Anyone who knows me knows that I love a USA Road Trip. We’ve driven east to west on Route 66 and north to south Detroit to Houston in the past. One route I haven’t done (yet) is to follow the Mississippi River from its source to the sea.
The river starts in Minnesota – I’d recommend that you fly into Minneapolis-St Paul airport and then start making your way southbound. According to www.minneapolis.org “Minneapolis grew around St. Anthony Falls, the only naturally occurring falls along the entire length of the Mississippi River. This infinite source of kinetic energy powered the flour mills on both banks of the river that made Minneapolis the flour milling capital of the world for 50 years.”
Leaving Minneapolis to start following the river, you’ll come to the cities of Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. In the former, you can visit the studio of artist Grant Wood (he painted American Gothic) now located in the Museum of Art. In the summer Iowa City hosts performances of Shakespeare in Lower City Park on an outdoor stage. Both cities also have lively nightlife and breweries for locally brewed beverages.
On to Missouri and the river flows past St Louis – here definitely go up the Gateway Arch. It was built in the early 1960s and has a definite sixties vibe around it. From the top, you can see the river and the city.
As you move southwards again, the river flows near the Mark Twain National Forest – the author was strongly associated with the river. He was a steamboat pilot for 4 years leading up to the American Civil War. Read more in his book “Life on the Mississippi” – his account of this time.
The next big city is Memphis and here I’d recommend you stay several days. How else are you going to fit everything in? Sun Studios where Elvis first made his name (and still used by artists today), Stax Museum of American soul music – a great visit, Beale Street – a brilliant night out with incredible musicians in every bar and Graceland, Elvis’ home. Watch out for the bridge over the river here – nicknamed the Dolly Parton bridge and when you see it, you’ll understand! Here you can also board a steamboat and sail to New Orleans, the cruise takes around 5 days and you feel like you’re sailing into the past as you travel further south. Antebellum mansions and Civil War sites help you feel the history.
Baton Rouge is the State Capital of Louisiana – again more history, but the food is southern in flavour. Time to try a po’boy – a cheap but very filling sandwich. Also try the nightlife here – Third Street has lots of bars, restaurants and clubs all within a small walkable area.
Once you can tear yourself away, then head to the final stop for the river in New Orleans. It’s everything you imagine, then more. Take a historic tram ride – the best way to get round the city. More food – with both Cajun and Creole influences. Try jambalaya, crawfish and beignets for deliciousness.
My top tip – this trip will be around 1500-2000 miles, depending on how closely you follow the river, so make sure you have more than one driver and a navigator. Take time to enjoy each stop, with at least 2 nights in each place to avoid exhaustion!
I’d love to help you plan and book this trip, or a road trip along any other river in the world!