route 66 a few years ago, this seemed like a natural. At the end of each day, I did a thumbnail sketch of the day which I shared with friends via email and FaceBook…BTW: This epic journey was done by myself, my wife, and my sister. We drove the entire length, from Lake Itasca to the Gulf. – Ronald B., Clovis, California

See the spring migration along the river

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Spring is an incredible time to go birdwatching along the Mississippi River! Check out some of our favorite stops to watch the spring migration in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge

Photo by Upper Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge

The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge is actually 240,000 acres and 261 miles long, running through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois and lies within the Mississippi Flyway, the migratory path for birds.

An excellent spot to visit is Lake Onalaska, just north of La Crosse, Wisconsin. The lake is actually a pool of the Mississippi River, and the river’s the widest spot. Bald eagles are frequent visitors, as are tundra swans, and If you’re lucky you’ll catch the migration of canvasback ducks – there have been reports of 75,000-100,000 of them using Lake Onalaska as a springtime staging area (approximately one third of their North American population).

Pikes Peak State Park

Photo by Travel Iowa

Another great stop in the Wildlife Refuge is Pikes Peak State Park in McGregor, Iowa. Here you can make the trek up the 500 foot bluff for views of where the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers meet. You’ll find plenty of songbirds here – eastern bluebirds, warblers, catbirds, pileated woodpeckers, hummingbirds, but eagles and pelicans too. Be sure to explore the effigy mounds while you birdwatch.

National Eagle Center

Photo by National Eagle Center

The observation deck at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota is a great place to view eagles in the wild as they soar above the Mississippi. They even offer eagle viewing field trips that will take you to hotspots along and near the river. Inside the center are two floors of interactive exhibits where you can climb inside a nest and test your strength against our national bird’s. Be sure to stay for the daily demonstrations where you can meet bald and golden eagles face to face.

Barn Bluff

Photo by Miranda Mae via Facebook

Barn Bluff is another beautiful spot to see eagles, located in Red Wing, Minnesota. If you make the 340-foot climb up to the top of the bluff, you’ll see them soaring over the river and bluffs, along with turkey vultures and pelicans too. Barn Bluff is a hotspot for nature photography too, so bring your camera!

Chasing blossoms on the Great River Road

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Spring officially arrives today on the Great River Road and new blossoms are opening daily! Now is the perfect time to take a trip to a botanical garden or embark on a wildflower walk in a natural area. The Great River Road will take you to some gorgeous spots to enjoy the spring flowers. Beautiful blossoms can be enjoyed now in southern states on the route; northern states will be in full bloom before we know it.

Here’s a sample of great flower spots near the route.

Memphis Botanic Garden

There’s a lot to take in every spring at this beautiful garden in Memphis, Tenn., which covers 96 acres and has 31 specialty gardens.  See a carpet of yellow daffodils on daffodil Hill—over 300,000 are planted! Follow the Michie Magnolia Trail and take in the spectacle of 300 beautiful trees. Or admire the delicate cherry blossoms, stroll through crocuses and smell the winter Jasmine. You won’t be disappointed!

Natchez Spring Pilgrimage

The oldest city on the Mississippi bustles with visitors this time of year. The annual Spring Pilgrimage takes place from March 16-April 16 in Natchez, Miss., a time when historic homes open their doors for visitors. Natchez has been described as a living museum of southern history and beautiful spring blossoms grace the impressive Antebellum homes on the tour.

Cohn Arboretum, Baton Rouge, La.

Fruit trees explode with color in this relaxing 16-acre arboretum that features more than 300 species of native and adaptable trees and shrubs. Walking trails wind through the park, along the edge of a small lake. It’s an ideal place for a spring walk.

New Orleans Botanical Garden, New Orleans City Park

The Big Easy is in bloom this month! Head to the Botanical garden to see impressive Azaleas, coral honeysuckle, Chinese Ground Orchids and more. These carefully cultivated gardens have been a fixture in the city since the 1930s and are open daily. Take a stroll and take your time – this is the Big Easy!

Traveling through history in Arkansas

Thursday, November 08, 2018

A tour on the Great River Road in Arkansas will take you through a land with a long and rich history. Official Interpretive Centers on the route will help you experience this past, with exhibits and information that will take you back to earlier days in region. Here are some Interpretive Centers to visit in Arkansas and a sample of what you can explore.

Parkin Archeological State Park: (A.D. 1000+)

This National Historic Landmark protects the site of a Mississippian Period American Indian village that occupied this location on the St. Francis River from A.D. 1000 to 1600. Archeologists have uncovered evidence that Hernando de Soto visited this site in 1541. A visitor center at the site houses artifacts and interesting exhibits.

Lakeport Plantation (1830s+)

This plantation produced cotton for nearly a century. The plantation house, a Greek Revival house built in 1859, is the only remaining Arkansas plantation home on the Mississippi River. It serves as a museum telling the story of plantation life in the Mississippi delta.

Helena Museum of Phillips County (various time periods)

This local history museum housed in a former library today was founded with the help of Mark Twain. Today it houses American Indian Artifacts, a collection of Thomas Edison’s works, information about the Civil War Battle of Helena and more.

WWII Japanese Internment Museum (1942-1945)

This museum preserves the history and heritage of the 17,000 Japanese Americans who were forcibly evacuated from their homes and interned at camps in Jerome and Rohwer from 1942-45. During the war, more than 8,000 Japanese Americans were interned at this camp, which was surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards. A self-guided walking tour takes visitors along the southern boundary of the original camp.

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Venus in Fur

Monday, June 11, 2018

Dark, witty, and incredibly thought-provoking.

“This ain’t about love. It’s about getting a piece of me. You want the piece, you gotta put up with the rest of me. Isn’t that what this play’s all about?”

Thomas is a playwright-slash-director, desperately in need of an actress. A young-ish actress. A beautiful-slash-sexy actress. A sexy-slash-articulate young actress with some classical training and a particle of brain in her skull. Enter Vanda. The resulting action is more complex, and more important, than any audition.

Venus in Fur, by David Ives, is a play that has only grown more relevant since its debut in 2010 – a provocative exploration of gender roles and the intricate dynamic of artistic collaboration. The question is: can Vanda trust Thomas to open up his eyes, and see the woman standing next to him?

Who should I bring?
This is an exciting and challenging play. Bring a friend who is ready to discuss the show afterwards. This acting tour-de-force is only 100 minutes long (no intermission), but it packs quite a punch. Contains very strong language and sensual content. Suitable for people aged over 16. The performance will begin at 2:00

Venus in Fur

Dark, witty, and incredibly thought-provoking.

“This ain’t about love. It’s about getting a piece of me. You want the piece, you gotta put up with the rest of me. Isn’t that what this play’s all about?”

Thomas is a playwright-slash-director, desperately in need of an actress. A young-ish actress. A beautiful-slash-sexy actress. A sexy-slash-articulate young actress with some classical training and a particle of brain in her skull. Enter Vanda. The resulting action is more complex, and more important, than any audition.

Venus in Fur, by David Ives, is a play that has only grown more relevant since its debut in 2010 – a provocative exploration of gender roles and the intricate dynamic of artistic collaboration. The question is: can Vanda trust Thomas to open up his eyes, and see the woman standing next to him?

Who should I bring?
This is an exciting and challenging play. Bring a friend who is ready to discuss the show afterwards. This acting tour-de-force is only 100 minutes long (no intermission), but it packs quite a punch. Contains very strong language and sensual content. Suitable for people aged over 16. The performance will begin at 7:30

Venus in Fur

Dark, witty, and incredibly thought-provoking.

“This ain’t about love. It’s about getting a piece of me. You want the piece, you gotta put up with the rest of me. Isn’t that what this play’s all about?”

Thomas is a playwright-slash-director, desperately in need of an actress. A young-ish actress. A beautiful-slash-sexy actress. A sexy-slash-articulate young actress with some classical training and a particle of brain in her skull. Enter Vanda. The resulting action is more complex, and more important, than any audition.

Venus in Fur, by David Ives, is a play that has only grown more relevant since its debut in 2010 – a provocative exploration of gender roles and the intricate dynamic of artistic collaboration. The question is: can Vanda trust Thomas to open up his eyes, and see the woman standing next to him?

Who should I bring?
This is an exciting and challenging play. Bring a friend who is ready to discuss the show afterwards. This acting tour-de-force is only 100 minutes long (no intermission), but it packs quite a punch. Contains very strong language and sensual content. Suitable for people aged over 16. The performance will begin at 7:30

Venus in Fur

Dark, witty, and incredibly thought-provoking.

“This ain’t about love. It’s about getting a piece of me. You want the piece, you gotta put up with the rest of me. Isn’t that what this play’s all about?”

Thomas is a playwright-slash-director, desperately in need of an actress. A young-ish actress. A beautiful-slash-sexy actress. A sexy-slash-articulate young actress with some classical training and a particle of brain in her skull. Enter Vanda. The resulting action is more complex, and more important, than any audition.

Venus in Fur, by David Ives, is a play that has only grown more relevant since its debut in 2010 – a provocative exploration of gender roles and the intricate dynamic of artistic collaboration. The question is: can Vanda trust Thomas to open up his eyes, and see the woman standing next to him?

Who should I bring?
This is an exciting and challenging play. Bring a friend who is ready to discuss the show afterwards. This acting tour-de-force is only 100 minutes long (no intermission), but it packs quite a punch. Contains very strong language and sensual content. Suitable for people aged over 16. The performance will begin at 7:30

Venus in Fur

Dark, witty, and incredibly thought-provoking.

“This ain’t about love. It’s about getting a piece of me. You want the piece, you gotta put up with the rest of me. Isn’t that what this play’s all about?”

Thomas is a playwright-slash-director, desperately in need of an actress. A young-ish actress. A beautiful-slash-sexy actress. A sexy-slash-articulate young actress with some classical training and a particle of brain in her skull. Enter Vanda. The resulting action is more complex, and more important, than any audition.

Venus in Fur, by David Ives, is a play that has only grown more relevant since its debut in 2010 – a provocative exploration of gender roles and the intricate dynamic of artistic collaboration. The question is: can Vanda trust Thomas to open up his eyes, and see the woman standing next to him?

Who should I bring?
This is an exciting and challenging play. Bring a friend who is ready to discuss the show afterwards. This acting tour-de-force is only 100 minutes long (no intermission), but it packs quite a punch. Contains very strong language and sensual content. Suitable for people aged over 16. The performance will begin at 2:00