Illinois Itinerary: Mississippi River Tour

Region: Northern, Western, Southwest

Follow the flow of the Mighty Mississippi River as it snakes along the scenic western edge of Illinois. Along the way you’ll be charmed by the picturesque river towns on its banks, and learn about influential one-time residents who range from John Deere to President Ulysses Grant.

Day 1: Galena/Moline/Rock Island

John Deere Pavillion

Credit: John Deere Pavillion

Start your Mississippi River tour in the historic town of Galena, a bustling hub for steamboats and lead mining during the 1800s. Shop the charming Main Street, noted for its 19th century buildings that today house modern shops, galleries and restaurants. Take a tour of the area with Galena Trolley Tours. Docents provide the inside scoop on local landmarks and historic sites such as the Ulysses S. Grant Home. Have lunch at Fried Green Tomatoes, an upscale Italian restaurant that was once a leather shop owned by Grant’s family. Next, visit Moline, the hometown of farming hero John Deere. Learn how he changed the world’s agricultural landscape at the John Deere Pavilion and John Deere Collectors Center. Enjoy a dinner and dance cruise on the Mississippi River aboard the 800-passenger Celebration Belle. Afterwards, roll the dice at Jumer’s Casino Rock Island, a three-deck riverboat right on the Mississippi.

Day 2: Nauvoo/Quincy

Quincy Museum

Quincy Museum

Begin the day in Nauvoo, a river town that’s rich in Mormon history. Visit the Joseph Smith Historic Site, which traces the Latter-day Saints movement in 1840s Nauvoo. Join a guided walk or take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the site to see such Mormon landmarks as the Brigham Young Home and the Smith Homestead. Have lunch at nearby Thyme & Seasons Restaurant. Then stop by Baxter’s Vineyards & Winery, Illinois’ oldest winery, for a taste of its new Apple Smack sweet apple wine. Afterwards, travel the scenic Great River Road to Quincy. Learn about Quincy’s renowned architecture at the Gardner Museum of Architecture & Design, housed in the town’s 1888 public library. Tour the Governor John Wood Mansion, considered one of the finest existing examples of Greek Revival architecture in the Midwest. Finish your evening at The Pier Restaurant, known for its great sunset views of the Mississippi.

Day 3: Alton/Hartford

Alton Marina

Alton Marina, Alton

Complete your Mississippi River experience in Alton at the National Great Rivers Museum, located on the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway. The museum illustrates the history and important transportation role of the Mississippi through interactive exhibits and displays. The museum is located at the Melvin Price Locks & Dam, which is open to the public for guided tours. Have lunch at Castelli’s Moonlight Restaurant, an Alton dining tradition for more than 60 years. Afterwards, make tracks to the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in nearby Hartford. See a replica of Camp River Dubois and a full-scale model of the keelboat that the explorers used to set out on their journey from Illinois.

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