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The Windy City is a destination of its own—for visitors as well as locals—but the joys of road tripping to destinations within reach of Chicago are not to be underestimated. Can there be anything more hell-for-leather or seductive than jumping into a car with a full tank? We don’t think so! Just drive off on your own or with a loved one, a favorite tune on the radio, a minimal agenda, and maximum enthusiasm. It’s all waiting for you: from beautiful parks, to breathtaking lakes, to small harbor towns around. In other words, adventure awaits!
Many locals opt to get out of Chicago during the high season. Endless streams of tourists and stuffy weather can be the name of the game in summertime.
Solo or with a partner in crime, carve out the time for a trip, choose one or two locations from the list, and go for it! The famous Indiana Dunes are just 49 mi (79 km) away, lush Starved Rock State Park is a 93 mi (150 km) drive, jaw-dropping Cave Point Country Park is a doable 259 mi (416 km), and, of course, the unforgettable Wisconsin Dells area mere 195 miles (314 km) from Chicago. All of these are great options for a day trip, especially from late spring into early fall. The last one is a particular favorite among kayakers.
If you’re ready to throw your weekend to the wolves, check the beauty of the Nordhouse Dunes in eastern Michigan, which is definitely worth seeing, and just 259 miles (416 km) from Chicago. If work or pleasure finds you in Detroit, be sure to explore the world's largest Masonic Temple.
Other notable locations like Kitch-Iti-Kipi, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, or Niagara Cave are situated from 334 to 384 mi (or 538 to 618 km) away from Chicago, and should not be forgotten when you are planning a summer escape. So let the warmth in, get out on the road, and let the beauty embrace you.
Escaping from the big city during the colder months can lead you down some interesting paths.
Numerous Christmas activities, all within a short distances from Chicago, will make your heart be light, and spectacular light festivals are even more accessible by car.
The Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival makes for a perfect short road trip. This enchanting event is just 92 mi (148 km) from Chicago. But if you don’t mind longer journeys, let the Blue Jacket Fantasy of Lights, the Garden of Lights at the Green Bay Botanical Garden, the Wayne County Lightfest, or the Kings Island WinterFest highlight your winter adventures. These events take place annually and are between three to five hours from Chicago by car.
Starved Rock State Park and Indiana Dunes might be attractive in the cooler months as well. So pack a good mood and warm layers and let the charm of the Midwest be your guide!