Best Spring Break Road Trips from Chicago

Why a road trip during Chicago Spring Break time?
There’s something about SPRING – be it the advent of blissful greens all around or the nippy weather still reminding us of the frigid cold which spanned months and giving us a vibe that we earned the clement temperatures.

Below pictures were taken few hours apart during our Chattanooga trip during spring break – goes to show Spring Break road trip from Chicago could be highly lucrative, as long as you are willing to shake off the cabin fever and venture out.

I have made it a tradition to take a family road trip every year during the kids Spring Break and would strongly urge you to shrug the winter dawdling and get on the road.

Criteria for these road trips?

The place should offer mild weather conducive for outdoor activities for family, shouldn’t require more than a day of drive and shouldn’t need more than 4 days for the return trip.

Tip: Chicago area has plenty of drivable options for the Spring Break but if catching some nice weather is on your agenda, you are looking at 5 hour+ driving at least.

So, without further ado, here’s what I would recommend for the Chicagoans ready to take on the road and create life-long Spring Road Trip memories with family and friends.

1. Hot Springs (Arkansas)

Distance: 650 miles.
ETA: 10+ hours with couple of short breaks.
Why visit?
Hot Springs National Park is my favored Spring Break destination – the temperatures are moderate, there are plenty of astonishing natural and man-made touristy bits on offer and it is not wildly crazy like Florida. Truly, Hot Springs is a hidden gem when it comes to Chicago Spring Break travel.

Hot Springs - Spring Break Trip from Chicago
View from our cottage at Hot Springs (click to enlarge)

The drive, around 10 hours, is a bit of a stretch if you are not used to long drives but it is actually quite gratifying once you get out of Illinois, especially when you navigate through Mark Twain National Forest (that’s what motivated me for Ozark Camping Trip few months later).

The geothermal natural waters of Hot Springs have been drawing crowds from the time of native Americans. The city also boasts of a dedicated baseball trail featuring the activities of baseball legends like Babe Ruth.

Other attractions are Talimena Scenic Drive;  Ouachita National Forest – a must-visit for Ziplining, Hiking, Biking and Waterfall enthusiasts and finally, Hot Springs Mountain Tower.

You can find the full blog here. I also found this link helpful to plan your travel. Some pictures to whet your appetite:

Another view from our cottage

2. St Louis (Missouri) and Springfield (Illinois)

Distance: 270 miles.
ETA: 4+ hours.
Why visit?
St Louis is a tourist magnet for spring break travel thanks to a plethora of family-friendly activities, amicable spring weather and short-ish ride from Chicago. The most eminent being The Gateway Arch, of course.

The Gateway Arch

Another must-visit attraction in St Louis is the City Kids Museum, also called Monstrocity, which has exhibits constructed from many eccentric products. Kids – young or old, would absolutely adore this one.

Monstrocity, photo by Laurie Skriva,

You can also merge St Louis trip with Springfield and see Illinois landmarks like The State Capital, Lincoln Museum, etc.

The centre dome at the Capitol of Illinois

If the underground caves are your thing, Meramec Caverns are a must visit.

The Stalactite formations at Meramec Caverns

The full blog for the vivid St Louis trip is here.

3. Memphis

Distance: 550 miles.
ETA: 9 hours with couple of short breaks.
Why visit?
Plentiful touristy Activities and relatively mild December temperatures. Here’s a short list –
Big River Trail – 70-miles of gorgeous biking trail across the Mississippi levee.

The picturesque Big River Trail, quite a feast for the biking enthusiasts

Big River Crossing – a mile-long sky bridge walk on Mississippi cutting through Tennessee and Arkansas with stunning views of the river.
Shelby Farms – Vast public urban park sprawling across 4500 acres, home to bison herd as well. Starry Nights event with dazzling 3.5 million lights is a major attraction during holiday season.
The iconic Beale Street – the home of the Blues and the true birthplace of Rock n Roll. The weather is usually very cooperative as well, amplifying the outdoor experience.
Lastly, you would find ravishing views of The Mighty Mississippi, all around Memphis,  that alone is worth the visit!

Mesmerizing views on the Big River Trail. Photo courtesy, Big River Crossing

#MildlyInteresting – You hit the AR-TN state border half-way through the Big River Crossing


The Mighty Mississippi – As seen from the Riverfront Park in December

Beale Street – Live music, food and festive flavor all year

Shelby Farms: A must-visit fog-friendly public park for all ages. Courtesy: Shelby Farms

Starry Nights at Shelby Farms – Dazzling 3.5 million holiday lights. Courtesy: Shelby Farms


If you have more days, you can also hop over to Nashville or Chattanooga as part of the trip, they are hardly couple of hours away and have a ton of activities on offer.

4. National Cherry Blossom Festival at Washington DC 

Distance: 730 miles.
ETA: 12 hours with couple of short breaks.
Why visit?
National Cherry Blossom Festival, DC’s historic landmarks and acclaimed museums, Smithsonian Zoological Park (One of three zoos in US which have giant panda).

It was much more ravishing than what camera was able to capture

The National Cherry Blossom Festival has a rich backstory – the yearly fest commemorates the gift of actual Japanese cherry trees from the Mayor of Tokyo city to the D.C. Mayor Ozaki before the Second World War, to enhance the growing friendship between the United States and Japan. Of course, the relations turned much sour later as history tells us.

It is truly exhilarating to see a myriad of them in full bloom.

Courtesy, National Cherry Blossom Festival

D.C. offers a multitude of world-class museums, most of which are free. And don’t miss the giant pandas, only a couple of zoos across the nation have’em!

Lincoln – Towering above all 

5. Chattanooga (Tennessee) 

Distance: 600 miles.
ETA: 10 hours with couple of short breaks.
Why visit?
Chattanooga is a terrific catch-all destination for family – be it the Rock City, famous for the 7-states lookout point, Ruby Falls, Lookout Mountain (known for the epic Civil War battle), Incline Railway (one of the steepest funicular railway incline in the world, big hit with the kids) or the myriad of trails for the nature lovers.

Not to mention, the sweeping views at the Scenic Overlooks – Sunset Rock ViewpointIncline Railway Top Station.

Scenic Overlook, Courtesy

Check out the full blog for more details.

a0Ff200000LtL62EAFYou gotta stay at the cabins to relish true Southern hospitality. Courtesy: Evolve

PXL_20220329_143333971The swanky pool table. Courtesy: Evolve

Ravishing cityscape and the Tennessee River, as seen from the Lookout Mountain

The Rock City was definitely a marquee point of the trip – the mile long hike with gazillion props, expansive views of the lookout mountain, a fun wobbly rope bridge, the constricted pathways; a sublime place for the photo-ops. 

Scenic point near the waterfall

PXL_20220327_175312874.PORTRAIT (2)
One of many many queer props

PXL_20220327_161734093 (1)
You have to squeeze through many cramped pathways

Ruby Falls – an underground waterfall with stalactites, Stalagmites, Capillary Tubes attract bazillion tourists each year.

NIK_6870 (1)

Chattanooga houses one of the steepest funicular railways in the world and it did not disappoint at all, rather a must-visit for sure!


That’s it, hope this kindles the desire to take your own spring break road trip.

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2 thoughts on “Best Spring Break Road Trips from Chicago

  1. I found this blog super helpful! It offers a wide selection of fun-filled vacations for the entire family!

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