Category Archives: Itineraries

Agritourism attractions on the Great River Road

Monday, July 15, 2019

The Great River Road spans 10 states through the heart of America, so it’s no surprise that you’ll find abundant farms, orchards, wineries and other agritourism attractions along the route. (In fact, we’ve got a searchable list of agritourism attractions here.)

Got an appetite for a new Great River Road adventure? Here are a few agritourism attractions you should check out.

Minnesota

The Oliver Kelley Farm is a historic 1860s farmstead and agricultural education center in Elk River—a 35-mile drive from the Twin Cities. This family-friendly branch of the Minnesota Historical Society tells “the story of farming, food and agriculture” through interactive exhibits and events. The farm hosts cooking classes featuring Minnesota products throughout the year, and their Farm to Fair Weekend on Aug. 24-25 lets visitors sample 1860s-era recipes and judge 4-H and FFA veggies, bakery items and canned goods.

Wisconsin

When you’re traveling the Great River Road in Wisconsin, be sure to stop at the Nelson Cheese Factory. While it’s no longer an operating cheese factory, this retail store and restaurant remains a popular spot among roadtrippers looking for groceries, a quick bite or an ice cream cone.

Iowa

Discover farm-fresh finds at the Dubuque Farmers’ Market, the oldest farmers market in Iowa. Every Saturday from 7am to noon, May through October, the Dubuque Farmers’ Market welcomes patrons to three city blocks on Iowa Street in downtown Dubuque to peruse locally grown produce, breads, meats, jams, jellies, craft items and much more.  

Illinois

More than 4,500 people—and 100 wiener dogs—attended Galena’s Oktoberfest celebration last year, and this charming town is set to welcome another batch of visitors this fall. This year’s Galena Oktoberfest will be held from noon to 10pm Saturday, Oct. 5, at Depot Park, and feature traditional German food like bratwurst, potato sausage soup and German potato salad, as well as fun events like a beer stein endurance contest and (of course) wiener dog races.

Tennessee

Another mouth-watering event along the Great River Road is the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, which takes place every year as part of the Memphis in May International Festival. More than 75,000 attendees pass through the gates of Tom Lee Park on the banks of the Mississippi River to sample delectable barbecue ribs, pork shoulders, hot wings, sauce and all things ‘cue.

Louisiana

A museum dedicated to food and drinks seems like an obvious choice for New Orleans, so it’s kind of surprising that it took until 2008 for the Southern Food and Beverage Museum to open in the Big Easy. This museum, located in the Central City neighborhood of New Orleans, features special exhibits, demonstrations, lectures and tastings throughout the year and is also home to the Museum of the American Cocktail.

Outdoor dining on the Great River Road

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Summer is here, and it’s time to take advantage of the beautiful weather and outstanding views all along the Mississippi River. Here’s a look at just a few of the great places along the Great River Road where you can dine outside—be sure to stop in for a bite (and some great scenery) on your next road trip.

Minnesota

Head to Levee Park on Riverfront Street in downtown Winona to grab a seat on the patio and enjoy drinks or dinner at the Boat House. You’ll find classic Minnesota dishes with a twist, like the Boat House Lucy, the restaurant’s take on a Juicy Lucy—an 8-ounce grass-fed burger stuffed with Ellsworth Dairy cheese curds.

Wisconsin

Named by locals as the best outdoor dining in La Crosse, Huck Finn’s on the Water offers a scenic setting for your next lunch or dinner. Head outside for a seat on their massive patio overlooking North Bay on Pool 8 of the Mississippi River. Order a classic burger or try one of their signature drinks like Herb Lemonade.

Iowa

A restaurant and brew pub located in pretty much the middle of the Mississippi River between Iowa and Wisconsin, Catfish Charlie’s in Dubuque offers a fun setting for lunch and dinner. Sample unique items like alligator nuggets or catfish fingers or choose from nearly a dozen beers that are brewed on-site.

Tennessee

Truly one of the most scenic spots along the Great River Road, Blue Bank Resort overlooks the waters of Reelfoot Lake in northwestern Tennessee. Reelfoot Lake is a flooded former cypress forest known for its outstanding fishing, so it only makes sense that fish is prevalent on the menu at Blue Bank Resort’s on-site restaurant, The Fishhouse. Diners can choose from Southern-fried catfish, shrimp, oysters and more, as well as chicken, steaks and pork, all while enjoying the views of Reelfoot Lake.

Mississippi

Want a great view with your dinner? Head to 10 South Rooftop Bar & Grill in downtown Vicksburg. Take in an amazing sunset over the Mississippi River and then enjoy a delicious dinner from a menu featuring classic dishes and Southern favorites like chicken & waffles, shrimp & grits, and blackened catfish.

Louisiana

When you’re in Louisiana, you need to sample some seafood, and one of the best places to do so is Parrain’s Seafood Restaurant in Baton Rouge. Located in the mid-city district of Louisiana’s capital, Parrain’s offers fresh, high-quality seafood in dishes like andouille-encrusted fish, crawfish etouffee and New Orleans BBQ shrimp. Grab a seat on their patio and dig in!

Don’t forget to share your favorite flavors of the Great River Road here. And be sure to check out other travelers’ recommendations and helpful info about restaurants, agritourism attractions and more all along the Great River Road here.

Five sweet treats you shouldn’t miss on the Great River Road

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Save room for dessert—here are some of the most iconic desserts you’ll find along the Mississippi River, from handcrafted pies to freshly fried pastries.

Homemade candy, ice cream and chocolate at Lagomarcino’s

If you’re in the mood for ice cream when you’re driving through the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa, there’s one place you have to stop: Lagomarcino’s. With locations in downtown Moline, Ill., (the original) and Davenport, Iowa (opened in 1997), this soda fountain/candy store/ice cream parlor has been in business since 1908 and still makes their own candy, chocolates and ice cream to this day. In 2006, Lagomarcino’s received a James Beard America’s Classics award.

World-famous beignets at Café du Monde

There’s no shortage of delicious food in the Crescent City, and that applies doubly to anything targeting your sweet tooth. Pralines, bananas foster, bread pudding, pecan pie—that’s enough to satisfy any connoisseur of desserts. But the one thing that’s sure to draw a crowd are Café du Monde’s world-famous beignets. Head to the French Market (or one of the eight other locations in the New Orleans metro area) to sample these fried-dough delights that are covered with powdered sugar. Don’t forget the chicory coffee au lait!

Pie at the Stockholm (Wis.) Pie Company

Want a pie like the ones Grandma used to make? Well, there’s no place that’ll get you closer than the famous Stockholm Pie Company, where fruit and nut pies are handcrafted from scratch daily at this store in the charming Wisconsin Great River Road town of Stockholm. You’ll also find cream pies, seasonal specialties and travel-size 6-inch pies available daily, as well as a general store featuring Wisconsin cheese, craft beer, wine, local specialties and gift items. Find more of Stockholm Pie Company’s delicious pies—as well as sandwiches, coffee drinks and more—across the river at The Pie Plate Café in Red Wing, Minn.

Banana pudding at the Fulton Banana Festival

When you think of bananas, your first thought probably isn’t a town of 2,500 people on the Kentucky-Tennessee border. But Fulton, Ky., (and South Fulton, Tenn., its neighbor to the south) have hosted the Banana Festival for more than 50 years, commemorating Fulton’s location as a prime railroad spot between New Orleans and Canada in the late 1800s. (At one point, more than 70 percent of the bananas consumed in the U.S. passed through Fulton.) A highlight of the festival, held annually in September, is the creation of a one-ton banana pudding—said to be the world’s largest, and who are we to argue—that is distributed to hungry festival attendees.

Mississippi mud pie at The Crown Restaurant

Head south to Indianola, Miss.—home to the B.B. King Museum & Delta Interpretive Center—to find this Mississippi delicacy at the highly regarded The Crown Restaurant, which has received attention in everything from Southern Living to Cook’s Illustrated. This cozy restaurant is only open for lunch (11am-2pm Tuesday through Saturday), but offers great confections from head cook Evelyn Roughton, including the famous Mississippi mud pie—a rich dessert made with pudding, cake, whipped cream, biscuits, chocolate and other delights (it gets its name for its resemblance to the state’s dark soil).

(Photo: Illinois Office of Tourism)

Breweries, wineries & distilleries on the Great River Road

Monday, June 24, 2019

Cheers!

Whether you’re looking for unique microbrews, handcrafted spirits or a winery with an amazing view, you’ll discover some great places to raise your glass along the Great River Road.

Here are a few spots to spend your next happy hour.

North

  • Minnesota: Beer lovers are in luck when they visit the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. There, you’ll find literally dozens of breweries, from sprawling complexes with on-site restaurants to tiny taprooms. Local favorites include Surly, Fair State Cooperative, Indeed Brewing, Bad Weather Brewing and Summit.
  • Wisconsin: You might think you’re in Napa Valley as you enjoy a crisp white or full-bodied red on the patio at Elmaro Vineyard in Trempealeau and gaze over the awe-inspiring landscape of nearby Perrot State Park and the Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Iowa: A true “grain to glass” distillery, Mississippi River Distilling Company creates its small-batch gin, vodka and more with grain harvested within 25 miles of their facility in downtown LeClaire. And don’t miss the vineyards of the Iowa Wine Trail, which passes through towns like Clinton, Marquette and Guttenberg.
  • Illinois: In the charming town of Galena, you’ll find great shops, a historic downtown, and tasty restaurants. You’ll also find Blaum Bros. Distilling Co., one of the state’s #IllinoisMade businesses—makers, creators and artisans that show off the state’s entrepreneurial spirit. Stop by for a tour and a taste of their gin, vodka, bourbon and other spirits.

Middle

  • Missouri: Sure, St. Louis is famously home to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, but there are plenty of other beermakers in “The Lou,” as well.  Take a tour and stop for a tasting at award-winning breweries like Schlafly, Urban Chestnut and Perennial Artisan Ales.
  • Tennessee: The Volunteer State’s claim to spirits doesn’t just come from Mr. Jack Daniel in Lynchburg. Memphis is home to Old Dominick Distillery, founded in 1866 by Domenico Canale. Five generations later, business is still booming—Memphis visitors can tour the factory, sample Old Dominick’s whiskeys and vodkas in the tasting room and grab a bite at the on-site restaurant.

South

  • Mississippi: Founded in 1716, Natchez is the oldest city on the Mississippi River. Amidst all that history, visitors will find great food and drink, too, including the Natchez Brewing Company, which offers tours and tastings at its facility downtown, and Charboneau Distillery, home to the first legally distilled rum produced in Mississippi.
  • Louisiana: Where to start? (New Orleans. New Orleans is always the answer.) OK, so the Big Easy might not technically be “the city that invented the cocktail,” but you’ll find several drinks that were perfected here, including the Hurricane, the Rum Punch and the Pimm’s Cup. Thirsty to learn more? Visit the Museum of the American Cocktail, which offers education programs, tastings and more.

(Photo: Blaum Bros. Distilling Co. in Galena, courtesy of the Illinois Office of Tourism)

The best barbecue on the Great River Road

Monday, June 17, 2019

Where there’s smoke, there’s… some of the best barbecue in the United States.

Sure, you might automatically (and correctly) think of St. Louis and Memphis as barbecue hot spots on the Mississippi River, but the truth is, you can find delectable BBQ at restaurants up and down the Great River Road—it’s just a matter of knowing where to go.

Here’s a region-by-region breakdown of where you can find the best brisket, ribs and more along America’s greatest drive.

North

Even if they don’t have the traditions of their Southern cousins, the states of the northern Great River Road still have plenty of restaurants that produce delicious barbecue. In the Twin Cities, visitors can find authentic Carolina barbecue at Revival, which has restaurants in Minneapolis and Saint Paul (and also sells smoked meats at the Keg and Case Market in Saint Paul).

Head to La Crosse—the biggest city on Wisconsin’s section of the Great River Road—for great bites at Piggy’s (and don’t miss live blues music in the Smokin’ Blues Lounge downstairs on Saturday nights). Across the river in Bellevue, Iowa, you’ll find another barbecue-and-blues restaurant at Flatted Fifth Blues & BBQ, housed in a historic grist mill on the banks of the Mississippi.

A short drive from St. Louis, Beast Craft BBQ Co. in Belleville, Illinois, has won lots of awards since it opened in 2015, including nods from Thrillist (who called it one of the 33 best BBQ joints in America) and Food & Wine magazine (Illinois’ best barbecue).

Middle

Now this is barbecue country. We could do a whole article—or several, in fact—on the offerings in St. Louis and Memphis alone, but we’ll pick a few that you must check out. In St. Louis, don’t miss Pappy’s Smokehouse near Saint Louis University; while you’re waiting in line for their award-winning ribs, check out the autographed menus plastered on the walls.

In the tiny town of Bardwell, Kentucky, locals flock to Prince Pit BBQ (which also has a store in nearby Barlow). Further south in Memphis, you’ll find delicious barbecue almost anywhere, but be sure to visit the iconic Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous, which has welcomed rock stars, presidents and regular folks alike to its alley-front location since 1948.

South

Did you know that Arkansas’ only James Beard Award-winning restaurant can be found in a town of just 3,500 people? Well, that’s how good the reputation is for Jones Bar-B-Q Diner, which has been serving customers since at least 1910 and may be the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the state.

Clarksdale, Mississippi, is home to the infamous Crossroads—the place where Robert Johnson supposedly sold his soul in exchange for his unearthly musical talent. Just a few steps away from the marker commemorating this location is Abe’s Bar-B-Q, which has been serving locals and visitors to unfettered acclaim for decades.

Louisiana is a melting pot of cultures and cuisines, so it only makes sense that you’ll find po’ boys and fried chicken in addition to the barbecue favorites on the menu at The Francis Smokehouse & Specialty Meats in St. Francisville. What started out as a specialty meat shop now serves hundreds of sandwiches daily; don’t miss their fancier relative, The Francis Southern Table & Bar, next door.

Enjoy the flavors of the Great River Road

Thursday, August 23, 2018

All summer long, we’ve been talking about the Flavors of the Great River Road, from farm-to-table restaurants and wineries with scenic views to classic recipes and can’t-miss dishes.

We’ve given you travelers’ recommendations for the best places to visit when you’re traveling along the Mississippi River. (Be sure to share your own here.)

And we’ve broken down the best flavors of the Great River Road state-by-state. Here’s a look at the top flavors from each state along America’s greatest drive.

Planning a foodie getaway along the Mississippi River? Order your free 10-state Great River Road map or download our Drive the Great River Road app.

(Photo credit: Dice Sales/Illinois Office of Tourism)

Flavors of the Great River Road: Louisiana

Monday, August 13, 2018

It doesn’t matter whether you’re starting or ending your Great River Road trip in Louisiana—the Bayou State will provide you with some of the best food you’ll find along the entire Mississippi River. From shrimp and crawfish to pralines and beignets, there’s enough deliciousness here to make any food fan happy. Here’s a look at just a few of Louisiana’s famous dishes (and some of the best spots to find them):

  • Seafood, Baton Rouge. Louisiana’s capital is a great place to find some classic seafood fresh from the bayou and the Gulf of Mexico, including oysters, crawfish, and shrimp. Popular dining spots include Parrain’s Seafood Restaurant, Acme Oyster House (which has restaurants throughout Louisiana and the Gulf Coast), Roux 61 and Hot Tails (a short drive from Baton Rouge, but it’s operated by the Food Network’s “Cajun Aces” stars Cody & Samantha Carroll). Side trip: Head to Louisiana State University’s Rural Life Museum & Windrush Gardens.jambalaya new orleans
  • Southern fare, St. Francisville. Francisville sits just north of Baton Rouge at a bend in the Mississippi River, and this small town oozes Southern charm. You’ll find great food here, too—stop by The Francis Southern Table & Bar for oysters, gumbo, crawfish etouffee, jambalya and other Louisiana classics. Or, take in the down-home vibe (and enjoy some live music) at the Magnolia Café. Side trip: Pay a visit to the Myrtles Plantation, one of America’s most haunted homes.
  • Cocktails, New Orleans. New Orleans claims it invented the cocktail, and with options this delicious, it’s hard to argue. Time-honored drinks like the Sazerac, brandy milk punch, the Ramos Gin Fizz and the Hurricane were all conceived in the Crescent City, and you’ll find plenty of places that are happy to serve them up. If you’re looking for an iconic New Orleans bar, don’t miss the (revolving!) Carousel Bar & Lounge at the Hotel Monteleone or Arnaud’s French 75 Bar, a James Beard award-winning classic. Side trip: Want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Bourbon Street? Head next door to Frenchman Street, which houses a collection of energetic live music venues, quirky shops and (of course) delicious dining.
  • Dessert, New Orleans. New Orleans gets all the fun accolades when it comes to eating and drinking—it’s the home of the cocktail, as well as home to some of the best desserts you’ve ever had. Be sure to sample some beignets and café au lait at Café du Monde. Touristy? Sure—but there’s a reason there’s always a line for these delicious, doughy, sugar-topped pastries. Then, head down to the French Market to pick up some Aunt Sally’s Pralines. Side trip: Travel west out of the Crescent City to discover the marvelous antebellum homes of New Orleans Plantation Country.

Don’t forget to share your favorite flavors of the Great River Road with us. Also, you can enter for a chance to win $500 to spend on a Great River Road food trip!

Flavors of the Great River Road: Illinois

Monday, August 06, 2018

With the longest section of the Great River Road, Illinois offers something for every traveler, whether you’re interested in exploring historical sites or discovering charming small towns along the Mississippi River.

Got an appetite? Illinois’ section of the Great River Road has plenty to fill your menu. Just take a look.

Breakfast

Start your day off right as you travel through Illinois’ Great Rivers Country with breakfast and a cup of coffee at Otto’s Place in Galena. Or, get your caffeine fix at Milltown Coffee in Moline.

Lunch

Grab a meal with a great view of the Mississippi River at The Loading Dock in Grafton. (Fun photo op side trip: Visit Collinsville—just east of St. Louis—to snap a pic of the world’s largest catsup bottle.)

Dinner

You’re in the Midwest, so why not partake in some farm-to-table deliciousness? In Galena, head to One Eleven Main for delectable dishes filled with local flavor. When you’re in Quincy, don’t miss the unique local plates at Thyme Square.

Drinks

You’ll find wineries aplenty along the Great River Road in Illinois. Illinois’ Great Rivers Country offers a great look at the dozens of wineries you can visit between Galena and Cairo. Interested in distilled spirits? Visit Stumpy’s Spirits Distillery in Columbia or Blaum Bros Distilling Co. in Galena.

Dessert

Discover delicious desserts and a true slice of Americana at Lagomarcino’s in Moline, where four generations of the Lagomarcino family have been serving up chocolates, candy and homemade ice cream. Are baked treats more your thing? Visit Kruta Bakery in Collinsville or Nauvoo Mill & Bakery.

(Photos courtesy of the Illinois Office of Tourism)

Flavors the Great River Road: Mississippi

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Mississippi offers something for every traveler. From its music scene to its rich history, its Delta culture to its beautiful magnolias, the state doesn’t disappoint. And when it comes to food? Boy, does Mississippi deliver.

Here are a few spots to explore when you’re traveling along the Great River Road in Mississippi.

Clarksdale: A blues lover’s mecca, Clarksdale is the site of much of the iconic music that came out of the Delta—you’ll find attractions like the Crossroads (the intersection of Highways 49 and 61, where bluesman Robert Johnson supposedly sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his musical talent) and the Delta Blues Museum. Explore the downtown to discover more unique shops and music venues, including the Bluesberry Café, where you can get a side of live blues with your breakfast, or the famous Ground Zero Blues Club, where you can find great music and another Mississippi delicacy: fried green tomatoes.

Cleveland: Another great stop for music lovers, Cleveland is home to the only other GRAMMY Museum outside of Los Angeles. But if you’re looking for some Southern comfort food, don’t miss Airport Grocery, which serves up generous helpings of tamales, crawfish, BBQ and more in a restaurant adorned with classic signage and curios.

Vicksburg: In Mississippi, fried is always better. This rule goes for just about anything including pickles, okra, and seafood. One of Mississippi’s unique contributions to the culinary world is its twist on the po’ boy sandwich. Originating from Louisiana, the po’ boy usually comes stuffed with roast beef. But in Mississippi, it’s decked with fried shrimp, crawfish, crab and other Gulf specialties. Try it at Rusty’s Riverfront Grill in Vicksburg.

Natchez: Get a scenic view of the Mississippi River or enjoy a dinner on the site of beautiful antebellum homes in the historic city of Natchez, which was founded more than 300 years ago. Historic properties like Dunleith and Stanton Hall have restaurants on site, and you can discover scenic dining at The Pilot House or 10 South Rooftop Bar & Grill.

Southern cooking is famous for a reason. Visit Mississippi, and you’ll find out why.

(Fried catfish photo courtesy of Visit Mississippi)

Flavors of the Great River Road: Missouri

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

mark twain brewery hannibal missouriExploring the Great River Road in Missouri will take you alongside scenic bluffs, through historic towns and into the bustling metropolis of St. Louis. It’s enough to make anyone hungry—here are some places to find some uniquely Missouri food in the Gateway City and beyond.

Hot Salami Sandwich

During the 20th century, St. Louis’s Italian neighborhood, The Hill, was a go-to for anyone looking for authentic cuisine d’Italia. Gioia’s Deli, one of the few remaining odes to The Hill’s glory days, opened its doors in 1918 and became famous for the hot salami sandwich. It’s no wonder this tried-and-true favorite has been named best sandwich in the city for years, as it’s served on a delicious garlic cheese bread and finished off with a spicy giardiniera. Get a taste of St. Louis’ cultural history and the famous hot salami sandwich during your visit and you’ll be a Gioia’s fan for life.

Gooey Butter Cake

It’s safe to say gooey butter cake is one of history’s tastiest mistakes. In the 1930s, a new employee at a St. Louis bakery accidentally swapped proportions of flour and butter in a cake recipe, and gooey butter cake was the result. Surprisingly, the dessert became a local favorite and bakeries around the city began mimicking the recipe. Try it at Park Avenue Coffee, a local chain that offers over 70 flavors of gooey butter cake.

St. Louis-style pizzast louis style pizza

A trip to St. Louis requires trying the city’s rendition of pizza. St. Louis-style pizza is in a league of its own with a dense, cracker-like crust and a sweet sauce inspired by the area’s Sicilian immigrants. What really makes it unique is Provel cheese, a trademark combination of provolone, Swiss and white cheddar that is difficult to find anywhere outside St. Louis. Head to Imo’s for one of the best renditions of this quirky twist on a universally loved dish.

Other destinations

If you’re headed south on Missouri’s Great River Road, don’t miss the dining options in the charming towns of Ste. Genevieve (which also has several wineries nearby) and Cape Girardeau. Headed north, you can find tasty restaurants, breweries and more in Hannibal, the boyhood home of Mark Twain.

Whether St. Louis is the only destination on your itinerary, or you’re passing through on a trek down the Mississippi, the city is home to culinary quirks and combinations of culture that are worth making a stop.