Chicago to Cleveland. Cleveland to Chicago. This busy part of I-80 sees some serious traffic, and is a main thoroughfare connecting the midwest with the mid-Atlantic. Either direction, it’s a pretty flat route,where you can expect to see for miles and miles along I-80/I-90. There are no hills and no frills, but, good news, folks: It doesn’t have to be so dull. If you have some extra time, you can discover beaches, museums,, shopping, classic American diners, and loads more along this route. Continue reading for our recommendations on sprucing up the drive from Chicago to Cleveland.
Chicago is an appropriately exciting spot to start your road trip. From the views atop Sears Tower (or Willis Tower), to the hustle and bustle of Navy Pier, to the fun to be had at Oak Street Beach (a real sand beach in a Midwestern metropolis), Chicago is an awesome place to explore before or after a road trip. Kinzie Hotel l, Sutton Place, and the Freehand are some of the coolest hotels in Chicago if you need a place to stay, and you can fill up your tanks at Gino’s East, Al’s, or Band of Bohemia before you head out for Cleveland.
If you have a couple of days before heading out on the road, consider taking in the shopping on The Magnificent Mile (Michigan Avenue) or stop into the famous Chicago Field Museum of Natural History.
1100 N Mineral Springs Rd | Chesterton, IN | nps.gov/indu
Only a few miles off the standard highway route, you’ll find the sandy Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, which is a beautiful expanse of sandy beaches, dunes, and seashore. After a couple of hours taking in the sights and sounds, consider stopping for a delicious meal in at the Southside Soda Shop. Expect this route to add an hour or two to your drive, but those couple hours come with a stunning lake view.
A lot of people who decide to stay at the Dunes are either camping or setting up shop in their RVs, but there are also hotels and cabins for rent as well! We recommend:
“Bring the kids and some camping gear and a swimsuit. This park has a lot to offer without having to drive away from civilization.” - Yelp Review
201 Chapin St | South Bend, IN | studebakermuseum.org
Another don’t-miss stop is the Studebaker Museum. A stop at the massive and beautiful 55,000 sq. foot, 3 level museum shows you the massive impact the company (and Packard) had throughout the years, from producing multiple presidential carriages, to Studebaker military vehicles (Did you know the Hummer H2 & H3 descended from WWII Studebakers?), to the very last Studebaker to roll off the assembly line. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly, and you’ll come away with a new appreciation for Studebaker for a very reasonable $8 admission price.
“Wonderful walk through history and handicap accessible! Really enjoyed looking at all the restored cars and military vehicles!” - Yelp Review
2010 Moose Krause Cir | Notre Dame, IN | nd.edu
While swinging by the Studebaker Museum in South Bend, you also have to make a quick stop at Notre Dame Stadium to throw one up to ‘Touchdown Jesus’ and do your best Rudy impression. While you’re visiting the University of Notre Dame campus, feel free to stop into the Hammes Bookstore for authentic Notre Dame apparel and other items, or sign up for a guided tour of the prestigious university at the Eck Visitors Center.
Want to stay close to campus and I-80? We recommend getting a room at either:
“We were so impressed with the campus! Beautiful facilities, buildings, and histories.” - Yelp Review
1915 Cassopolis St | Elkhart, IN | hallofheroesmuseum.com
The Hall of Heroes Super Hero Museum is a shrine made for all comic book superhero lovers. The place is fun for all ages, and the owners are friendly. They may even be in costume when you stop by.
“It's a bird, it's a plane, it's the Hall of Heroes! For a couple of comic geeks, this place was our Mecca.” - Yelp Review
21565 Executive Pkwy | Elkhart, IN | rvmhhalloffame.org
If RVs are more your thing, stop by the RV & Motorhome Hall of Fame in Elkhart, IN. The RV Hall of Fame features some great vintage campers, and costs $10 a head. It might seem a little pricey, but if you own an RV, love that vintage camper aesthetic, or are considering buying one, it’s worth a stop.
“Have you ever walked into a museum with motorized vehicles then sat down in the driver seat? Not too often I think.” - Yelp Review
1122 S. Main St | Goshen, IN | southsidesodashop.com
The South Side Soda Shop in Goshen, IN, is one of the best soda shops in the whole country, and features good, classic diner food complete with some of the best pies in Hoosier nation. You may also recognize it from an episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives,” and this unassuming diner has also been featured in Gourmet magazine, Steve Buscemi’s film Lonesome Jim, and has even won Michiana’s best chili contest seven times.
“Love it! Great gem tucked in a residential neighborhood with street parking.” - Yelp Review
22611 OH-2 | Archbold, OH | saudervillage.org
If you want to celebrate how easy we have it today, stop by Historic Sauder Village, Ohio’s largest living-history village where you can make all the Billy Madison “peeing your pants is cool” jokes you can possibly muster while watching someone churn butter or chop wood like it’s the 1800s.
Take some time to take a break at The Barn Restaurant or do some early holiday shopping. There’s a lot to do, so if you have some extra time, why not make a whole day of it and stay overnight at the Sauder Heritage Inn.
From ice cream to train rides, Historic Sauders Village has plenty of fun ways to take a break from driving on your I-80 road trip. Image courtesy of C E. on Yelp.
“A very nice place to visit to see local history. I go every year. The train ride is the best!” - Yelp Review
27 Broadway St | Toledo, OH | mbaybrew.com
Further intoOhio,you’ll come to the hard-working, blue-collar town of Toledo. Swing by the historic Oliver House and choose between visiting the Maumee Bay Brewing Co. Pub, Rockwell’s Steakhouse, or Mutz Sports Bar for some much needed refueling. Take some time to look around this historic building, and see if you catch any sightings of its resident ghost, “The Captain”!
If you’re interested in staying the night in Toledo, we recommend:
“This is a great place in all regards. The location is great, right in downtown and surrounded by historic buildings and roads… The food is awesome. You must get the giant pretzel!” - Yelp Review
3515 East State Rd | Port Clinton, OH | libertyaviationmuseum.org
The Liberty Aviation Museum isa great hangar-style museum filled with vintage aircraft and military memorabilia, most notably a B-25 bomber and a Ford Tri-motor. In addition to aircraft, this museum is also in the process of restoring a WWII Vosper PT boat, and is home to many interesting civilian and military vehicles all on display to the public.
“In addition to the new museum and terminal, there is also a new old school dinner and plans to build a WWII boat museum in another hanger just near. I will definitely be coming back for that!” - Yelp Review
3515 E State St | Port Clinton, OH | tingoosediner.com
If you have time for a burger or a shake at the Tin Goose Diner after trip to the museum, you’re going to leave satisfied. Your dining experience here is sure to come with top-flight food, and pleasant and quick service, all while being surrounded by the memorable and historic aircraft memorabilia. The diner itself is a historic building built in 1949, and has been a permanent part of the Liberty Aviation Museum since 2012.
“The venue, food, and service were all exceptional… You could easily miss this diamond in the rough if driving by as not an easily visible sign from road. The diner is part of the aviation museum in same building.” - Yelp Review
110 Lighthouse Dr | Marblehead, OH | marbleheadlighthouseohio.org
Marblehead Lighthouse is a lot like the Indiana Dunes road trip stop, except, as you guessed, it hugs Lake Erie instead of Lake Michigan. This is the perfect place to stop for a picnic and tour the museum, the keeper’s house, and the lighthouse itself. Stop for your pretty picture to prove to your friends how much you like the road less traveled. Like the Dunes option, you’ll add just an hour or two to your drive, but the views of Kelley’s Island, South Bass Island, and Cedar Point will be worth it.
“Great place for a picnic, fishing, gazing at the lake while you sunbathe. Nice view of Cedar Point.” - Yelp Review
After the lighthouse, it’s not far to your final destination: Cleveland. From the Aloft Cleveland, to the Metropolitan at The 9, there are loads of great hotels to stay here after you enjoy the city’s cool attractions, like the Westside Market, the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, or Great Lakes Brewery.
Depending on the time of year, you can also catch the Indians, the Browns, or the Cavaliers playing, which is always guaranteed to be a good time in fan-centric city like Cleveland.
On your next I-80 road trip, choose to take some detours and visit some amazing attractions along two different Great Lake shores. It’s well worth it to stop at the Dunes on Lake Michigan and the Marblehead Lighthouse along the Lake Erie Coastal Trail, both only a short trip off I-80. Along with the scenery, you’ll get a chance to eat some old fashioned American diner food, and check out some great automotive and military aviation museums along the way.
What’s your favorite road trip stop along I-80 from Chicago to Cleveland? Let us know by commenting on our Facebook page.