5 one-tank road trips from Chicago, Illinois

Use this guide for inspiration for your next locally-based road trip from the Windy City—without needing to stop for gas

Lion's Park Beach in Saint Joseph, Michigan. | Photo: Samantha Lechlitner-Lewis

Between high gas prices, limited vacation days, and chaotic air travel, taking a local road trip is more appealing than ever this summer. These five destinations are all within 300 miles (round-trip) of Chicago, Illinois, making them ideal for quick getaways. Spend less time at the pump and more time enjoying the road. 

If you’re in an electric vehicle, we’ve noted whether you can expect to find chargers along each route as well.


1. Saint Joseph, Michigan

Total mileage: 190 miles

Brimming with restaurants, wineries, breweries, and beaches, St. Joseph, Michigan, is an ideal summer escape for Chicagoans. This Third Coast beach town is less than a 2-hour drive from the city, making it a great option for a day trip or a weekend getaway. Plus, it puts you in the heart of Southwest Michigan’s wine country with more than 20 local wineries nearby.  

Don’t miss: Hike through the dunes for a beach day at Grand Mere State Park or skip the trek and go straight to the water at Silver Beach in downtown St. Joseph. Sip local wines at Dablon Vineyards, and end your day watching the sun sink into Lake Michigan from the rooftop bar at Silver Beach Pizza.

Stay: Reserve your stay at The Boulevard Inn and Bistro or camp at the Coloma-St. Joseph KOA.

Charge: There are several EV charging stations in downtown St. Joseph and in nearby Benton Harbor at grocery stores, gas stations, and parking lots. There are also charging stations along the I-94 corridor on your way to or from Chicago.

Related Sand dunes and dark skies: Can’t-miss stops on a road trip around Lake Michigan


2. Saugatuck, Michigan

Total mileage: 280 miles

Further up the coastline, you’ll find the quaint summer town of Saugatuck, Michigan. Not only is this one of the most LGBTQ+-friendly cities in the Midwest, but it’s also a foodie hotspot filled with award-winning restaurants, local shops, and art galleries. Beachgoers, artists, and outdoor enthusiasts alike retreat to Saugatuck every summer to explore this Mitten State escape.

Don’t miss: Hit the beach at Saugatuck Dunes State Park or reserve your spot on the Star of Saugatuck for a ferry ride out to Lake Michigan. Then, explore Saugatuck’s thriving restaurant scene downtown––both The Southerner and The Butler are local favorites. And be sure to take a ride through the dunes to learn more about the area’s history and natural landscapes.

Stay: Camp or glamp at the LGBTQ+-friendly Campit Outdoor Resort or reserve your stay downtown at The Hotel Saugatuck.

Charge: Saugatuck has few charging stations in the downtown area, but if you travel a short distance to Holland, Michigan, you can find plenty of places to charge up your vehicle.


3. Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Total mileage: 180 miles

Boasting more than 30 breweries, beer has long been the tradition in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. But this Midwest town is also home to museums, parks, art, and more than 125 miles of paved trails to explore throughout Milwaukee County. From Chicago, you can even catch one of the many Amtrak trains that run between the two cities daily. 

Don’t miss: Tour the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Harley-Davidson Museum. Shop and grab a bite to eat in the city’s Historic Third Ward district, and order a pint along the river at Lakefront Brewery.

Stay: Camp just outside the city at Jellystone Park-Caledonia or fulfill your brewery dreams at the Brewhouse Inn and Suites located in the former Milwaukee Pabst brewery. 

Charge: There are nearly 300 public EV charging stations in the Milwaukee-Waukesha area, including 35 free stations.

Related A warm oasis: Milwaukee’s Domes recreate ecosystems from around the globe


4. Starved Rock State Park, Oglesby, Illinois

Total mileage: 190 miles

Break away from the city and get out into nature at Starved Rock State Park in Oglesby, Illinois. This park is a true breath of fresh air, with waterfalls, canyons, hiking trails, and plenty of water activities. It’s also a short drive from neighboring Matthiessen State Park. While you won’t encounter bustling nightlife in nearby towns like Utica and Ottawa, you’ll still find quiet restaurants, shops, and a welcoming Midwest vibe from locals. 

Don’t miss: Be sure to take the Lover’s Leap trail to the lookout over the Illinois River at Starved Rock State Park. Grab a bite nearby at Lodi Tap House in Utica or head to Tangled Roots Brewing for craft beer and great food in Ottawa.

Stay: The Starved Rock Lodge is the closest place to stay near the park, offering cabins and rooms. You can also camp at Starved Rock State Park’s campground. 

Charge: Ottawa only offers two charging locations for your EV, so you’ll want to make sure you’re charged before driving around the park or heading back home.


5. Kalamazoo, Michigan

Total mileage: 290 miles

Located less than 3 hours from Chicago, this quirky Midwest town sits along the Kalamazoo River and is one of Michigan’s top brewery destinations. From festivals and live music to fine dining, kayak tours, and camping, you can always find something to do in Kalamazoo, especially during the summer months. 

Don’t miss: Tour the many breweries within the city, including Bell’s Eccentric Cafe, One Well Brewing, and Old Dog Tavern. Bike, hike, or jog the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail that winds through the city and along the river. Then, dine out and treat yourself to a nightcap at Principle.

Stay: Reserve your stay at the historic Henderson Castle, one of the most popular bed and breakfasts in the city. Or, camp out at the Outdoor Adventures Kalamazoo Resort.

Charge: There are more than 100 EV charging stations in Kalamazoo, including 9 free stations and 18 fast chargers. 

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