Embarking on a road trip from Cleveland to Chicago will take you by the southern portions of the Great Lakes and through the states of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Each of these states offers a number of reasons for visiting, and you will be well-served to stop and see at least some of the available attractions along your trip. Whether you are a fan of outdoor or indoor activities, there is sure to be someplace near your route that will tickle your fancy. Summer or winter, this part of the U.S. has plenty of recreational opportunities awaiting you.
You can start and finish your Cleveland to Chicago road trip by spending several days exploring two of the U.S. National Park System's designated national parks. Begin your route with a side jaunt to Cuyahoga Valley National Park and walk a few miles along the nature trails. Before you arrive in Chicago, you can stop at Indiana Sand Dunes National Park and marvel at the tall sand dunes. Each of these national treasures has its own unique charm and character.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Cuyahoga Valley National Park is only a few miles from Cleveland, but it is a natural oasis, nonetheless. The park is home to a wide variety of native plants and many species of wildlife. Visitors can hike along any of the many nature trails and view the Cuyahoga River, wooded forests, and open farmlands. You can walk the historic path of the Ohio and Erie Canal via the Towpath Trail and imagine older times.
Indiana Sand Dunes National Park
Indiana Sand Dunes National Park traverses 15 miles of Lake Michigan, along the southern shorelines. The park encompasses over 22,000 acres and includes 200-foot dunes. There are also wetlands, beaches, rivers, prairies, and woods. Lake Michigan offers all the water sports and boating activities you can imagine, and the entire park has over 50 nature trails that will take you through the diverse habitats. You can also visit the National Natural Landmarks or the National Historic Landmarks that are present in the park.
When you embark on a road trip, you naturally want to experience the true freedom of the road by visiting some of the many state parks that are along the way. Your route will take you through the states of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, and you are sure to enjoy your stay at any one of these respites from the road.
East Harbor State Park
Situated on the shores of Lake Erie in Ohio, East Harbor State Park is the ultimate destination for outdoor recreational activities. You can boat, swim, fish, and camp while visiting, and you will appreciate the vast number of shorebirds, waterfowl, and wildlife species you may find in the wetlands throughout the park.
Pokagon State Park
Pokagon State Park in Indiana is named for Leopold and Simon Pokagon, two notable leaders of the Potawatomi tribe. Inside the park, the Potawatomi Inn is one of the area's most popular conference centers. It features an attractive fishing-lodge theme. Many of the buildings in the park were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, which worked in the park from 1934 to 1942, and are beautifully constructed of local stone and logs. The park is framed by Snow Lake and Lake James, which offer plenty of boating and water-based fun. Winter visitors enjoy Pokagon for its sledding, ice fishing, and tobogganing opportunities.
Potato Creek State Park
If you appreciate seeing different types of natural habitats, then you will enjoy visiting Potato Creek State Park. This park is located 12 miles southwest of South Bend. It features woods, prairies, and wetlands and is also home to the 327-acre Lake Worster. The lake has a beach for relaxing and offers plenty of opportunities for swimming, boating, fishing, and other water activities. There are multiple nature trails for hiking and biking, and birding enthusiasts come often for great opportunities for bird-watching.
This section of the Midwest and the Great Lakes has a number of things to experience. You will definitely want to incorporate these attractions into your Cleveland to Chicago road trip itinerary.
Starved Rock State Park
If you enjoy hiking along meandering streams that lead you past waterfalls and deep canyons, then you will love visiting this park on the Illinois River. Starved Rock State Park is a popular destination for anglers, and you can also swim, boat, and ride horses. This park is less than two hours from Chicago, making it a fine way to wrap up your road trip to the Windy City.
Driving on the Heritage Trail in Indiana will take you through the towns of Elkhart, Goshen, Middlebury, Nappanee, Bristol, Wakarusa, and Shipshewana. This 90-mile scenic route is a great way to see and sample the local historical sites, interesting scenery, and Amish communities. You can shop at various quaint boutiques and Amish-owned stores and find many unique and handmade gifts. You can also stop at a variety of eateries for refreshments.
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
You are never too old to enjoy a well-planned and cared-for zoo. The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the U.S. It features a diverse collection of species, including primates, aquatic animals, and even a large assortment of insects in the insectarium. The zoo has the largest group of primates in North America, including western lowland gorillas. You can also take a break and find rest in the beautiful botanical gardens.
Driving from Cleveland to Chicago is a fairly short trip around the Great Lakes area, and it can be as long or as brief a trip as you want. There are several cities you will be traveling through on your way, and you can unwind from driving and see some interesting sights at the same time. Each location has a number of available campgrounds and dump stations if you are planning on staying for a time.
Known as "The Glass Capital of the World," Toledo is a great place to visit. The Toledo Museum has a large collection of both modern and Renaissance works, and its Glass Pavilion is a showcase of thousands of glass artworks. The Maumee River runs through the city, and the Children's Science Museum, which is located next to the river, is an entertaining place to take your family. There is also a zoo with rides and an aquarium. If you are looking for a campground close to Toledo, the Big Sandy Campground, with a large variety of amenities and activities for everyone, is the place to stay.
The community of Elkhart is home to many quirky and unique crafts, arts, and cultural items. There is a large Amish presence, and if you take the time to drive through Elkhart on the Heritage Trail, you are bound to find something that piques your interest. One fun place to visit while in Elkhart is the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum, which is a tribute to traveling in the U.S. over the years. There are also some beautiful and restful botanical gardens you can visit. The Elkhart Campground is a nice family-friendly campground that is easy to access in Elkhart if you are looking for a place to stay on your Cleveland to Chicago RV road trip.
South Bend is located on the St. Joseph River in Indiana. It's most known for being home to the University of Notre Dame. There are several museums of interest to explore, historical buildings to visit, and lots of shops and restaurants. Local attractions include the Studebaker National Museum, Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Snite Museum of Art, and Potawatomi Zoo. Potato Creek State Park is very close by and offers a convenient campground for you to take a respite from the city.
Your road trip from Cleveland to Chicago will typically take around a day's drive if you take several breaks along the way. The Great Lakes area of the Midwest is full of exciting things to do and see, and you can plan a road trip itinerary from Cleveland to Chicago with ease. If you take the time to fully experience your proximity to these intriguing sites, you will be rewarded with a trip to remember.