Summer is just around the corner, and that means it’s a great time to drive the Great River Road. You’ll find a lot to see and do along the Mississippi River, from exploring parks to visiting museums and unique attractions, but there are also a lot of great summer events you shouldn’t miss—here’s a closer look.
We’ve asked organizations up and down the river to share some of their best summer events; see a searchable listing here.
Farmers’ markets & foodie events
The Great River Road cuts through some of the most fertile agricultural land in the county, so it’s no surprise that the 10 states along the Mississippi are home to outstanding farmers’ markets, food festivals, and more. Food Truck Fight comes to three Great River Road destinations this summer and fall (Galena in Illinois and Bettendorf and Muscatine in Iowa) and offers tasty food from local food trucks. In mid-May, the annual World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest takes place as part of the annual Memphis in May celebration in Tennessee. (The event also includes the Beale Street Music Festival and the Great American River Run.)
During growing season, Great River Road travelers will find delicious offerings from local producers at farmers all along the river from the La Crosse Farmers Market in Wisconsin to the Crescent City Farmers Market in New Orleans.
Festivals & other fun events
Visit the charming river towns along the Great River Road on the weekend in the summer, and you’re likely to find some sort of fun festival or community celebration. Take the upcoming Mayfest in historic downtown Blytheville, Arkansas, which features a chicken wing competition, live music, and more. Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi is celebrating the 160th anniversary of the famous Civil War siege this year with lectures, cannon firing demonstrations, and walking tours. Or, head to Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site in Kentucky in September to celebrate Kentucky Archaeology Month.
A trip along the Mississippi River is a trip through America’s musical history, and you’ll find plenty of options for live music pretty much everywhere you go. Many of the river towns along the Great River Road offer free concerts during the summer—for instance, you can pull up a chair outside the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal, Missouri, and take in live music at the museum’s Music Under the Stars series. There are also music festivals aplenty, like Weekend at the Cave in Murphysboro, Illinois, where you can enjoy live music in an open air, natural rock-formed amphitheater in the Shawnee National Forest
But it’s not just music—keep your eyes peeled for arts fairs and other events. Theater lovers shouldn’t miss the annual Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, Minnesota, which offers performances of The Bard’s work throughout June and July.
(Photo: Shawnee Cave Amphitheater)