Chicago may be the ideal city in America for road trips, so there are numerous options for car vacations. A multitude of truly stunning naturescapes and delightful mid-sized towns are just a short drive from the Windy City, each with plenty of amazing scenery and outdoor pursuits to fill a full weekend of mini-vacation bliss.
Pack your essentials, throw on the four-wheel drive, and head to one of these vetted escapes from city life.
Illinois Beach State Park, Illinois
Head north to this natural scenery near the Wisconsin frontier, a lakeshore sanctuary capable of providing a peaceful intermission without the time commitment that more distant destinations demand. The Illinois Beach State Park allows you to unwind by strolling along the extensive shoreline, portraying a reel into the rolling waves of the lake, biking the blended trails, or trekking beneath the rising oak savannas.
Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
Wisconsin Dells is an undeniably thrilling amusement park for the Badger State. The Dells of the Wisconsin River State Natural Area includes five miles of absolutely gorgeous hiking trails that follow the river's curve. If you'd rather take in the lively greenery from the coziness of a boat, boat tours through the upper and lower Dells are available.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore stretches for 42 miles along Lake Superior's shoreline. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is well worth the extra drive, convincing magnificent panoramic views along Lake Superior's southern dip, marked with turquoise waters, unending rugged forests, and rough technicolor grooves extending up to 200 feet above the shore. Visitors of all abilities are welcome to view and enjoy the cliffs, which are operated by local operators. Boat tours, sea kayaking, and hiking are some of the activities available.
Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana
The park is one of the most botanically diverse in the national park system, with over 1,100 plant species ranging from Arctic mosses to desert cactus. Consider going back to this park more than once, as the experience changes dramatically with the seasons. In the summer, the beaches are crowded, but in the winter, the park is serene and frequently covered in frost or snow. Set your foot on here in the fall for color season on the treks, and in the spring for returning birds and those making the journey along the Lake Michigan Flyway.
Shawnee National Forest, Illinois
The Shawnee National Forest contains magnificent oak-hickory forest areas, picturesque ravines, flourishing wetlands, razorback ridges, and other extraordinary natural formations. Although the Shawnee Forest is stunning all year, spring and fall are considered the best seasons to visit. The elegance of spring will enchant you with all of the stunning wildflowers in bloom, and the beauty of fall will entice you with incredible hues of yellow, orange, and red throughout the area.