Midwest Living Review
Minnesota is where the mighty Mississippi River begins its long flow south. It's also the north end of the Great River Road, which runs alongside the river through 10 states. Minnesota accounts for 575 miles of this scenic route, stretching from Lake Itasca State Park to the Iowa border. The 60 miles on State-61 between Red Wing and Winona offer the most expansive views; the best places to take in the scenery are Frontenac State Park and Garvin Heights above Winona (other portions of the route weave too far away from the river to be worthwhile).
Birders will enjoy the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, and Lake City is a magnet for boaters, with its many marinas as well as paddleboats, sailing, ice fishing and food options. Most of the small towns are pretty sleepy, with a fair number of empty storefronts, but Red Wing offers more lively stops for dining and lodging and makes a home base for day trips to Wabasha or Lake City. Watch your timing though; many of these little towns basically shut down on Sundays, confining most of their weekend activities to Fridays and Saturdays.