If you are looking for the perfect mix of buzzing urban landscapes, historic cities famous for their musical legacy, and charming rural towns dotted in between, the road trip from Chicago to Dallas is the perfect adventure. From up-and-coming art galleries to famous steakhouses, many things to explore wait for you in Dallas!
The 1,000-mile road trip from Chicago to Dallas will take 14 hours and 45 minutes to drive. Highlights on the way are Springfield, St Louis, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Indianapolis, Columbus, Louisville, Mammoth Cave, Bowling Green, Nashville, Memphis and Little Rock.
This is the road trip of a lifetime through the heartland of the USA. Read on below to learn more on our recommended routes, top highlights, best places to stay, and the best seasons to travel.
How far is Dallas from Chicago, and how long will the road trip take?
|St Louis Route
|14 hours 45 minutes
|17 hours 54 minutes
The St Louis Route on a road trip from Chicago to Dallas covers a distance of 1,000 miles in approximately 14 hours and 45 minutes without accounting for any stops you might want to make.
Alternatively, the Nashville Route extends over 1,160 miles and takes about 17 hours and 54 minutes to complete without any detours.
While you could complete this drive within a couple of days, we suggest extending your trip to 5-6 days. This gives you more time to discover all the incredible things to see and do along the way.
Best road trip route from Chicago to Dallas
With such a different variety of attractions to visit on both St Louis and Nashville Routes, which one is the best pick for you will depend on how much time you have and where you'd like to visit.
The shorter St Louis Route will take you along the old Route 66. As you drive on sections of this legendary road, you'll encounter historic places with a touch of nostalgia.
You'll also get to admire expansive landscapes, with opportunities to explore natural caverns and caves like the Fantastic Caverns. Also, you'll visit some of the most charming cities and towns in the Midwest, including destinations famous for their cowboy culture such as Oklahoma City.
The Nashville Route is perfect for sports enthusiasts and music lovers. Starting with the Indiana Speedway, continuing to the Kentucky Derby, and ending with the renowned sports teams in Dallas, this route is a dream for sports fans.
Whiskey and bourbon aficionados will also appreciate this route, with trails and distilleries along the way to explore.
You'll also travel through Memphis and Nashville, two of America's music capitals. Make sure to listen to Country Music and the Blues as you cross the country's musical heartland.
How to drive from Chicago to Dallas
The map above shows our suggestions for the best road trip routes between Chicago and Dallas. Keep reading for detailed descriptions of both routes, where to stay on either, and the best things to do on the way.
St Louis Route
Start the St Louis Route in the Windy City. Depart from Chicago on Interstate 55 (I-55) and head towards Springfield, Illinois. Here, you can explore Shea's Gas Station Museum and the Route 66 Twin Drive-In Theatre.
Continuing south on the interstate, you'll reach St Louis, Missouri, where the National Blues Museum and the Missouri Botanical Garden await. As you leave St Louis, take I-44 South to visit Route 66 State Park and the Jesse James Wax Museum.
Further along I-44, check out Fantastic Caverns near Springfield, Missouri, before crossing into Oklahoma. In Tulsa, visit the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium.
Continue driving southwest to Oklahoma City. Here, you can see the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.
After your visit, take I-35 south towards Texas, stopping at the Chickasaw Nation for a cultural interlude and the Winstar World Casino and Resort for entertainment. You'll soon end your drive in beautiful Dallas, Texas.
You will start by driving towards Indianapolis, Indiana, via I-65 South. As you continue on I-65, make a stop in Lafayette to explore the Tippecanoe Battlefield Park, a site steeped in historical significance.
When you arrive in Indianapolis, enjoy the thrill of racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Your next destination is Louisville, Kentucky. Here, you can visit the Kentucky Derby Museum and the Jim Beam American Stillhouse.
Continuing south on I-65, you'll find the Mammoth Cave National Park, a natural wonder offering spectacular underground tours.
Further along the route, you'll reach the musical heart of Tennessee, Nashville. Immerse yourself in the sounds of the Grand Ole Opry and the stories at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
As you leave Nashville, head west on I-40 towards Memphis, Tennessee, home to the Memphis Rock ‘n' Soul Museum and the National Civil Rights Museum.
Crossing into Arkansas, you will arrive in Little Rock. Then, take a relaxing break at Magic Springs and Holiday Springs Water Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
The final stretch of your journey takes you into Texas, where you'll merge onto I-30 to reach your destination of Dallas.
Best places to stop between Chicago and Dallas
With so much to do and explore on a drive from Chicago to Dallas, we recommend staying at one of the iconic destinations below. This way, you'll be able to rest up and see more of this amazing part of the USA.
Explore the iconic landmarks of St Louis
St Louis, a beautiful metropolis approximately 300 miles into the St Louis Route, is the perfect stopover option. This city, often hailed as the 'Gateway to the West,' embodies the spirit of the American Midwest with its rich history, famous sports teams, and influential music scenes.
The iconic Gateway Arch is the most famous must-see landmark in the city. It symbolizes the city's historic role in America's westward expansion.
While in St Louis, don't miss the chance to explore the Missouri Botanical Gardens, an oasis showcasing a stunning array of plant species and the perfect place to spend a laid-back afternoon.
You might know St Louis due to its famous landmarks, but did you know it was the first US city to host the modern Olympics? The Games were initially planned to take place in Chicago, but the location was changed to St Louis.
For your stay, we recommend the luxurious 21c Museum Hotel St Louis. More than just a historic Renaissance Revival-style hotel, it features a contemporary art museum, integrating fine art into every aspect of its design.
The hotel boasts great amenities as well, including a fantastic indoor pool, spa, and gym. Once ready to venture out, its convenient downtown location makes exploring the city a breeze. You'll be able to walk to many of the city's best restaurants and bars.
Nearby, the St Louis Aquarium at Union Station is just a 10-minute walk from the hotel. And for art enthusiasts, the Citygarden Sculpture Park, a 20-minute stroll away, is filled with impressive sculptures and installations.
Catch a live gig in Nashville
Nashville, a city synonymous with the heart and soul of country music, is an ideal stopover on the Nashville Route, situated about 7 hours and 30 minutes into the journey. This musical metropolis, often referred to as the birthplace of country and bluegrass, continues to attract music fans and artists from around the world.
Key attractions include the legendary Grand Ole Opry, where the spirit of country music comes to life, and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, a treasure trove of musical history and artifacts.
A quirky highlight of Nashville is its Centennial Park, home to the only full-scale replica of the Greek Parthenon. After you travel to Greece and back, you can explore Nashville's amazing bars and restaurants, and treat yourself and fellow travelers to a well-deserved meal.
For your stay, The Hermitage Hotel, Nashville's original million-dollar hotel, is steeped in the city's history and radiates timeless elegance. You'll be greeted with complimentary refreshments in the lobby each morning, setting the tone for a day of exploration.
If your drive has made you puckish, you will find a fabulous restaurant and a cute, pink-themed cafe on the premises. We highly recommend making reservations to avoid any disappointment.
In proximity to The Hermitage Hotel, you'll find the Walk of Fame Park, just a 10-minute walk away, where you can stroll among the stars of music legends. Equally close is the Johnny Cash Museum, another 10-minute walk from the hotel, offering an intimate and immersive look into the life and music of the 'Man in Black.'
Where to stay when you reach Dallas
Dallas, a city famous for its sports teams, world-class museums, and arts scene, offers a blend of history and innovation. Once you get there, visit the Dallas Museum of Art, known for its extensive collection spanning centuries.
For a more relaxing stop, the Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Garden have incredible landscapes and natural highlights to enjoy. A quirky fact about Dallas is that it houses the largest record store in the country, making it a haven for music enthusiasts, too.
In the heart of this bustling city, the HALL Arts Hotel Dallas is the perfect place to stay. Located within the city's art district, the hotel is a masterpiece in itself, featuring innovative technology and unique art pieces throughout its stunning interior.
You'll get complimentary bikes for exploring the city. Plus, you're close to all of Dallas' incredible highlights like the AT&T Performing Arts Center.
The hotel has a stunning rooftop pool and garden, offering breathtaking city views, perfect for relaxation and leisure. For art lovers, the Hall Arts Hotel Dallas provides an exclusive treat with art tours available only to hotel guests.
Things to see on a road trip from Chicago to Dallas
To help you make the most out of this amazing road trip, we've included our favorite destinations below. This way, you'll be able to see the top highlights for you.
St Louis Route
- Shea's Gas Station Museum - A nostalgic trip back in time, this museum showcases a unique collection of vintage gas station memorabilia, offering a glimpse into the golden era of American road travel.
- Route 66 Twin Drive-In Theatre - Experience classic American cinema at this historic drive-in theatre, where visitors can enjoy movies under the stars, just like in the heyday of Route 66.
- Litchfield Museum and Route 66 Center - This museum celebrates the rich history of Route 66, featuring exhibits that highlight the road's significance in American culture and travel.
- The National Blues Museum - Dedicated to exploring the history and legacy of blues music, this museum offers interactive exhibits and live performances, tracing the genre's influence on American music.
- Missouri Botanical Garden - A beautiful and serene oasis in St Louis, this garden is known for its stunning plant collections, historic buildings, and themed gardens.
- Route 66 State Park - This park offers a blend of natural beauty and historical exhibits, highlighting the importance of Route 66 in Missouri's history.
- Jesse James Wax Museum - A unique attraction featuring lifelike wax figures of Jesse James and other figures from the Wild West, offering an entertaining look into outlaw folklore.
- Fantastic Caverns - A natural underground wonder in Springfield, these drive-through caverns offer guided tours, showcasing spectacular rock formations and subterranean landscapes.
- George Washington Carver National Monument - This site honors the life and legacy of the renowned African-American scientist and educator, featuring a museum, nature trail, and interactive exhibits.
- Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium - A must-visit for aviation enthusiasts, this museum presents aircraft history and space exploration through exhibits and a state-of-the-art planetarium.
- Frontier City Theme Park - Located in Oklahoma City, this Western-themed amusement park offers thrilling rides, entertainment, and attractions for all ages.
- National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum - This museum showcases the history and culture of the American West through art, artifacts, and interactive exhibits.
- The Toy and Action Figure Museum - Situated in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, this museum is a paradise for toy lovers, displaying an extensive collection of action figures and nostalgic toys.
- Chickasaw Nation - Explore the rich history and culture of the Chickasaw Nation with cultural centers, casinos, and recreational areas, reflecting the tribe's heritage.
- Winstar World Casino and Resort - Located near the Oklahoma-Texas border, this large casino offers a variety of gaming options, entertainment, dining, and luxury accommodations.
- Tippecanoe Battlefield Park - This historic site commemorates the Battle of Tippecanoe, offering insights into early 19th-century American history with a museum, monument, and walking trails.
- Indianapolis Motor Speedway - Famous for hosting the Indianapolis 500, this iconic racetrack offers tours and a museum showcasing the history of auto racing.
- Indiana Medical History Museum - Located in Indianapolis, this museum is housed in a preserved 19th-century pathology building, offering a fascinating look at the history of medicine.
- Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor and Museum - A historic ice cream parlor and museum, Zaharakos takes visitors back in time with its antique soda fountain, Tiffany-style lamp, and delicious ice cream.
- Falls of the Ohio State Park - This unique geological site near Louisville features fossil beds, a visitor center, and hiking trails along the Ohio River.
- Kentucky Derby Museum - Celebrate the history and excitement of the Kentucky Derby with interactive exhibits, a 360-degree theater, and tours of Churchill Downs.
- Jim Beam American Stillhouse - Located in Clermont, Kentucky, this distillery offers a comprehensive bourbon experience with tours, tastings, and insights into the bourbon-making process.
- Mammoth Cave National Park - The world's longest cave system, located in Kentucky, offers a variety of cave tours, hiking trails, and educational programs.
- National Corvette Museum - This museum showcases the history of the Chevrolet Corvette with vintage models, interactive exhibits, and a public racetrack.
- Grand Ole Opry - The famed venue for country music offers live performances, tours, and a rich history of American music legends.
- Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum - A treasure trove of country music history, this museum features memorabilia, recordings, and interactive exhibits.
- Memphis Rock ‘n' Soul Museum - Located in Memphis, this museum tells the story of the birth of rock and soul music with engaging exhibits and music.
- National Civil Rights Museum - Situated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, this museum offers a powerful journey through the American civil rights movement.
- The Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site - This site in Little Rock, Arkansas, is a key landmark in the desegregation of American schools, offering educational exhibits and tours.
- Magic Springs - A family-friendly theme and water park in Hot Springs, Arkansas, featuring thrilling rides, water slides, and live entertainment.
- Holiday Springs Water Park - Located in Texarkana, this water park provides a fun and refreshing stop with various water attractions and pools.
Best time to go on a road trip from Chicago to Dallas
Dallas is a wonderful year-round destination and this road trip from Chicago to Dallas can be planned for any month. However, each season has its own highlights and challenges.
Summer can be hot and humid on both routes. You'll often experience temperatures between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit or more. That being said, this is also the prime time for water activities around Hot Springs, offering sun-drenched days for outdoor enjoyment.
This is also the season of festivals such as the Fourth of July. Other incredible events include the CMA Music Festival on the Nashville Route in June.
This drive from Chicago to Dallas is also beautiful during fall, with pleasant temperatures and events such as the State Fair of Texas in October on the St Louis Route. If you love fall colors, both routes will be full of spectacular changing hues along the way.
Winter brings festive joy to Dallas, with holiday festivals like the city's annual New Year's celebration. During this season, temperatures typically hover in the 50s and 60s Fahrenheit, with occasional cold snaps and rare snow.
A winter visit to Mammoth Cave National Park is a highlight on the Nashville Route, with icicles adorning the cave entrance. Be careful on your drive from Chicago, as cold weather and heavy snowfall can make driving conditions tricky.
Spring is another perfect time to travel on both routes, with pleasant temperatures and plenty of spring flower blooms to enjoy along the way. Don't miss events such as the May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest on the Nashville Route.