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Shedd Aquarium
Motor bikers riding by the river

Where the River Meets the Road

Outdoors & Regional

6 Days 541 Miles


Galena, Elizabeth, Quad Cities, Nauvoo, Quincy, Nebo, Grafton, Chester, Cairo

Where the River Meets on the Great River Road

Breathtaking views, quaint towns, and more

It's easy to forget how much greater seeing something in person can be. A sunset over the mighty Mississippi River. A cobblestone street surrounded by historic homes. The ruins of an ancient civilization. Designated a National Scenic Byway, the Great River Road’s striking vistas are something you have to see to believe.

Day 1:


  • A couple walking across the main street in Galena with buildings either side

Explore charming Galena

Galena is a popular getaway with rich history and tons of local flavor. Start off easy by browsing the Historic Main Street. Want to get your adrenaline pumping instead? Try Chestnut Mountain’s one-of-a-kind alpine slide. Afterwards, take a breather and dive into the varied past of the region and our nation with a tour of the Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site or kick back on one of Galena’s popular Trolley Tours.

Day 2:

Galena, Elizabeth

  • Three woman drinking wine together

Wine & dine

Galena is also home to many beautiful wineries and recognized distilleries, each offering their own tastings and tours. From Galena Cellars Winery to the Rocky Waters Vineyard in nearby Hanover, you're sure to find a unique bottle of wine to take home with you. Extend your drive out to Elizabeth, and you can find two other incredibly popular Illinois Made Maker destinations. At Dittmar Farms, enjoy scenic hayrides, u-pick apples and pumpkins, and a corn maze. Stop by Eshelman Pottery for practical, bold and innovative stoneware sure to catch the eye.

Day 3:

Savanna, Fulton, Quad Cities

  • A family enjoys the overlook at the Mississippi Palisades

Hit the trails

Lace up your hiking boots, it's time to hit the trails! Start with the Mississippi Palisades State Park in Savanna, a 2,500-acre park with rich Native American history and beautiful vistas. Your third day ends with a dealer's choice of activities in the Quad Cities, from trying to hit it big at Bally’s Casino or relaxing with a river cruise on the Celebration Belle.

Day 4:

Nauvoo, Quincy, Nebo

  • Exterior of Quincy Museum

At your own pace

Today is all about taking a relaxing stroll through three Illinois towns. First, you’ll stop in Nauvoo where you can take a leisurely walk through the Joseph Smith Historic Site, or a ride on the Walking Tour of Old Nauvoo. In Quincy, visit Villa Kathrine, the Quincy Museum, or bike around town to discover colorful murals. In nearby Nebo, relax at the Orvis-endorsed Harpole's Heartland Lodge.

Day 5:

Grafton & Alton

  • An instructor watches at Grafton Zipline Adventures

Views from above

Now it’s time to head to Grafton, home of the popular Grafton Zipline Adventures. Take to the air with Grafton Sky Tours and see the majestic Mississippi from a view that few have seen before. Cool off in Alton with some local unique shopping at Illinois Maker Mississippi Mud Pottery or Alton Stained Glass Works. Then head back to Grafton for either a nice hike through the Pere Marquette State Park or a glass of wine at Aerie’s Resort & Winery.

Day 6:

Chester, Cairo

  • Exterior of Magnolia Manor

The southernmost tip

Your last day starts in Chester, where you can see the famous cartoon character Popeye up close with the Popeye Character Trail in Seger Park. End your road trip in Cairo, where the Mississippi and Ohio rivers converge. At this confluence of two great American rivers you’ll find Fort Defiance Park and the very southernmost tip of Illinois itself.

Enjoy a final stroll through history at the Magnolia Manor or Cairo Custom House Museum and you can cross this road trip off your list!

Back to Road Trip Itineraries

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