Following the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Iowa allows you to visit many important historical sites, to play in wonderful riverfront state parks, and to explore amazing cities. There are so many varied activities to do on a New Orleans to Minneapolis road trip that everyone will have a great time. The scenery is stunning all along the river as it runs through 13 different states, including Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Minnesota. While the shortest route does not follow the river all the way, you may want to drive the little bit extra for the river experience.
The Gateway Arch National Park
Take a ride to the top of the Gateway Arch while visiting Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis. As you look out the windows from the observation deck, you can see the Mississippi River and the surrounding landscape for miles. The arch is the tallest man-made monument in the Western Hemisphere. Construction started on February 12, 1963, and workers did not complete it until October 28, 1965. Stroll through the 70,000-square-foot visitor center to learn more about its construction and why the government dedicated it to westward expansion and the early pioneers' spirit. Six themed galleries in the museum allow you to follow the timeline of different expansion movements in the Saint Louis area, including President Jefferson’s vision, the spread of the country to the west, the importance that rivers played in America’s expansion, and the building of the Gateway Arch.
Bayou Segnette State Park
Lousiana has many state parks where you can stretch your legs and learn more about this amazing southern state. Go freshwater and saltwater fishing at Bayou Segnette State Park, which is located just across the river from New Orleans. The wave pool at this state park is a great place to play, and it is open from Memorial Day until August 1. Most of this park is swampland, which makes it a great spot to go kayaking. The 2.8-mile hiking trail is a great place to explore the swamp with beautiful views of the Gulf of Mexico.
Columbus-Belmont State Park
Kentucky state parks showcase the area's history and let you get closer to wildlife and nature in the state. The land near Columbus, Kentucky, where the Columbus-Belmont State Park is located today, was a strategic location during the Civil War. Tour the Civil War museum to learn about how this site played an essential role in the Battle of Belmont and other battles. See the chain that was stretched across the Mississippi River to keep Union troops led by General Ulysses S. Grant at bay while providing easy access to Confederate troops. The chain across the river was held in place by pontoon boats. You will also want to see the Civil War cannon at this park. The building housing the museum was a hospital during the war. Hike along the paths to enjoy the beautiful river views. This park is home to many birds, including over 24 species of warblers. It is easy to launch your vessel from this park’s boat ramps onto the river. Play a round of miniature golf on the well-maintained course.
Pere Marquette State Park
Near Grafton, Illinois, Pere Marquette State Park is the perfect stop to go bald eagle-watching in January and February. If you can't make it during this time period, see the eagle’s nest in the visitor center. This park is also a terrific spot for an autumn hike to see the colorful leaves. There are over 13 miles of hiking trails at this park that run through lush forests and across the top of towering bluffs. This park’s location between the Mississippi and Illinois rivers makes it an ideal spot to go fishing. Rent a horse at Pere Marquette Riding Stables to explore the 20 miles of equestrian trails.
Pikes Peak State Park
If you love to hike, include Pikes Peak State Park near McGregor, Iowa, on your road trip itinerary from New Orleans to Minneapolis. Be sure to watch for brachiopods, gastropods, and cephalopods as you hike along the sheer walls of Decorah limestone. You can try to find fossils to take home in the fossil digging field located just north of the Homestead Parking Lot. The Bridal Falls Trail is a great option to follow as it leads to a beautiful spring that bubbles up from the ground. The bear-shaped effigy mound you pass during this hike is about 1,400 years old, and the Crow Native Americans probably constructed it. The historic stone picnic shelters perched high on a hill are great places for picnics, and your children will love playing on the nearby playground.
Great River Bluffs State Park
Minnesota also has some wonderful state parks like the Great River Bluffs State Park near Winona, which contains two bluffs that you will want to explore. The King’s Bluff offers spectacular views of the Mississippi River Flyway, so be sure to bring your binoculars to go bird watching. The Queen’s Bluff is a protected wilderness, and you cannot go hiking there. Short paths near the campground allow you to explore this lush area consisting of goat prairie and mixed trees.
Delta Blues Museum
The Delta Blues Museum is the oldest music museum in Mississippi. This museum in Clarksdale features various artifacts, including musical instruments, recordings, sheet music, posters, photographs, costumes, folk art, and paintings dedicated to blues music. See a guitar built by Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, made out of wood salvaged from the cabin of McKinley Morganfield, who is better known as Muddy Waters.
You will want to stop in Lake Village, Arkansas, on your New Orleans to Minneapolis RV road trip to tour the Lakeport Plantation. Workers constructed this home in 1859. This site is a terrific place to learn how experts use modern science to restore historic homes.
Mud Island Park
Plan to drop by Mud Island Park on your road trip from New Orleans to Minneapolis. This downtown Memphis, Tennessee, park offers an arena where prominent entertainers often perform. It is also home to the Mississippi River Museum, where you can pretend to paddle a dugout canoe, pilot a barge, and stand on the deck of a steamboat. Kayaks are available to rent to play on the water. This park is also home to several special photo ops, including a 50-foot-tall Memphis sign.
Buffalo Bill Museum
Stop in LeClaire, Iowa, to visit the Buffalo Bill Museum. In the town where William “Buffalo Bill” Cody was born, this museum features many exhibits about his life. This museum is also a fantastic place to learn about the lifestyles of early riverboat pilots. Tour the unique wooden boat. Children will love the room set up for them, featuring a music wall, dress-up clothes, and other activities.
The La Crosse Queen
Take a cruise on the Mississippi River on the La Crosse Queen, which leaves from the La Crosse, Wisconsin’s Riverfront Park. The seven unique vessels are powered only by their stern wheels. Many different cruising options are available, including pizza, lunch, dinner, and sightseeing cruises, with most lasting about three hours.
You can find wonderful campgrounds in Jackson, like Swinging Bridge RV Park, Goshen Springs Campground, and Movietown RV Park and Mini Storage, so go ahead and take a day or two to explore the exciting things that this community has to offer. Options include visiting the National Civil Rights Museum, the Mississippi State Capitol, and the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science. Before you leave, use Jackson dump stations at Springridge Mobile Estates & RV Park, Wendy Oaks RV Resort, or Swinging Bridge RV Park.
Exploring Memphis’ music scene and historical attractions is easier when you stay in a Memphis campground. There are many outstanding options, including Graceland RV Park & Campground, Elvis Presley Boulevard RV Park, and T.O. Fuller State Park. Be sure to use a Memphis RV dump station, like Love's Travel Stop #344 or Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, before RVing up the highway again.
St. Louis, Missouri
Taking in a baseball or hockey game in St. Louis on your road trip from New Orleans to Minneapolis is easy when you stay in a St. Louis campground. Outstanding options include St. Louis RV Park, Pin Oak Creek RV Park, and Bab’s RV Park. Use RV dump stations in St. Louis at Dr. Edmund A. Babler Memorial State Park, Horseshoe Lake State Park, or Beaver Dam State Park to empty your tanks before encountering the Missouri river bluffs.
Miller Riverview Park and Campground, Mud Lake, and Swiss Valley Park are just a few of the outstanding Dubuque campgrounds. RV dump stations in Dubuque are available at Bellevue State Park, Spruce Creek Park, and Massey Marina County Park.
When you follow this road trip itinerary from New Orleans to Minneapolis, you will enjoy historic locations and beautiful scenery along the way. If you want to travel in comfort and style, consider an RV rental from RVshare. From large motorhomes to compact campervans, there is a rig that will meet your travel and budget needs. Once you hit the road, you are protected by our renter guarantee and 24/7 roadside assistance. Find the perfect vehicle for your travel needs in New Orleans or Minneapolis.