Take a spectacular journey on the road from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean to the stunning Great Lakes region. From bustling cities and fascinating museums to crystal clear lakes and breathtaking scenery, the road trip from New Jersey to Chicago has it all!
The 905-mile road trip from New Jersey to Chicago will take 15 hours to drive nonstop. Notable stops are Ithaca, Finger Lakes region, Erie, Lake Erie shoreline, Cleveland, Michigan City, Philadelphia, Lancaster, Pittsburgh, Columbus and Indianapolis.
This will truly be the road trip of a lifetime with plenty of adventure and fun highlights. Continue reading below to learn more about our recommended routes, where to stay, and what to see and do along the way.
How far is Chicago from New Jersey, and how long will the road trip take?
|The Cleveland Route||905 miles||15 hours|
|The Pittsburgh Route||950 miles||16 hours 18 minutes|
The Cleveland Route will take you through some of the cutest small towns in America brimming with charm. You'll drive 905 miles with 15 miles of driving time.
The Pittsburgh Route takes you 950 miles with 16 hours and 18 minutes of driving time. This longer route will take you through historical places and beautiful scenery.
Regardless of which route you take, we recommend taking 7 to 9 days to complete this incredible road trip. Continue on below to learn more about these routes, where to stay, and what to see and do along the way.
Best road trip route from New Jersey to Chicago
Along the Cleveland Route, you'll be treated to scenic drives, passing through charming small towns such as Ithaca, Erie, and Sandusky, as well as the beautiful Finger Lakes in upstate New York. The roads are in good condition, with plenty of rest stops and gas stations available for breaks and refueling.
This route has a mix of historic and charming small towns, scenic countryside, and urban landscapes, focusing strongly on American history and culture. Cleveland and Chicago offer a vibrant mix of urban culture and entertainment, plus some of the best food scenes in the country.
You will also get a chance to make a detour to Put-in-Bay on this route. Here is our detailed guide on how to drive to Put-in-Bay to help you plan your journey there.
The longer Pittsburg Route offers a unique and diverse road trip experience, passing through several historic landmarks and attractions, including Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, and the Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
The route also offers scenic drives through the Pennsylvania countryside, passing through charming small towns like Lancaster and Amish Country. This epic route has a mix of American history and culture, with a focus on the country's early history and the Civil War era, as well as a mix of urban and rural landscapes.
The Cleveland Route
From Newark, New Jersey, drive west into Pennsylvania. From here, continue on north through the small communities and rolling hills. Continue on into Ithaca, New York. From here, drive along the coastline of Lake Erie until you get to Erie, PA.
Get back on route and head west. You'll make it into Cleveland, home of the Rock and roll history museum.
From here, get back on route to Sandusky, Ohio. Continue on below the state of Michigan and into Michigan City. From here, continue on into your destination of Chicago.
The Pittsburg Route
From Newark, New Jersey, make your way to the beautiful and historic city of Philadelphia. After spending time in this ultimate destination, continue on route and head west.
Drive into the historic town of Lancaster, PA, and into Gettysburg, one of the most famous sights of the American Civil War. From here, continue on into the city of Pittsburg.
After spending time in Pittsburg, continue on route into Ohio and drive to the beautiful city of Columbus. From here, continue on into Indiana.
Make your way into Indianapolis, Indiana. After enjoying the city, make your way north into Chicago.
Best places to stop between New Jersey and Chicago
You will have many amazing things to do and see along the way, so we recommend breaking this journey up. Below, we've listed our favorite stopovers along the way to help you make the most out of this wonderful drive.
Explore the music history and food of Cleveland
Around halfway on the Cleveland Route is the city of Cleveland, Ohio. The city's convenient location, diverse range of attractions, and plentiful hotel options make it the perfect place to stop.
Situated approximately halfway between Erie, Pennsylvania and Sandusky, Ohio, Cleveland offers a mix of cultural experiences and entertainment options, including the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the West Side Market.
The city is also home to several museums, theaters, and performing arts venues, including the Cleveland Museum of Art and Playhouse Square. Cleveland is a sports-crazy city, with fans supporting the Cleveland Browns, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Cleveland Indians.
Foodies beware, Cleveland is also famous for its food specialties, such as pierogies, corned beef sandwiches, and city chicken. With its mix of history, culture, sports, and natural beauty, Cleveland offers a vibrant and interesting destination for visitors to explore.
Once you reach Cleveland, we recommend staying at the luxurious Drury Plaza Hotel Cleveland. This luxurious hotel is located just a few blocks from the main road, making it easy to find and access.
The spacious rooms and suites offer plenty of space to stretch out and relax, and the indoor pool provides a refreshing way to unwind after a long day on the road. The hotel offers a free hot breakfast and evening reception with snacks and drinks, making it easy for travelers to refuel without having to venture far from their room.
The hotel is within walking distance of the Rock and roll Hall of Fame, which is a must-visit attraction in Cleveland for music lovers. You're also nearby several highly rated restaurants and bars, making it easy for travelers to explore the city's diverse and delicious food scene.
Experience the unique culture of Lancaster
Situated approximately halfway between Newark and Pittsburgh, Lancaster is a great overnight stop on the Pittsburg Route because of its convenient location, unique cultural experiences, and beautiful scenery.
The city is in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, offering beautiful views of rolling hills, farmland, and Amish communities. There are plenty of historic attractions, including the Lancaster Central Market, which is the oldest continuously operating farmers' market in the country.
Lancaster has a thriving arts and culture scene, with several theaters, and outdoor activities, including hiking and kayaking in nearby parks and natural areas. The first destination visitors should see is the Fulton Theater. This historic theater is in downtown Lancaster and offers a variety of productions and performances throughout the year.
Once you reach Lancaster, we recommend staying at the luxurious and charming Inn at Leola Village, Lancaster. This upscale hotel is located just outside of downtown Lancaster, with easy access to the main road, making it a convenient stopover for travelers on a road trip.
You'll enjoy a range of luxurious amenities, including a spa, a fitness center, and several on-site dining options. The hotel also offers a state-of-the-art spa, which provides a refreshing way to relax and rejuvenate tired muscles.
Although the hotel is located just outside of downtown Lancaster, it is still within easy driving distance of many of the area's top attractions, including the Lancaster Central Market, the Amish Farm and House, and the Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum.
Where to stay when you reach Chicago
Once you reach your destination of Chicago, we recommend staying at The Gwen, a Luxury Collection Hotel. This hotel is a great choice for travelers looking for a luxurious and stylish place to stay in downtown Chicago.
This upscale hotel is located just a few blocks from the main road, making it convenient for travelers to explore the city's top attractions, including the Magnificent Mile, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Millennium Park.
The Gwen offers luxurious and stylish rooms and suites, with amenities such as premium bedding, marble bathrooms, and flat-screen TVs.
The hotel also features a rooftop lounge with stunning views of the city, a fitness center, and an on-site restaurant. Overall, the Gwen is a great choice for travelers looking for a chic and sophisticated place to stay in downtown Chicago, with easy access to some of the city's top attractions.
Things to see on a road trip from New Jersey to Chicago
There's a lot to see on your way from New Jersey to Chicago. Below are our top highlights along the way to help you make the most out of this incredible journey.
The Cleveland Route
- Watkins Glen State Park - Watkins Glen State Park is located in the Finger Lakes region of New York, and features stunning waterfalls and unique geological formations.
- Rock and roll Hall of Fame - The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is located in Cleveland, Ohio, and celebrates the history of rock music with exhibits and artifacts from some of the genre's biggest stars.
- Cedar Point Amusement Park - Cedar Point is known as the "Roller Coaster Capital of the World" and features over 70 rides and attractions.
- Indiana Dunes National Park - The Indiana Dunes National Park features miles of sandy beaches, sand dunes, and unique ecosystems.
- Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail - The Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail features over 20 wineries and vineyards, with scenic views of Lake Michigan.
- Warren Dunes State Park - Warren Dunes State Park offers miles of sandy beaches, dunes, and hiking trails.
- Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets - Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets features over 100 stores with discounts on designer brands.
- Presque Isle State Park - Presque Isle State Park offers miles of sandy beaches, hiking trails, and water sports.
- Put-in-Bay - Although it requires a detour, the island also offers a range of outdoor activities, including boating, fishing, and hiking, as well as charming shops and restaurants. A visit to Put-in-Bay is a great way to add some variety and adventure to your road trip.
The Pittsburgh Route
- Independence National Historical Park - Independence National Historical Park is home to several historic sites, including Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, and offers a glimpse into the birthplace of America.
- Amish Country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania - Amish Country offers a unique look into the lifestyle and culture of the Amish community, with tours, buggy rides, and traditional crafts.
- Gettysburg National Military Park - Gettysburg National Military Park offers a glimpse into one of the most significant battles of the Civil War, with historic sites, museums, and guided tours.
- Carnegie Museum of Natural History - The Carnegie Museum of Natural History offers a wide range of exhibits, from dinosaurs and fossils to gems and minerals.
- Ohio Statehouse - The Ohio Statehouse is a stunning example of Greek Revival architecture and offers tours and exhibits on the history of Ohio.
- Indianapolis Motor Speedway - The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is home to the famous Indy 500 race and offers tours and a museum dedicated to the history of racing.
- The Children's Museum of Indianapolis - The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is one of the largest children's museums in the world, with interactive exhibits and activities for all ages.
- Newark Museum - The Newark Museum is the largest museum in the state and features a wide range of exhibits, including art, science, and history. The museum is a must-see attraction for those interested in learning about diverse cultures and artistic expressions.
- Art Institute of Chicago - One of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States, the Art Institute of Chicago is located in the heart of downtown Chicago and features an extensive collection of art from around the world. The museum is a must-see attraction for art lovers and history buffs alike.
- Navy Pier - Navy Pier is a popular tourist destination that offers a wide range of attractions, including rides, restaurants, shops, and cultural events. The pier is a must-see attraction for those looking to enjoy a fun and lively atmosphere with stunning views of the city and the lake.
Best time to go on a road trip from New Jersey to Chicago
Chicago is a year-round destination, with activities and attractions in every season. However, it is important to note that the weather can vary throughout the year, with white, snowy winters and hot and sometimes humid summers.
During the summer, the city comes alive with outdoor concerts, street festivals, and beach activities along the shores of Lake Michigan. Many of the city's top attractions, such as the Art Institute of Chicago and Navy Pier, are also open year-round and can be enjoyed in any season.
The summer months, which typically run from June to August, have average high temperatures in the mid to upper 80 degrees Fahrenheit and occasional heat waves that can push temperatures into the 90s Fahrenheit.
However, the city's location on Lake Michigan provides a cooling effect, with lakefront temperatures typically a few degrees cooler than inland areas.
Chicago can be quite cold and snowy during the winter months. Average high temperatures in January, the coldest month, are in the mid-30s Fahrenheit, with occasional periods of extreme cold where temperatures can drop well below zero Fahrenheit with tons of snow.
Despite the cold weather, there are still plenty of things to see and do in Chicago during the winter months. The city is home to a number of indoor attractions, such as museums, theaters, and restaurants, which can provide a welcome respite from the cold.
In the spring and fall, the weather is mild and pleasant, making it a great time to explore the city's outdoor attractions, such as parks and gardens. The city also hosts many festivals and events during these seasons.
If you visit in March, you can enjoy St. Patrick's Day Parade in March or work out a sweat at Chicago Marathon in October.
It's a good idea to check for events and festivals before planning your trip to Chicago, as they can impact hotel prices and visitor volume. However, if you enjoy crowds and a festive atmosphere, attending one of these events can be a great way to experience the city's culture and energy.