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Tallahassee may be the capital of Florida, but it's not the state's largest city by a long way. Renowned for its high educational standards, Tallahassee is an immense, open-plan urban spread with no claustrophobic clusters of enormous high rise towers dominating the skyline. It's a city surrounded by acres and acres of national forests. The Apalachicola National Forest and the Lake Talquin State Forest border the city to the west while the Wakulla State Forest and the Plank Road State Forest meet the city's southern suburbs.
The city also encompasses several state parks, multiple greenways, and various wildlife management areas, plus two large lakes. Tallahassee is about as green as a city can get. Outdoor recreationists are never short of something to do in Tallahassee whether they want to go hiking, horse riding, fishing, boating or cycling, they've got it all right on hand in the Layfayette Heritage Trail Park. Tallahassee is a fascinating city for historians to visit too. With well-preserved earth mounds built by the area's indigenous people in the Lake Jackson Archaeological State Park to explore, renovated Spanish missions, the Tallahassee Museum and around twenty more, it would take a month to visit them all.
No matter whether you live in the city or are on a road trip and passing through Tallahassee on your way to Chicago, you'll have a great time there. When you're ready to motor on or are setting out in your rig for a few days break, as you're heading north on your way through Alabama towards Tennessee, switch the radio on and tune in to a country music station. It'll set the mood for when you arrive in Nashville and are ready for an RV vacation hoe-down. There's a lot you won't want to miss on the way, so if you've got seven days or more for your RV road trip from Tallahassee to Chicago, even better. You'll have time to see a Dr Who warehouse, go canoeing on the Sipsey Fork, attend a major peanut festival, explore some caves or maybe even spectate at one of the word's greatest races, the Indianapolis 500. Whatever you do, guaranteed, it'll be an exciting trip.
Probably one of the most well-known car races of all time is the Indianapolis 500. Held annually at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway circuit in Speedway, Indianapolis. The race has been held every year, with few exceptions, for over a century. The circuit itself is over two and a half miles long and competing drivers need to make a dizzying two hundred laps to complete the race. The competition is held over Memorial Day weekend. If you're not in Indianapolis then, don't worry, there's plenty of other events taking place at the circuit that, while not so iconic, are just as exciting.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosts vintage car, formula one, and superbike races as well as endurance driving events. If you luck out and there's nothing on, it's still an interesting stop to make. Visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum and Hall of Fame which houses many famous vehicles used on the circuit and offers guided tours of the track and behind the scenes.
While you're motoring north from Nashville to Chicago along the I 65, you may want to stop by the town of Battle Ground and visit the Wolf Park. The sanctuary and research center was founded in the early 1970s and is dedicated to understanding wolf behavior as well as providing a refuge for abandoned and injured wolves.
The wolves live in special enclosures that imitate their natural habitat. Take a tour and see the wolves going about their daily routines. If you've ever wanted to photograph these magnificent animals, Wolf Park is a great place to do it. For anyone not sure how to get the best shots of the creatures, the park holds photography seminars and work shops as well as seasonal events throughout the year. It's also possible to visit the park in the evenings which is the most active time for wolves. Nighttime is when the wolves howl and visitors are encouraged to howl along with them.
When you get back off your road trip from Tallahassee to Chicago, fool your friends with photos taken at the Tennessee Renaissance Festival. They'll not only think you've been in the United Kingdom, but time-warped back to a bygone age too. The annual event takes place over every weekend in May and on Memorial Day in a specially constructed village known as Covington Glen. Don't try to find it on a map or program it into your navigational app; it only exists for that month of the year and is located between Franklin and Murfreesboro which are two small communities south of Nashville.
The medieval festival is great fun. See knights in shining armor showing off their jousting skills, fair maidens dressed in elaborate costumes of the era, and a massive twin-turreted castle. There are food stalls to feast at, beer tents to quench your thirst in and a handicraft market, plus lots of contests to test your skills in. If you've ever wanted to fight a dragon – this could be your once in a lifetime chance.
Nashville is an amazing place to pitch up for a couple of days if you're a country music fan. If you're not then you may want to drive straight by. There are some great KOA and privately owned RV parks and campgrounds just outside the city where you'll be able to enjoy some outdoor time while being close enough to make traveling into Nashville a breeze.
While you're in Nashville a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is a must-do and so is the museum dedicated to the iconic country star, Johnny Cash. Dining out on Tennessee's famous slow-cooked barbecued food is something that goes without saying, it just has to be done. So does having a night out on the Honky Tonk Highway where there's bar after bar staging first-class live music. You'll need some serious stamina to go the course in Music City where drinking establishments open from ten in the morning until three the next morning.
If you're passing through Nashville in April and want something different to country music, check out the Music City 200. A two-day motorsports event held at the city's Fairground Speedway track.
If you and your partner are adventure sports addict there's one place you won't want to miss stopping off at on your way from Tallahassee to Chicago and that's the Bankhead National Forest. The Sipsey Fork of the Black Warrior River runs through the forest and is the only stretch of wild and scenic river in Alabama. The forest is around one hour's drive north from Birmingham. If you want to float a canoe and tackle the whitewater rapids, head for the small town of Sipsey and you can access the Sipsey Fork from there.
The Bankhead National Forest also contains the Sipsey Wilderness and if you'd rather trek than paddle, there's a fantastic hiking trail, the Sipsey Wilderness Trail, that you can follow alongside the river. The trail is a twenty-four mile loop through the woodlands and if water levels are good, you'll come across several waterfalls on the way. If you're towing a trailer with an ATV and haven't had a chance to use it, the Stoney Lonesone OHV Park is less than a twenty mile drive north-east of Sipsey.
While you're in the Dothan - Marianna area, before you get back on route and continue your road trip to Chicago, take time out to visit the Florida Caverns State Park. The park is only a five-minute drive north of the city along the FL 166 and the only place in Florida with accessible underground caverns. It's a definite must-see while you're passing through. A tour of the caves only takes a couple of hours or less so you'll have plenty of day left to do something else.
The cave tour takes you down almost forty steps to three-hundred and fifty feet below ground into the magical subterranean world of Florida's largest karst caves. Illuminated by multi-colored lights, nature's displays of stalagmites and stalactites are amazing to look at and make superb photographic subjects.
Yes, it can be a little damp and slippery in places. If you're on the tall side, you may find some of the passageway ceilings give you a crick in the neck or you could get spooked by the odd bat or two, but it's a spectacular place well worth the momentary discomfort.
If you're making your road trip from Tallahassee to Chicago in November, there's a great festival happening in Dothan, Alabama, you may well want to attend. The National Peanut Festival is a ten-day event held annually to celebrate the humble nut's part in saving Alabama's agricultural industry after the destruction of the cotton crops by an infestation of boll weevils. Dothan is about forty miles north of Marianna and easy to get to along the US 231 northbound.
The huge festival, which has been held for over eight decades, has an explosive start with a massive fireworks display. The fun continues with daily events like car shows, fairground amusements, hot dog eating contests, live concerts performed by well-known artists, and even karaoke contests. There are antique tractor parades, watermelon seed spitting competitions, K9 police dog demonstrations, and beauty pageants.
The festival attracts an influx of visitors so camping spaces locally can be in short supply. If you want to pitch up for a few days to enjoy all the festival offerings, check out the Lake Jackson Campground in the Florala State Park or the campground at the Frank Jackson State Park. They're both within easy traveling distance of Dothan.
If you're feeling in need of some relaxation and rejuvenation make your first stop on your road trip from Tallahassee to Chicago at the Blue Springs State Park in Alabama. Head north off the I 10 from the city of Marianna along the US 231 to Clio. From Clio take the AL 10 eastbound to Blue Springs. It may be a little out of the way, but that's a bonus as not so many folks find this seculded spot. Take a rest break there and you'll feel like a new person.
What makes the Blue Springs State Park special are its two, spring-fed pools. Immerse yourself in the naturally heated warm waters; they maintain a constant sixty-eight degrees, and all that accumulated stress and tension will just ebb away. In the park, you can also access the Alabama Birding Trail so if you enjoy bird spotting you'll be in an ideal place to do it. If you want to benefit to the max from the pools, pitch camp there at the park's campground. They have almost fifty campsites for RVs, some with full hook-ups, in a beautiful area shaded by dense trees.
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It's a sure fact that as you roll into Chicago, you'll look back over the previous few days and think, wow, what a road trip that was. While you're in the Windy City and doing all the things you just can't miss, like riding up to the Skydeck in the Willis Tower, getting your photo taken at Cloud Gate or strolling around the shops, restaurants and amusements on Navy Pier, you know you'll have made some great memories that will keep you going until you can make your next RV road trip escape.