Top 5 Motorcycle Touring Stops Between Minneapolis and St. Louis - The Great River Road

Nov 16, 2021

Tags:renterminneapolisst. louistravel

Touring motorcycle ridden on The Great River Road.

Thanks to the Great River Road, motorcyclists traveling between Minneapolis and St. Louis aren’t forced to ride boring interstate highways. Cobbled together in 1938 from a web of state and federal twisted roads, the Great River Road was designed with local color in mind. This route snakes down the Mississippi and weaves in and out of 10 states. Ride the entire stretch and you’ll visit Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri several times apiece.

The flat prairie lands of the Midwest can’t compare to the sheer beauty of the Mississippi seen from a street bike. Expect to see meadows, swamps, forests, and limestone cliffs, as well the occasional tugboat lazily making its way on the river. Get in touch with the way of life made famous by the traveling Wild West shows of Buffalo Bill, the religious writings of Mormon leader Joseph Smith, and the enduringly-popular fiction of Mark Twain. The Great River Road is your ticket to the houses and hometowns of these fixtures of American history.

In this article, we detail the quirkiest and most significant stops between Minneapolis and St. Louis.

 

1. World’s Largest Six-Pack — La Crosse, Wisconsin

The World’s Largest Six-Pack in La Crosse, Wisconsin is a sight to see. These 54-foot-tall fermentation tanks—which are estimated to hold over 7 million cans—were originally built in 1969 and had been painted to look like a massive six-pack of beer. Even though the brewery has changed hands multiple times and no longer stores hoppy suds, the current owner has replaced the original Heileman’s Old Style Lager beer painted logos with La Crosse Lager beer wallpapered logos. 

A 15-foot statue of Gambrinus, “King of Beer,” stands across the street holding a golden goblet. The rest of La Crosse’s downtown area is worth some exploration too. It’s a century old and feels like a scene out of Back to the Future, right down to the vintage theater marquee and quaint college campus. Conclude your survey of historic La Crosse with a ride down Main Street to Grandad Bluff—you’ll get a 600-foot panorama of the Mississippi as it divides Minnesota from Wisconsin.

If you’ve already rented a motorcycle in Minneapolis, getting to La Crosse is a breeze—follow the river.

Fill your stomach and motorcycle’s gas tank at amenities-rich La Crosse with ease. The People’s Food Co-op offers some tasty deli fare, while fans of classic drive-in service on roller skates should check out Rudy’s for delicious burgers, hot dogs, root beers, and milkshakes. The Pearl Ice Cream Parlor has a mouth-watering selection of flavors, while Bodega Brew will satisfy the urge that the World’s Largest Six-Pack only hinted at. 

2. Dickeyville Grotto — Dickeyville, Wisconsin

Folk-art environments are a staple of classic American road trips like Route 66. You’ll find one of the Great River Road’s most interesting examples in Dickeyville, Wisconsin. It’s across the river from Dubuque, Iowa and offers a series of caves, alcoves, and their various shrines. The Dickeyville Grotto was built between 1925 and 1931 by the priest Matthias Wenerus as a Catholic memorial to three local boys killed in World War I. 

The shrines are made of poured concrete and covered in innumerable shells, gems, corals, fossils, and even antique heirlooms donated by local parishioners. Park your motorcycle rental nearby and explore the shrines, as well as a few of the “Patriotism in Stone” memorials located in the grotto. You’ll find memorials for Christopher Columbus, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln. Unlike many folk-art locations on America’s great roads, the Dickeyville Grotto is relatively uncommercialized and relatively quiet. 

3. Buffalo Bill Museum — LeClaire, Iowa

Once upon a time, the small town of LeClaire, Iowa was known for its skilled river pilots. Nowadays it's the site of the Buffalo Bill Museum and the Antique Archeology antique shop of American Pickers fame. The museum is dedicated to one of the Wild West’s greatest symbols, William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, a 19th-century frontiersman, US Army Scout, and showman who put on popular Wild West-themed programs throughout America and Europe. Here in Buffalo Bill’s own home, you won’t just find plenty of memorabilia from Buffalo Bill’s famous shows. You’ll also get to see the “Lone Star,” a wooden, paddlewheel steam-powered towboat, and other relics pertaining to life on the Mississippi. Once you’ve had your fill of Buffalo Bill, head on over to Antique Archeology, base of operations for the wildly-popular History Channel reality television show American Pickers. This store is brimming with handpicked pieces of Americana from all over the country.

If you’ve already rented a motorcycle in Minneapolis and have made it as far south as Savanna, Illinois, you can reach LeClaire using IL-84 and US-67. For some of the best food, drinks, and views in the region, we recommend sitting down to a meal at the Faithful Pilot. This waterfront restaurant is chock-full of choices when it comes to fine wines and microbrews.

4. Nauvoo Temple — Nauvoo, Illinois

The Nauvoo Temple and historic neighborhoods of Nauvoo are standout pieces of Illinois architecture. One of the largest frontier settlements established by Mormon leader Joseph Smith in 1839, Nauvoo is a partly-preserved glimpse into the country’s Wild West past. The Mormon Nauvoo Temple, although completed in 1846, was burned down two years later. The exact limestone replica seen today took three years to build and was dedicated in 2002. The 165-foot steeple stands out against the city’s skyline and is visible from across the river. The homes of Brigham Young, who led the Mormons to Utah, and John Browning, inventor of the repeating rifle, have both been restored alongside the original shop Joseph Smith ran in Nauvoo. A few 19th-century brick houses stand in the flatlands surrounding the city, many abandoned or collapsed, yet preserved from complete destruction. Get back to the roots of American transportation and take a horse-drawn carriage ride about town, or try your hand at the lost art of blacksmithing. Those interested in cultural events in the city can attend the Nauvoo Pageant in July and August, Grape Festival on Labor Day weekend, and Pumpkin walk in October.

Nauvoo lies south of LeClaire, further down the Great River Road. As for amenities, downtown Nauvoo is bursting at the seams with restaurants and lodgings, especially Mulholland Street (Highway 96/Great River Road). In particular, the Nauvoo Mill & Bakery offers excellent cinnamon buns and picnic lunches.

5. Mark Twain Boyhood Home — Hannibal, Illinois

Lovers of literature, bring your well-worn copies of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer because your last stop on the Great River Road is Mark Twain’s hometown and inspiration for his writings. Take the I-72 across the Mark Twain Memorial Bridge, and you’ll find it impossible to escape the legacy of America’s best-loved author. 

Mark Twain’s Boyhood Home and Museum in historic old Hannibal is the central attraction. You can get tours at the Interpretive Center and Museum Gallery, both on Main Street—the latter includes artifacts like Mark Twain’s only known surviving white suit coat and first editions of the author’s books. Head over to Center Street Landing for a smooth ride along the Mississippi on the Mark Twain riverboat. Take an adventurous dip in Mark Twain Lake or spend the night under a canopy of stars at the town’s campgrounds. If you scale either of the two hills surrounding Hannibal, you’ll get a good view of the entire town. One of the hills, Lover’s Leap, is a prime place to park your motorcycle and watch the sunset.

U.S. Routes 24, 36, and 61 all intersect the city, and St. Louis, Kansas City, and Springfield all lie within 200 miles of Hannibal.

You won’t be able to turn down a street in Hannibal without finding a great place to eat. Grab some delicious southern fried chicken and a root beer at the Mark Twain Dinettebefore capping things off with a treat from Becky’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor and Emporium. 

While surveying the Great River Road’s marvelous attractions, you may decide to explore the local motorcycle routes. Minneapolis’ roads are brimming with twisties, turns, and curves if you want to take a break from riverside riding.

Undertaking a long and varied road trip along the Mississippi means that you’ll need to rent a motorcycle you can count on. Traditional motorcycle rental companies have limited options. Riders Share, a platform where riders can rent and negotiate directly with renters, solves this dilemma. Find a reliable ride and get ready to become a real-life Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn as you traverse the Great River Road alongside Old Man River.