Celebrate World Rivers Day with these 4 Epic Road Trips
3 min

The U.S. has over 250,000 rivers that cover more than 3,500,000 miles. These waterways are often hubs for charming towns, scenic byways with beautiful views, and delicious breweries and restaurants. Check out these four road trips (and amazing affordable vacation rentals) along several major rivers across the country.

Great River Road – St. Louis, MO to New Orleans, LA

Point your vehicle toward the Mighty Mississippi to follow in the paddle strokes of Huckleberry Finn to celebrate World Rivers Day. This second-longest river in North America is one of the most important for moving goods around the country and has incredible biological diversity.

Start in St. Louis, Missouri, where you can see the Gateway Arch, a 630-foot reflective structure built to symbolize the city’s place as a “Gateway to the West.” Don’t leave St. Louis without getting breakfast at Kingside Diner (236 N. Euclid Ave). Customer menu favorites include griddle pancakes and roasted veggie hash. When you’ve had your fill, drive south along the Great River Road.

You’ll hit marvelous Memphis, TN, just 4 hours down the road. Visit Beale Street, the self-proclaimed “Home of the Blues,” to listen to incredible live music and eat fall-off-the-bone ribs at Blue City Cafe (138 Beale St.) or sip a cold one at Ghost River Brewing Co. (341 Beale St.).

Stay the night at this charming and comfortable Memphis getaway, a colorful last minute vacation rental just off the border of Mississippi and Tennessee. Rest up in the king or queen-sized beds before visiting one of the awesome nearby restaurants recommended by your hosts!

In the morning, head to New Orleans, Louisiana, about six hours south. This part of the river is unique because it gets saltier the closer you get to the ocean. See the city from the river on a steamboat cruise with New Orleans Steamboat Company (400 Toulouse). Book a dinner or daytime jazz cruise to float the Mississippi while enjoying live music and exploring these timeless vessels!

Historic Columbia River Highway – Portland, OR to Columbia River Gorge, OR

The Historic Columbia River Highway in Oregon is about 75 miles long and follows the Columbia River from Portland to The Dalles. Built between 1913 and 1922, it was the first scenic highway in the country. The first people to drive here were in Model Ts!

Grab road snacks with flavors like “School Daze PB & J” and “Raspberry Romeo” in Portland, Oregon, at Voodoo Doughnut (1501 NE David St) to start your journey. Once you’ve strapped in with your pink treat box, head west toward Troutdale, the official west end of the highway.

In Troutdale, visit the Gateway to the Gorge Visitor Center (475 E. Historic Columbia River Highway) in the historic rail depot to learn about the region. The Depot Rail Museum shares the building, providing a perfect place for families and gearheads to marvel at rail transit relics.

Next, stop at Crown Point – Vista House State Scenic Corridor for exceptional views from 693 feet above the river!  Vista House is an octagonal building created to be a “temple to the natural beauty of the gorge.” Today, it houses a museum with interpretive displays highlighting the Gorge and an espresso bar to help you fuel up for the drive. Snap a few photos and enjoy the view before hopping back in the car.

Continue west toward 620-foot Multnomah Falls, the highest falls in the Gorge. You may need a permit to visit from May to September, so check with the park service ahead of time before you embark on your World Rivers Day adventure. This is a popular destination, so expect lines.

Top off your night at Crooked Acres Vineyard (422 King Road, Underwood, WA), where you can purchase pinot grigio and chardonnay grown on-sight!  Stay at 13 Lodge Condo in Hood River, OR. This cheap vacation rental is moments away from hiking, biking, and golfing options.

a day on the potomac during a last minute trip to virginia

A crisp autumn day on the Potomac River

Potomac River Journey – Washington, D.C. to Shenandoah National Park

The Potomac River is known as the “Nation’s River” because President George Washington built Mt. Vernon on the banks of the waterway. Today, the 14,670-square-mile watershed includes four states and is home to around five million people.

From Washington, D.C., drive southwest along the Potomac toward Mount Vernon (3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway). Purchase tickets before you visit to ensure a spot in a mansion tour or wander the grounds to see historic farm outbuildings. Stop at the distillery and gristmill for a whiskey tasting on Saturdays in May, June, and September.

Next, drive west to Harpers Ferry in West Virginia. This town of under 300 people is famous for its role in the Civil War when it was the northernmost Confederate territory. Stop at John Brown’s Fort (814 Shenandoah Street), where a civil war armory raid took place. Then, take a day hike on the Appalachian Trail, starting at the Harpers Ferry Visitor Center, a popular place to spot thru hikers (people aiming to hike the entire 2,190+ mile trail) starting or ending their journey.

Spend the night in nearby Martinsburg at this Cozy Home with seven private acres. This affordable last minute vacation rental has a full kitchen perfect for cooking breakfast before strolling the seven-acre property.

Then, hop back on the highway toward Shenandoah National Park near Harrisonburg, Virginia. The park is only 75 miles from Washington, D.C., and includes over 200,000 acres of protected land. Hike to Jones Run Falls, a 2-3 hour 3.2-mile hike that passes a 42-foot waterfall. Leashed dogs are allowed!

After spending the day exploring, finish your trip at Point Overlook (between Skyline Drive Mile Marker 55 and 56). Watch the sunset from this northwest-facing vista with views of Powell, Green, and Grindstone Mountains

Snake River Expedition- Jackson Hole, WY to Boise, ID

The Snake River is 1,078 miles long and passes through Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. This tributary of the Columbia River was once full of salmon, and the region is famous as being part of the Oregon Trail.

Start your drive with breakfast at Cafe Genevieve (135 East Broadway) in Jackson Hole, WY. Order the cajun eggs benedict or cheesy bacon grits and eggs and eat on the deck of this charming log restaurant. When you’re ready for the day, drive west.

Stop in Idaho Falls to stroll the Idaho Falls River Walk starting at Pancher Bridge. This five-mile series of trails offers views of the Snake River and Gem Lake. The namesake falls were once a local power source.

Next up, check out Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve. This unique area includes three lava fields that include volcanic cones, triangular hills that form around volcanic vents. The otherworldly location is an awesome spot for photos. Head to the Visitor Center (1266 Craters Loop Road) to learn about the geography and interesting plant life before driving the 7-mile loop road and stopping to check out caves, trails, and overlooks. Note: Parts of the park shut down in the winter. Check the website before visiting.

Stay in Valley Gem Lower, a cheap last minute vacation rental in Sun Valley with a kitchenette and private deck. Enjoy your coffee listening to the flowing water behind the property, and soak in the mountain views on the drive!

End your adventure in Boise, Idaho, at The Basque Market (608 West Grove Street). This memorable restaurant serves food from the Basque Country in Southwestern Europe, including incredible tapas and pintxos, or small bites. Try the lamb pinwheels and spicy citrus olives.

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