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Photo Credit: Jim Henson Delta Boyhood Exhibit (Leland, MS)

Hidden Gems on the Great River Road

The river road has many fun and uniquely local attractions that should be added to your travel itinerary. But try not to overlook these hidden gems sprinkled along the Mississippi.

  ~Minnesota~

The Munsinger and Clemens Gardens (St.Cloud, MN)

Photo Credit: Hope Toussaint

The Munsinger and Clemens Gardens

(St.Cloud, MN)

Central Minnesota holds a botanical beauty! The adjacent gardens bloom a variety of flow beds and plants right along the Mississippi River. Multiple visitors claim the grounds are well-maintained and clean.

Minnesota Marine Art Museum

(Winona, MN)

Van Gogh, Picasso, and Matisse are a few big names that are housed in Winona. Exhibits showcase marine artworks of local and national artists to foster community engagement with arts, as well as focus on preservation and interpretation of the human connection with water.

 ~Wisconsin~

FAST Fiberglass Mold Graveyard (Sparta, WI)

FAST Fiberglass Mold Graveyard (Sparta, WI)

Make sure your phone is charged! The fiberglass mold graveyard is a perfect photo op with molds ranging from animals to cartoon figures. FAST gathered 600 molds from previous jobs for visitors to enjoy.

Castlerock Museum (Alma, WI)

Exhibits of historical armory pieces from ancient Greece to the early modern period make Castlerock Museum a great family stop in Alma. Display items include a Roman helmet and sword, a viking sword, a gun shield from King Henry VIII armory, and more! 

~Iowa~

Fenelon Place Elevator (Dubuque, IA)

The world’s shortest and steepest scenic railway is located in the business district of Dubuque. The top of the railway holds spectacular views of three states and the Mississippi River.

Phelps Park (Decorah, IA)

Hidden in the bluffs of Decorah, stonework, bridges, and trails wait for hikers to explore natural beauty. Visitors may also appreciate the overlook of the valley and playgrounds for the young ones to have fun on.

~Illinois~

Mermet Springs (Belknap, IL)

Dive into the waters and discover a submerged airplane and cement petting zoo! The surface of Mermet Springs may look like a normal quarry, but underneath the surface water is a discovery of wonders.

The Dowling House (Galena, IL)

Galena’s historical environment and preservation has coined the title “the town that time forgot”. So it wouldn’t come as a surprise that the town’s once only trading post and oldest house is a must-visit for history buffs.

 ~Missouri~

Cave Vineyard & Distillery (Ste. Genevieve, MO)

Cave Vineyard & Distillery (Ste. Genevieve, MO)

After opening the cork and sipping, mosey on over to Saltpeter Cave in Ste. Genevieve! Grapes are grown a few feet from the winery and the family’s wine concoctions have earned multiple awards.

Missouri Wall of Fame (Cape Girardeau, MS)

Cape Girardeau’s flood wall depicts some of Missouri’s most famous figures.  The multicolored murals can turn an afternoon walk into a local history lesson with information markers dispersed along a walk path.

~Kentucky~

Wooldridge Monuments (Mayfield, KY)

The lifesize statues of Henry Wooldridge and his family comprise a collection of 18 human and animal figures. The statues commemorate Henry’s loved ones in the most elaborate and decorative form – Henry’s statue alone was crafted in Italy!

The Moonshine Company (Paducah, KY)

Time to find your inner moonshiner! Learn the history and trade of Kentucky’s moonshine business by learning and tasting numerous flavors. If that doesn’t cut it for hard liquor fans, whiskey tasting is also an option!

~Tennessee~

Mid South Military Museum (Atoka, TN)

Mid South Military Museum (Atoka, TN)

In the countryside of Tennessee’s river road, a collection of military equipment from the Civil War period to modern day are displayed in Atoka’s “hidden treasure”. Multiple reviews note the museum’s knowledgeable staff and expansive collection.

Reelfoot Lake Pontoon Boat Cruise (Tiptonville, TN)

Reelfoot Lake is full of stories and wildlife hotspots that visitors can learn about! Take the afternoon to the lake for a long pontoon tour with scenic moments and helpful guides.

~ARKANSAS~

Jones Bar-B-Q Diner (Marianna, AR)

Traveling through Arkansas and looking for some wholesome grub? Double check your GPS and re-route to Marianna! Jones Bar-B-Q Diner is described as a “no frills” stop that only serves pork BBQ sandwiches on wonder bread. Did we mention it is believed to be the country’s oldest black-owned restaurant?

Pocahontas ‘Meteorite’ (Pocahontas, AR)

In 1859, a farmer discovered a rock in the Black River and claimed it was a meteorite! Scientists have debunked the claim, but the town still holds true to the legend that it was a meteorite that fell from space in the summer of 1859. What a small town legend! 

~Mississippi~

Brussel’s Bonsai Nursery (Olive Branch, MS)

Brussel’s Bonsai Nursery (Olive Branch, MS)

The world’s largest bonsai nursery is conveniently a 15 minute drive outside of Memphis and into Mississippi. The nursery holds rows of greenhouses with outdoor and indoor bosnair, as well as some of the world’s most unique trees. 

Jim Henson Delta Boyhood Exhibit (Leland, MS)

Fans of The Muppets will be surprised to come across an exhibit commemorating the work and life of creator Jim Henson. Stop by to visit Kermit the Frog’s birthplace and forever swamp home.

~Louisiana~

Fort Proctor (St. Bernard Parish, LA)

Ever visited a Civil War fortress? Near the Mississippi’s convergence with the Gulf are remains of Fort Proctor, a castle look alike that dates back to 1814. Visit soon – Lake Borge is slowly eroding the historical structure.

Angola Museum | Louisiana State Penitentiary

(Angola, LA)

Learn about Louisiana’s history of crime, punishment and reform. Visitors can tour 21 exhibits in an active maximum security prison that is known as “America’s Bloodiest Prison”.