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.
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.