I recently had the privilege of joining American Cruise Lines on an Upper Mississippi River cruise from St. Louis to St. Paul aboard American Heritage. Throughout the cruise we had a guest speaker and historian, Rachel Perkins, who made before-tours presentations every day.
Our first stop, Hannibal, MO, which dates back to 1819, has made a small industry of Mark Twain and features 460 historic homes. Molly Brown was also born in Hannibal. A Mark Twain impersonator still leads groups on historic tours through the town. We visited Rockcliffe Mansion, a Gilded Age, grand residence listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which was built on the highest point in town. The owner made a serious fortune and furnished it with the best-of-the-best and electricity.
Next was Davenport, IA, a town settled in 1836. Here we explored the Hauberg Estate in Rock Island, a Prairie-style mansion with impressive architecture. We visited the first-class Smithsonian-affiliated Putnam Museum, endowed by members of the community, featuring exhibits and collections that explore science, history, cultures, and environments throughout time. John Deere is a major employer in the area, and we paid a visit to the John Deere Pavilion with new and vintage equipment that you can touch, feel, and sit in.
Our next stop was Dubuque, IA, the first permanent European Settlement on the Mississippi in 1785. At that point, the area was Spanish-owned and occupied by the Meskwai people. Lead was found in the area and is still being mined. Today, the city has a huge arboretum, the Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Garden, maintained by 300 volunteers which is spectacular and features many different kinds of gardens, from a cacti garden to a Japanese and an English garden. Some of our group went out to the Field of Dreams movie site and saw the baseball field, the magical corn, and the farmhouse in which the movie was made.
Our last port was Red Wing, MN, settled in the 1850s by farmers. In 1873, Red Wing was the biggest wheat producer in the country. Farmers also found high-quality clay on the land which led to the construction of a pottery factory. Today, Red Wing pottery is sold worldwide. We visited the Pottery Museum of Red Wing where there were numerous true vintage pieces of artisan-crafted stoneware, dinnerware, and folk art. We also made a stop at the Sheldon Theatre, among the oldest operating theatres in Minnesota, built by a wealthy citizen of Red Wing. The theatre currently hosts thousands of large national touring acts, international artists, and local performers.
On a visit to this region of the Mississippi River, you will experience your hometown Americana, rich history, and the breathtaking scenery, aboard the new fleet of small riverboats, that has inspired the country’s best artists, writers, and musicians. Cruises depart weekly June through October. Book your Upper Mississippi Cruise today.