The Wonders of the Great River Road

Mississippi River Tour

Ah, this mighty river has some stories to tell. And you’ll hear your share of them as you wind along the scenic western edge of Illinois. Tour President Grant’s home, learn about the humble beginnings of John Deere, visit an historic Mormon site and see where Lewis & Clark started their history-making journey.


Day 1: Galena

Historic Town in Northwest Illinois

A trip to the idyllic past, from presidents' homes to ghost tours.

See Highlights

Start your Mississippi River tour in the historic town of Galena, a bustling hub for steamboats and lead mining during the 1800s. Hop aboard Galena Trolley Tours and learn the fascinating stories behind Galena’s grand mansions and historic sites.

Take a guided tour of the restored Ulysses S. Grant Home, a gift to the Civil War hero and U.S. president from the people of Galena. Have lunch at Vinny Vanucchi's, a charming three-level restaurant that dishes up family-style Italian meals.

Shop along Galena's Main Street, filled with stores and art galleries housed in nineteenth-century buildings. Then take the Stagecoach Trail through the beautiful countryside and check out the award-winning Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery. Tour the winery and vineyard, and sample the latest vintages.

For dinner, enjoy authentic Irish food and entertainment at Frank O’Dowd’s Irish Pub, a lively spot in the The Irish Cottage Boutique Hotel. Afterwards, stroll through downtown Galena with Annie Wiggins Ghost Tours, led by an eerily costumed guide who tells spooky tales about the town.

Day 2: The Quad Cities & Beyond

Riverboats and Sunset Views

Explore the unique atmosphere of Illinois' river towns.

See Highlights

Next, visit Moline, the hometown of John Deere, and learn how he changed the world's farming landscape forever at the John Deere Pavilion, which has undergone a major renovation and will re-open in February 2012. Enjoy a narrated lunch cruise on the Mississippi River aboard the 800-passenger Celebration Belle.

Then head for Nauvoo, a river town rich in Mormon history. Visit the Joseph Smith Historic Site, which traces the Latter-day Saints movement in 1840s Nauvoo. Join a guided walk or take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the site to see such Mormon landmarks as the Brigham Young Home and the Smith Homestead. Then stop by Baxter's Vineyards & Winery, Illinois' oldest winery.

Afterwards, travel the scenic Great River Road to Quincy. Learn about Quincy's renowned architecture at the Gardner Museum of Architecture & Design, housed in the town's 1888 public library. Tour the Governor John Wood Mansion, considered one of the finest existing examples of Greek Revival architecture in the Midwest. End your day with dinner at The Pier Restaurant, known for its beautiful sunset views of the Mississippi.

Day 3: On to Southern Illinois

Where Rivers Meet the Forest

Travel along the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway to the forests of Southern Illinois.

See Highlights

Continue your Mississippi River experience in Alton at the National Great Rivers Museum, located on the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway. The museum illustrates the history of the Mississippi through interactive exhibits and displays. It’s located at the Melvin Price Locks & Dam, which is open to the public for guided tours. Have lunch in downtown Alton at My Just Desserts, known for its homemade sandwiches and delicious desserts.

Afterwards, make tracks to the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in nearby Hartford. See a replica of Camp River Dubois and a full-scale model of the keelboat that the explorers used to set out on their journey from Illinois. Climb the nearby 150-foot-tall Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower for a breathtaking view of the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

Later, take a scenic drive through Pere Marquette State Park in Grafton. Pere Marquette is the largest state park in Illinois, offering everything from hiking to eagle watching in the winter.