The best drive in America leads travelers to some of the best meals in America. Local and regional delicacies can be found up and down the river, fueling travelers with dishes that are entwined with the region’s culture and people. Here’s a sampling of what you’ll find on the Great River Road.
Cheese curds, Wisconsin
The Dairy State loves its cheese and that will be clear when you stop into a Wisconsin restaurant on the Great River Road. Brew pubs, fast food restaurants and upscale establishments all have something in common on the menu: cheese curds. You’ll find them breaded, deep fried and served with a side of ranch salad dressing. Enjoy! This summer, be sure to check out the Ellsworth Cheese Curd Festival.
Barbecue Ribs, Tennessee
Memphis declares itself the Barbecue Capital of the World for good reason—its ribs are in a class of their own. There’s an ongoing debate on where to find the best ribs, but one place that has legions of fans is a downtown restaurant called Rendezvous. As one Great River Road foodie put it, “Best. Ribs. In. The. World.”
Hot tamales, Arkansas
This Latin American classic has been an Arkansas food staple for generations. Filling and portable, Tamales were once common lunches in the cotton fields. Today you’ll find delicious versions along the Great River Road. One favorite spot: Rhoda’s Famous Hot Tamales in Lake Village, on the shore of Lake Chicot.
You can’t visit New Orleans without sampling this classic French doughnut, which happens to be the state doughnut of Louisiana. Served with a dusting of powdered sugar, these are best enjoyed hot and fresh with some chicory coffee. One famous place to sample this delicacy is Café Du Monde. One traveler said she recently waited 40 minutes in the rain to get her beignet.
“Worth it,” she reported.
Feeling hungry? Find more traveler tips on where to eat on the Great River Road here.
There’s no better place for a driving adventure than the Great River Road National Scenic Byway, the best scenic drive in America. There’s so much to take in—the 3,000-mile route travels through 10 states, from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. Here are some tools to help you plan the perfect trip.
Get the app
An ideal resource for navigating the byway fits in your pocket. The Drive the Great River Road app is available for Apple and Android devices and includes scenic overlooks, museums, historical sites and more.
Get the map
The Great River Road Travel Map is a full-color map for exploring the byway. The map guides travelers along the official route and includes information about Great River Road Interpretive Centers. Order your own free copy here.
Some of the country’s best food can be found along the byway, but you don’t have to take our word for it. Travelers on the Great River Road have submitted some of their favorite flavors—see them here.
Tailor your travels
Are you an art lover or music fan? Are you planning a short trip, or do you want to drive the whole route? See sample Great River Road itineraries that will give you some great travel ideas here.
Discover Interpretive Centers
The byway has a network of more than 70 museums and historic sites that showcase fascinating stories of the Mississippi River. Make plans to visit some of these centers to learn about the river and find useful travel information. See the full listing of interpretive centers.
Explore activities and recreation
There’s a lot to do along the byway. Take a road trip. Hit the hiking trails. Take a canoe or kayak trip through the secluded backwaters of the Mississippi River. Go fishing for walleye, bass and catfish or hunting for ducks. See some more things to do here.
A festival for the whole family with Irish & Celtic music from all over Ireland, Scotland, and the U.S,. including local musicians. Wee Folks area with games and activities, sheep shearing, bagpipe demonstration, Irish dogs, puppet theater, music and contests; Cultural tent with traditional music, Irish dancers and cultural exhibits; Arts Tent with baking demonstrations, speakers on Irish history, bodhran, tin whistle, and Irish language lessions. Irish food menu, Kilt run/walk, Highland games and more.
Featuring a parade, craft fair, and car show in Holmen, WI.
Great River Folk Fest is an Americana & Folk music festival and artisan craft fair held in Riverside Park in La Crosse. The festival has been providing the community and surrounding states with a fun musical weekend for over forty years. The weekend event includes many types of music, a songwriters contest, dancing, children’s activities, music workshops, crafts, ethnic food and local microbrewery beer.
Each year, the festival juries in some of the region’s most talented and creative crafters and artisans. All items are handcrafted by the exhibitor.
The entire festival is family friendly. Be sure to check out their website for a complete list of performers and a schedule of events.
Coulee Con is a convention focused on bringing gamers together in the Coulee region. It features a wide range of gaming genres including board games, collectible card games, roleplaying games, miniatures, video games, and puzzles. The schedule includes pre-planned events, open gaming, daily drawings, a silent auction, and tournaments.
Enjoy two-wheeled bliss through the scenic valleys of the Mississippi River!
All rides leave from Cameron Park (unless noted) and are FREE to the public.
Road rides outside of La Crosse are self-supported, self-timed and self-guided. We’ll have suggested start windows, turn-by-turn smartphone routes online, and maps with cue sheets available for free at Cameron Park. Featured road rides also have volunteer ride ambassadors who will leave from Cameron Park at staggered times throughout the start window. Routes out of town are outlined on free maps and cue sheets, with turns marked on the road in the city. Guided interest rides are suitable for families, kids, and easy riding. They leave from Cameron Park at the designated time, make frequent stops, and have a leader to guide the ride through the city.
All rides are free to the public. Road rides outside of La Crosse are self-supported, self-timed and self-guided.
Look. Live. Love. Celebrate!
Enjoy this fun family festival that marks the rebirth of our historic downtown.
Celebrate the history of downtown La Crosse, where activities are free and fun for the whole family!
Over 600 laps of feature racing over 4 big days!
The La Crosse Storytelling Festival, always the weekend after Labor Day, is the only storytelling festival in Wisconsin. It is a fantastic family weekend with scary stories on Friday night and family and children’s stories and activities on Saturday afternoon. Saturday night is the adult cabaret where the stories are geared for those eighteen and over. The festival brings in high level National Talent every year while continuing to highlight local and regional tellers. With two stages and a full schedule of tellers and musicians, the La Crosse Storytelling Festival also has a silent auction, book store, jugglers, face painting, and the state’s best fest food. Come and enjoy the magic of storytelling!