12 Short & Long Road Trips From Chicago | Budget Car Rental

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2. South Bend, Indiana

Drive time: about 2 hours from downtown

Best for: Fighting Irish fans and car lovers

Anyone who’s ever rooted for Notre Dame from afar deserves to watch the Fighting Irish in person—or at least walk around the beautiful campus if you can’t score tickets to a home game at the stadium. 

Of course, the city has much more to offer, including several niche museums. If you have any interest in automotive history, don’t miss the Studebaker National Museum.

4. Starved Rock State Park

Drive time: 2 hours from downtown

Best for: Family fun or a romantic rendezvous

If you want to encourage a little less screen time during the summer break, take your family to explore the great outdoors in a Budget rental. One of the best places to visit in Illinois, this state park features 18 canyons and 13 miles of hiking trails to explore. Entrance to Starved Rock State Park is free, making this a budget-friendly trip. 

More interested in a romantic winter outing? Pack plenty of layers and load into a luxury SUV for a weekend of cross-country skiing, hot cocoa, and the spa-like amenities of Starved Rock Lodge.

7. South Haven, Michigan

Drive time: 2 and a half hours from downtown

Best for: Summer escapes

Summer is the perfect time to drive around Lake Michigan to South Haven (although the town has activities during all seasons). South Haven’s slow pace invites you to leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind and enjoy quality time with family. Pick your own blueberries, visit a lighthouse, take a bike ride—just enjoy the slower pace of life. Pack your minivan rental with beach gear and get on the road!

11. Shawnee National Forest

Drive time: 6 hours from downtown

Best for: Nature lovers

Find acres upon acres of natural beauty at Shawnee National Forest. This 6-hour trip from Chicago is more than worth the journey, thanks to the trees, lakes, and hills that await you. Bring all the camping gear your SUV or truck rental will carry so you can stay as long as you please.

Must-see sights in the forest include: 

  • The Garden of the Gods, with unique rock formations like Camel Rock and Anvil Rock

  • Bell Smith Springs, where you can hike moderate trails over creeks and through canyons

  • Little Grand Canyon, which features a 3-mile trail perfect for experienced hikers

  • Inspiration Point, a limestone bluff and overlook point where you can view prairie grass, the Mississippi River, and lush forests

On any visit to Shawnee National Forest, be prepared to avoid poison ivy and stay well-protected from the sun. Carry some binoculars, too, in case you spot a bald eagle.