Inspired: Amazing Art and Vibrant Vistas of the Great River Road
The communities of the Minnesota Great River Road showcase not only the beauty of the Mississippi River, but also an incredible assortment of art and expression. Hit the road and stroll quaint downtowns and riverwalks, snap selfies with one-of-a-kind murals and sculptures, take in a rocking regional concert or colorful theater performance, and experience art in all its forms. Drive the Great River Road and be inspired!
- Check out the recommendations below provided by Great River Road communities. Listings are from upstream to downstream along the Mississippi River, generally north to south.
- For more ideas go to our Plan Your Trip interactive map. Choose the Arts and Culture category…
- Make your own art with these coloring pages featuring Great River Road locations. Paul Bunyan & Babe – Grand Rapids Pedestrian/Bicycle Bridge – Minneapolis 3rd Avenue Bridge – Winona Fall Bluffs
- While you’re out and about along the Minnesota Great River Road, plan a stop at one or more of our 13 specially designated Interpretive Centers. These sites have been selected for their remarkable telling of Mississippi River stories.
- Find a variety of things to see and do in all ten Great River Road/Mississippi River States!
Bemidji Sculpture Walk
The Bemidji sculpture walk has promoted public art since 1999. Along with encore or returning pieces that spend 2-3 years on display, most sculptures are new additions added in the spring of each year. In all, 38 sculptures are featured along the walk in 2023.
Paul Bunyan Playhouse
The Paul Bunyan Playhouse is the oldest professional summer stock company in Minnesota, and draws actors from across the state, region, and country. The performances take place in the historic Chief Theater in downtown Bemidji. Though global in the scope of its artists and programs, the theater is the year-round hub for the performing arts, surrounded by the Bemidji Community Theater, The Wild Rose Theater, and Bemidji State University.
Watermark Art Center
Located along the downtown waterfront area of Lake Bemidji, this historic Art Center hosts photography, painting, art, and fine craft exhibits and workshops throughout the year. Displays include national, regional, and local artists in group exhibits, solo shows, and installations. The Center also includes a gift shop with unique household handcrafted items, fine art, jewelry, sculptures and more.
Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe
Experience, learn and celebrate native culture. Click here for information about the meaning of Pow Wows, etiquette and frequently asked questions. Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe September Pow Wows – Sagasweiwe (Smoky Point) Traditional Pow Wow, September 8 – 10, 2023 at Veterans Memorial Pow Wow Grounds, Cass Lake, MN and Battle Point Traditional Pow Wow, September 15 – 17, 2023 at Battle-Sugar Point, MN. Photo courtesy of Sally Fineday, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. Pictured (l to r): Clarissa Chase and Kenton Dahl, citizens of Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.
MacRostie Art Center
Art exhibits include Remnants & Mookibji in the Giinawind Gallery September 1-30, 2023. Remnants is an art exhibit of Amy Varsek (Duluth, MN) featuring found object sculpture art. The Mookibiji exhibit is art that has a meaning of: she emerges from water, by Karen Goulet.
Grand Rapids Riverfest
Saturday, September 9, 2023, along the Banks of the Mississippi River. The Grand Rapids Riverfest was born out of the former KAXE 91.7 Mississippi Riverfest, a grassroots celebration of the news station along the banks of the Mississippi River in Grand Rapids, MN.
The Reif Arts Center
Live Music Performance by Blind Boys of Alabama, September 10, 2023. The Blind Boys’ live shows are roof-raising musical events that appeal to audiences of all cultures, as evidenced by an international itinerary that has taken them to virtually every continent.
The Jaques Art Center
Francis Lee Jaques (pronounced jay-kweez – rhymes with squeeze) moved to a farm near the Mississippi River in rural Aitkin in 1904 when he was 15 years old. In Aitkin, Jaques began his career as a self-taught artist depicting wildlife and outdoor scenes in addition to being a taxidermist, railroad fireman, farmer and logger. In honor of his lifelong love of art, the Jaques Art Center in Aitkin, Minnesota celebrates the visual arts of North Central Minnesota by presenting art exhibits, workshops, and other programming to all ages and backgrounds. The Art Center is free and open to the public. You can buy original art, prints, and hand made items of all kinds from the gift shop. Photo courtesy of KK Advertising
The Ripple Center
Aitkin’s multi-purpose venue for arts, entertainment, and events. Built in 1903 with locally-fired bricks made from the river town’s Mississippi mud, the Hodgeden Opera House with its ornate paneling and elaborate details is the place Judy Garland first performed with her sisters, and continues as the backdrop to the region’s cultural flair. The building hosts comedians, plays, and music performances of all kinds, with acts from across the country. Photo courtesy of KK Advertising
Great River Arts
Great River Arts is an art gallery in Little Falls, MN that features a front and main gallery with art displays that rotate every couple of months, a stage for live entertainment, classes for both youth and adults, and a retail space with handmade art, jewelry, pottery, and so much more!
Public Art Murals
Little Falls has a wide variety of public art murals painted around our historic downtown including depictions of the logging era, Main Street, the seasons in Minnesota, and more!
The Little Falls Arts & Crafts and Market Place Fairs
The Little Falls Arts & Crafts and Market Place Fairs is an annual two-day long event that has been bringing over 600 vendors and over 100,000 visitors to downtown Little Falls, MN for 50 years!
Munsinger & Clemens Gardens
Immerse yourself in a truly unique botanical experience. Awaken your senses. Delight in the natural beauty. Located along the Mississippi River across from St. Cloud State University, Munsinger and Clemens Gardens invite you to stroll the winding paths and brick pathways as you experience this dazzling St. Cloud treasure.
Catch a SHOW
Greater St. Cloud is a hub for live music, entertainment, and all kinds of fun! With weekly festivals in the summer, amazing stages that host regional acts all year, and great one-time shows at unforgettable venues, this is the place to come to be entertained. Check out the amazing venues below, book the tickets, and we’ll see you in the crowd! Catch Billy Currington and Eli Young Band on September 22nd!
The Greater St. Cloud Area is home to some majestic works of art ranging from architecture, statues, and monuments, to murals and memorials that can all be found outdoors. Grab a cup of tea and hit the streets exploring some of these area hidden treasures.
Red Wing Arts Festival
Our juried two-day fine arts festival is one of Red Wing Arts’ core programming events, designed to feature and celebrate our 100-plus regional artists in the heart of Red Wing.
Minnesota Children’s Book Festival
The Anderson Center at Tower View is pleased to present the 24th annual Minnesota Children’s Book Festival on Saturday, September 16, 2023, featuring presentations of new books by award-winning children’s & young adult authors and illustrators. Taking place at the Anderson Center’s beautiful, historic Tower View campus, the Children’s Book Festival is an ideal opportunity for families to connect, learn and play
Red Wing’s Art Walk is free, open to the public, and walkable in our beautiful, historic downtown. There are now over 30 pieces of art to explore within walking distance of downtown Red Wing.
Festivals and Events
Whether it’s Water Ski Days, Fall Fest, Market by the Lake, or any of the many other exciting annual or regular happenings, art is always at the forefront in Lake City with live performances, arts and crafts vendors, public art displays, and more creative attractions to satisfy all tastes and interests.
Studios and Galleries
From Willow Gentile Studio and Gallery to South Shore Gallery & Gifts to Lake City Area Arts, as well as many more locations, downtown Lake City is buzzing with vibrant art, curiosities, antiques, and creative activities inside many of its beautiful historic storefronts.
Lake City celebrates the art of the needles, pins, and stitches with numerous shops for quilters and knitters (and even a retreat center for fabric art and crafting aficionados!), making this beautiful small city on Lake Pepin a must-stop destination for these often unheralded artists.
Minnesota Marine Art Museum
Check out this stunning “diamond in the bluffs” attraction, featuring great art inspired by water, from historic exhibitions to contemporary artwork located along the Mighty Mississippi River. MMAM is truly pushing the boundaries of what marine art can be. Bonus: Bring a picnic and settle in on the museum’s riverwalk to watch barges and eagles pass by while prairie gardens sway nearby in the breeze.
Stroll through downtown Winona and beyond to be amazed by colorful surprises in unexpected places. The #winonacolorproject was launched in 2019 and is focused on bringing vibrant, welcoming messages that support good mental health through creative place-making. They’re also perfect for selfies.
Winona’s Stained Glass
What started as numerous stained glass manufacturing studios headquartered in our flourishing lumber town of the late 1800s, has now blossomed into a national distinction for Winona as the Stained Glass Capital of the United States. Stop by the Winona Visitor Center to pick up a self-guided stained glass tour map and see original pieces that glitter like jewels in the windows of many historic buildings throughout Winona.