Head out and enjoy the amazing Great Lakes region on this ultimate road trip from Toronto to Chicago. You'll experience charming towns, fun cities, and some of the most pristine natural areas in the USA and Canada.
The 900 km road trip from Chicago to Toronto will take about 10 hours to drive. Amazing highlights on the way include Hamilton, Ontario, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Benton Harbor Michigan City, Niagara Falls, Buffalo, Dunkirk, Erie, Cleveland, Toledo and Elkhart.
You'll be sure to enjoy every minute of this incredible road trip through some of North America's most beautiful and culturally rich regions. Read on 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 Toronto, and how long will the road trip take?
|The Detroit Route||900 km||10 hours|
|The Lake Erie Route||1,120 km||13 hours 20 minutes|
The Detroit Route will take you 900 km with 10 hours of driving time. On the way, you'll see the best of Ontario plus southern Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana.
The Lake Erie Route takes you south, into Niagara Falls and Pennsylvania, then through Ohio and Indiana. You'll drive 1,120 km through amazing countryside and small American towns.
For both routes, we recommend taking 2 to 4 days to make this journey. Continue on below to learn more about the routes, where to stay, and what to do and see along the way.
Best road trip route from Toronto to Chicago
The Detroit Direct Route is an efficient road trip to get from Toronto to Chicago. You'll get to Chicago in good time and see a lot of amazing countryside on the way.
Beyond the practicalities, it's a road trip cutting through the heart of Michigan. You'll encounter the big city vibes of Detroit with its Motown legacy and award-winning river walks.
You'll also see the charming smaller cities of Ann Arbor, Jackson, and Kalamazoo with nature and walkable downtowns before landing on the shores of Lake Michigan. Here you can enjoy beach walks and water activities as you follow the lake to your destination.
The Lake Erie Route is an action-packed way to road trip from Toronto to Chicago. Loaded with nature, you'll see waterfalls ranging from the lesser-known to the world-famous Niagara Falls. You'll then experience your slice of the Great Lakes.
Traveling along the South shore of Lake Erie, you'll see endless beaches, popular swimming spots, and shoreside amusement parks. Nearing the end of the Lake Erie experience, you can jump aboard a boat to visit the enchanting Put-In-Bay with its idyllic hidden state parks.
If you'd like to learn more about visiting Put-In-Bay, check out our detailed guide here.
After visiting the charming towns of Ohio and Indiana, you'll travel along the shores of Lake Michigan before arriving in Chicago.
The Detroit Route
From Toronto, make your way east to Upper Chedoke Falls. Then, continue on to the city of London. Drive from London and cross the bridge to Detroit. Here, you can enjoy the wonderful museums, culture, and food.
Continue on the route to Ann Arbor, one of the best college towns in America. Then, make your way to Jackson and Kalamazoo. Finally, drive to the shores of Lake Michigan in South Haven. Then, continue on along the coast and into your destination in Chicago.
The Lake Erie Route
From Toronto, make your way to Chedoke Falls and then down to Niagara Falls. From here, cross into New York and drive to Buffalo. Continue on the shores of Lake Erie and make your way to Erie, Pennsylvania. From here, drive further into Cleveland.
After getting the most out of Cleveland, drive east and take a detour to Put-In-Bay. Then, make your way to Toledo, Ohio.
After seeing the city of Toledo, make your way along Interstate 90 (I-90). You'll follow along the interstate into Indiana and then into your destination of Chicago, Illinois.
Best places to stop between Toronto and Chicago
With so much to see and do, we recommend splitting the trip up and seeing as much as you can. Below are our recommended places to stay along the way to help you make the most out of your stops.
Soak up Motown history in Detroit
Just under halfway on the Detroit Route is the vibrant city of Detroit. This is a large city full of culture, music, food, and some of the most significant history in the United States.
As for sights, you can't beat the Motown Museum, otherwise known as 'Hitsville USA'. At the original HQ of and studio of Motown Records, the museum showcases memorabilia from the record labels' famed artists.
Next, visit the culturally rich Detroit Institute of Arts. With a collection comprising Native American, Egyptian and Japanese work, to name a few, there's art from across the globe.
If you love hiking or taking long walks, Detroit's RiverWalk is a winner of the US Today's 'Best Riverwalk in America'. You'll find amenities, parks, and restaurants along your walk beside the Detroit River.
Once you're in Detroit, we recommend staying at the wonderful MGM Grand Detroit. You'll enjoy the free on-site parking once you arrive. Inside, the hotel's rooms are comfortable and spacious, with plenty of fine amenities. You'll relax in the fresh decor and love the friendly service.
Relax at the IMMERSE spa covering 20,000 square feet, offering signature treatments, to reward yourself after your drive. Then, you can take advantage of the fitness center and swimming pool to unwind before heading out to explore the city.
The hotel is located in Downtown Detroit, so you'll be close to all the sights and activities. Greektown and Detroit Riverwalk are short walks away from the property and the Motown Museum is only a drive away.
Explore rock and roll history in Cleveland
Just under halfway on the Lake Erie Route is the wonderful city of Cleveland. Cleveland is known for being the largest city on the banks of Lake Erie. It's also famous for its sports teams, the Cleveland Browns, Cleveland Guardians and Cleveland Cavaliers.
There are also plenty of beautiful landmarks to see. First, investigate one of the greatest stockpiles of music memorabilia in the world. Covering seven floors, the Rock and roll Music Hall of Fame and Museum is a pilgrimage for any music lover.
Few outsiders know Cleveland has a booming theater district. Playhouse Square is the biggest arts center in the USA outside of New York City where you can go to watch a show.
Little Italy is a walkable neighborhood, worthy of a visit. Head here to enjoy Italian food in the vintage Italian-style cafes and pizzerias.
There are lots of world-class museums to visit in Cleveland. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Great Lakes Science Center are all worth visiting.
When you're in Cleveland, we recommend staying at the Metropolitan at The 9. You'll love the private parking on-site and lovely luxurious interior. After your long drive, take advantage of the wonderful fitness center and the fabulous spa on-site.
The Centro restaurant located on the property serves American and European dishes. After dinner, head over to The Vault, an on-site cocktail bar located in the old bank vaults. The hotel also has a wonderful rooftop terrace with lounge sofas serving cocktails, wines, and beers.
The hotel is near many of Cleveland's top attractions, bars, and cafes. You can easily visit the Playhouse Square, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Great Lakes Science Center, Cleveland Museum of Art, and wonderful Little Italy.
Where to stay when you reach Chicago
Once you reach your destination, we recommend staying at the luxurious Virgin Hotels Chicago. Valet parking is available for only $65 per day. The hotel also has arrangements for self-parking lots, with a discount voucher for 24-hour overnight parking.
Inside, the hotel has modern and high-end decor, wonderful amenities, and plenty of friendly staff. You'll be able to relax in style and enjoy your spacious rooms and lounges.
After sightseeing, cruise over to the Cerise Rooftop Bar and nightclub with views over the skyline. In the morning, you can recharge at the on-site fitness center.
The hotel is close to plenty of Chicago's top sights and attractions. Cloud Gate, the Art Institute of Chicago and the famous 360 Chicago are easily reachable on foot.
Things to see on a road trip from Toronto to Chicago
With so much to see and do, you'll be sure to be busy on this incredible road trip through the Great Lakes. Below are our favorite sights along the way, to help you make the most out of your journey.
The Detroit Route
- London, Ontario, Canada - Take a relaxing walk around Springbank Park. A popular place since the 19th century where you enjoy a relaxing stroll next to River Thames.
- Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Michigan - Be inspired at Greenfield Village. See working farms in the historic district and visit The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.
- Ann Arbor, Michigan - Float along the Huron River in a canoe and tour the local breweries such as the Grizzly Peak Brewing Company.
- Jackson, Michigan - Head to Sparks Foundation County Park to discover The Cascades. Go at night to see the man-made waterfalls illuminated in their full glory.
- Kalamazoo, Michigan - Minutes from downtown, you'll find nature spots to hike. Walk the trails in the morning, head back downtown for lunch, then enjoy a show at the historic State Theater at night.
- South Haven, Michigan - Photograph the South Haven Lighthouse and enjoy lakefront walks at the sandy North Beach.
- Benton Harbor, Michigan - Try the local 12 Corners wine at the vineyards before enjoying a day at Jean Klock Park with its untouched shoreline..
- Indiana Dunes State Park, Michigan City, Indiana - Explore the 2,182 acres of landscape. There are huge sand dunes beyond the shoreline that stacks 200 feet above Lake Michigan.
- Whiting, Indiana - Whiting is home to the fantastic Whihala Beach. Not only is the sandy beach handy with its amenities, but there are also fantastic views of Chicago across the lake.
The Lake Erie Route
- St Catherines, Ontario, Canada - Downtown St Catharines is bursting with cafes, bistros, boutiques, restaurants, breweries, and pubs thanks to recent development. A quaint city and a great place to stretch your legs.
- Niagara Falls, New York State - The iconic Niagara Falls is the second-largest waterfalls in the world. Ride the Maid of the Mist to get up close to the natural wonder.
- Buffalo, New York State - Head to Canalside for a relaxing stroll next to the Buffalo River. You'll find dining, history tours, festivals, and fitness classes throughout the year.
- Dunkirk, New York State - For a day swimming, head to Point Gratiot Park. If it's local history you seek, try the Dunkirk Lighthouse, a 61-foot structure built in 1875.
- Erie, Pennsylvania - Presque Isle is the only shoreline in Pennsylvania. Swimming and hiking are both popular on the sandy peninsula.
- Sandusky, Ohio - Cedar Point is the second-oldest operating theme park in the USA! Sunbathe on the boardwalk as thrill rides dash nearby.
- Put-In-Bay, Ohio - So you'll have to jump on a ferry to reach the island, but it's worth it. See the Benford Ford Ship House, stay at a waterside condo, sip on the wine at the wineries, and take to the surrounding waters.
- Toledo, Ohio - Explore the Old West End and marvel at Victorian and Edwardian architecture. You'll also find the Toledo Museum of Art in this neighborhood.
- Elkhart, Indiana - Picnic and stroll around Island Park. If you're searching for something out-of-the-ordinary, go to the RV Hall of Fame & Museum to admire classic vehicles.
- South Bend, Indiana - White water raft through downtown on the East Race Waterway. Enter the Navarre Cabin and see art at the Circa Arts Gallery if you'd prefer to stay on land.
- Oakville, Ontario, Canada - Spend your day walking the trails in parks. Bronte Creek Provincial Park has campsites while Lions Valley Park has creekside walks.
- Tiffany Falls Conservation Area, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada - With dense forests and a cascading waterfall, it's a notable nature spot. Just a 10-minute walk from the parking lot, it's well worth a visit for the vibrant colors throughout the year.
Best time to go on a road trip from Toronto to Chicago
Chicago is a year-round destination, with distinct seasons and seasonal activities all year long. With varying weather throughout the year, when you visit, it can alter your experience.
June, July, and August have average temperatures of 70 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Chicago gets crowded in the summer and July and August are the city's peak months for visitors with higher prices for accommodation.
Summer also has plenty of festivals to enjoy, many are outside. The biggest is the Lollapalooza music festival in August. This festival sees tons of artists come to the city to perform. Other summer festivals include the Chicago Blues Fest and the Chicago Pride Parade.
In contrast to the warm summer, winter is cold and snowy. In January, February, November, and December, the average temperature is 27 to 43 degrees Fahrenheit.
January is the coldest month, however, if your main goal is to avoid crowds, January and February are good months. The museums are open year-round, so you can make the most of the indoor attractions without the hustle and bustle.
There are also plenty of fun events in winter to keep you busy. Chicago Restaurant Week is in January 2024 and the .Christkindlmarket Chicago from November to December.
The shoulder seasons are also amazing times to visit. March, April, and May have average temperatures of 39 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively.
Spring and fall are also perfect times to enjoy the festivities. St. Patrick's Day is on 17th March and visitors can enjoy the famous green river spectacle. Also in March is the C2E2 Chicago Comic Expo.