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irishk Jun 16th, 2009 01:01 PM

Road trip Atlanta to Chicago and .......
Help please. Arriving in Atlanta on 15 August for a three week vacation. Plan to spend two days in Nashville but everything else is unplanned. Want to see Chicago, but what to see/where to stop on the trip between Nashville and there? Our first trip to the U.S. was 9/11 when we arrived in N.Y. hoping to see Washington, but we changed our planned schedule for obvious reasons. We are a couple (Irish) in our late 50's and are well used to driving in the U.S. so we are not in awe of long road trips. Any advice/suggestions would be most welcome. We love meeting people and prefer "real life/real people" to "touristy" things.

exiledprincess Jun 17th, 2009 10:54 AM

I'm so glad that you are visiting us in the Midwest. I have a question, though: Is the three-week period for travel round trip between Atlanta and Chicago - or are you flying into Altanta to begin and out of Chicago O'Hare at the end of your travels?

The first advice which I would give you, since you enjoy experiencing "real life/real people" is to get off the interstate road system and travel the backroads, when you can. I mention "when you can" because some of these areas are mountainous and the interstate system would be your best route for both convenience and driving time. Sometimes it's the only viable route.

There's a lot of very pretty country between Atlanta and Chicago. Rich in history as well. Some of these areas saw much fighting during the Civil War. Perhaps there might be some Civil War reenactments during that time you are traveling through.

It's been some (and I'm sorry to say, sometimes many) years since I've been south of the Indiana southern border, so I won't comment on that leg of the trip but in a very general manner. But I can help you a little for the area from Southern Indiana up into the Chicago area.

Please keep in mind that it will probably be pretty hot/humid in the south during August. When you are in the mountains, it will help somewhat. Just pace yourself accordingly during the hottest part of the day.

There are basically four areas which lie between Atlanta, TN and Chicago, IL that I recommend you consider visiting: the Great Smoky Mountains; Kentucky blue-grass country (this is a little distance - about 1.5 hours each way - to/from the most direct route to Chicago, but worth considering); the Ohio River Valley area; and southern Indiana (location: up to about an hour's drive south of Indianapolis), especially around the Hoosier National Forest.

From Indianapolis northwards to Chicago, it's mostly flat farmland for about 2-2.5 hours of driving time. Then when you get into Northwestern Indiana it's largely industrial. There's not a lot of scenery there.

However, if you go to the east of Portage, IN, you get into some protected areas, such as the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (on Lake Michigan) and the Indiana Dunes State Park, which are definitely worth a visit. Further to the east, is Indiana's Amish country. Then if you go north of that, you can go northwards up along Michigan's western shoreline of Lake Michigan.

Going northwards from Atlanta:

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park - near Gatlinburg, TN (it's the 75th anniversary of the park, BTW): You can view the map of the area on their website and there are *many* other sites which give suggested driving routes.

Kentucky Blue Grass country - around Lextington, KY: See

Ohio River Valley (see for information on the various states, although you'd probably be most interested in Indiana. Special note for Madison, IN: in this area.

For southern Indiana, there are a couple of areas of specifically mention: Parke County (largest concentration of covered bridges in the world); and Brown County, IN (and this is one simply lovely area). See for Parke County information and for Brown County.

If these two areas in Indiana interested you (and I hope they do), I suggest this driving route: Starting at/around Nashville, IN (in Brown County - consider staying there, BTW), take IN State Road #46 west from Nashville through Bloomington (this is the home of Indiana University) to Spencer. Then you need to go northeast (somewhat backtracking a short distance) on SR #67 from Spencer to get to #231. Take #231 north-northwestwards to Bainbridge to US #36, then west to Rockville. After Rockville, go north on US #41. You might wish to stay at a cabin or at the Turkey Run Inn at Turkey Run State Park near Marshall, IN in this area, if you wish. See for the details of the park and see for information on the inn.

If you take a look at a map of this area, you'll see where Interstate 65 will be running at an angle northwesterly - just to the east of the route I've mentioned above. If you just go north on US #41 (at least until you are north of the Lafayette area), you can then just go back east to pick up I65 to continue into the Chicagoland area. The point is: You want to take US #41 north from Rockville because this is a lovely, winding route northwards for some distance before you get into the farmland area.

For the websites on the areas to the east of Portage, IN: Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore:
Indiana Dunes State Park:
Indiana's Amish country:
Southwestern Michigan, up along the western shore:

I know that I've given you a lot of information to review to determine which spots to visit along the way but wasn't sure what would be most interesting to you. Hope that you can fit some (or most) of these areas into your travels. Have fun planning!

exiledprincess Jun 17th, 2009 10:59 AM

Sorry, on these long posts, my eyes don't see all the mistakes of my typing fingers! - Atlanta is in Georgia, of course, not TN.

nygvic Jun 17th, 2009 11:41 AM

Driving north from Atlanta, I would recommend Chattanooga, Great Smokie Mountains, Nashville, Lexington (KY). Depends on how much driving you wish to do and the direction you want to go. I think these are some of the neat cities / stops one could make. I also concur with the previous poster about suggestions for Indiana.

irishk Jun 17th, 2009 12:29 PM

Thank you for the replies. Exiledprincess - we leave Ireland on 15 August so I hope I have enough time between now and then to look into all your suggestions! Plenty of food for thought and I really appreciate it.

exiledprincess Jun 17th, 2009 11:46 PM

irishk, as I mentioned above, didn't know exactly what would interest you. There are just so many lovely and interesting spots along that trip route, it's difficult to know what to include.

For example, I didn't mention Clifty Falls State Park near Madison, IN, which I think is a great and lovely, scenic place to visit (although I think there might be a link on one of the websites I mentioned above).

And I didn't mean to short-change Kentucky when I forgot to mention Mammoth Cave National Park (in central Kentucky). I haven't been there since I was a teenager, but it is still a vividly memorable experience. Perhaps you'd like to stop off during your journey if you are interested in spelunking. See for details and a map.

Good luck with the research!

bratsandbeer Jun 18th, 2009 05:18 PM

We were on a "road trip" in May. One of the places we went was the U. S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville Alabama. In Huntsville we ate a Rosie's Cantina - a great Mexican restaurant. It is fun to go to Rosies just to see the building - looks like it was made out of all recycled materials. Huntsville is about a 3 1/2 hour drive from Atlanta.

Went to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Was fun even if no big stars were singing that night.

We did stay overnight in Pigeon Forge close to the Smoky Mts but left the next day as the traffic was terrible. It was bumper to bumper everywhere you went. If you go there try to go during the week and not a weekend.

Shipshewana, Indiana is an interesting place. It is an Amish community. The Amish buggies are everywhere in town - the food is great.

irishk Jun 19th, 2009 11:56 AM

Thanks to all for feedback. Bratsandbeer, we've actually been to Piden Forge a few years ago and there was a bikers' convention or whatever on at that time, so we left town the next day too! Not meaning to be ungrateful, but recommendations on food go right over my head - I suffer from gluten intolerence which means I'm so easily pleased that I'm thrilled to get food that is "safe" for me and doesn't mean I spend the next 12 hours in the bathroom!!! In other words I've discovered I really appreciate the simple things in life!!

irishk Jun 19th, 2009 12:01 PM

"pigeon" - obviously. Didn't realise gluten intolerance equated with bad spelling!!

irishk Jul 5th, 2009 12:22 PM

Change in plan. Have discovered that there's a planned shuttle launch from Kennedy Space Center on 18 August. We're willing to make a diversion hoping that it will actually happen on that date. Living in Ireland, when will we get such an opportunity again? We arrive in Atlanta on 15 August. Anywhere interesting on route from there to Cocoa Beach??

padams421 Jul 5th, 2009 01:41 PM

There is not much that is interesting along Interstate 75 from Atlanta to Cocoa Beach. Since you have a couple of days to get there, I suggest that you drive over to the Georgia coast and check out some of the barrier islands such as Jekyll or Amelia Islands, and then head down the coast to Cocoa Beach. Have a great trip.

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