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Mississippi River - Best Tours & Trips 2019

America’s most storied river, the Mississippi flows more than 2,300 miles through America’s heartland, bordering ten states from northern Minnesota to Louisiana, before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi connects cities as varied as New Orleans, Natchez, Vicksburg, Memphis, St. Louis and Minneapolis.
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Travel Style

Trip Type Trip Type Classic Tour Groups are between 25-60 people, typically ~30-40. Usually there will be many opportunities to split off and enjoy meals and excursions in smaller groups. This is the most economical way to travel, saving up to 40% versus booking the same itinerary yourself.
Small Group Guided Experiences Small groups are usually defined as between 10 and 24 travelers, often less. If you're the kind of person who enjoys more intimate experiences and personal service this is a good choice. All else being equal you will pay a premium for this style vs a larger group tour.
River Cruise These vessels are smaller than most ocean cruisers, limiting which amenties are available. Passenger counts can vary. One of the biggest advantages of a river cruise is the ability to dock at smaller ports and local villages.
Small Ocean Cruise Small ship cruises usually have a max passenger count of 500. The primary purpose of these trips is to spend time off the vessel in local ports (e.g. Mediterranean) or experiencing nature (e.g Galapagos or Antarctica). Cabins can vary from budget to luxury.
Private Tour Private tours give you the undivided attention of a guide, and often involve special access to sites and unique experiences not available to larger groups. This is a great option for families, couples, and small friend groups. Expect to pay a bit more for the extra service.
Independent Package A travel company plans your itinerary and arranges all the logistics including lodging, local activities, and transportantion. You have the flexibility of a solo trip while still getting the convience and time savings of expert planning. Get 90% of the benefits of a tour, without a guide.
Vacation / Holiday Package Similar to a self guided tour, this usually involves a home base, such as a hotel or resort, with packaged activities and day tours as a part of the stay.
Large Ocean Cruise This is the "floating city" experience, with multiple ways to enjoy your vacation aboard the ship as much as on land. Ships are multiple floors, provide several activities, culinary, and shopping options. They often make fewer stops and have less time available for shore excursions.

Itinerary Focus

Lodging Level Lodging Level Camping Typically involves most nights sleeping in tents (sometimes permanent tented sites) or in rustic cabins and lodges.
Basic - 2 star You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping.
Value - 3 star Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Premium - 4 star 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards.
Luxury - 5 star The highest level of comfort and service. All accomodations are in four or five star hotels, boutique lodges or high-end homestays.

Price From*

$ 899 $ 10,000+

Price Per Day

Trip Length


Physical Level Physical Level Very Easy Minimal walking - motor vehicles available for all major parts of trip.
Easy Normal generally flat walking in urban or suburban environments.
Moderate Walking or physical activity half to most of day - no carrying equipment.
Strenuous All or most of day hiking or biking, hills included.
Extreme Very challenging all day hiking and backpacking carrying significant equipment.

Travel Theme

Travelers Age

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Rivers & Seas

Cities & Attractions


Solo Friendly Solo Friendly Good for Singles Trips that specifically cater to travelers looking to meet other singles.
No Single Supplement Trips where single supplement is usually not required for solo travelers.


Flights & Transport

Continents & Regions

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Top Mississippi River Experiences and Attractions

Top Mississippi River Experiences

Cruising down the Mississippi in an old-fashioned paddle wheeler, reliving the days of Mark Twain.

Reveling in the musical history and watching live performances in Memphis, Tennessee.

Savoring the seafood and architecture of the French Quarter in New Orleans.

Riding to the top of the Gateway Arch for a bird’s eye view of St. Louis and the Mississippi River.

Visiting former cotton plantations in Mississippi and Louisiana and gaining a new understanding of the true horrors of slavery.

Getting a sense of the American heartland as you cruise past farms and small towns of Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

Enjoying the modern metropolis of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, the typical embarkation or disembarkation point for upper Mississippi cruises.

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Mississippi River Trip Reviews

1 Mississippi River Tour Reviews - Summary 100% Recommend

5.0 out of 5
Excellent 1
Great 0
Average 0
Disappointing 0
Terrible 0

Tour Reviews Write a Review

What a holiday!

  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

I was lucky enough to have 7 wonderful nights on the American Queen ... Along with 17 of my friends and family... From Memphis to New Orleans..Wow !! ... Cannot speak highly enough of the staff and anyone involved with this Majestic Queen of the River... Many thanks to Captain Brent for taking such great care of us rowdy lot !!..
It is my hope we get to take another trip on this fine Lady again .... We are from Australia ...... Such a great time...
So many positives to speak of....
What a holiday !...

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Operator American Queen Steamboat Company

Mississippi River Tours and Travel Guide

Mississippi River Attractions & Landmarks Guide

The Mississippi flows more than 2,300 miles through America’s heartland, and passes through ten states from northern Minnesota to Louisiana, before it finally empties into the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi connects cities as varied as New Orleans, Natchez, Vicksburg, Memphis, St. Louis and Minneapolis, and has served as the economic lifeline for all of them.

Mississippi River cruises offer a chance to explore the mighty waterway in a relaxing environment – perhaps even on an authentic paddle-wheeler. The most popular segment is on the southern Mississippi, between New Orleans and Memphis.

While the 2,350-mile-long Mississippi is “just” the third longest river in North America, it ranks as America’s most iconic waterway -- celebrated by author Mark Twain in the mid-19th century, continuing to play a crucial role in American commerce, and effectively dividing the United States into two regions. 

“East of the Mississippi” generally denotes older America, with a long history dating back to Revolutionary War days, while “West of the Mississippi” connotes a younger, more frontier-minded America. 

Of course, these are broad generalizations, but just about every American is familiar with the terms. The Mississippi is one of the touchstones of American geography, and to explore it is to explore the heart of America itself. Once you take a voyage on the “Big Muddy,” you’ll never think of the Mississippi region as just “flyover country” again. 

From New Orleans to Memphis – the Lower Mississippi

The lower Mississippi offers a wealth of regional music, cuisine, history, and architecture. It’s a fascinating region that is coming to terms with its past and looking to the future. You’ll encounter impressive sights and activities in Memphis, Tennessee; Natchez, Mississippi; Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana; and some small towns along the way as well. (The lower Mississippi technically starts somewhat farther north than Memphis, in Cairo, Illinois).

In pre-Civil war days, when cotton was king, two-thirds of all American millionaires lived between New Orleans and Natchez. That all ended abruptly with the war and the abolition of slavery -- the scourge that had enabled the wealthy plantations to thrive.

French-accented New Orleans, with its iconic French Quarter and party-central Bourbon Street, is the place to down donut-like beignets for breakfast, eat fried oysters in a modest seafood “shack,” dine royally on the finest cuisine in one of the city’s world-famous restaurants, or, of course, have a drink or two, perhaps at a local jazz club such as Preservation Hall.

Memphis is another musical mecca. You can tour Graceland, where Elvis Presley lived; Sun Studio, where Elvis made his name; the Stax Museum, which tells the history of one of the great rhythm and blues studios; and of course  Beale Street, with its parade of blues clubs. Begin your perfect evening with some ribs at The Rendezvous or drinks atop the Madison Hotel, complete with panoramic views.

From St. Louis to Minneapolis – the Upper Mississippi

Cruising the upper Mississippi is a very different experience – the land of cotton gives way to the land of corn, and blues and jazz make way for the traditions of descendants of German immigrants in Iowa and Wisconsin.

Embarkations for upper Mississippi cruises usually begin in St. Louis, Missouri, one of the river’s major cities and home to one of the country’s best zoos. 

The swooping 530-foot-tall Gateway Arch, which sits on the west bank of the Mississippi and has become the symbol of St Louis, offers incredible views of the Mississippi and the entire area. You can ride to the top via tram or elevator, as some one million visitors do annually. Museums dedicated to westward expansion are at the foot of the steel arch.

Mark Twain – the pen name for author Samuel Clemens and the most famous chronicler of the Mississippi River -- hailed from Hannibal, Missouri, which lies north of St. Louis along the river. Hannibal is an obligatory stop for any upper Mississippi River cruise. This is where fans of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn can enjoy a literary pilgrimage to the town where Twain found most of the inspiration for his best known fictional characters.

Farther north, Clinton and Dubuque, Iowa, are paragons of Midwestern America. Clinton, a former lumber town, is now an agricultural capital, while Dubuque, one of the earliest settlements west of the Mississippi, is known for its historic homes. In LaCrosse, Wisconsin, farther north yet, you can sample the local breweries, which replaced the lumber industry as one of the city’s primary economic engines. 

Upper Mississippi cruises then end in the Minneapolis area, perhaps at the historic town of Red Wing, south of St. Paul. Formerly a center for commercial shipping along the river, Red Wing is now known for its artisans and historic homes. Minneapolis-St. Paul is one of America’s most livable metropolitan areas, with plenty of museums, restaurants, and other amenities.

The Best Time to Cruise the Mississippi

One of the first considerations you need to make when planning your Mississippi River cruise is that the Mississippi River is not open year round for cruising. So before you get too far into planning, be sure to check!

As with all travel destinations there are some peak times and some low times for taking a Mississippi River Cruise, each with pros and cons.  

The Lower Mississippi has the longest season - open all year except for January and February - while the Upper Mississippi has a short season, between June and October

If you choose to cruise the Upper Mississippi during the summer, there is a positive note regarding the tourist crowds. As you move further north along the Mississippi, you will be entering into the eastern edge of the American Midwest.

This region is not usually included on tour itineraries of the United States, and even very few Americans vacation here. So even during the busiest times you probably won’t experience much in the way of tourist crowds, and by extension will actually get quite an authentic feel for small town America.

If you choose to travel in the summertime, know that tt will also be incredibly hot! If you are not used to hot and humid weather, be prepared for some uncomfortable days. You can help combat the weather by dressing appropriately and drinking a lot of water.

Cruises along the Upper Mississippi portion of the river are only available between June and October, when the water level is low enough to accommodate cruise vessels.

The Lower Mississippi is open for several more months than the Upper Mississippi, which is good if you like off-season travel for avoiding crowds. Because the Lower Mississippi visits some of the most popular US cities, for domestic and international tourists alike, you will experience peak tourist crowds during the summertime. These cities include Memphis, New Orleans, and Baton Rouge.

Top Mississippi River Travel Companies

Things to Know Before You Go

River cruises along the Mississippi are usually history focused. The river held tremendous importance to the formation of the United States, from several different cultural and economical factors.

Mississippi River cruises last anywhere from 5 days to 2 weeks. In some cases your Mississippi River cruise will be a portion of a larger trip, rather than the main theme or mode of transport.

What to wear on a Mississippi River cruise

Most Mississippi River Cruises have a down home feel, without sacrificing a few luxury amenities, food and drink quality, or customer service. These kinds of river cruises are not the “dress for dinner” kind of experience, but note that the primary age group will be older, and they may take this approach.

The Weather Along the Mississippi River

The Mississippi River covers a lot of ground, from the hot and humid southern United States to the dryer northern midwest.

Light drizzles are common - but are rarely cold. In fact they will be a welcome respite from the heat! It can get windy along the Mississippi, so if you get cold easily be sure to bring layers.

You may also experience a thunderstorm or two when traveling on a Mississippi River Cruise. These can be spectacular displays, but often happen without a lot of warning.

Other Ways to See the Mississippi

Note that not all Mississippi River tours will be an extended cruise along the river itself. Your tour may include a crossing of the river before continuing on to explore more of the Southern and Eastern United States.

There are also some Mississippi River cruise itineraries that included other rivers. These include the Ohio River - a great choice if you’re looking to experience the vibrant town of Louisville, Kentucky - and the Cumberland River.

All Mississippi River cruises, tours, and adventure trips. Find the best guided trips and expert planned vacation and holiday packages. Average rating of 5.0 for all Mississippi River trips.

27 trips from 17 tour companies with 1 reviews

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