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  1. Default FirstEver RoadTrip from Chicago to Yellowstone Park. Please share...

    Hello Friends,

    Glad I found this informative forum.
    I am planning to hit my first ever long American road expedition this July with my wife, son and baby daughter. I will be leaving from Chicago, stopping over at following locations prior to reaching Yellowstone National Park and back within 8 days:

    From Chicago to Wisconsin Dells, WI (1 night stay)
    to Minneapolis, MN (Mall of America), MN (1 night)
    to Mt Rushmore Area, SD (2 nights)
    to Yellowstone Area, WY (2 nights)

    I have a brand new Honda Odyssey as my vehicle.

    Could you guys please share your experience and any guidance, something which will help build our first ever long outing to be a memorable.

    Any good place for kids, to eat, to stop, to visit, to know.

    Basically, we wish to celebrate her daughter's 1st ever birthday in Mt Rushmore with our grreat Presidents.

    So go ahead, share...

    Thanks much,


  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default Scaling Back

    If you only have 8 days for this trip, I would save Wisconsin Dells and the Mall of America for another day. Those two stops would involve very short days on the road, which is great, but they would force you to be on the road for extremely long periods of time on the rest of your trip.

    I would just focus on getting out to the Black Hills in 2 days, with a stopover around Worthington, MN. It will still be a full day drive to Yellowstone, so I would try to pack as much into your time out west as possible. You can save a trip to the Dells or Mall of America for weekend in the future.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    The Great Midwest, Illinois to be precise

    Default Like Midwest Michael Says

    The Dells are definitely close enough to make that a weekend trip from Chicago. I'd drive out to Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone straight away.

  4. Default Chicago to Yellowstone via...

    Thanks Midwest Michael and RoadDog for your share.

    As suggested, I would leave out Wisconsin Dells and Mall of America and will head directly to Black Hills followed by Yellowstone.

    Is there any fine place on the way, I can stopover...
    anything like a picturesque drives,
    family attractions,
    great food-place,
    any preference for good hotel/motel in BlackHills and Yellowstone.

    As you can make out that this is our foremost road trip, would love to know about the road conditions and more.

    We really want to have great fun.

    Thanks much.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Good plan.

    I agree that closer places are best left for long weekend trips.

    Michael already suggested that you spend your first night in Worthington, MN. That looks like a good first night stop to me. It's roughly 500 miles from Chicago and we at RTA generally recommend 500 miles as the most someone should drive each day. This gives you a bit of time to explore along the way while still making good time. Anything more than that becomes a speed run and I wouldn't recommend that for your first big road-trip, especially when a baby is on board.

    Your second day's drive will be about just a tad over 400 miles, so it's another reasonable day. In South Dakota, things to see are: Mt. Rushmore, Black Hills, Badlands, Wall Drug in Wall, the Corn Palace in Mitchell, Wind Cave, Crazy Horse Memorial, Wounded Knee memorial, Deadwood, and more. If seeing all of this interests you, you might want to spend 2-3 days there.

    Once you're in Wyoming, check out Devil's Tower, the city of Cody with its many wild west/Buffalo Bill things to do and see. It's about another 500 miles from Rushmore to Yellowstone. So you can make it in a day but I think you should stay a night in Cody so you'll have time to play there.

    Here's the link to make reservations at hotels/campgrounds within Yellowstone NP. It might be tough getting reservations for next month within the park at this late date. If you can't find anything, you might check out lodging in West Yellowstone, ID, or Gardiner, MT, areas. They're your closest bases outside the park.

    I think it's always fun to return home on an alternate route so you see new and different things. You might consider going south at Cody on 120/20 to Casper, I-25 to Cheyenne, I-80/I-88 back to Chicago. This is about 1450 miles so you would want to plan 3 days for your return trip.

    All the roads you're traveling are interstates or state highways. I can't imagine that you'll run into any road problems. Of course, construction might be going on. You could always check the DOT sites of the states you're traveling through to see if there's anything major going on that you'll want to avoid. But, really, on major roads they usually do their best to get you through it all fairly quickly so I wouldn't sweat that.

    Hope this helps!

  6. Default Chicago to Yellowstone Tips

    Mitchell, South Dakota - Corn Palace, Doll Museum, Discovery Museum. I saw the Corn Palace and it is really rather impressive - I definitely think it is worth a look-see. Not sure about the other attractions, I didn't have time to stop at any.

    Rest Stop near Chambelain - Nice vista, overlooking I think it is the Missouri River? Not sure and googlemap doesn't list it. But east of the river, it is typical midwest flatlands. Crossing the river brings you into the rolling hills, and its like a different countryside.

    Ellsworth AFB - When I was there they had a mock F-117 fighter that was used in a commercial. It was a smaller scale than the actual plane but very impressive. I am not sure the status of the AFB, I heard some time back they were going to close it? If not, check out the museum there, there are a couple of planes you can see up close.

    Rapid City - Nice little town. Good for shopping for souvenirs and western type memorabilia. There are also a couple of old west style restaurants to eat at. Try out a Buffalo Burger!

    Custer - Drive through the State Park and you can see wild horses, buffalo, and maybe some long-horn sheep. Good fun for the kids, seeing buffalos running alongside the road.

    Crazy Horse - WOW! I went in 96 and it was OK. by 99 they had done a lot of work on it. It is going to be very impressive when it is done. Definitely check it out.

    Mt. Rushmore - No brainer. Don't forget to wander around a little. There is a neat little memorial down to the right as you are approaching the main viewing area.

    Leaving Rapid City area - I took US16 west out of Custer, and US85 north to Four Corners and then 585 back up to I90. Great drive through some rolling hills. Lots of log houses and scenery to see. There's a river that runs along the road that reminds me of the movie "A River Runs Through It" when they are flyfishing. But more brown and red than green.

    Bighorn Mountains - What a beautiful drive. I like the Bighorns more than any other mountain drive I have taken, east or west. I think they are more "accessible" than the Rockies, which are impressive, but so big. The Bighorns are big enough to be impressive but small enough to really get a sense of the scale, if that makes sense. I took 14 through the Mts, after stopping in a small town before driving through, and the woman at a shop said 14Alternate was a little more intimidating for a newbie mountain driver (which I was at the time). But that drive on 14 was one of the highlights of my trip, scenery wise.

    Cody - Nice little (little) town on the flats, with lots of scenic mountains in the distance. Didn't do much there. But the drive into Yellowstone is great from Cody.

    Yellowstone - Went the week before 4th of July and there were just way too many people for my taste, so I ate a quick lunch and drove through. No suggestions on Yellowstone, although I am sure many others will.

    Hope you have a great trip!
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 06-07-2007 at 11:00 AM. Reason: added a title (for clarification)

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Great selection of attractions!

    Quote Originally Posted by Exodio View Post
    Bighorn Mountains - What a beautiful drive. I like the Bighorns more than any other mountain drive I have taken, east or west. I think they are more "accessible" than the Rockies, which are impressive, but so big. The Bighorns are big enough to be impressive but small enough to really get a sense of the scale, if that makes sense. I took 14 through the Mts, after stopping in a small town before driving through, and the woman at a shop said 14Alternate was a little more intimidating for a newbie mountain driver (which I was at the time). But that drive on 14 was one of the highlights of my trip, scenery wise.
    I agree, that is a gorgeous drive! Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum and thanks for these ideas!


  8. Default More...

    Thank you so much... Judy and Exodio and all.

    I am planning my trip as you all suggested.
    Going from Chicago to with Yellowstone looks great.

    Chicago to Worthington, MN... to Mt Rushmore, SD... Cody, WY then to Yellowstone.

    Cody, WY... to Keystone, SD... to ????? ... Chicago, IL.

    Is there any good place on the way back from Rapid City to Chicago.
    Something in between my drive, something south of I-90, basically looking for a over night stay. I really do not want to drive straight for 10+ hours.

    Thanks again...


  9. Default

    Why not stop in Worthington, MN again on the way back? Stay at the same hotel and see if you can get the same room. Would be a bookend for your trip.

  10. #10

    Default Things to see in SD

    As someone who has lived in Wisconsin, Washington State, and now Rapid City I have driven your route more then a few times. From Chamberlain to Rapid it is 200 miles of not a whole lot to see besides grass, which make the little gems in the middle of nowhere all the better to see. These are stops you can make for short periods just to let the family get out and stretch.

    Heading west from Chamberlain my family and I have enjoyed stopping at 1880's town at Exit 170 off of the interstate. The owners have collected old buildings through out a few states and put them together making a ghost town of sorts complete with its own main street. It is really neat to walk through the old buildings too see how people lived over 100 years ago. They also have artifacts from the movie "Dances with wolves" which was mostly filmed in SD.

    About 25 miles west from there is the town of Murdo, and a place called the Pioneer Auto Museum which has a few hundred old cars, tractors, and motorcycles. I found it very neat along with my 5 year old son but my wife not so much. I guess you can't please a wife all of the time.

    As you keep on going west you will come across the Badlands of SD. If you have time to stop and see this place great, if not there is a scenic byway at exit 131 that is a 35 mile drive through this national park. Hard to explain the beauty of the badlands but they offer great pictures of scenery that you can not see anywhere else in the state. The Byway will then bring you back to the interstate right at Wall, SD.

    By now you will have seen the signs for Wall Drug, you can't miss them believe me. For something to do on the drive, count the number of signs, helps time go by. Wall Drug is a great place to get out and look around; they have everything from fudge shops to souvenir stores to a restaurant with some pretty good food. Stuff for the whole family to see and do.

    By this point you are only about 50 miles from Rapid City. Before you get to the city limits you will pass Ellsworth AFB, and right outside the gate to the base is the entrance to the Air and Space museum, which is free to tour.

    As you can see for 200 miles of just grass there are deffinetly ways to stretch your lags and spend some money. By the way when you get to the Black Hills, if you get the chance, from Keystone, SD (right before MT. Rushmore) drive Iron MT. road off of Hwy 16a through to Custer state park. You will drive over pigtail bridges and through tunnels where you can see the faces of MT. Rushmore on the other side; it is part of the Peter Norbeck scenic Byway. If you keep driveling into Custer state park bring food for the Donkeys, can't miss them and your family will have a blast feeding them.

    Hope this helps some, have fun and drive safe.

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