If you're looking for road trip options from Chicago to Washington, D.C., the Windy City serves as an excellent launching spot for exciting trips to the U.S. capital. You can check out world-class architecture or boat down a river in Toledo as well as stuff yourself with fried oysters and beer in Pittsburgh. A road trip from Chicago to Washington, D.C. can be filled with beautiful parks, awe-inspiring hikes, and delicious restaurants. Gas up your RV and get ready to hit the road.
Indiana Sand Dunes National Park
Begin your trip at Indiana Sand Dunes National Park, 32 miles from Chicago along route I-90E. The park, formed in 1966, includes over 15 miles of lakefront across Lake Michigan's southern shore. Go for a swim, hike through the 200-meter dunes or paddle a Lake Michigan Water Trail segment. You'll also want to check out Chellberg Farm, a rehabilitated homestead that emulates a late 19th-century Swedish-American settlement. It would be a shame to leave without visiting Mount Baldy, the tallest moving dune in Indiana. Other activities include snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter, fishing, camping, and swimming.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Ohio's only national park, Cuyahoga Valley is a spectacular backyard playground with various ways to enjoy the great outdoors. If you make a side excursion to this lovely region, just 26 minutes from Cleveland, you'll hike through the famous Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail. Adventurers will especially want to stop here as they can gaze at a waterfall, take a train ride, learn canal-era history, or hike through one of the dozens of gorgeous trails. Still, others will enjoy checking out the 65-foot-tall Brandy Water Falls, accessible from a nice parking area through a wooden boardwalk.
Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park is a great option to check out if you don't mind taking a Virginia detour from your Chicago to Washington, D.C. RV road trip. Its most popular feature is the majestic Skyline Drive, a 109-mile freeway that offers some of the most beautiful vistas you'll ever see. However, you'll miss quite a bit if you never get out of your RV, including over 100 miles of hiking along the Appalachian Trail. You can also climb the many rock outcrops within the park. You might spot gray squirrels, striped and spotted skunks, or the white-tailed deer if you're lucky. Shenandoah is 97.8 miles southwest of Harpers Ferry, so you'll want to get the timing right to avoid traffic delays.
Maumee Bay State Park
Maumee Bay State Park is one of the first stops you may want to make after you begin your road trip. They have shopping outlets, where you can stock up on meals and drinks. This state park is just 10 miles east of Toledo. When you arrive, you should expect to see wet woods, breathtaking meadows, and sprawling marshes teeming with wildlife. Campers can enjoy golf, bird-watching, swimming, and relic hunting.
Sky Meadows State Park
Sky Meadows State Park is a great place to stop and work your legs if you take U.S. Route 50 west from Washington, D.C. Depending on the weather, you can go swimming, boating or picnicking in this state park. Must-visit places for families and group activities include Mount Bleak House and the eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. You might also want to bring your bike to ride on the nine miles of trails.
Salt Fork State Park
Salt Fork State Park in Ohio is a terrific place to camp during the hot summer months. There's no better place to stretch after a long drive than being on the Salt Fork Lake. This 20,000-acre park is every camper's dream with lots of outdoor activities, including horse riding, picnicking, and hiking. You'll also want to cool off on a hot weekend at the beach. Golf aficionados will want to stop here to enjoy the Salt Fork State Park Gold Course's lovely terrain.
You'll reach Toledo just a few hours after leaving Chicago. This old oceanside city is home to the famous Toledo Zoo, founded in 1900 with a donation of one tiny woodchuck. The zoo houses more than 10,000 animals from camels and gorillas to elephants and otters. You can take a behind-the-scenes excursion to learn about the zoo's conservation efforts or feed the Maasai giraffes on-site. Additional activities for road trippers include train rides, a merry-go-round, and an aerial adventure.
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Located at the heart of Cleveland, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is more like a magical experience than a museum. It offers traveling international shows, permanent exhibitions, and rarities like the manuscript of "Purple Haze." You can get acquainted with the history of the rock music industry inside this exuberant state-of-the-art complex. The perfect way to experience the museum is to start from the first floor, where you'll see the Hall of Fame Inductees, and find your way to the top. You'll also want to reserve your tickets in advance so you won't have to wait in line when you arrive.
Donated to Pittsburgh by real estate mogul Henry Phipps in 1893, the Phipps Conservatory is among the top-rated tourist attractions in Pennsylvania. You can go on a guided tour of this botanical garden, which includes an opportunity to view the beautiful 13-room Victorian glasshouse and the delicate plants. Consider taking a learning tour of the Tropical Forest Conservatory, which explores energy and water conservation topics. Children can also enjoy hands-on activities on the railroad and discover and interact with the tropical Treasure Island.
The United States Capitol and Capitol Hill
End your road trip itinerary from Chicago to Washington, D.C. in style by visiting the iconic Capitol Hill. Based on Rome's St. Peter's Basilica, the gigantic dome towers above Capitol Hill. Like the city itself, the dome has grown over the years since the central part was built between 1793 and 1812. You can take a free tour inside the building's interior, filled with gorgeous paintings, frescoes, and reliefs. On a weekday afternoon, you can explore the ornate arts on the 1859-built Senate Wing corridors' ceilings and walls. Don't leave without checking out the Library of Congress, the world's largest library.
Toledo doesn't disappoint when it comes to outdoor activities, art, culture, and picturesque recreational spots. The northwestern Ohio city has several beautiful state parks like Maumee Bay State Park, which is a great place to spend the night. You should also visit the Toledo Museum of Art, Imagination Station, and the Great Lakes National Museum. Stony Ridge KOA Journey has a dump station and an RV campground. It's perched in Perrysburg along I-90, and the RV campsite offers endless opportunities for photography, wagon rides, picnics, and fire rings. Campers can also enjoy free cornhole, giant Jenga, horseshoes, and shuffleboards.
Known as the "Forest City," Cleveland is located near Lake Erie's southern shore and has several stunning landmarks. If you visit, you'll want to head out to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, home to some unique exhibits showcasing collections in botany and paleontology areas. The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is an excellent place to admire exotic animals from all over the world. Stop by the USS Cod Submarine Memorial to learn about the storied history of rescues and battles. You can also spark your interest in space travel and wind by visiting the Great Lakes Science Center.
Willow Lake Park is a beautiful RV park nestled in the heart of Ontario Dairy Country, just 30 minutes from Cleveland. This site has both a dump station, located 3.7 miles on the western end of the park, and a campground. Since this park is a campers' favorite, it's best to book reservations online before leaving for your Chicago to Washington, D.C. road trip.
Pittsburgh is a perfect destination for an overnight stay. Known to Americans as the home of iconic sports franchises like the Pirates and Steelers, this city attracts visitors worldwide. You can start by taking a tour of the Frick Art and Historical Center, where you'll see pictures dating back to the early Renaissance. The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium is home to a wide variety of animal species from clouded leopards and penguins to polar bears and two-toed sloths. You should catch the sunset inside the Point State Park as well.
Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Mill Run, 50 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, is an excellent stopover location for road trippers. It also has a campground and a dump station. You'll want to engage in outdoor activities at the theme park, private lagoon, Yogi Bear's Wetlands, or the Boo Boo's spray zone. Be sure to visit the adjacent nature preserves before continuing with your road trip itinerary from Chicago to Washington, D.C.
Planning a road trip from Chicago to Washington, D.C. may seem daunting, especially when you don't own a recreational vehicle. The itinerary itself requires that you hit the road early enough to avoid missing out on the top attractions along the way, but with an RV rental in Chicago, you can free up time to enjoy the beautiful scenery without worrying about places to spend the night. In addition, with available RV rentals in Washington, D.C., you'll take a memorable road trip back to Chicago.