Two-Day Getaway Along the Great River Road | Midwest Living

Two-Day Getaway Along the Great River Road

More than 30 small river towns—filled with niche-yet-fascinating museums, creameries, art galleries and pretty inns—dot the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River along Wisconsin’s stretch of the Great River Road.
Nelson Creamery
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Alma, Wisconsin
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Mississippi River Pearl Jewelry Company
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Great River Road
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Views reward travelers who drive the banks of the Mississippi River from Prescott to La Crosse—and so do the stops.

Day 1

Pick up maps and learn about the birds you might see at the Great River Road Visitor and Learning Center in Prescott.

Then you’re off to the first charming stop in Stockholm, 38 miles south. Furniture and fine art crafted by local artisans fills Abode Gallery, and the pretty yet practical stoneware creations at Stockholm Pottery and Mercantile brighten tables.

The Stockholm Pie and General Store dishes out slices of peanut butter fudge, double lemon or apple pie that are large enough to serve as lunch. But if you want to balance the sweet with savory, they also make hearty potpies and quiches.

Swedish tradition infuses Ingebretsen’s  hand-woven textiles, hand-blown glasswork and imported food.

The birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder, known to fans as the Little House in the Big Woods, stands down the road in Pepin.

Pick up a Wine Trail Passport and visit a few of the 11 wineries along the Great River Road Wine Trail, where fine wine pairs with stunning scenery in the Upper Mississippi River Valley.

Don’t miss a stop at Nelson Creamery in Nelsonthe 19th-century dairy building holds a modern shop with wines, cheeses and fresh ice cream.

The last stop of the day is in downtown Alma, where Mississippi River Pearl Jewelry Company sells jewelry designed with rare, natural Mississippi River pearls.

A sense of history settles around guests as solidly as Blue Door Inn’s original 1853 rock walls—carved into a Mississippi River bluff (from $79). 

Day 2

Mornings on the Great Alma Fishing Float are tranquil. Flip a sign to signal the fishing crew to pick you up and take you to the floating structure; there, go fishing and dine on The Float Cafe’s snacks (or bring your own).

Back on land, Castlerock Museum houses hundreds of weapons used by the Romans, Greeks, Vikings, Crusaders and Renaissance men-at-arms in an impressive two-story castle.

Take in the natural springs and dramatic river valley setting 16 miles south in Fountain City, where repeat customers are common at The Monarch Public House, Wisconsin’s oldest continually serving tavern. We loved the hearty Reuben sandwich, Irish potato soup and rich cheesecake.

After a winding 39-mile drive south, pick up tickets for the La Crosse Queen paddle-wheeler. It departs from La Crosse for daily sight-seeing cruises on the Mississippi River, some specialty ones include pizza or brunch.

More information: (800) 658-9424;

Wow moment

Wisconsin’s Great River Road winds 250 miles along the east shore of Old Man River. Bring your camera to snap photos from the scenic overlook of the Maiden Rock Bluffs near Stockholm. Legend has it a Native American maiden leapt to her death here to avoid a forced marriage. (800) 658-9424;

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