Chicago is one of the world’s great cities and is the third largest in the US. Your first impression will be an impressive skyline framing the waters of Lake Michigan. From there, endless iconic sights, world-class museums, huge parks and admirable architecture will ensure you’ll never tire of this beautiful city. Prepare to cover a lot of ground in your camper.
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Chicago RV rental made easy
Getting out and about
The layout of Chicago is an easy-to-navigate downtown grid, so park-up the RV and stroll through the magnificent architecture – just remember to look up. Chicago’s beauty is not just in its buildings and skyline, but also the numerous parks, beaches and green space. There are nearly 600 parks, 26 miles of shoreline and 33 beaches to choose from.
The problem for RV travellers visiting Chicago is there are no RV parks near downtown. Be prepared when coming into the city that you may need to travel for a decent time on public transport. Route 66 begins in Chicago and is a well-worn state highway. An RV is probably not the best way to experience it as you’ll miss most of the roadside Americana – diners and motels – by staying in your vehicle. Amish country is not far from the Chicago area, with very low-rolling farmland.
Find some rural luxury
Chicago may be a big city, but the rural areas surrounding Chicago – Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin – offer a wide range of RV camping options.
On the shores of Lake Michigan are the Lake Front Park campground, north of Chicago along the Wisconsin border, and the Indiana Dunes State Park in North Western Indiana. This State Park is great for the kids. You can hike the dunes that have been formed over thousands of years or just roll down them. There’s also a large beach area and loads of camping sites. Book early.
Starved Rock State Park is less than a two-hour drive from the Chicago area and has easy-going hikes and canyons to explore. Illinois Beach State Park and Chain O Lakes near the Wisconsin border are perfect options to get into the woodlands. Try your hand at fishing or canoeing and enjoy the almost 3000-acre park.
Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park is a legend in its own right. Only an hour-and-a-half from Chicago and with plenty of features for the kids – pools, mini golf, art programmes and wagon rides, it’s hard to pass up if you’re visiting Chicago with the family.
A slice of Italy on your doorstep
Chicago is a city after any foodie’s heart, but you haven’t experienced true Chicago cuisine until you’ve tried a deep-dish pizza. Gino’s are good, but the buttercrust and signature sausage of Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria make it a standout in the city.
Hot dogs are another institution. What you’re looking for is a beef version on a poppyseed bun with yellow mustard, pickle relish, peppers, kosher dill pickle spear and celery salt. The award winning Hot Doug’s has these for two bucks. Jimmy’s Red Hots and Portillo’s are success stories. Foodies rank mk one of the best American restaurants in Chicago, with exceptional food and an unpretentious atmosphere. The Publican has long communal tables and specialises in pork – ribs, pork belly, crackling. They also have more than 100 kinds of beer.
But Chicago isn’t all about the meat. For vegetarian diners, there is an abundance of tempting options:
Natives of ‘The Windy City’ are upfront. What you see is generally what you get, and while that can be surprising for some, they are for the most part quite friendly. The city is not as full-tilt as New York or as laid back as California, but for one of the world’s major hubs it is relatively unflustered.
Must-see places of Chicago
Being the birthplace of the skyscraper, just take a look downtown. You’ll find your feet gravitating to Michigan Avenue. And there is no better shopping. Give your credit card a work-out then take the lifts to the 94th floor observatory of the John Hancock Center – Chicago’s fourth tallest building.
The major tourist hot-spots in Chicago are the Navy Pier and Millennium Park. Navy Pier is a 50-yard playground on the shorefront of Lake Michigan. With a Ferris wheel, museums, restaurants and fireworks during the summer, it’s an exciting must-do for the whole family. In contrast, Millennium Park is an inspiring escape and hosts some of the greatest art pieces in the world. The Cloud Gate is a signature landmark, made of almost 200 stainless steel plates.
Museum Campus is a 57-acre lakefront park that will easily while away your hours. This park surrounds three of Chicago’s world-class museums – the Field Museum (where you’ll see the largest T-Rex ever found), Adler Planetarium and Shedd Aquarium. While the museums are incredible, the views of Lake Michigan and admiring the outdoor sculptures can be just as enjoyable. Venture away from downtown to the art galleries, clubs and boutiques of Wicker Park and Bucktown. Experience the diverse sights and sounds of the unique area and do a spot of window-shopping. The bars can’t be missed either.
For one of the world’s ultimate road trips, the start sign of Route 66 can be a little difficult to find at corner of Michigan and Adams. It’s about 25 yards from the intersection on Adams. Jump out and walk to get your photos, as it’s a difficult area to pull over. This iconic route will drive you through Albuquerque, Grand Canyon and Los Angeles.
Hot and cold all over
Chicago’s weather can be extreme. Summers are often very hot and humid, and snowfalls and plummeting temperatures are common in winter. The best times to visit Chicago are April and May or September and October, when the temperatures are warm but not too uncomfortable. Many of the festivals in Chicago take place in spring and fall. Peak tourist season is summer, with travellers looking to make the most of the warm weather and outdoor activities.
Which RV should I pick?
Major motorhome companies are by far the easiest option for RV rental in the Chicago area. It is typical for Americans to own their RV instead of hiring one, so smaller local companies are few and far between.
Cruise America offer a huge fleet. But remember that bigger isn’t necessarily better.
Road Bear RV has a newer fleet of RVs and is a reliable and affordable company. They also offer good insurance packages and excellent customer service.
Moturis RV Rental in connection with Camping World has an affordable and easy service.
El Monte is nationwide firm with a substantial fleet. The vehicles are affordable and the insurance packages give you peace of mind.also has special offers on one-way rentals for selected routes.
Compass Campers, El Monte RV and Sunshine RV
Compass Campers share both a broad range of campervans and motorhomes, and a Chicago depot at Art'S RV Service Center, 21 W. 700 North Ave, Glen Ellyn. For groups of two looking to hire a campervan in Chicago, there’s everything from a standard large van to a fully equipped compact motorhome. For example, the C19 Compact Motorhome is ideal for a couple, or a couple traveling with a small child, as it has an on-board shower and toilet, and basic kitchen facilities. The C25 is larger, with space for up to five adults with two double beds and a single. At the largest end of the scale, the AF34 Class A bus-style motorhome with slide out is the ultimate in luxury, with space for three adults and three children and a stylish interior that’s more like a hotel room on wheels. The suppliers don’t organise transfers for you so you’ll need to make your own way to the depot, which is about 17 miles from the airport. By taxi, this will take around 30 minutes and will cost you approximately $80. Pick up times are 1pm to 2.30pm on weekdays and drop off times run from 8am to 11am on weekdays as well.
Cruise America RV
Cruise America RV is a market leader in comfort and luxury motorhome rentals in Chicago. Their smallest RVs are 19 feet long, powered by a Ford V-8 engine, and with sleeping space for two to three people. In the mid-size is a 25 foot RV, also with a Ford V-8 engine and sleeping space for five people. Cruise America’s largest motorhome is a 30-foot beast with a Ford V-10 engine and room for up to seven people to travel comfortably, including the driver. Plus, with 119 locations across North America, Cruise makes it easy to pick up in one location and drop off in another. The Cruise America RV depot in Chicago is found at 2732 North Mannheim Road, Franklin Park, which is only 6 miles from O’Hare Airport. You can get a transfer to and from airport area hotels if you book the Early Birder special, which also gets you early pick up times and late drop off times. Normally, you could pick up your motorhome between 1pm and 4pm, and drop it off again between 9am and 11am. With the special, you can pick it up before noon and drop it off after noon. If you do return the RV later than expected, you will be charged $25 per hour.
You “rent” an RV in the USA. If you say “hire”, people will think you want a vehicle including a driver
Use an RV-specific route planner on a GPS. It’ll factor in overhead clearance and other restrictions, such as which roads, bridges, and tunnels won’t allow propane tanks through.
Take bicycles with you camping. Often there is no room to park a larger vehicle and many times, like at the Grand Canyon, you can access a ‘bikes only’ trail.
Chicago Motorhome Rental
Welcome to windy Chicago on the banks of Lake Michigan, a thriving city and a great place to start your Illinois motorhome vacation.
Hiring a motorhome in Chicago
Chicago is the third most populous city in the USA with almost 3 million people. Situated in the northeast corner of the state, it’s an ideal spot to start any motorhome holiday around Lake Michigan, Illinois, or several surrounding states. There are four fleets to choose from when finding a RV or campervan with Motorhome Republic, each of them offering a range of vehicles suited to families, groups, and couples. You can hire one for a long weekend away from the city, or enjoy the benefits of staying in a home on wheels during a month-long holiday around the region.
Best places to see with your Chicago motorhome
One of the most popular reasons for picking up a Chicago motorhome is to complete the Lake Michigan Circle Tour. It passes through Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan. If you were to do this 900-mile tour with no stops, it would take roughly 14.5 hours, but you should consider making as many stops along the way as you can to see places such as Traverse City (the cherry capital of the US), Green Bay, and the Door Peninsula.
The Anderson Japanese Gardens are only 1.5 hours from Chicago, and have even been named the finest Japanese gardens in the US. Here you can stroll through the beautiful setting, take a calligraphy class, or participate in a traditional tea ceremony.
Almost 6 hours south of Chicago is the Shawnee National Park, which is a gorgeous natural location spanning almost 290,000 acres. It has an abundance of outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, fishing, and rock climbing, and it is also the home of the Garden of the Gods, a particularly stunning area with natural rock formations.
Take a trip to the state’s capital, Springfield, to see the historic Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. The city was the 16th President’s hometown, and also offers plenty of other fascinating historical sites just over three hours from Chicago.
The Starved Rock State Park is just under two hours from Chicago and is known for its picturesque waterfalls and canyons, and is where you can go for hiking, horseback riding, picnicking, and even winter sports in the cooler months.
The largest piece of prehistoric earthwork in the Americas can also be found in Illinois, roughly 4.5 hours from Chicago. The Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a National Historic Landmark, as it is where an estimated 10,000 – 20,000 inhabitants lived around AD 700 – 1400.
Best times of year for a Chicago campervan holiday
Chicago is a great city to visit any time of year. Summer, from June to August, offers daily temperatures of 75 – 85 degrees Fahrenheit, with occasional heat waves and humidity. This cools down in fall quickly, dropping to the mid-60s and 70s. The winter season can be very cold, with daily averages sitting around the freezing point and regular snow. Come spring, it rains more often but begins to warm up and can be a good time to visit before the crowds arrive.
Chicago Motorhome Facts
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