If you are looking for a fantastic summer road trip, you need to get on the Great River Road! The GRR follows both sides of the Mississippi River from start to finish, going through 10 states all together. It is a National Scenic Byway AND has officially been designated an “All American Road” meaning it encompasses features unique and important enough to be tourist destinations all by themselves. String them together and you get one GREAT road trip!

To drive the East Coast of Iowa, you’ll want to give yourself anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks to complete the 328 mile route. This will take you through small towns, large cities, historical sites, educational opportunities, beautiful nature, and some of the best food you can eat.  Identify what type of road tripper you are below, and then check out our suggested itineraries. 

Road Trip Type: Scan & Selfie
If you are like to check things off a list, download the Iowa Scenic Byways digital passport (traveliowa.com/iowa-scenic-byway-passport-sign-up) and start earning points to redeem for prizes. Not only will you find spots along the Great River Road, but several intersecting Scenic Byways also have check-in locations. Consult the passport for check-in opportunities on the Driftless Area Scenic Byway, River Bluffs Scenic Byway, the Grant Wood Scenic Byway, and Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway. So check-in on your app, grab that selfie, and hashtag it #greatriverroad!

Road Trip Type:  Linger & Learn
The Iowa Great River Road has 17 different Interpretive Center where you can learn a million wonderful things. Hike to the Native American burial mounds at Effigy Mounds National Monument on  the north end of the road, and Toolesboro Indian Mounds in the south. Get hands-on with exhibits in Clinton’s Sawmill Museum or Muscatine’s Pearl Button Museum. Explore unique history niche’s at the George M Verity Riverboat Museum in Keokuk or the Buffalo Bill Museum in LeClaire. Learn about lifecycles in the river at Nahant Marsh in Davenport, the Mississippi River Eco-Tourism Center in Camanche, and Dubuque’s National Rivers Hall of Fame.

Road Trip Type: Back to Nature

Connect to the earth all along the Great River Road. Stop anywhere along the mighty Mississippi River to breathe deeply and let the flowing water bring you peace. Find amazing scenic views at Pike’s Peak State in McGregor and Crapo Park in Burlington. Explore Sabula, Iowa’s island city. Climb the stone castle in Clinton’s Eagle Point Park to see Iowa’s widest section of the Mississippi River. Pull off the to find Lee County’s “Linger Longer” rest area. Find benches in riverside parks all along your drive and give yourself those moments to interact with your environment.

Road Trip Type: Local Experience

Get into the authentic place experience in so many delightful towns all along the Great River Road. Mini golf, batting cages, and ice cream next to Fort Madison’s historic stone prison walls can be found at the Putt-A-Round. Enjoy public art along Bellevue’s riverfront, or at Clinton’s Paint It Back mural experience. Stop and shop historic downtowns all along the way. Immerse yourself in the ambience of the Great Revivalist Brewery, an abandoned church lovingly reimagined into Clinton, Iowa’s hottest eatery.

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Get adventurous in Fort Madison at Simple Table by Hitomi, where you can try an ever changing variety of multi-cultural food with a Japanese twist. Jump into a local festival like LeClaire’s annual August Tug Fest with a tug of war across the Mississippi River, or Clinton’s three day Tailgate N Tallboys music festival in June.

And remember, these are all only starting points! There is so much to do all along the Great River Road, and you can spend as much time as you want exploring the charming river towns, expansive views, and historical highlights. When it comes to Iowa, you can always choose your own adventure and find something delightful!