In the 19th century, Chicago became an important transport hub because it connected the eastern United States to the west. Today, the tradition continues not just in terms of commerce and trade, but most especially tourism. Renting an RV in Chicago allows you to embark on an epic journey on the Great River Road and follow the course of the Mississippi River on US Route 61 all the way north to Minnesota or south to Louisiana. Or go bolder and hit the open road all the way to California following the iconic Route 66.
You may choose to keep it within the state and follow the lead of the Illinois River. The Illinois River Road Scenic Byway takes you through a combination of bottomland forests, backwater lakes, savannah, floodplain wetlands and tall grass prairie home to a wide variety of birds and other wildlife.
Whichever way you drive your RV rental from Chicago, IL you are bound to come across marvelous outdoors, frontier towns (most now abandoned), amazing wildlife, and history carved out by Illinois’ waterways.
The Great Outdoors
Follow in the footsteps of early French explorers as you drive your Chicago camper rental on the Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway. Beginning in Ottawa about 90 miles southwest of Chicago and ending in Havana 130 miles farther south, the scenic byway is an outdoor lover's gateway to more than 100 nature-based destinations throughout the Illinois River Valley, the most famous of which are Starved Rock State Park famous for sandstone canyons and waterfalls; Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge for its massive population (250,000) of waterfowl and shorebirds; and Matthiessen State Park for its collection of fascinating rock formations.
Follow the Illinois section of the Great River Road and retrace, in reverse, the steps of African-American migrants from the Deep South who flocked to Chicago between 1916-1970 to look for jobs and a better life. Hiking, boating, mountain biking, hunting, climbing, horseback riding, fishing, and eagle-watching await the adventurous. There are plenty of camping sites for Chicago RV rentals along the way, so it's easy to convert this into a weeklong getaway covering all of the Great River Road.
Much of downtown Chicago today rose from the ashes of the Great Fire of 1871, so some of the streets may not be wide enough to accommodate a travel trailer rental in Chicago. For RV campers this means parking an hour out of the city and taking the train into downtown.
A fantastic option is just beyond the state line. The Indiana Dunes State Park on the south shore of Lake Michigan is, in fact, much closer to all other Illinois RV parks and much more equipped, with the following amenities that RV campers would find useful: onsite water fill-up station and dump station, and within 10 miles, access to fuel, propane and RV/camper maintenance. And there’s a Walmart not 15 minutes away.
Heaps of outdoor activities in the state park and nearby are more than enough to get you entertained over the weekend. If you want to get back to civilization, the South Shore Rail Line has a stop just outside the park, which makes the hour-long commute into downtown Chicago a breeze.
If you're coming from the north, it may not make sense to park your RV trailer rental in Chicago on the south shore. A much closer alternative is pet-friendly Chicago Northwest KOA campground in Union linked to Chicago by Metra Rail. The Woodstock and Crystal Lake stations are about 16 miles from the campground. Full hook-ups are available. There are plenty of Walmart Supercenters within 30 minutes' drive, with two 24-hour stores 15 minutes away. The closest gas station is less than 10 minutes' drive. If not available, several are within 30 minutes away.
Exploring the City
Chicago, the largest city not just in Illinois but in the entire Midwest, is not just all about steely skyscrapers, thumping nightlife (with a nod to its speakeasy past), a fusion of culinary delights, posh shopping districts, electric summer festivals, and happening art scene. It's also about public parks and green spaces: Within the city alone, there are more than 580 parks taking up over 7,000 acres of land. When you book an RV in Chicago, you’ll find something to enjoy, no matter what you’re after.
Rising on the southwest bank of Lake Michigan, Chicago's lakefront is lined with 26 miles of sandy beaches, 26 public beaches, and 18.5 miles of Lakefront Trail where locals go to bike, jog, walk and skate.
While Chicago has an excellent rail, bus, tram and ferry network, it is a pedestrian-friendly city, and nowhere is this more evident than in the Lakefront Trail, which offers convenient access to the Loop less than a mile inland.
The Chicago Loop encompasses the 500-acre Grant Park (venue of summertime Lollapalooza), Art Institute of Chicago, several museums, theaters, operas, cultural centers and commercial districts.
For shopping, you might want to head to the Magnificent Mile about a mile and a half north of the Loop. The Mag Mile is also the heart of the city's dining scene and nightlife. And if you want a sweeping view of the city, nothing beats the 360 Chicago Observatory at the top of the John Hancock Center.
For fans of Chicago Cubs, Bulls and Blackhawks, the Mag Mile is a must-stop to pick up a hat, jersey or some other sports memorabilia. Wrigley Field and the United Center, packed to the rafters during the season, are just five miles away. If you’re a motorcycle fan, drive your RV rental from Chicago to Milwaukee less than 100 miles north for a good look around the Harley-Davidson Museum.
Begin your search for an RV in Chicago, IL and start planning your adventure!
Chicago, IL is the perfect spot to start your next road trip.
There are many popular rentals in Chicago. Outdoorsy's Chicago RV rental marketplace allows renters to choose from rental options from professional RV rental agencies as well as RVs for rent by owner.