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Road Trips

Road Trip from Chicago to Miami

By Dianne Titos | Published on 13 June 2022

A road trip from Chicago to Miami is an epic north-to-south adventure. Passing many fantastic towns and cities, discover the home of country music, gorgeous national parks, and the homes of some famous US icons.

The 1,385-mile journey from Chicago to Miami takes 21 hours and 10 minutes of pure driving, passing Indianapolis, Louisville, Nashville, Gatlinburg, Chattanooga, Atlanta, Montgomery, Orlando, Tampa, and the natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Taking you from Lake Michigan to Biscayne Bay, a trip of such proportions will be one you will never forget. Keep on reading to discover many amazing places to visit, the best route, where to stay, and when to go.

High rise buildings appear grey in the mist behind a calm lagoon in the foreground with autumn trees
Head out from Chicago to experience this epic road trip.
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How far is Miami from Chicago and how long will the road trip take?

The fastest route between Chicago and Miami covers a distance of around 1,385 miles, but we recommend extending the journey to include trips to Pigeon Forge and Montgomery which will add a further 450 miles to the trip.

The direct Interstate-65 route will introduce you to some truly memorable scenery. Through rolling hills and glorious mountain landscapes, this road trip has something for everyone.

It is important to allow time to enjoy the many amazing attractions and places along the way. We recommend scheduling at least two overnight stops or more depending on your desire to explore further.

Best road trip route from Chicago to Miami

The route takes you through rolling valleys and stunning mountain landscapes and there will be many options to detour into the stunning national parks and forests along the way.

Most of the trip will be on the Interstate-65, a perfect road for such a journey. Excellent to drive on with many options to refuel and refresh as you head on to the next item on your bucket list of things to see.

Best road trip route from Chicago to Miami

Leaving Chicago, take the I-90 along the shores of Lake Michigan for just over 30 Miles. Pass Gary then take the I-65 and head south, through endless fields of windmills, before arriving at Indianapolis.

180 miles into your journey, this vibrant city is a car enthusiast's dream. Visit the Indianapolis Speedway Museum and take a tour of the Brickyard, host to the most exhilarating event in the motorsport calendar, the Indy 500.

Continue south on the I-65 for a further 115 miles, through rolling hills of horse country, crossing the famous Ohio River to arrive at Louisville. Famous for the Kentucky Derby, and the birthplace of Muhammad Ali.

After enjoying all that Louisville has to offer, re-join the I-65 passing Bowling Green, and after 175 miles, you will find yourself in the home of country music, Nashville.

Music fans must check out the famous Grand Ole Opry House. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is also a must-see, along with the venerated Ryman Auditorium, particularly if there is a show on.

The Dollyland Detour

From Nashville, take the I-40 east to Knoxville passing through picturesque mountain scenery before reaching Kodak where you will take the TN-66 south for around 30 mins before arriving at Pigeon Forge.

The mountain town of Pigeon Forge in eastern Tennessee is a must for fans of Dolly Parton, as it's where her Appalachian-themed Park Dollywood is located. Thrill-seekers can take a ride on the rocky top alpine mountain coaster.

Leaving Pigeon Forge, take the US-321 south and enjoy the magnificent scenery of the Great Smoky Mountains as you make the short 8-mile journey to Gatlinburg.

Shaft of golden sunlight illuminates green and gold tree covered mountain ridges and valleys
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the perfect place to stretch your legs after hours on the road.
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Take in the great outdoors and stretch your legs with a trail walk, or visit the Wild Bear Falls Water Park. Take a tour of the Mysterious Mansion, a haunted house that delights in frightening visitors all year round.

From Gatlinburg, take the US-441 south to Cherokee and then join the US-23 passing through Franklin and Tallulah Falls, continuing for 197 miles as you make your way into the Deep South and the city of Atlanta.

The birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr and Coca-Cola, (be sure to check out the museums dedicated to both), this lively city also features the fantastic Georgia Aquarium, some fabulous restaurants, and terrific nightlife.

Leaving Atlanta, take the I-85s for 161 miles to the delightful city of Montgomery. Experience the vibrant local arts scene, visit the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, or plan your trip to coincide with the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.

Heading onwards, take the I-85 east to Albany then join the US-82 heading south towards Florida. Pass through the Woods Ferry conservation area before heading east onto the I-10 towards Jacksonville.

From here, take the I-95 S for the final stretch of the journey which will take you to Miami. Be sure to enjoy the magnificent 23 miles of Daytona Beach and experience the thrill of the many theme parks of Orlando.

Finally, before heading to Miami, take a trip to Tampa and witness the wonderful museums, historic Ybor City neighborhood, and the fabulous Busch Gardens.

Long wooden pier stretches out into calm sea with pink, blue and gold sunset light reflected
Explore Tampa and nearby Clearwater Beach when you near the end of this marathon road trip.
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Best places to stop between Chicago and Miami

Given the distance between Chicago and Miami, the route is filled with amazing tourist destinations, and you'll be spoilt for choice when deciding where to stay on your overnight stops.

You can choose to stay in one or more of the many fascinating cities along the route or take a more secluded getaway in one of the national parks. The options are endless, so here are our recommendations.

Get your groove on in Nashville

A third of the way into the journey, 472 miles from Chicago, Nashville is a fabulous place to visit. The country music capital of the world, with an incredible food and drink scene, a thriving art movement, and wonderful architecture.

If you plan to check out the city, the Hyatt Centric Downtown is a fabulous place to stay. Situated right in the heart of downtown, you'll be within walking distance to the Bridgestone Arena, Ryman Auditorium, and much more.

This luxury 5-star hotel has a fabulous outdoor swimming pool, an excellent restaurant, and an onsite fitness center, so there is plenty to help you relax and unwind after your drive before hitting the town.

Being 2 blocks south of Broadway, the Hyatt Centric is just steps away from fabulous honky-tonk bars and a vibrant local music scene. It is perfectly placed to take in the nightlife and indulge in the delicious southern cuisine.

Enjoy the Magic of Atlanta

Atlanta is a world-class city with a rich cultural history. The birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr and Coca-Cola, Atlanta also boasts a fabulous mix of natural beauty and cutting-edge architecture.

The state capital of Georgia also boasts awesome food, culture, and nightlife scene. Situated almost halfway into this fabulous road trip, 719 miles from Chicago, the place to stay is undoubtedly the Westin Peachtree Plaza.

Rising 73 floors above downtown Atlanta, the hotel offers world-class service and impressive amenities. Enjoy a unique dining experience in the stunning Sun Dial Restaurant, on the upper floors, offering unparalleled 360-degree views over the city.

Highway passing through Atlanta downtown with highrise buildings lit up in light pink light
Atlanta is a fantastic place to stop on this route.
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The rooms are spacious and beautifully designed, and their signature heavenly bed will ensure the perfect restorative sleep, so you are fully refreshed and ready for the day of adventure ahead.

The hotel puts you right in the heart of the action. It is moments away from the Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coca-Cola, and the Centennial Olympic Park. There are many excellent restaurants, bars, and cafes nearby.

Things to see on a road trip from Chicago to Miami

You are spoilt for choice when it comes to destinations to visit on a road trip from Chicago to Miami. To make it easier for your plan, we have compiled this list of our favorite attractions along the way:

  1. Indianapolis – Famous for the Indy 500, Canal and White River State Park, the Children's Museum, and the National Art Museum of Sport.
  2. Louisville - A must for all sports lovers, host to the Kentucky Derby and the famous Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, where Major League bats are produced.,
  3. Nashville - Country music capital of the world. Check out the Grand Ole Opry House, The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and the iconic Ryman Auditorium entertainment venue.
  4. Pigeon Forge - Mountain town in eastern Tennessee, where Dollywood is located. An Appalachian-themed Park that has rides, a water park, and a museum of her memorabilia.
  5. Gatlinburg - Gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and home to the 407-ft Space Needle observation tower and the Sky Lift cable car.
  6. Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies – Witness a wide variety of aquatic life with over 10,000 marine residents, including sharks, stingrays, and sea turtles, in a magnificent hilltop location.
  7. Mammoth Cave National Park - Experience thousands of years of human history, rolling hills, deep river valleys, and the world's largest cave system.
  8. Jack Daniels Distillery - Take a distillery tour, explore the history, and see how the world's most famous bourbon is made.
  9. Chattanooga - Set along the Tennessee River in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, this city is famous for the Civil War battle that is honored at the Chattanooga Museum.
  10. Atlanta – Birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr and Coca-Cola, both of which have excellent museums dedicated to them. Also head to the Georgia Aquarium and enjoy its great food and wonderful nightlife.
  11. Montgomery - Immerse yourself in the local arts scene by visiting the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. Visit its beautiful parks and its wonderful zoo.
  12. Stone Mountain Park, Georgia – Set in 3200 acres of incredible scenery, enjoy outdoor activities, and take a cable car ride to its historic carved peak
  13. Daytona Beach - Enjoy 23 miles of outstanding, wide, flat beach. Stroll along its lovely boardwalk and pier and visit the iconic Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse.
  14. Orlando - Home to more than a dozen theme parks including Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
  15. Tampa – Situated on the Florida Coast, take a tiki boat ride down the Hillsborough River, or enjoy a food and drink tour around the historic Ybor City, an excellent way to get to know the area.
  16. Salvador Dali Museum, Florida – An extensive collection of the famous surrealist artist's work, housed in an incredible 900-panel glass building.
Road with stop lights leading up to white domed official building with pink morning sky behind
Montgomery is a recommended stop on this trip, on account of its culture, history and outdoor amenities.
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Best time to go on a road trip from Chicago to Miami

The beauty of a road trip from Chicago to Miami is that you can do it at any time of the year.

During the summer months, it can be hot, averaging around 90 degrees in the Deep South and Florida, so air-conditioning is a must. Be sure to take refreshment breaks and schedule more stops accordingly.

Conversely, over the winter months, you might find that snow makes some of the areas around the national parks very difficult, and possibly cause road closures in the mountainous areas.

Beach with palm trees and brightly coloured buildings with rays of light from the setting sun behind them
The route from Chicago to Miami is one of contrasts.
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A springtime trip will still have glorious weather and less traffic than the summer season. Making the trip in May will also appeal to sports fans, with both the Kentucky Derby and the Indy 500 usually taking place at this time.

Other than that, you can hit the open road whenever you feel like it. Take as many days as you can allow to cover this impressive journey and look forward to a truly memorable road trip of a lifetime.