Florida Man on the Run

Our Amazing Great River Road Trip

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We covered 10 states in 16 days. It was quite the journey!

When we made the decision to do a Great River Road trip, I figured it would just be another feather in our road tripping cap. We had done the Pacific Coast Highway and the Blue Ridge Parkway, not to mention countless other small road trips. As the trip got closer and became more real, it set in that we were about to embark on a nearly 3,000 mile journey that would be wildly different than any of the “big” road trips we had taken before. Embarking on that Great River Road trip, and looking back on it as I write this, leaves me wanting to go back and do it all again more than any other trip. So come along on the journey and hopefully at the end you’ll be planning your own Great River Road trip.

Beginning the Great River Road Trip

Living in Jacksonville, part of the journey is often getting to the start. Or even just choosing where you’re going to be starting. We mulled over a couple options, including renting an RV and driving to our start, before we settled on the cheapest and quickest option: flying to Minneapolis. If you’re going to drive along the Mississippi River, you should start where it does.

Minneapolis is an absolutely amazing city. The biggest problem we have with any road trip is falling in love with places we will be in for only a fleeting moment. You have to figure out how to maximize your fun before you’re back on the road. Once we landed in town and picked up some supplies, it was time to see a bit of town.

St. Anthony Falls is a key stop on the Great River Road. The falls are in the heart of Minneapolis
The views of St. Anthony Falls from the Mill River Museum are unbeatable

We spent a good portion of our day at the Mill City Museum, which provided an awesome history of Minneapolis. It has some of the best views of the Mississippi River and St. Anthony Falls as well, so we recommend making a stop here. History and scenic views, how can you say no?

However, when you’re in a big city like Minneapolis, its important to find some nightlife while you’re there. With that in mind, I booked us a hotel right across the street from the best show in town at Gay 90s. Every first and third Saturday of the month sees a monster show featuring the best of Minneapolis burlesque and drag all in one place! The show absolutely did not disappoint and when we come back to Minneapolis, we will certainly put this show on our list.

The sign of Gay 90s. This is a perfect entertainment venue for shows along the Great River Road.
An iconic Minneapolis establishment with amazing entertainment!

Minneapolis provided us with an amazing start, but we honestly couldn’t wait to get on the road to the real start of our Great River Road trip.

Heading to the Headwaters

Despite our journey getting its start in Minneapolis, it wasn’t quite the real beginning. For that we needed to get out on the road and make the four hour drive to Lake Itasca and the Mississippi River’s headwaters. However, there was still some neat places to see along the way because why make the straight drive if you don’t have to.

It’s a giant ball of twine!

Immortilized by Weird Al, the Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota was an object we couldn’t miss seeing. Quirky places like this are what cross country road trips are all about, so I made sure to plan this quick stop. It is exactly what you’d expect it to be and that is a giant ball of twine; it’ll certainly make you wonder why someone would do that. After we left the twine ball, there were a couple of personal stops I needed to make, including a town that shares my last name!

How could I pass up the opportunity!

Once to Lake Itasca, we headed straight to the headwaters. The weather wasn’t planning on playing nice the next day and I wanted to see it without a pouring rain. The headwaters aren’t the most awe inspiring place initially, yet they earn your reverence. How could you not appreciate your place in the world knowing that the mighty Mississippi River starts its journey as a small creek flowing out of a lake?

A Florida Man hugging a sign at the headwaters of the Mississippi River. This is the start of the Great River Road
Well, of course I’m wearing my flip-flops and shorts in 45° weather.

We spent that night camping at the Bear Paw Campground in Itasca State Park. The campground sits right against the shores of Lake Itasca. Had the storm front not been rolling in, I’m sure we would have seen a spectacular sunset over the lake. Despite being a touch wet, the weather in early May was perfect for camping in our car. When we got up the next morning, we were able to get on the road quickly and begin our search for a mythical lumberjack and his best friend.

A Big Blue Ox and A Winding River

The earliest parts of the Great River Road winds north through the forests of Minnesota. The first major town you’ll come through is the quirky city of Bemidji. Home of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Big Blue Ox, Bemidji is a great place to grab some breakfast which we certainly did. The Wild Hare Bistro and Coffee House served up some delicious grub which filled us up for the day ahead.

Paul Bunyan and Babe the Big Blue Ox are fixtures along the Great River Road
Can’t pass up an opportunity for a selfie with Paul and Babe!

From there we found the friendly faces of Paul Bunyan and Babe. They were hanging out next to the shore of Lake Bemidji and are always happy to greet visitors. So despite the increasing rain, I was more than happy to oblige their hospitality. Taking a moment to get dry, we wandered in and looked at some of the impressively sized tools Paul has used in his life. It was really neat to see all the stuff, but like any road trip we had to get back on the road.

As the day went on and we cruised through the back roads, the rain finally began to let up. Which was perfect because it let me grab a dry picture with a big ol’ fish along the road! We also swung through the city of Grand Rapids with the intention of seeing the Judy Garland Museum. Unfortunately, they had just changed their hours for the season and were closed! Despite the disappointment in missing the museum, we kept on trucking as the sun came out.

Some of the best views on our first day along the river came south of Grand Rapids. The Great River Road hugs along the Mississippi River for much of this distance. We were constantly amazed by the river popping into view and how close we could get. I definitely recommend taking the time to stop and enjoy the river through this stretch as much as possible. These were some of the quietest moments on our entire Great River Road Trip.

A view of the Mississippi River along the Great River Road.
The views along the river were a pleasant part of our day

Once we came through Palisade, it was beginning to get later into the day. This presented an option of setting up camp in the dark or getting off the Great River Road and speeding the trip up a bit. We went with the second choice which gave us a chance to grab dinner in Brainard before reaching camp just before sunset. Thankfully, its pretty quick to setup camp when you’re sleeping in the car so we got to bed after dark all alone in Lindburgh State Park.

Through The City to Find Laura Ingalls Wilder on the Great River Road

The second official day of our Great River Road Trip was geared towards the drive back through Minneapolis. It’s a funny thing to know you’ve spent two and a half days of driving a big loop. Yet, here we were leaving Little Falls on our continued trek down the Mississippi back to the city. We staked out the road until we reached St. Cloud, where a detour made it quicker for us to get on I-94. Knowing we had a destination in the city, this wasn’t a big issue.

Speeding down I-94 brought us pretty quickly to the heart of Minneapolis once again. We rejoined our main street along the river here. The road hugs the entire river through the heart of the city and was absolutely gorgeous in Early May. There are ample parks to stop and explore, though we settled on Minnehaha Regional Park. This happens to be the SECOND Minnehaha Falls that I’ve happened to visit, which you wouldn’t necessarily expect with a name like Minnehaha. The park is a fantastic place to bring the kids or have a picnic as evidenced by the numerous school buses full of kids running through the park. The namesake falls (from which Minneapolis gets its name) were an awesome site. Definitely not something you’d expect to find in a major city, but Minneapolis continually catches you off guard.

Minnehaha Falls is located in Minneapolis along the Great River Road
Minnehaha Falls is a gem in the heart of Minneapolis

After our peaceful walk around the park, we loaded back up for the highlight destination of the day. As we crossed into Wisconsin for the first time, it became pretty evident why State Road 35 is considered one of the most scenic roads in America. The overlooks and views along the river and beside Lake Pepin were amazing. One of the hardest parts of this trip is not stopping at every opportunity to gaze at the landscape.

Eventually we made it to our afternoon destination of Pepin, Wisconsin. This small town on the Mississippi River was once the childhood home of Laura Ingalls Wilder. The museum is a wonderful collection of objects related to her life and the time she grew up in. For any fan of her books, it is an absolute must-see. As an added bonus, not far away is a replica of the house she spent her earliest years in. It sits on the same property as when she was a child. It was another really neat piece of history and one that could be easily missed if you weren’t seeking it out.

The cabin of Laura Ingalls Wilder outside of Pepin, Wisconsin is just off of the Great River Road.
It’s a Little Cabin in the Big Woods

From Great Bluffs to Detours in Wisconsin on the Great River Road

For our third night of camping, we settled on Minnesota’s Great River Bluffs State Park. With what became a common theme for this part of the trip, no one was there. Keep this as a handy future piece of advice that most of these parks are empty until after Memorial Day. The camping here was about as off-road as we were comfortable with, but is full-service. It also has access to some spectacular hikes and overlooks that are easy to do. I took advantage of one hike for some hazy sunrise photos on the morning of our fourth day. It is easily one of the best places to see a sunrise over the Mississippi.

After we packed up and got back on the road, we crossed back to Wisconsin for the final time. The city of La Crosse awaited us on the other side of the river. We took the chance to stretch our legs with a walk around downtown to grab some coffee and see the river. I also had to stop on the way out of La Crosse to see the World’s Largest Six Pack! It’s definitely a highlight of any trip on the Great River Road through Wisconsin.

You can find the world's largest Six pack on the Great River Road
Would take a while to drink that six-pack!

South of La Cross we continued along the beautiful State Road 35. That is, until we ran into a lengthy detour! This has become a common theme on our road trips, with our PCH trip interrupted by a fairly exciting one. We wound through the Wisconsin countryside and could really tell we were going to be DEEP into farm country soon. Once we returned to the scenic Mississippi River, it was time to leave Wisconsin for Iowa.

Dreaming In Iowa

Our first stop in Iowa took us to Effigy Mounds, however, we didn’t have the time or energy to make the long hike to see any major mounds. This is definitely going to be a place we come back to. It did give us time to stop at Pikes Peak State Park though. Let me tell you this: you have to stop here. The spectacular overlook of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers should not be missed.

Pikes Peak State Park overlook of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers
Pikes Peak was a fantastic spot for a panorama

We continued south until the road veered east in Millville. I had another destination I’d dreamed of visiting for many years that took priority. Iowa’s farm country welcomed us as we weaved our way south to our destination: The Field of Dreams. It is impossible to go to Iowa, especially eastern Iowa, without making a stop here. We ran the bases, enjoyed the smells, took plenty of photos, and generally enjoyed feeling like kids.

Backstop of the Field of Dreams in Dyersburg, Iowa
The field every kid dreams of playing on one day

Once we drug ourselves from the Field of Dreams, it was time to complete our day with a drive into Dubuque. Dinner was an intimate affair full of delicious German food at Europa Haus Restaurant and Bier Stube. Before settling down for the night, we wanted to take in some additional views over the river. Eagle Point Park has a beautiful view over Lock & Dam #11 as well as the states of Wisconsin and Illinois!

We then made our way to a warm and humid night camping right along the Mississippi. Miller Riverview Park was the perfect place to camp. You can literally park your car, RV, or even tent right against the river. If you want to camp on the river, there was almost no better place to do so on this Great River Road Trip.

View of the Mississippi River during sunrise at Miller Riverview Park just off the Great River Road in Iowa
Hard to beat camping with views like this on the river

Exploring Iowa’s Mississippi River Industries

Leaving Dubuque meant we had a long day winding down the Great River Road on Iowa’s border with Illinois. So much of our nation’s history lays along these waters, but it is largely unknown unless you have lived there for a while. When I was planning this portion of the trip, I largely left it as a blank slate. I had no idea what was worth seeing and what wasn’t until we hit the road that morning. It’s good to leave somethings to the last minute.

This was how we zeroed in on a couple of quirky and yet uniquely Iowa museums. The first one of the day, the Sawmill Museum in Clinton. Definitely geared towards families, the museum told a fantastic story of the timber industry. Certainly, when you think of Iowa, you don’t think of the timber industry and yet here was a sawmill museum in the heart of Iowa!

The Sawmill museum is a perfect family stop on the Great River Road
Who knew Iowa had a lumber industry?

A little further down the road, we stopped into the National Pearl Button Museum. This was yet another industry that I had no idea was such a major part of Iowa’s own past. It was jam packed with a ton of interesting exhibits and even had old machines that were used to produce the buttons in the industry’s infancy. As an added bonus, it was also an interpretive center that has some useful information for your Great River Road Trip.

Between these two nifty museums, we had a yummy lunch at Brew in Davenport. Lindsay Park right next door was a great place to stretch our legs and enjoy the warm afternoon sun while looking over the Mississippi River as it flowed through the Quad Cities. The Quad Cities are a part of the trip I wish we’d spent more time exploring.

From the Land of Lincoln to the Tales of Mark Twain

Despite my desire to explore Davenport more, we had to keep trucking. As we passed into the Land of Lincoln, our next stop was the historic city of Nauvoo. It’s a city with a complicated history, but remains a religious center for members of the LDS church. The temple and its overlook of the river below are absolutely stunning when paired together. Heading down the hill to the “historic” portion of the town, it is interesting to see how the town was originally laid out.

The Nauvoo Temple is one of the tallest structures on the Great River Road
The temple on the hill is an impressive structure

South of Nauvoo, the stretch of State Road 96 our Great River Road trip followed through Illinois was beautiful. Like so many stretches on this trip, there is an unassuming beauty in these simple river roads. It’s important to enjoy the drive fully and take a minute to pull over to take it all in. Don’t take these stretches for granted because they’ll disappear behind you before you know it.

We spent the night at a hotel in Quincy despite our initial intentions to camp. The heat eventually became too much to sleep in the back of our rental, even with the windows completely down. From Quincy we took a quick jaunt across the river and found ourselves stepping into the tales of Mark Twain.

The town of Hannibal, MO is where a young Samuel Clemons spent his days. It is well known that Mark Twain based his gaggle of young protagonists on himself and his friends growing up in Hannibal. It was especially cool to be able to walk through his childhood home, but also to see the homes of other people who inspired characters in the story. There is even the white picket fence which features so famously in the Tom Sawyer’s tale. It’s a fantastic experience for anyone even remotely interested in his works. So rarely do you have an opportunity to explore the direct inspirations for an amazing piece of fiction.

Mark Twains boyhood home is directly on the path of the Great River Road
The home of one Mark Twain (or Samuel Clemens, or Tom Sawyer)

A Jam Packed Weekend in St. Louis

St. Louis fortunately serves as the perfect mid-point for any Great River Road Trip. After driving for nearly a week, it was nice to settle down in one place for a few days. However, that didn’t mean we just spent the entire time resting. Quite the contrary actually! From nearly the moment we got to town on Friday until we left Monday morning we were on the go.

It all started Friday night with our trip down to the waterfront. There are a ton of cool riverboat cruises one can book that leave from in front of the arch. We opted for the best of the bunch: The Decked Out Divas. It sails only once a month, so we definitely lucked into being there on the right weekend. However, the girls put on a spectacular show which got our weekend started off on the right foot.

A Florida man in a flamingo shirt along with two drag queens
When it’s your birthday, you do birthday shots and then whatever this pose is?

Saturday brought us away from the city for a bit and to the underground. That is, we drove out to visit the world famous Meramec Caverns! The low 90s heat couldn’t get us down as we enjoyed the cool temps inside the cave. Known to be a hideout of famed outlaw Jesse James, the guided tours of the caves are a lot of fun for all ages. You can pair it with a cruise down the Meramec River like we did, or even get adventurous and tackle the zip lines (which we didn’t do).

Two figures in a dark cave west of St. Louis
The outlaw Jesse James hiding out in Meramec Cavern

After our day out at Meramec, we refreshed at the hotel and then hit the town for yet another show. This time we took in the booming fun of the burlesque dancers at the Boom Boom Room! Our Star Wars show was out of this world and all the entertainers were fantastic, so we highly recommend putting a night here on your to-do list.

When Sunday morning arrived, we were ready for slightly quieter day. What better way to do that than walking around the Zoo? The St. Louis Zoo is a world-class zoo that is fully free to the public. Which you can tell based on all the other people who packed in to enjoy it on that Sunday. No matter how many people were there, it didn’t matter to me for one reason: PENGUINS! They are my favorite animals and St. Louis Zoo features a chilled enclosure making it possible for them to have cold weather penguins. This was honestly one of the highlights of the entire Great River Road trip for me.

Man in a Florida Man on the Run shirt stands in front of penguins at the St. Louis Zoo
Me and Penguins! (Oh, and rocking some branded merch that you can buy too!)

However, no trip to St. Louis is complete with a visit to the Arch. Gateway Arch National Park is one of the newest national parks in the country and also the smallest. One of the greatest feats of modern engineering, the Arch is a spectacle to behold. Yet, beyond standing outside of it you can also go all the way to the top. Let me be the latest to say, the views from the top are truly spectacular! You can see what feels like all of St. Louis from the tiny observation windows. Don’t come to St. Louis without seeing the Arch.

View of downtown St. Louis from the top of the Gateway Arch is an iconic part of any Great River Road Trip
Just check out the views from up here!

By the time Monday arrived, we were both ready to get on the road but also fully in love with St. Louis. Just like so many other parts of this trip, its a city we will certainly be back to visit.

Five States, Two Confluences, One Day: Great River Road Trip Marathon

Monday was also setup to be the longest day of our Great River Road trip. Our first major stop of the day would take us to the meeting of two mighty sisters. The confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers is one of the greatest confluences in the world. Despite this, the two rivers meet in relative quiet. The drive winds down a dusty dirt road that ends with a nice short hike along a tree covered path. We listened to the birds chirp as strolled alongside the Missouri to where she meets the Mississippi. Frankly, its just was a really nice way to start the day.

Two people who are travelling the Great River Road standing by the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers
Just a couple cool kids hanging out by the confluence

Leaving St. Louis and knowing how much ground there was to cover it was time to get on I-55. Plus, the Great River Road in Missouri is not well signed or a major part of the route. We sped on down the interstate, eventually getting off in Cape Giradeau on our way to Cairo, Illinois. Cairo’s claim to fame (besides being a famous Egyptian city) is its location at the meeting of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. This confluence was a little easier to reach, with a couple of friendly families fishing along the shore. It was so cool that it was just another simple walk to dip your toes in the water of two mighty rivers.

The confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers is right off the Great River Road
Mississippi meet Ohio

Once we left the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers behind it seemed like a mad dash through our next three states. The sun was already getting low in the sky as we pushed through Kentucky on the Great River Road and nearly got the car stuck venturing off road a bit! The rye was high which provided us with some beautiful fields to appreciate as sunset approached. From Kentucky we passed into Tennessee and were immediately met with some lightning bug friends! The first night driving of the trip took us through the rest of Tennessee, back into Missouri, and eventually into Arkansas. It was an awfully long day on the road, but the next day finally brought some friends along the journey.

Friendly Faces Down in Memphis

We got to meet up with a couple of friends from Arkansas who joined us for a great day down in Memphis. We started our joint adventure with a walk through the Memphis Botanic Garden. It was setup to celebrate Alice in Wonderland, so we had a chance to see some amazing works of flower art. Beyond the featured exhibit, the grounds themselves are a wonderful place to spend a day.

A purple orchid with a bumblebee inside of the at the Memphis Botanic Garden
The bees were having a nice day at the gardens as well

After that we jumped over to munch on some delicious BBQ at One and Only BBQ. I’d highly recommend them if you’re looking for big portions and tasty food. Once we had our fill, it was time for a few refreshing beers over at Hammer & Ale. Their outdoor patio was the perfect place to refresh, even in the warm afternoon sun. Then it was time to make our way to the bright lights and sounds of the famous Beale Street. We quenched our thirst even further at Wet Willy’s while taking it all in. Before we knew it, it’s 11pm and time to head on home for the night.

The sign in front of Beale Street is one you'll head right past on your Great River Road trip
Welcome to Beale Street

The next day we came back down to Memphis to spend another day in this famous city. Little did we know it would almost entirely be spent at the National Civil Rights Museum. The experience of standing outside the Loraine Motel was unimaginably powerful. Yet, once we were inside, we were engrossed with every exhibit. While the museum website says to plan for 1.5 hours, I’d say its closer to 3-4 hours. You simply must visit the museum at least once because it will be a life changing experience.

The National Civil Rights Museum is key stop on any Great River Road trip
How different the world might be if what took place here didn’t happen?

Our second day in Memphis was wrapped up with a visit to two other Memphis experiences. The first was a scooter rider over to Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken. This little chicken joint in downtown Memphis certainly lives up to its name. The chicken was hot, fresh, juicy, and a perfect alternative to grabbing more BBQ for dinner. From Gus’s we drove on over to the mother of all Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid. If you’re in Memphis, you’ve got to make a stop here even for just a minute. Since it’s located right against the river, it also meant we were in a great spot to catch the sunset before heading back to our hotel for the evening. Memphis is definitely the best part of the Great River Road when it passes through Tennessee.

Sunset over West Memphis with foliage in the foreground along the Great River Road
Memphis provided a backdrop for a wonderful sunset

History in the Mississippi Delta

You probably noticed our trip to Memphis didn’t include a visit to Graceland. Frankly, we really didn’t care about Graceland and unless you’re a major Elvis fan you probably won’t either. What I did want to make sure we visited was the Delta Blues Museum down in Clarksdale. It wouldn’t be a Great River Road trip without visiting the birthplace of Blues or driving down ol’ Highway 61!

Can't do a Great River Road trip without driving down Highway 61 in Mississippi
Sometimes you gotta take a picture with a sign!

The Delta Blues Museum has a ton of fantastic exhibits detailing the lives of influential blues artists including B.B. King, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and more. It even features the reconstruction of Muddy Water’s childhood shack and a guitar made from wood taken from it that ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons had made in Muddy’s honor. Our stop in Clarksdale was made even better since we got lunch at Zee’s Barbeque. They served up some mighty portions of fried catfish and rib tips! Honestly, one of the best places we ate at while in Mississippi.

After filling our bellies, it was time to hit the road to Vicksburg. On our way, we made a quick stop at the Winterville Mounds. The mounds are some of the largest remaining in the world, yet I didn’t know they were there until we were right on top of them. We passed through Greenville and back into Arkansas so we could drive some of the Great River Road in that state. We eventually crossed into Louisiana as well, meaning we had officially visited all 10 states on the Great River Road! Tired and hungry we grabbed some dinner before settling into our Airbnb in Vicksburg.

Vicksburg National Military Park is a must stop on the Great River Road to see the Shirley House.
The Shirley House is the only remaining original structure inside the park

The next morning started with even more history to explore. Vicksburg National Military Park is home to one of the pivotal battles of the Civil War. The defining feature of the park are the two roads which follow the separate battle lines carved out during the siege. It is fascinating to drive along where two opposing armies once faced off. Much like Gettysburg (a battle occurring at the same time), it is hard not to be in awe of what took place here. History buff or not, you’ll definitely want to visit the battlefield.

Running on Empty in New Orleans

At this point in our trip we had already driven 2,587 miles. We were feeling drained for sure. This final full day on our lengthy Great River Road trip was all about getting to our final destination. Ultimately, this meant we spent little time in potentially iconic places like Natchez and Baton Rouge. My intention is to rectify this with a second run down the southern portion of the route with more time in each individual place.

A view from the top of a levy at the Louisiana Bayous just off the Great River Road
The river goes where it wants on its side of the levies

Unlike so many of the previous miles along the Mississippi River, the Great River Road in Louisiana is sheltered by the levies. This made it somewhat less scenic, unless you’re willing to hop on one of the off-shoots that will take you to the dirt roads running along their tops. From here you’ll have a fantastic vantage point of the river, often through the many cypress trees which line her shores. We had a late night arrival in New Orleans, so our final moments on the road were in the dark surrounded by the bright lights of refineries along the Mississippi.

One good night’s rest later, we were ready to tackle what we could of New Orleans. We left the rental car at the hotel, intent on traversing New Orleans by foot. Well, and also by using their street cars! We hopped on the St. Charles line for a ride to Bourbon Street. With it being a Saturday afternoon, Bourbon was already rocking as we sat down for lunch at Mambo’s. We then wandered through the French Quarter taking in the sights and sounds of an iconic neighborhood.

At least we did until the rains came! Despite the attempts of our little umbrella, we had to find some shelter. Fortunately, shelter came with frozen alcoholic beverages courtesy of Willie’s Chicken Shack (no relation to Wet Willy’s). We enjoyed our drinks until the rain let up, then found ourselves just steps away from Cafe du Monde. No trip to New Orleans is complete without beignets, and no beignets are more famous than from here. It was quite nice to simply people watch while we munched our beignets.

St. Louis Cathedral stands in the rain as an iconic landmark on the Great River Road
St. Louis Cathedral still looks regal in the rain

Finally, the nightlife of New Orleans came calling. We walked back through the quarter and then on down to the AllWays Lounge & Cabaret. The fabulous two person variety show was a hilarious way to cap off a nice day in New Orleans as well as celebrating my birthday. The Crescent City is absolutely on our return trips list, and hopefully sooner rather than later.

Homeward Bound from the Great River Road

Despite nearly 3,000 miles on the road already, we still had to actually get home! As we repacked our trusty rental car for the final time, it was possible to literally see all the places we had gone. There were souvenirs from the entire length of the Mississippi River in our car. Even more important were all the memories we were packing away as we got ready to head home. A trip like this is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of road trip. We may do portions of it again in the future, but never the whole shebang. Getting onto Interstate 10 and putting the present of the trip in the past was certainly bittersweet.

A florida man stands under a florida sign at the end of his Great River Road Trip
I love to travel, but it’s always nice to get home

New Orleans to Jacksonville is a fairly simple drive which is all interstate highway. The funniest fact is that you’ll spend more time in Florida than in any of the other three states on the route. The trip home also highlighted the plethora of relatively close destinations we still haven’t seen. It got me to thinking about the next road trip already. Biloxi, Mobile, and Pensacola could be perfect stops on a weeklong Gulf Coast road trip. So as we pulled into the driveway at home, I knew it was only a matter of time until we’d be back on the road.

Resources for Your Great River Road Trip

If you’ve made it to the end of this post then congratulations! You toughed it out for over 5,000 rambling words recapping our Great River Road trip. It also barely scratched the surface of what we saw, or what you could even get a chance to see! If you want to find all my posts about the Great River Road, check out the Great River Road tag. I’ve also got a great post on planning cross country road trips that you should check out. Finally, please don’t hesitate to contact me on any of my social medias or by email!

For resources away from my blog, head over to Experience Mississippi River. They are a fantastic website which gathers a ton of information into one place. You’ll be able to find guides, tips, articles, and links to individual state websites there. They were an invaluable source of initial planning when I first started.

I truly appreciate your support by reading the recap of my trip. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be releasing additional posts which go into greater detail all ten states along the way. To stay up to date with each post, please follow me on Instagram or Facebook! Alternatively, sign up for my newsletter using the box at the bottom of the page! If you loved this post, then pin it and check me out on Pinterest as well!

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21 Responses

  1. Wow – that really was some trip. I really like the way that you travel; part scenery, part nightlife and food, and part museums. There were certainly a few quirky museums in there – I had no idea that there was a Judy Garland Museum! Or the pearl button museum – though I’d have skipped that one as I have Koumpounophobia! I would be seeking out the Meramec Cavern and Mark Train’s house without a doubt though. It all sounded like a lot of fun.

  2. We have done a lot of road trips in the U.S. and have not even done pieces of the Great River Road Trip. But it sure looks like a road trip we need to plan one day. So many great stops along the 3,000 mile trek. Good to know we need to plan enough time and energy to hike at the Effigy Mounds. And I can understand the detour to see the Field of Dreams. A lovely mix of great city stops and wandering on river roads. One day we will follow your route.

  3. Taking a cruise down the Mississippi has long been on my bucket list, but I didn’t realize that you could do it as a road trip! Very cool. I would also need to stop at the ball of twine and the Field of Dreams would be sooo cool! Natchez is on my wish list, so I would give myself time to explore there.

  4. I didn’t know about The Great River Road and I’ve lived in the Midwest my whole life…. I will have to add it to my list of road trips! Like you I have also done the Blue Ridge Parkway and several other road trips in recent years. I’m glad you have fun in St. Louis and New Orleans, they’re two really fun cities! I also like to do a mix of camping and hotel/Airbnb stays on road trips, it looks like you found a good balance here.

    I would also like to spend some time visiting other cities in Louisiana, hopefully you get to make it back to explore Baton Rouge.

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