In 1938, states along the Mississippi River had the foresight to establish a driving route along America’s greatest river. The route was named the Great River Road and it spanned 3,000 beautiful miles and 10 states. For generations, people have been following the green and white pilot wheel signs to unforgettable adventures. There are probably as many reasons to be thankful for this route as there are travelers, but here are a few reasons why so many return to this beautiful byway.
The Great River Road leads travelers to some unforgettable meals. From Arkansas hot tamales to Louisiana beignets, you’re never far from a delicious local specialty. Need some recommendations? Check out our fan favorites- they’ve shared some of their favorite restaurants, bakeries, breweries, farmers markets and more. Search their tips by state to find great food stops for your trip.
The Mississippi Delta is Blues country, and the route is your ticket to the show. Start by taking a trip through the Magnolia State and drive through the land of legends. Here are some of the sights you won’t want to miss along the route.
The Mississippi River Valley offers spectacular scenery that changes dramatically along the route. Northern stretches will take you through forests and past towering bluffs. You’ll discover impressive vistas in places like Perrot State Park in Trempealeau, Wisconsin and Pikes Peak State Park in McGregor, Iowa.
Look up, when you’re on the Great River Road and you’ll likely find you have company. This Great River Road travels along the Mississippi Flyway, a migration route used by 40 percent of North America’s waterfowl and shorebirds. There are abundant birding locations along the route; here are a few good bets.
A drive along the Great River Road will take you through a region steeped with musical history and tradition. Head into the southern states along the river to discover rich musical heritage that is preserved in the Great River Road Interpretive Centers, local festivals and lively venues. Sound like a good time? Here are three states to hit on your next musical adventure.
Louisiana is a rich gumbo of musical traditions, including Cajun, Dixieland, Jazz, Blues, Country and Rock ‘n Roll. Head to the heart of New Orleans for a big helping of Louisiana’s musical offerings.
This famous hot spot is as famous for partying as it is for its live Jazz. Join the crowd and sample live music from great clubs like Fritzel’s European Jazz Club, Funky Butt, and Palm Court Jazz Café and iconic Preservation Hall.
The State of Mississippi gave birth to of Delta Blues, a style which is widely considered to be the progenitor of all other forms of the Blues.
Mississippi is Blues country and you’ll find Blues-related attractions, including Tunica’s Bluesville Showcase Night Club. A good place to begin your Mississippi Blues journey is the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale.
Tennessee is another state steeped in musical history. Memphis is called the “Birthplace of the Blues” and is home to Beale Street, Tennessee’s most-visited attraction. See live blues music while enjoying a beverage and eating some of the region’s best ribs. Before leaving town, head to Graceland to see the famous estate of Elvis Presley.
Looking for some fun along the Great River Road in Louisiana? Be sure to check out these can’t-miss locations.
Baton Rouge. Louisiana’s capital city sits along the shores of the Mississippi River, and you’ll find an abundance of fun in the “Red Stick.” Visit area plantations, stop by the zoo or museum with the kids, take in an LSU football game or try your luck at the L’auberge Casino—it’s all available to you in Baton Rouge. Plan your Baton Rouge visit here.
Plantation country. All along the Great River Road in Louisiana, you’ll find beautiful, historic antebellum homes, many of which have lodging opportunities available. Be sure to visit the iconic Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Houmas House in Darrow or—if you’re brave—St. Francisville’s Myrtles Plantation, reputedly one of the most haunted spots in America.
New Orleans. If you’re ending your trip at the southern terminus of the Great River Road, well, there’s no better city to spend a well-deserved break. From Mardi Gras to live music on pretty much every corner to delicious food (don’t forget the beignets!) and intriguing history, the Big Easy offers something for every traveler. Learn more about visiting New Orleans here.
Looking for more Great River Road attractions in Louisiana? You can find them here.
Blues history is alive and well along the Great River Road. And while the genre is most prominent in the Deep South, you’ll find blues highlights in other states along the Mississippi as well.
Born in the Mississippi Delta in the late 19th century, blues originated from African American spirituals, work songs and chants. It’s no wonder then that Mississippi is flourishing with blues history. The Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale honors Mississippi as the birthplace of the blues, and the Mississippi Blues Trail tells stories through words and images of historic bluesmen.
Memphis’ Beale Street District served as a music haven for African Americans at the turn of the 20th century and remains a legendary blues entertainment destination. Memphis also boasts the Mississippi River Museum, which features five galleries explaining the origins of the blues, including pieces such as vintage band equipment, radios and various records.
The Delta Cultural Center in Helena, Arkansas focuses on the history of the Arkansas Delta, presenting exhibits, educational programs, tours and more. Their current exhibit, called, “Helena: Main Street of the Blues,” gives a unique perspective of the delta’s rich blues history.
Finally, Chicago’s Blues Chicago club features some of the area’s best blues artists and is a popular blues hotspot for fans all over the world.
Experience rich blues history along the Great River Road.
Explore the rich blues music history of the Arkansas Delta at the Delta Cultural Center, located in historic downtown Helena, AK. Comprised of two locations, the Depot and the Visitors Center, guests can learn Delta history through the museum’s exhibits, programs, events and tours. Visit the Depot’s “A Heritage of Determination” exhibit to learn about Delta history from the time of its earliest inhabitants through the great Mississippi River floods. Then walk a block north to the Visitors Center and see the “Delta Sounds” music exhibit.
Delta Cultural Center
141 Cherry St.
Helena, AR 72342
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