A Family Road Trip on the Great River Road

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Barn Bluff overlook in Red Wing is your ticket to an unforgettable view of the city and the Mississippi River / Manda Baldwin

A Family Road Trip on the Great River Road

By Lisa Havelka

After a long and beautiful winter, I buckled up my kids for a quick spring road trip to stretch our legs and see the landscape as it started to bloom.

For impressive scenery within a few hours of our home in Southern Minnesota, we drove the Mississippi River from Red Wing to Winona, better known as the Great River Road. Not only is this road trip one of my family's perennial favorites, the route is also an official All-American Road and National Scenic Byway!

The world's largest boot

Visit Red Wing Shoes in southern Minnesota to see the world's largest boot, size 638.5 / Lisa Meyers McClintick

Hiking & History in Red Wing

Our first stop was Barn Bluff Regional Park in Red Wing. The 2.9-mile hike took us to the top of a limestone bluff with panoramic views of the river and historic downtown. Back on Main Street, we visited the Red Wing Shoe Company Museum—home to both the beloved Minnesota brand and World’s Largest Boot.

Antique Toys & Lunch in Wabasha-Kellogg

Back in the car, we headed south to the Wabasha-Kellogg area for a stop at Lark Toys, an eclectic toy store that’s part amusement park and part antique toy museum. After a ride on the hard-carved wooden carousel, we ate lunch at Slippery’s in downtown Wabasha, known for its appearance in the movie "Grumpy Old Men" (one of the most famous movies filmed in Minnesota).

National Eagle Center eagle feeding Wabasha

National Eagle Center / Jackie Scherer

Visiting the National Eagle Center

Outside, bald eagles soared above us along the river. Eager to learn more, we hit the National Eagle Center. I loved standing by the floor-to-ceiling windows to take in the incredible view of the river; my kids loved meeting the center’s resident bald and golden eagles.

A variety platter of doughnuts from Bloedow's Bakery in Winona

Try all the doughnuts at Bloedow Bakery in downtown Winona / Visit Winona

A Sweet Stop in Winona

Finally, we wrapped-up our little family road trip at Bloedow Bakery in downtown Winona. Easily my favorite doughnut shop in Minnesota, the kids grabbed a few doughnuts from the bakery case, and I bought a frosted cookie for the drive home.

More Great River Road Adventures

The Great River Road is brimming with incredible adventures for every type of traveler. Take a road trip to dozens of charming Mississippi River towns right here in Minnesota, head to Itasca State Park to ride the Mississippi River Trail as it winds across Minnesota and continues south to the Gulf of Mexico, or plan a camping trip at Great River Bluffs State Park, where awe-inspiring views of the Mississippi will leave you breathless. 

Lisa Havelka

Lisa Havelka is the southern regional coordinator for Explore Minnesota. Born and raised in southern Minnesota, Lisa loves antiquing, visiting Minnesota wineries, riding motorcycles, and catching live shows at Minnesota’s many music venues.