American River BBQ Challenge (American Countess, Memphis to Alton/St. Louis)
8 days with American Queen Steamboat Rating: Deluxe
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Enjoy free shore excursions on every sailing. Click here for eligible departures.
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River Cruise Itinerary
Day 1: Memphis, TN
Departure 5:00 PM
Enjoy Memphis at your leisure or consider a pre-cruise Premium Shore Excursion with afternoon transfer to the American Countess.
Day 2: Leisurely River Cruising
There is always plenty to do between dawn and dusk on the river and today is the perfect day to enjoy the many public spaces and activities that are available to you onboard. Gaze at the beautiful landscapes and small river towns as you mingle with fellow guests and discuss the unique aspects of river life. If you fancy a moment for yourself, retreat to The Library adorned with bookcases stocked with an imaginative selection. Take hold of a literary classic, curl up on a plush chair in a cozy corner and relish every moment of serenity. Our fitness facility, Card Room and Grand Lobby offer a more stimulating day on the river for those who wish to indulge in more energy-infused activity. However you wish to spend your day, make it your own and revel in every moment.
Day 3: New Madrid, MO
New Madrid was founded in 1776 by Spanish Governor Esteban Rodríguez Miró who welcomed Anglo-Saxon settlers but required them to become citizens of Spain and live under the guidance of his appointed impresario, Revolutionary War veteran, Colonel William Morgan of New Jersey. Some 2,000 settled in the region. In 1800, Spain traded the territory to France in the Third Treaty of San Ildefonso, who promptly sold it to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase. The city is remembered as being the nearby location for the Mississippi River military engagement, the Battle of Island Number Ten, during the Civil War. The city is famous for being the site of a series of over 1,000 earthquakes in 1811 and 1812, caused by what is called the New Madrid Seismic Zone. Today, explore this quaint river town that will surely steal the hearts of all guests.
Included Shore Excursions:
New Madrid Historical Museum
Located in the former Kendall Saloon off of Main Street, the New Madrid Historical Museum shares the history of this river town from the Mississippian period through the 20th century. Here, guests can explore the great earthquakes of 1811 and 1812, documented with seismographic recordings, Native American artifacts, Civil War artifacts, early family life in the city of New Madrid during the 19th and 20th centuries and the gift shop!
New Madrid County Courthouse
In 1812 New Madrid was a vast county extending south through much of Arkansas. The area was cut roughly in half during the following year, and even further reductions came by 1816. New Madrid County, located by the Mississippi, was one of Missouri’s earliest counties. The town of New Madrid was founded in 1783, and the county was organized in 1812. First courts met in New Madrid, but county records previous to 1816 are missing. After the devastating earthquake of 1811 and repeated flooding of the Mississippi, the court chose an inland site for the county seat. For the 20th century courthouse, New Madrid County purchased a new site north of the original town in March 1915. From architects who presented plans, the court selected those from H. G. Clymer of St. Louis. Clymer's plan was for a brick building 107 by 75 feet with stone trim. Additional funds for finishing the courthouse and jail were authorized early in 1917, but no bids were received. World War I was beginning, and the labor force was reduced. Finally, W. W. Taylor, a master builder from Cape Girardeau, superintended final interior work, which was completed in January 1919. Final costs exceeded $100,000. This courthouse continues in use as New Madrid's seat of justice.
Hunter-Dawson State Historic Site
Hunter-Dawson State Historic Site preserves a now-vanished part of Missouri: The stately Bootheel Mansion. Filled with original pieces and furnished in the style similar to its heydays of the 1860s-1880s, this ornate mansion provides a history lesson in every corner. Most of the original furniture, purchased by the house’s first owners, Amanda and William Hunter, are still in the house today.
Restored to the one-room school that operated at Higgerson Landing in 1948, the Higgerson School is a window to the educational practices that shaped and served rural America from the early 19th century. Experience the typical school day of children attending all eight grades in one room with one teacher. Relive the days of playing “Wolf Over and River” and “Caterpillars,” a trip to the outdoor facility and crossing the fence on the stile. Visit Higgerson Landing Gift Shop before heading to your next stop.
River Walk Gallery
The oldest home in New Madrid, the Hart-Stepp House was built by Abraham Augustine in 1840 and moved to its present location in order to escape the encroaching waters of the Mississippi River. It is now home to the River Walk Gallery and the New Madrid Chamber of Commerce. The Gallery features the works of local photographers and artists.
Day 4: Paducah, KY
Paducah embraces their harmonious history between the European settlers and the Padoucca Indians native to the area. The city is located at the confluence of the Ohio and the Tennessee Rivers and because of this, it is often called the Four-Rivers Area due to the proximity of the Ohio, Cumberland, Tennessee, and Mississippi Rivers. This prime location has played a major role in Paducah’s history, as transportation was easily accessible – the economy was strong and travelers were frequent!
Included Shore Excursions:
National Quilt Museum
Celebrating 25 years in 2016, The National Quilt Museum is the largest of its kind in the world. It is the portal to the contemporary quilt experience - exhibits and workshops by renowned quilters who are implementing creative approaches to fiber art. The 27,000-square-foot contemporary structure features three galleries highlighting a collection of contemporary quilts and changing thematic exhibitions that celebrate the talent and diversity of the global quilting community. Workshops taught by world-class fiber art instructors are offered year-round. The Museum Shop & Book Store offers Kentucky Crafted items and quilt-related instructional and collector books.
Lloyd Tilghman House
This historic Greek Revival house was built in 1852 for Lloyd Tilghman, a new member of Paducah’s community at the time. After the house was completed, Tilghman did not purchase the property. Instead, the builder, Robert Woolfolk became the sole owner of the house and grounds. Tilghman, his wife, their seven children, and five slaves resided in the home until 1861. It was then that Woolfolk and his family moved into the home. Their family was pro-South and proudly flew a Confederate flag causing many uproars in the community and with the Federal Troops who located their headquarters just across the street from the home. Eventually Woolfolk and his family were banished from Paducah and the United States, forced to live in Canada on August 1, 1864.
Paducah Railroad Museum
The original Freight House (across the parking lot from the Museum) was built in 1925 by the Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis Railway. In 1996, the Freight House was sold and the Museum moved to a building one-half block away. Here, learn the history of the railroad and those who used it, explore the authentic train models, and enjoy the memorabilia showcased for guests.
River Discovery Center
In 1988 Mayor Gerry Montgomery and her committee pursued the development of a museum to showcase the Four Rivers Region’s maritime heritage. The River Heritage Center was planned in 1992 as the very beginning stages of the mayor’s dream. Years later the museum was relocated by Seamen’s Church Institute of New York and renamed the River Heritage Museum before finally receiving its current name, the River Discovery Center in 2008. Here explore artifacts, exhibits, and interactive displays that share the history of marine life and the history of the river.
The Moonshine Company
Explore, taste, and purchase traditional and international award-winning Kentucky moonshine and moonshine flavors at The Moonshine Company in historic downtown Paducah. Located only blocks from the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers, The Moonshine Company offers complimentary guided museum tours and moonshine samples that are distilled on-site in our 108-year-old building. Get a glimpse into the rich Kentucky moonshine history with their collection of historic moonshine stills and purchase that same moonshine secretly produced and bootlegged by our family over 80 years ago to bring home with you!
Day 5: Cape Girardeau, MO
Nestled along the western banks of the mighty Mississippi River lays the city of Cape Girardeau, Missouri. It’s a community rich in history and heritage. For more than 250 years, people have been drawn to Cape Girardeau and the river on which it lies. Stroll along the riverfront, where the passion that led Mark Twain to write so eloquently about Cape Girardeau in Life on the Mississippi, the inspiration that Gen. Ulysses S. Grant used to lead with firm conviction as he took command of the Union Army in the historic downtown, and the warmth and hospitality that community founder Louis Lorimier extended to Lewis and Clark while on the journey of a lifetime as they set forth on their Corps of Discovery to explore the Louisiana Purchase will be prominent.
Included Shore Excursions:
Mississippi River Tales Murals
The Mississippi River Tales Mural is the largest and most dramatic of Cape Girardeau’s murals and is located on a portion of the downtown floodwall. Covering nearly 18,000 square feet, this 1,100-foot-long mural features 24 historically-themed panels that vividly portray Cape Girardeau’s rich history and heritage; descriptive markers provide an explanation of each panel. The Missouri Wall of Fame Mural features 47 individuals who were born in Missouri or achieved fame while living in the state.
Red House Interpretive Center
The Center commemorates the life of community founder French-Canadian, Louis Lorimier, as well as the visit of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in November, 1803. The Interpretive Center houses an early 1800s exhibit that reflects the lives of the early settlers of the old Cape Girardeau district. In addition, a rendering of Lorimier’s Trading Post displays authentic items that would have been sold at the turn of the 19th century. The gardens on the north side of the house show the types of garden you might have seen in 1803 with flowers, vegetables, cooking herbs, and medicinal herbs.
Old St. Vincent’s Church
The Renaissance architecture, referred to as English Gothic Revival style, is not only beautiful but also extremely rare, as very few churches of this style exist in America today. Explore the many artifacts preserved in the church as you admire the arches and woodwork lining the interior of the chapel. Discover this fully restored beauty as it transports you back in time.
Completed in 1883, the Glenn house is a fully restored historic museum in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. It is a prime example of the Victorian period lifestyle including the architecture, furnishings, clothing, and décor. The Glenn House was built for David A. Glenn, who was an influential figure in the city’s history. He and his family occupied the home until 1915. Before they vacated the home, it was renovated in 1900 to the Queen Anne Style. The house is listed on the National Register of Historical Places. Many of the furnishings and features of the home have been restored to their original beauty and have been kept authentic to the Victorian time interior.
Holland School of Visual and Performing Arts River Campus
Earl and Margie Holland School of Visual and Performing Arts is composed of departments covering the history and science of art, music, theater, and dance. Visit the beautiful campus and explore the unique styles and subjects taught here. Walk around and discover impressive pieces of art, in many different styles, showcasing the talent and hard work of local students.
The Crisp Museum collects in three thematic areas: archaeology, history, and fine art. The Archaeology collection has several collections of prehistoric Native American artifacts, which illustrate aspects of the daily and ceremonial lives of the indigenous peoples who lived in southeastern Missouri from 13,500 B.C. to 1400 A.D., highlighting some very rare and exotic artifacts. The museum’s historical collections cover a wide range of artifacts with strengths in the areas of militaria, firearms and their accessories, clothing, and hand tools.
Cape River Heritage Museum
Since its founding in 1981, the Cape River Heritage Museum has focused on local history while preserving a historic building at the corner of Frederick and Independence streets. Located in an old fire house, the museum offers events, tours, and exhibits on steamboats, education, commerce, the Missouri mule, the state flag, the Show-Me slogan, Native American culture, and fire and police memorabilia. Snap a picture of yourself in the model steamboat or in the cab of a tall-ladder fire truck from the 1950s!
Day 6: Chester, IL
Known as the “Home of Popeye”, Chester, Illinois is a city rich in history and pop culture. Because creator and writer of Popeye, Elzie Crisler Segar, was born here, the famous characters starred in the show will be seen showcased frequently throughout the town. Stop at the Popeye Character Trail to view granite statues of the characters overlooking the Mississippi or check out America’s only Popeye museum and gift shop to take home a souvenir to remind you of your visit to Chester! Spend the day exploring the unique history as you walk through luxurious homes, historical buildings, and museums!
Included Shore Excursions:
Cohen Memorial Home
The Cohen home is located on a beautiful historical site on Harrison Street overlooking the Mississippi River. Its unusual blue storm windows make it a very visible landmark for boats on the river and travelers approaching the Chester Bridge from Missouri. Built in 1855, it was the home of the William Cohen family who lived there until 1983. The upstairs’ bedrooms contain furnishings and collections from several families of Chester including the Cohen family.
The Spinach Can Collectibles and Museum
As the only Popeye collectibles store and museum in America, this small shop located in Downtown Chester will surely bring back memories of the past as you explore. Walk around the front to see original and rare collectables featuring Popeye, Olive Oyl, Wimpy, Bluto, Swee’Pee, Jeep, and much more. Pick out the perfect unique book, toy, video, postcard, poster, or other memorabilia for someone back home or to keep for yourself. Then head into the back to see some rare and highly sought after Popeye collectibles.
The Courthouse and Randolph County Museum
The museum houses permanent displays as well as some artifacts that are temporarily on loan, and it hosts shows and exhibits which showcase specific treasures from the heritage and the long history of Randolph County. In addition, the newly established archives room will enable the museum to properly preserve and store documents, photographs, and other non-displayed artifacts for generations to come. Explore the history of Randolph County through collections of paintings, articles, photos, and artifacts that depict their past.
The Chester Welcome Center offers a lookout point which gives a fantastic vantage point to observe the majestic Mississippi River below. You won’t miss this building as a large statue of the iconic Popeye cast in bronze marks its location along the Chester streets. The Chester Welcome Center is located in Segar Park next to the Chester Bridge overlooking the Mississippi River. The new Welcome Center contains restrooms, an information center with displays and a large deck overlooking the Mississippi River and Missouri Bottoms. The bronze statue of Popeye the Sailor Man has been overlooking the Mississippi River in Segar Park for more than 30 years. This is the first of numerous Popeye & Friends Character Trail statues of Popeye characters placed in various areas in Chester.
Day 7: St. Louis, MO
St. Louis, Missouri, famously referred to as the “Gateway City,” is known for its diverse neighborhoods and the different cultures and traditions each one brings forth. The iconic city was founded in 1764 by French explorers who settled on the east side of the Mississippi, claiming the land as their fur trading post. In 1803, the city’s name began to spread as the beginning point for the famous Louis and Clark Expedition. The city is typically associated with its 630-foot stainless steel monument, the Gateway Arch, which stands proud on the banks of the Mississippi River to symbolize the westward expansion of the United States.
Included Shore Excursions:
Included St. Louis City Tour
Day 8: Alton, IL (St. Louis, MO)
Thank you for cruising with us! We hope that you had a memorable experience and look forward to welcoming you aboard in the future. Enjoy nearby St. Louis at your leisure or consider a Post-Cruise Premium Shore Excursion with airport transfer.
All This Included
Styles of American barbeque are varied and numerous. The competition will be tasty as our talented culinary teams compete throughout these voyages against regional barbeque masters, with the winner to be determined by guests.
Complimentary Hop-On Hop-Off shore excursions in each port of call
All onboard meals, including both fine dining and casual cuisine
24-hour room service
Complimentary wine and beer with dinner
Complimentary cappuccino, espresso, specialty coffees, tea, bottled water and soft drinks throughout your voyage
Gracious service from a friendly, all-American staff
Acclaimed entertainment worthy of Broadway
Our own dedicated fleet of deluxe motorcoaches
Accommodations on this Tour
Cruising: Inside cabin onboard the American Countess
Cabin upgrades are available.
Port Taxes of $199 per person are additional and not included in the prices shown above.
Please ask your Vacations To Go travel counselor for more information.
Terms and Conditions
The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines. Sorry, we are unable to offer air from countries other than the U.S. However, for those international customers who are able to arrange their own transportation to the trip origination city, we are able to offer the land/cruise portion of the package at the price quoted.