For those intrepid travelers taking a road trip from Minneapolis to Chicago, there are many sites to see and adventures in which to partake. Though there are only four national parks in the Midwest, only one is within an eight-hour drive of your intended trip. If you want to take the quickest route, then take I-94 east from Minneapolis. The freeway merges with I-90 about 200 miles out from Minneapolis, which takes you to Chicago. There are plenty of state parks to stop at along the way as well as other intriguing places to visit. Using this roadway as a two-week vacation trip with the family is a viable alternative to the quick road trip from Minneapolis to Chicago that the I-94/I-90 corridor provides.
The national parks in the Midwest are spectacular reminders of the building of a nation. Only one national park is close enough to be visited by those making the Minneapolis to Chicago road trip. Taking a side trip on your journey to see and explore this cherished location takes you into the deep past and is well worth the time it takes to make the detour.
Voyageurs National Park
Taking a trip north from Minneapolis along lazy country roads to the Canadian border lets you see the immensity and majesty of the state of Minnesota. After a five hour trip, you will find Voyageurs National Park. Named after the French boatmen who were the first European adventurers to explore this part of the U.S., this park is over one-third of water. Mockups of the original boats used by these courageous men are available on the four major lakes. Moving about the wild countryside, it is easy to imagine those intrepid explorers who first saw this amazing country and its natural beauty. Not only is boating available in the park, but you can also fish, rent a houseboat for an extended stay, and hike trails through the wilderness. Visiting Voyageurs National Park is an ideal way to introduce yourself and your family to the history of this part of the country.
For more information on other national parks, please consult RVshare’s Guide to National Parks.
Governor Dodge State Park
As you travel east from Minneapolis, you will find no state parks in the state of Minnesota. But in Wisconsin, the first park you come across is Governor Dodge State Park. The park features a waterfall, two lakes, deep valleys opposite high bluffs, and steep hills. Visitors enjoy hiking, fishing, biking, and ATV trails during summer and cross-country skiing during the winter months. The park is conveniently located just 45 miles west of Madison. It is a relaxing place to stop and take in nature to relieve the stress of the highway.
Mirror Lake State Park
An alternative to the often-crowded Governor Dodge State Park is the Mirror Lake State Park. Both of these parks are located in the same general area. Mirror Lake State Park is the smaller of the two and features sandstone bluffs and a pine and oak forest surrounding the small lake from which the park gets its name. Wildlife is left alone in this park to survive just as it has for centuries without the interference of man. The park's campground offers 150 camping sites where you can relax. Either of these parks is ideal for an overnight rest as they are located about midway through your Minneapolis to Chicago RV road trip.
There are points of interest all along the I-94/I-90 corridor. In Minneapolis itself, there are two "must" visits for your road trip itinerary from Minneapolis to Chicago, and both demonstrate both the beauty of the land and the ingenuity of those who live there.
Minnehaha Falls is the same iconic geologic formation celebrated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1855 in his "Song of Hiawatha." Though Wadsworth never visited the falls himself, multitudes have done so since then. Set within the confines of Minneapolis, the Falls is easily accessible and can be viewed from above via a paved pathway. To visit the bottom of the falls, you can take a stairway. But beware, to reach the top again, you must climb all those steps back.
The Mall of America
The Mall of America is located in Minneapolis, only 10 minutes from Minnehaha Falls. The Mall of America is not a typical shopping center, as you would expect. Here, you will find activities for every member of the family. Whether you are looking for relaxation or excitement, it is all here at the Mall of America. There are exciting rides for the children, ice cream shops, specialty stores, and even an aquarium. The Mall is the ideal place for you and your family to spend some time and blow off a little steam before tackling your road trip from Minneapolis to Chicago.
Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum
Located about 100 miles along your trip is the Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum, which makes it an ideal spot for you and your family to stop and stretch your legs. At this site, you discover the inheritance of a uniquely American legend and how it translated into the logging business that lent so much to the burgeoning Wisconsin economy in the mid-19th century. Tours are conducted by qualified experts in the world of logging. Stopping here is a limitless opportunity for a family to learn while on vacation.
Willis Tower Skydeck
After spending hours on a road trip from Minneapolis to Chicago, where the land is relatively flat, elevate yourself and your family to the Willis Tower Skydeck in Chicago. From this Skydeck, your view is impressive. Not only are you looking down at all the buildings that seem to tower over you while you walk the sidewalks of Chicago, but you can also see the distant blue hills on the western horizon and the immensity of Lake Michigan to the north. Standing at this height, you believe you can almost see the whole of your route from start to finish.
The area through which a road trip from Minneapolis to Chicago passes is peppered with cities and towns as well as campgrounds, making it easy to keep your waste tanks empty. There are three major cities that you will pass through on your road trip from Minneapolis to Chicago.
Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Eau Claire, Wisconsin, is a great place to stop and empty your waste tanks at one of its dump stations. With a reputation for friendliness, this city won the coveted All-American City Award for 2014. Look for annual events like the Winter Fest and Games, the Banbury Art Crawl, and International Fall Festival to be occurring at different times throughout the year. When you are making an extended stay in the area, look for campgrounds near Eau Claire, where you and your family can rest after an eventful day.
Madison, Wisconsin, a large city of over 260,000, is the capital of Wisconsin. The town is something of a culinary mecca. There are several unique products to light up your palate, like Blue Moon Ice Cream, bratwurst, and, after a hard day driving, a brandy old-fashioned. The city enjoys a reputation for being progressive and is the site of many protest marches and political machinations. Stopping in Madison gives the family a view of the verbal tug of war that makes up our history. For campsites close to Madison, look into RVshare’s campsite registry for Wisconsin. Conveniently placed dump stations in Wisconsin are listed on RVshare’s dump station site.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is the largest city in the state and the fifth-largest in the Midwest. Since the start of the 21st century, Milwaukee has enjoyed an economic boom. Today, it is considered one of the model cities within the United States with diversity, industrial-strength, and a growing population. There are several dump stations in Milwaukee that provide an essential service. For those who wish to visit Milwaukee for an extended stay, you can find campsites listed on RVshare’s Milwaukee campgrounds site. Stopping in Milwaukee gives a family perspective of what could be if every community learned to work together.
Some take the Minneapolis to Chicago road trip in one giant leap, making the distance in just over six hours. Doing so, especially when carrying a family along, does not meet the incredible opportunity you have to observe America since before its inception to its burgeoning present. To explore and enrich your vacation, we advise you to take a look for possible RV rentals in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to find the RV rental that will best serve your family. If your intention is to travel from Chicago to Minneapolis, then search the Chicago RVshare site for possible rentals. Whether you are traveling east or west, prepare yourself for the road trip of a lifetime.