St. Louis, Missouri, Downtown St. Louis' Old Courthouse and Arch
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Downtown St. Louis' Old Courthouse and Arch iStock / AndreyKrav
New Orleans, Louisiana, Jazz performers in New Orleans' French Quarter
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Jazz performers in New Orleans' French Quarter iStock / Rauluminate
Homemade shrimp and grits with pork and cheddar
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Homemade shrimp and grits with pork and cheddar iStock / bhofack2
Minneapolis, Minnesota, Ford Parkway Bridge
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Ford Parkway Bridge in Minneapolis iStock / 7Michael
Hannibal, Missouri, Mark Twain's hometown
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Mark Twain's hometown in Hannibal, Missouri iStock / brians101
Louisiana, Oak Alley Plantation
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Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana iStock / Zack Frank

Mississippi River

Memphis, Tennessee, Sun Studio Sun Studio in Memphis iStock / csfotoimages

Whether you think of her as Old Man River or the Big Muddy, the Mississippi is without doubt the most fabled river in North America. The great cities along her course are testament enough to the river's epic status, but toss in the food cultures, the music genres, and the historical events that have taken place along her banks and the Mississippi emerges as a geographical icon of the first degree.

Itineraries are divided into segments of the Upper and Lower Mississippi, each taking roughly a week long with the entirety covering around 23 days. Travel runs from July to October for Upper routes while the Lower region has an extended season that starts as early as February and ends as late as December.

What We Love

Music: The Big Muddy has been a cradle for all sorts of American music, from Dixieland jazz and Delta blues to soul, gospel, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll.

Food: Many of the nation's best regional foods grew up along the Mississippi, including Memphis barbecue, the quirky Italian-American dishes of St. Louis, and the wondrous Creole cooking in New Orleans.

Best Known For

Antebellum South: The Lower Mississippi Valley between New Orleans and Memphis is strewn with historic plantations that now showcase the lives of the wealthy planters who created the estates and the downtrodden slaves who worked them.

Legendary Americans: Mark Twain in Hannibal, Andrew Jackson in New Orleans, Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, General Grant at Vicksburg — many great Americans left their mark on river history.

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Best Ports

New Orleans: A decade after Katrina, the Crescent City has rebounded in spectacular fashion, especially the legendary French Quarter. Throw in the food, the music, and all that history, and the Big Easy is truly a world-class destination.

St. Louis: With the Gateway Arch looming above the river, the Missouri metropolis makes a bold statement to anyone arriving via the Mississippi. The eclectic architecture, myriad museums, botanical garden, and baseball at Busch Stadium round out the St. Louis scene. 

Minneapolis: The City of Lakes actually makes pretty good use of its river too. Perched on either side of the Mississippi, the Northeast River District and Mill District are spangled with restaurants, shops, theaters, and riverfront paths like the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Trail. 

Natchez: The Antebellum South comes alive in this Mississippi burg, home to elegant mansion museums and the southern end of the gorgeous Natchez Trace Parkway.

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

The Urban Mississippi Isn't Pretty: Giant levees, rust belt factories, and ugly dock areas scar much of the river flowing through urban areas. Although St. Louis and Minneapolis are trying, few cities have user-friendly riverfronts.

Joe Yogerst

Joe Yogerst is a California-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Travel + Leisure.

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