The road from Chicago to New Orleans is packed with exciting sights to see and interesting places to explore. As you drive through several major cities, iconic destinations such as Graceland, Beale Street, and the Lincoln Home welcome you to enjoy their rich history. Several national and state parks along the way offer time for rejuvenation while you soak in the amazing scenery. Check out Trail of Tears State Park and Jean Lafitte National Historic Park for immersive cultural experiences.
Exploring a few national parks on your Chicago to New Orleans RV road trip should be at the top of your outdoor adventure list. Some of the most beautiful and historically significant land is on your route.
Indiana Sand Dunes National Park
Indiana Sand Dunes National Park is a short one-hour drive east of Chicago and is well worth the detour. Peaceful sand dunes stretch for miles on Lake Michigan's south shore with a variety of trails to hike year-round. You can wet a hook lakeside at the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk piers on the Little Calumet River. Take a dip or two and soak up the sun on the park's many beaches. With more to see and explore, this park is great for an overnight stay with camping available until the end of October.
Gateway Arch National Park
Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis is a must-see site with 91 historical acres to explore. Stop by the Old Courthouse for a lesson in U.S. history and walk the great halls where two landmark civil rights cases were held. Then, step outside and marvel at the 630-foot tall "Gateway to the West" arch. The Tram Ride to the Top offers spectacular views of the arch's one-of-a-kind architecture from inside the arch in a retro elevator that keeps you upright as you ascend. Visit the on-site museum for details about the construction of the arch. You can also hop on a riverboat cruise down the Mississippi and walk or bike the path from the park to downtown St. Louis.
Jean Lafitte National Historical Park
Jean Lafitte National Historical Park is also a preserve with six different sites to visit. Start your adventure at the Barataria Preserve to experience the sights and sounds of the bayous, marshes, swamps, and forests, and maybe catch a glimpse of a few alligators. Hop aboard the Creole Queen paddle wheeler for a historic cruise down the Mississippi to Chalmette Battlefield, the site of the Battle of New Orleans, another location of the park. You can also explore the French Quarter Visitor Center and the Prairie, Wetlands, and Acadian cultural centers.
State parks are excellent for day-long adventures or overnight excursions. Consider adding a few on your road trip from Chicago to New Orleans.
Beaver Dam State Park
Beaver Dam State Park is a quick 30-minute drive from Honey Bend off I-55 in Illinois. With plenty of trails to hike throughout the 750-acre park, you'll have never-ending chances to spot some of the local wildlife. You can spend a day or two fishing the stocked lake for bluegill, largemouth bass, and channel catfish. In the evening, enjoy a glass of wine at the Plainview Winery Cafe located on the lake's edge. The park offers camping with 40 reservable sites as well as picnic tables and barbecue grills for fun cookouts. Hunting and archery are permitted with your own gear.
Trail of Tears State Park
Trail of Tears State Park rests on the shore of the Mississippi River along the Missouri-Illinois border near Cape Girardeau. At this park, you can enjoy beautiful views of the Mississippi from the accessible overlook, explore the area on horseback, or go fishing on Boutin Lake. There are numerous hiking trails to trek, and you may see wild turkeys and whitetail deer roaming through the forests. One of the park's main attractions you'll want to see is the visitor center, a memorial and educational experience about local Native American history and the Trail of Tears.
LeFleur's Bluff State Park
LeFleur's Bluff State Park is in the heart of Jackson, MS, on the banks of the Pearl River. This park features a nine-hole golf course that you can play at your leisure. The Mississippi Museum of Natural Science is on the grounds of the park and houses several aquariums and 21 outdoor habitat exhibits with its own nature trails and native plant garden. Take your time exploring this unique museum. Five great hiking trails award you with beautiful views from the bluffs and the 50-acre lake where you can fish for bass, bream, and crappie.
Lincoln Home National Historic Site
Located in Springfield, Illinois, the Lincoln Home allows you to walk in the footsteps of the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. Standing since the mid-19th century, the house was Lincoln's residence for 17 years and only cost $1,500. Free guided tours explain the house's history and the important role it played in Lincoln's run for president. Outside, you can explore the well-preserved neighborhood that encompasses a four-block radius. The Lincoln Tomb is nearby, so make sure you see it before you get back on the road.
National Blues Museum
Enjoy a musical trip into the past at the National Blues Museum in St. Louis. Open since 2016, the museum is filled with rotating exhibits, memorabilia, and musical artifacts. Interactive displays take you on a journey through the history of the blues and its impact on American culture and other genres of music. You can experience the magic of the blues live with performances in the Lumiere Place Legends Room on Friday and Sunday nights.
Beale Street in Memphis is one of the most famous streets in the U.S. and is a fantastic stop to add to your road trip itinerary from Chicago to New Orleans. Dubbed as "The Official Home of the Blues," Beale Street is lined with clubs that play live music nightly and serve tasty Southern cuisine. Hungry? Silky O'Sullivan's is the best place to grab some barbecue nachos and enjoy a pint on the patio. Not to be missed is B.B. King's Blues Club, Jerry Lee Lewis' Cafe and Honky Tonk, and the Rum Boogie Cafe.
The route on your Chicago to New Orleans road trip has a variety of dump stations to help you keep your RV fresh and clean.
The city of St. Louis is a great place to take in some beautiful urban scenery at the Citygarden Sculpture Park. You'll see dozens of internationally renowned sculptures, six rain gardens, and a 180-foot-long pool with a waterfall. Stroll through the second-largest herbarium in North America at the Missouri Botanical Gardens and view serene plant and flower combinations living among lovely glass sculptures. A tour of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery is a fun way to spend the day. Local campgrounds with dump stations are available with great amenities, so you can lengthen your stay in this city.
Memphis isn't just the Home of the Blues; it's the home of some of the best barbecue east of the Mississippi. Check out these well-known barbecue joints for a tangy taste of the South: The Bar-B-Q Shop, Cozy Corner, Marlowe's, and Germantown Commissary. No trip to Memphis would be complete without a tour of Elvis Presley's Graceland Mansion. You should also visit Sun Studio, Dixon Gallery and Gardens, South Main Street, and Mud Island while you're in town. Campgrounds and dump stations located nearby allow you to enjoy your visit at your leisure.
Jackson, Mississippi, is referred to as the "The City of Soul" for its deep connection to jazz, gospel, and blues music. Enjoy a night of club-hopping at some local hot spots. Underground 119 hosts a variety of musicians and serves delicious Southern cuisine and cocktails. Make sure to stop by Duling Hall and Soul Wired Cafe for more great food and live music. Visit the Oaks House and Old Capitol museums for tours through historic neighborhoods and buildings. There are more interesting attractions to see in Jackson including the LeFleur Museum District, the Jackson Volcano, Buddy Butts Park, Mayes Lake, and the Eudora Welty House and Garden. Beautiful campgrounds close to the city are great for overnight stays, and most have dump stations for your convenience.
Whether you're traveling a short or long distance, driving a recreational vehicle on your road trip from Chicago to New Orleans gives you the freedom to enjoy the road at your own pace. RV rentals from RVshare are great for helping you comfortably get to where you want to go, so you can relax and enjoy the ride.