Four cities to visit on the Great River Road

Spring is a great time to hop in the car and see things come alive! Here are four vibrant cities along the Great River Road that offer a great mix of activities and attractions.

Red Wing, Minnesota

There’s a lot to do in this charming community southeast of Minneapolis, which has plenty of outdoor beauty and interesting attractions.

Hike the challenging Barn Bluff trails to find a great view of the Mississippi River. For an easier hike, head to Memorial Park, where there’s another scenic overlook, but the trail is much more manageable. They’ve also got places to picnic and a 9-hole Frisbee golf course.

If you bring your bike, check out the Cannon Valley Trail. You’ll ride through prairies, a turtle preserve, past the site of a 1900s train wreck, to a wetland observation deck and along the Cannon River.

If you love craft beer, check out the Red Wing Brewery, or stop at Falconer Vineyards and Winery. If you’re feeling lucky, check out the Treasure Island Casino in Red Wing. Shoppers will discover tons of locally owned antique stores, art galleries and boutiques. Red Wing is also home to the American Ski Jumping Museum & Hall of Fame. In fact, Red Wing is the birthplace of ski jumping. See what it’s like for yourself on the ski jumping simulator!

Twin Cities, Minnesota

With a population of more than 3.6 million, there’s a lot happening in Minneapolis, St. Paul and surrounding suburbs. Here’s a sample of what you can enjoy.

Shoppers will want to visit the mall of all malls: the Mall of America is home to 500 stores, an indoor amusement park, aquarium, butterfly garden and more.

Flower lovers: head to the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory where they have beautiful seasonal flower shows and a zoo with giraffes, gorillas, polar bears and a sea lion show. It’s free, but they’ll ask for a $2-3 donation.

Kids love the Minnesota Children’s Museum. It underwent a $30 million expansion in 2017 that brought in 10 new exhibits, including a four-story climbing adventure and a place where older kids can build air-powered ping pong ball launchers.

If you love the outdoors, don’t miss Minnehaha Falls Park. The limestone bluffs and river views are gorgeous!

Dubuque, Iowa

Iowa’s oldest cities has been undergoing some exciting changes in recent years and it truly lives up to tis slogan, “Masterpiece on the Mississippi.”

One of the jewels of Dubuque is the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium. The museum focuses on life in and around the country’s waterways. You can see turtles, alligators, bald eagles, octopi, otters, sturgeon and more. Kids love the Creative Adventure Lab, with a two-story climbing wall and a Lego Lab with 1,000 pounds of Lego bricks to build with.

Another must-see spot in Dubuque is the Fenelon Place Elevator. It’s a 3-foot narrow gauge funicular railway. At just under 300 feet long, it takes passengers up 189 feet for an amazing view of historic Dubuque, the Mississippi and three states. The railway started in the late 1880s, as a way to get people to up the bluff without a buggy ride. Foodies will also find a lot to explore in Dubuque: the city is home to several breweries and wineries.

Hannibal, Missouri

Iconic author Mark Twain helped put this storied river town on the map—it was featured as the setting for many of his famous novels. Today you can tour Twain’s home and several other historic buildings.

But that’s just the start of what you can experience in Hannibal. You can also take a narrated, guided trolley tour of the Hannibal for just $10. Or, enjoy a dinner cruise on the Mark Twain Riverboat. Visit the Hannibal History Museum for a “Haunted Hannibal” tour where you’ll learn about unsolved murders and the ghosts of the local B&Bs and businesses.

Enjoy the spectacular views at the Rockcliffe Mansion, a 13,500 square foot turn-of-the-century mansion that overlooks the Mississippi.  At night, it’s a bed and breakfast and you can stay overnight here! Take the kids to Sawyer’s Creek Fun Park for 18 holes of mini-golf, bumper boats, train rides, arcade games and more, plus wine tasting for the grownups.

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