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  1. Default Raleigh to Chicago Roundtrip

    Would love ideas for a 14 day roundtrip itinerary. Traveling with a teenager, so definitely thinking of stopping at Cedar Point Theme Park in OH. We like National Parks and have never been to Chicago, so want to spend about 4-5 days there and see a few things along the way. We'll be traveling in a self-contained camper van and can stay anywhere. Thank you.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
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    11,658

    Default Safe camping.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    I would recommend you sit down and do a bit of research with your teen and let them get involved with the planning. They will get much more out of the trip if they have had input at the start and it will make the trip more fun for all. You will find lots of info searching the forums and trip planning pages found in the tool bars, for example scroll down and you will see 'Similar threads' which you can click on and in turn they will reveal more relevant threads. One thing to think about is that although you are in a camper, it doesn't mean you can stop anywhere as it could be illegal if the area is not a designated camping/overnight area. So do some research into that to avoid getting woken up by a police officer or angry land owner or worse still, unwelcome visitors in the middle of the night. Know that where you are staying is safe and legal. I'm sure others will be along with some ideas, but it's worth finding places that interest yourselves rather than us, then you can start joining the dots and ask more specific questions and we can help fill in the blanks.

    Enjoy the planning !

  3. #3

    Default

    I was trying to reconcile the "We like National Parks and have never been to Chicago, so want to spend about 4-5 days there" with a typo of some kind. Were you referring to van camping in the South Chicago National Recreation Area?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,722

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by landmariner View Post
    Were you referring to van camping in the South Chicago National Recreation Area?
    I imagine you were trying to be funny, but that's not necessarily a contradiction. Indiana Dunes National Park is not that far from Chicago, and even has a commuter rail stop within walking distance of the campground. There are also some state parks or other public campgrounds that are a relatively easy commute into the city.

    And there actually also is a NPS Site on the South Side of Chicago The Pullman National Monument.

  5. #5

    Default

    Yes, and Chicago has some interesting sights and sounds but the impression is a Grand Canyon of the L and that one could van camp underneath. Sorry. I was a bit distracted by the "we can stay anywhere in our van camper" claim as well.

    Wrigley Field should be a National Historic Site. Lots of good blues and jazz clubs. Some good German food and grub to be found. One can actually surf on the Lake! And Sheboygan, WI is just north :)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
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    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    10,094

    Default There and Back Again

    I see that you're getting some excellent options on where you can camp while in the Chicago area, so I'll try to stick to the driving portion of your trip. Since you'll have about nine days available for what would only require three to four days (total) of driving, you'll have lots of time for seeing more than 'a few things' along the way. The best way to maximize what you get to see is to take different routes to Chicago and back home to Raleigh. And since Cedar Point is already on your To Do list, let's start with a route that includes it.

    From Raleigh, head over to Winston-Salem and strike out on I-74/I-77/US-52 north. From my point of view (but possibly not yours since you'll be in an RV) US and state highways are preferable to Interstates if you want to really experience the areas you're driving through. As you pass Mt. Airy, you might want to give a thought to the old Andy Griffith Show where that town was portrayed as 'Mt. Pilot'. But your real targets for this leg are the Bluestone National Scenic River and especially New River Gorge in West Virginia. From there, if you're interested in Native American history at all (or want your teenager to learn something without being too obvious about it) head up I-64/US-35 to Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, but note that this park and many others may still be closed due to COVID at the time of your trip.

    As you strike out from Sandusky towards Chicago you can visit Fallen Timbers Battlefield and Fort Miamis National Historic Site. And for reasons stated above, and the fact that I-90/I-80 between Sandusky and Chicago is a toll road, consider using US-6 instead. Either route will get you to the Indiana Dunes area. This is probably as good a time as any to point out two generic RoadTrip recommendations. The first is that using 'local' roads such as US-6 will often take you by state and local parks that offer relatively low-cost campsites such as Potato Creek State Park and the second is that if you plan on stopping at more than two or three National Parks, buy an annual pass at the first one you come to.

    So that's one possible route. I'll get to giving you another possibility for the other (out or back, your choice) route in a bit.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by AZBuck; 05-11-2021 at 05:49 PM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    5,648

    Default

    I am coming into this thread a bit late, but here's my 2c worth:

    Camping -- we have an entire forum about camping along major interstates and US Highways. These listings only include public campgrounds such as those in state and national parks, city and county parks. I will add the caveat that Will and Cook Counties in Chicago area DO have campsites but they are rather pricey.

    I was kind of surprised that no one has yet mentioned Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio. It was the first thing I thought of when I read that the itinerary includes Cedar Point.

    Also, East Harbor State Park, Lakeside-Marblehead, is a camping spot you could use. It's about 18-1/2 miles to Cedar Point.

    Donna
    Last edited by DonnaR57; 05-11-2021 at 06:06 PM. Reason: added link to state park

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    10,094

    Default ...and Now for Something Completely Different

    One other route between Raleigh and Chicago that I would consider (Your mileage may vary) would be one that did a wide sweep west and south of the one previously outlined. Although it looks a lot longer on a map, it's only about 200 miles more than the other one. I'll describe this one northwest bound as well, but of course you can do either route in either direction.

    Again, get to Winston-Salem but for this route continue westbound using I-40 to Lake Junaluska NC and there switch over to US-19 south, If it interests you or your teenager you can stop at The Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley. Then it would be on to US-441 through Great Smoky Mountains National Park and then Pigeon Forge TN. Using TN-66 north from Sevierville would get you back on I-40 through Knoxville.

    Leave I-40 at Monterey and head cross country on TN-84/52/51, then KY-163/839/90 to Cave City and Mammoth Cave National Park. If you leave the Visitor's Center on Maple Springs Ranger Station Road, you'll get a free enjoyable little trip on the Green River Ferry. You'd then do some serious back (but still two-lane paved) roading on KY-1352/1827/728/259/238/185 to the Western Kentucky Parkway. Be sure to look at all this on a map; it's easier than it sounds.

    The Parkway and I-24 will get you to Grand Rivers KY and the Land Between the Lakes. It's then a relatively simple final leg to Chicago via I-24/57. Along that stretch you'll find the Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site for a little more surreptitious education.

    AZBuck

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