Chicago and Miami are two of America’s great cultural centers, so they make excellent starting and ending points of a Chicago to Miami road trip. Between those two great cities lie numerous lovely national and state parks. Some of the nation’s most interesting locations can be found in the cities between Chicago and Miami. Fire up your RV, hit the open road, and travel through a wide variety of the country's diverse environments.
Indiana Sand Dunes National Park
You don’t have to go too far from Chicago in order to find the first national park on your road trip itinerary from Chicago to Miami. Indiana Sand Dunes National Park is roughly an hour outside of the Windy City, and it gives you a great venue at which to enjoy the shores of Lake Michigan. It’s only been a national park since February of 2019, but the 15 miles of Lake Michigan lakefront and 20 additional square miles are already making a national impression. Swimming, boating, biking, and other activities are popular here.
Mammoth Cave National Park
For a dramatically different experience, you can visit Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. This national park is home to the world’s largest known cave system, so the caves themselves are obviously the biggest attraction. Areas like the Rotunda, Frozen Niagara and Gothic Avenue draw numerous visitors per year. If you would prefer to stay above the ground, you can still take advantage of more than 4 miles of trails that take you around the Kentucky countryside.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a couple of hours off your route, but since it’s the most popular national park in America by visitation, it’s obviously worth the extra effort. The enduring allure of the Great Smokies lies not in jaw-dropping rock formations or iconic national symbols but in the simple elemental appeal of the mountains and in the plants and animals within them. Whether you want to take a leisurely stroll along the Deep Creek Trail or a challenging hike on the famous Appalachian Trail, you can do it all at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Biscayne National Park
Near the end of your road trip from Chicago to Miami, you can relax at the beach at beautiful Biscayne National Park. The beach is only the beginning of this national park since most of its biggest attractions are actually out on and under the water of Biscayne Bay. Snorkeling, diving, fishing, and boating are all immensely popular activities to do here. Since the park is conveniently close to Miami, you’ll be able to spend time relaxing at some great attractions once you’re done exploring.
Everglades National Park
Everglades National Park is also conveniently close to Miami. As is the case with all of these national parks, it’s radically different from the park listed above it. Marshes, wetlands, and pine flatwoods are the order of the day here rather than sand and surf. In addition to the crocodiles and alligators for which the park is known, you can also see panthers, manatees, and multiple other exotic animals.
Indiana Dunes State Park
Once you’ve finished exploring Indiana Sand Dunes National Park, you can head right on over to Indiana Dunes State Park. More than 16 miles of trails take you throughout the dunes as well as the marshes, swamps, and woods in the area. Swimming, sunbathing, and bird-watching are all visitor favorites here.
Clifty Falls State Park
Clifty Falls State Park is close to the Indiana-Kentucky border not far from Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge. A variety of trails take you around the falls and its surrounding environments. A swimming pool and tennis courts are also available for visitors to use.
Henry Horton State Park
Henry Horton State Park is about an hour south of Nashville along the banks of the Duck River. The park itself is named after a former governor of Tennessee whose estate was converted to a state park in the 1960s. Golf is popular here since the park boasts both a traditional course and a disc golf course. A trap and skeet range, an Olympic-sized pool, and 10 miles of trails provide further entertainment options.
Cloudland Canyon State Park
Cloudland Canyon State Park is in the Appalachian Plateau/TAG Corner region of North Georgia. Its proximity to Lookout Mountain helps make it one of the most scenic parks in Georgia. Of course, the thousand-foot canyons, waterfalls, sandstone cliffs, and caves help as well. Biking, caving, disc golf, and fishing are big here.
Silver Springs State Park
Silver Springs State Park is home to one of the world’s largest artesian springs. The water here is so clear that you can easily see the bottom of the springs and its teeming wildlife. Glass-bottom boat tours are immensely popular for seeing underwater, but kayaking and canoeing are also big. There are other areas of the park you can explore on foot as well.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
This classic racing venue is home to the legendary Indianapolis 500 IndyCar race. The track also hosts NASCAR events like the Pennzoil 150 and the Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400. You can also play golf, browse through the on-site museum, and tour the facility.
Close to the heart of Louisville, KY, is another world-famous racetrack: Churchill Downs. It also hosts a legendary race in the Kentucky Derby, which is typically the first jewel in the race for horse racing’s Triple Crown. Those who want to learn more about the race’s history and previous winners can visit the Kentucky Derby Museum on the premises.
The Nashville Zoo is close to Interstate 24 and the Nashville International Airport. Its roughly 90 acres of developed land house a wide variety of animals with endangered ratings ranging from "least concern" to "critically endangered." Some favorite attractions include Wild Animal Carousel, Soaring Eagle Zip Line, and Wilderness Express.
The Georgia Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the Western Hemisphere. Whale sharks, belugas, manta rays, sea lions, and more call this popular Atlanta attraction home. Animal encounters, swim-and-dive sessions, and more are possible here. If you’re not ready to leave the complex by the time you’re through touring the aquarium, you can go right next door to the World of Coca-Cola to learn more about this famous brand.
Universal Studios Florida
The sprawling Universal Studios Florida complex is right on your route through Orlando. Immensely popular areas like The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Orlando Resort, and Universal’s Islands of Adventure are close to your route. Disney’s Magic Kingdom complex is also nearby, so you could easily spend multiple days exploring these famous theme parks.
Indianapolis is the capital of Indiana and is the first big city you go through on your Chicago to Miami RV road trip. Both the Colts of the NFL and the Pacers of the NBA call this city home. If you need to clean your RV, plenty of dump stations are available. You’ll also be able to stay at some lovely local campgrounds.
Louisville is Kentucky’s largest city, so it’s no surprise that there are plenty of campgrounds in the area. It’s home to the world-famous Louisville Slugger baseball bat brand and the Muhammad Ali Museum.
Nashville is known as Music City because of its importance to country music especially. The Country Music Hall of Fame Museum, the Grand Ole Opry, and the Musicians Hall of Fame Museum all pay homage to great musicians. Both dump stations and campgrounds are nearby.
Atlanta is the capital of Georgia and home to four major sports franchises: the Braves of MLB, the Falcons of the NFL, the Hawks of the NBA, and Atlanta United FC of MLS. Theater and music are also important in Atlanta, so there are plenty of venues dedicated to the arts. If you wish to explore this Southern city, you’ll have plenty of dump stations and campgrounds at your disposal.
In addition to being known as the “Theme Park Capital of the World,” Orlando has a robust convention industry that helps drive tourism. Every year, upward of 75 million tourists descend on this Florida city. If you want to be one of them, you’ll be able to take advantage of some convenient dump stations and campgrounds.