Photo Credit: Wisconsin Free Fun Weekend (Statewide)

Free Things (or almost free*) to do on the Great River Road 

It’s always nice to have a budget when traveling, here is a select list of free attractions including fine art, historic centers, public art, beautiful gardens and experiential opportunities up and down the Great River Road.

#planyourdrive #planyourriverroadtrip


Como Park Zoo & Conservatory (Saint Paul, MN) 

Two million annual visitors come to visit the polar bears, large cats, giraffes, gorillas, orangutans, seals and sea lions, large bonsai collection and seasonal flowers shows 365 days a year.

Second Saturday’s MMAM (Winona, MN) *

Overlooking the Mississippi, $1 each gets you in for tours, live music, and special exhibits each month. Other highlights include works by Georgia O’Keeffe, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, and more.


Hear Hear La Crosse (La Crosse, WI)

In this downtown, orange signs with the Hear, Here logo show where to pull out your mobile phone, dial the number and listen to first-person accounts of things that happened in the location where you stand.

Wisconsin Free Fun Weekend (Statewide) 

For this weekend, there is no need for state park admission stickers, trail passes, or fishing licenses and many of the trails take you to the top for panoramic views of the Mississippi River.


Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens

(Dubuque, Iowa) 

The 56-acre grounds includes rose gardens, English gardens, Japanese gardens, herb, shade, and prairie Wildflowers and grasses and more, stop by during their “Music in the Gardens” series.

Vander Veer Botanical Park (Davenport, Iowa) 

Check out the Enabling Garden featuring plantings that stimulate all the senses, includes raised planting beds and containers for persons of any age or ability and includes garden elements.


John Deere Harvester Works Factory Tour (East Moline, IL) 

Get a behind-the-scenes look as our factory guides take visitors through the process including assembling planters, combines, tractors, harvesters, and balers from the first cut to finished product.

Apple River Fort State Historic Site (Elizabeth, IL)

Epic tale of the 1832 Black Hawk War, featuring a reconstruction of the fort modeled upon historical findings. Open year-round, the interpretive center features exhibits and open for self-guided tours.


Weldon Spring Site Interpretive Center

(St. Charles, MO)

Window to the past; houses exhibits that present a photographic history of the Weldon Spring area, featuring educational and outreach programs, tours, research and recreation opportunities.

Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse

(Hannibal, MO) 

The Lighthouse sits on top of Cardiff Hill, offering a gorgeous view of Hannibal and the Mississippi River, head to the north end of Main Street in historic downtown Hannibal to tackle the 244 steps.


Wall to Wall Murals (Paducah, KY) 

Take a self guided tour of the 50 murals, these life-sized paintings were created by Robert Dafford and team. The work references “”Portraits from Paducah’s Past” and “creative connection” to its history.

LowerTown Arts District (Paducah, KY) 

Lower Town is Paducah’s oldest residential neighborhood and a creative art hub of this “culturally diverse art community”.  It is home to Paducah School of Art and Design and many working artists.


Memphis Brooks Museum of Art (Memphis, TN)

Tennessee’s largest collection of world art, including 10,000 works in their permanent collection, works from Greece, Rome & the Americas. Check out masterpieces from Italy, contemporary art and more.

Free Days (Memphis, TN) 

Memphis in its entirety offers many free things to do. The list goes on and on, at the link find some of the many free attractions, shows, events, exhibits and presentations citywide.


Helena Museum of Phillips County (Helena, AR)

This is the oldest museum in Arkansas, a must see historic and cultural destination housing artifacts from the county and nation. With the main mission of ensuring the past of the Arkansas Delta for future destinations.

Delta Cultural Center (Helena, AR)

The Delta Cultural Center’s mission is to “preserve, interpret and present the cultural heritage…” of the region, touching on blues history, Mississippi River and more.


River Road Queen Welcome Center (Greenville, MS) 

This welcome Center resembles Victorian riverboats of the past, and was originally serving in the 1984 New Orleans World’s Fair. Now home to exhibits, presentations, and history of Mississippi and the river.

Jesse Brent Lower Mississippi River Museum  (Vicksburg, MS)

Learn about the river’s past and the science behind the river’s movement.  A 1,500 gallon aquarium allows you to view fish native to the Mississippi River.  Plus, there is an outdoor flood model. The best part might be the river boat, it’s a good idea to wear non-slip shoes when touring.


Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Jay Lamm

Louisiana Art and Science Museum (Baton Rouge, Louisiana) 

Offering free admission to the galleries on the first Sunday of each month, featuring ongoing exhibitions, events,  interactive art and science galleries, rotating fine art exhibitions, and the state-of-the-art Irene W. Pennington Planetarium.

Besthoff Sculpture Garden (New Orleans, LA) 

11 acre sculpture garden featuring Frank Gehry, Jeppe Hein, Georg Herold, Thomas Houseago, Shirazeh Houshiary, Baltasar Lobo, Robert Longo, Larry Bell, Katharina Fritsch and more