Chicago To Los Angeles Road Trip: The 10 Best Stops

road trip: 10 best stops

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Embark on an unforgettable adventure with a Chicago to Los Angeles road trip, spanning over 2,000 miles of diverse landscapes and exciting pit stops along the way. This iconic journey offers road trippers a perfect blend of urban exploration, natural beauty, and cultural experiences.

One of the most popular route options for the Chicago to Los Angeles road trip is taking the classic Route 66, offering a nostalgic journey through small towns and historic landmarks. Alternatively, travelers can opt for a faster route via I-80 and I-70, providing a more direct path with fewer stops.

Top stops for road trippers include the vibrant city of St. Louis, where you can visit the iconic Gateway Arch, and the stunning landscapes of the Grand Canyon for a breathtaking natural wonder. Don’t miss out on exploring the lively city of Albuquerque and the quirky town of Santa Fe for a taste of Southwestern charm.

With approximately 2,000 miles to cover, the Chicago to Los Angeles road trip typically takes around 30 hours of driving time, depending on traffic conditions and chosen route. Be prepared for potential traffic congestion in major cities along the way, especially during peak travel seasons.

Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or simply a change of scenery, the Chicago to Los Angeles road trip promises an exciting journey filled with memorable experiences and endless possibilities. Pack your bags, hit the road, and let the adventure begin!

St. Louis, Missouri

Essential Information

– Route options: Interstate 55 or Interstate 70
– Opening hours: Varies by attraction
– Fee: Some attractions are free, while others have admission fees
– Visit duration: 1-2 days
– Ideal for: Families, history buffs, foodies

Why is it a must stop

St. Louis, Missouri is a must-stop on your road trip for its iconic Gateway Arch, a symbol of westward expansion in the United States. Take a tram ride to the top for panoramic views of the city and the Mississippi River. For history enthusiasts, the Missouri History Museum offers insights into the region’s past, including exhibits on Lewis and Clark’s expedition. Don’t miss a visit to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery for a tour and tasting of their famous brews. Foodies will delight in the city’s culinary scene, with local favorites like toasted ravioli and gooey butter cake. Explore the vibrant neighborhoods like the Delmar Loop for shopping, dining, and live music. St. Louis Zoo, one of the best in the country, is perfect for a family-friendly outing. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or simply enjoying good food, St. Louis has something for every traveler passing through on a road trip.

Kansas City, Missouri

Essential Information

– Route Options: I-70 W from Chicago, I-70 E from St. Louis
– Opening Hours: Varies by attraction
– Fee: Some attractions may have entrance fees
– Visit Duration: 1-3 days
– Ideal for: Foodies, music lovers, history buffs

Why is it a must stop

Kansas City, Missouri, is a vibrant city that offers a mix of culture, history, and delicious food, making it a must-stop on your road trip. Start your day by exploring the historic 18th and Vine District, known as the birthplace of jazz. Visit the American Jazz Museum to learn about the city’s rich musical heritage and catch a live performance at the nearby Blue Room jazz club.

For a taste of the city’s famous barbecue, head to one of the many renowned BBQ joints like Arthur Bryant’s or Joe’s Kansas City BBQ. After satisfying your taste buds, take a stroll through the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, home to an impressive collection of European and Asian art, including works by Monet and Caravaggio.

If you’re a history buff, don’t miss the National World War I Museum and Memorial, which offers a poignant look at the Great War through interactive exhibits and artifacts. For a more lighthearted experience, explore the lively Power and Light District, filled with restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues.

End your day by catching a show at the iconic Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts or taking a leisurely walk along the scenic Riverfront Park. With its mix of music, food, and history, Kansas City, Missouri, is a destination that should not be missed on your road trip across the country.

Denver, Colorado

Essential Information

– Route options: Easily accessible from I-70 or I-25
– Opening hours: Varies by attraction
– Fee: Admission fees may apply for certain activities
– Visit duration: 1-3 days
– Ideal for: Outdoor enthusiasts, art and culture lovers, foodies

Why is it a must stop

Denver, Colorado, is a must-stop on your road trip for its diverse range of activities that cater to all types of travelers. Start your day with a visit to the iconic Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, where you can hike the trails or catch a concert with the stunning natural rock formations as your backdrop.

For a taste of the local culture, head to the Denver Art Museum, known for its impressive collection of Native American art and contemporary works. Afterward, explore the vibrant street art scene in the RiNo Art District, where colorful murals adorn the walls of warehouses and buildings.

Outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty to do in Denver, with opportunities for hiking, biking, and even skiing in the nearby Rocky Mountains. Don’t miss a visit to the Denver Botanic Gardens, a peaceful oasis in the heart of the city with a variety of themed gardens to explore.

Foodies will delight in Denver’s culinary scene, which offers everything from gourmet food trucks to upscale dining experiences. Be sure to sample some local craft beer at one of the many breweries in the area, or indulge in a farm-to-table meal at one of the city’s acclaimed restaurants.

With its mix of outdoor adventures, cultural attractions, and delicious dining options, Denver, Colorado, is a destination that has something for everyone and is sure to make your road trip memorable.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Essential Information

– Route options: Various routes from Chicago to Los Angeles
– Opening hours: 24/7, year-round
– Fee: $25 per vehicle for a 7-day pass
– Visit duration: 1-3 days
– Ideal for: Nature lovers, hikers, wildlife enthusiasts

Why is it a must stop

When embarking on a road trip from Chicago to Los Angeles, a stop at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado is a must for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike. The park offers a plethora of activities that cater to all types of travelers. From scenic drives along Trail Ridge Road to exhilarating hikes through alpine meadows, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

One of the main attractions of the park is the opportunity to spot diverse wildlife in their natural habitat. Keep an eye out for elk, bighorn sheep, and even the elusive mountain lion as you explore the park’s trails. For those seeking a more leisurely experience, the park’s numerous picnic areas provide the perfect setting for a relaxing break surrounded by stunning mountain views.

Hiking enthusiasts will be delighted by the park’s extensive trail system, which ranges from easy strolls to challenging alpine climbs. Don’t miss the chance to hike to iconic destinations such as Emerald Lake or Dream Lake, where crystal-clear waters reflect the towering peaks above.

Photographers will also find endless opportunities to capture the park’s breathtaking landscapes, from snow-capped mountains to vibrant wildflower meadows. Be sure to visit during sunrise or sunset for the most dramatic lighting conditions.

Whether you’re looking to stretch your legs after a long drive or simply soak in the natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains, a stop at Rocky Mountain National Park is sure to be a highlight of your road trip adventure.

Moab, Utah

Essential Information

– Route Options: I-70 W from Chicago to US-191 S in Utah
– Opening Hours: Varies by attraction
– Fee: Entrance fees to national parks and some attractions
– Visit Duration: 2-3 days
– Ideal For: Outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers, adventure seekers

Why is it a must stop

Moab, Utah is a must-stop destination on your road trip from Chicago to Los Angeles for its breathtaking natural beauty and thrilling outdoor activities. Known as the gateway to both Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, Moab offers a unique landscape of red rock formations, towering arches, and stunning canyons that will leave you in awe.

One of the top attractions in Moab is Arches National Park, home to over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, including the iconic Delicate Arch. Hiking through the park’s rugged terrain and witnessing the sunrise or sunset casting a warm glow on the arches is a truly unforgettable experience.

For adventure enthusiasts, Moab is a paradise for activities such as rock climbing, mountain biking, and off-roading. The famous Slickrock Bike Trail offers a challenging ride with panoramic views of the surrounding desert landscape. Additionally, the nearby Colorado River provides opportunities for rafting and kayaking, allowing you to experience the thrill of navigating through the red rock canyons.

If you prefer a more leisurely experience, take a scenic drive along the Colorado River Scenic Byway or explore the picturesque Dead Horse Point State Park for panoramic views of the Colorado River winding through the canyons below.

In Moab, you can also embark on guided tours to explore hidden gems like the Fiery Furnace or take a hot air balloon ride for a bird’s eye view of the stunning terrain below. Whether you’re seeking adventure or simply want to immerse yourself in the beauty of nature, Moab, Utah offers a diverse range of activities that will make your road trip unforgettable.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Essential Information

– Route Options: Various routes available from Chicago to Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.
– Opening Hours: Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
– Fee: Entrance fee per vehicle.
– Visit Duration: Recommended to spend at least a full day.
– Ideal For: Families, nature enthusiasts, and adventure seekers.

Why is it a must stop

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona is a must-stop on your road trip for its breathtaking vistas, awe-inspiring hiking trails, and unique geological formations. As you stand at the rim of the canyon, the sheer magnitude of this natural wonder will leave you in awe.

One of the most popular activities at the Grand Canyon is hiking. The park offers a variety of trails catering to all skill levels, from leisurely walks along the rim to challenging descents into the canyon itself. Don’t miss the opportunity to hike the iconic Bright Angel Trail or the South Kaibab Trail for stunning views and a true sense of adventure.

For those seeking a more relaxed experience, the park also offers scenic drives along the rim, allowing you to soak in the beauty of the canyon without breaking a sweat. Be sure to stop at the various viewpoints along the way, such as Mather Point and Yavapai Point, for picture-perfect moments and panoramic views.

If you’re feeling adventurous, consider taking a helicopter tour over the canyon for a bird’s eye view of this natural wonder. The aerial perspective will give you a whole new appreciation for the vastness and grandeur of the Grand Canyon.

Whether you’re a nature lover, a photography enthusiast, or simply looking for a memorable stop on your road trip, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona is sure to leave a lasting impression with its unparalleled beauty and endless opportunities for exploration.

Sedona, Arizona

Essential Information

– Route Options: Easily accessible from the I-40 or scenic route via the Oak Creek Canyon.
– Opening Hours: Most attractions are open year-round, with varying hours.
– Fee: Some hiking trails may require a Red Rock Pass.
– Visit Duration: Recommended stay of 2-3 days.
– Ideal For: Nature lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, and photography enthusiasts.

Why is it a must stop

Sedona, Arizona, beckons road trippers with its stunning red rock formations and vibrant arts scene. Begin your exploration at the iconic Bell Rock, a popular spot for hiking and photography. For a more leisurely experience, take a scenic drive along the Red Rock Scenic Byway, where you can marvel at the towering sandstone cliffs that change hues with the shifting sunlight.

Adventure seekers will find solace in the numerous hiking trails that crisscross the area, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Slide Rock State Park is a must-visit for those looking to cool off in the natural water slides formed by Oak Creek. Don’t miss the opportunity to witness a mesmerizing Sedona sunset from Airport Mesa, a prime spot for panoramic views of the city below.

Art enthusiasts will appreciate Sedona’s thriving arts community, with numerous galleries showcasing local talent. Take a stroll through the Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village to admire handcrafted jewelry, pottery, and paintings. For a taste of the Old West, head to the historic district of Uptown Sedona, where you can shop for souvenirs and dine at charming cafes.

Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventures, artistic inspiration, or simply a scenic drive through breathtaking landscapes, Sedona, Arizona, is a must-stop destination on your road trip from Chicago to Los Angeles.

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Essential Information

– Route options: Take I-40 W and I-15 S from Chicago to Los Angeles
– Opening hours: 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
– Fee: $30 per vehicle for a 7-day pass
– Visit duration: 1-2 days
– Ideal for: Nature lovers, hikers, rock climbers

Why is it a must stop

Joshua Tree National Park, California is a must-stop on your road trip from Chicago to Los Angeles for its unique desert landscape and outdoor activities. The park is renowned for its iconic Joshua trees, rugged rock formations, and stunning vistas that offer a one-of-a-kind experience for travelers.

Visitors can explore the park’s numerous hiking trails, ranging from easy walks to challenging treks, providing opportunities to discover the diverse flora and fauna of the desert. Rock climbers flock to Joshua Tree for its world-class climbing routes, suitable for all skill levels. The park’s dark night skies also make it a prime spot for stargazing, offering a mesmerizing view of the Milky Way.

For those seeking a more leisurely experience, Joshua Tree National Park is ideal for picnicking, birdwatching, and photography. The Cholla Cactus Garden and Keys View lookout point are popular spots to admire the park’s natural beauty and panoramic vistas.

Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply looking to unwind amidst stunning scenery, Joshua Tree National Park is a must-visit destination that promises an unforgettable experience on your road trip through California.

Santa Barbara, California

Essential Information

– Route Options: Highway 101 or scenic Pacific Coast Highway
– Opening Hours: Varies by attraction
– Fee: Some attractions may have entrance fees
– Visit Duration: 1-2 days
– Ideal for: Beach lovers, wine enthusiasts, outdoor adventurers

Why is it a must stop

Santa Barbara, California, is a must-stop on your road trip for its diverse range of activities that cater to all types of travelers. Start your day with a leisurely stroll along the iconic Stearns Wharf, offering stunning views of the coastline and a variety of shops and restaurants to explore. For those seeking a bit of history, a visit to the Santa Barbara Mission provides insight into the region’s Spanish colonial past.

Nature enthusiasts will appreciate a visit to the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, showcasing native plants and serene walking paths. If you’re a beach lover, make sure to spend some time at East Beach or Butterfly Beach, known for their pristine sands and ideal conditions for sunbathing and swimming.

Wine enthusiasts will find Santa Barbara a paradise, with numerous vineyards and tasting rooms scattered throughout the region. Don’t miss the opportunity to sample some of the area’s renowned wines, particularly the Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays.

Outdoor adventurers can take advantage of the many hiking trails in the nearby Santa Ynez Mountains or opt for water activities such as kayaking or paddleboarding along the coast. For a more relaxed experience, consider a leisurely bike ride along the Cabrillo Bike Path, offering breathtaking ocean views.

With its perfect blend of natural beauty, cultural attractions, and outdoor adventures, Santa Barbara, California, is a destination that truly has something for everyone on a road trip along the California coast.

Malibu, California

Essential Information

– Route Options: Take the scenic Pacific Coast Highway (CA-1) for breathtaking views.
– Opening Hours: Varies by attraction, check individual websites.
– Fee: Some beaches may have parking fees, while others are free.
– Visit Duration: Half a day to a full day.
– Ideal For: Beach lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, and road trippers.

Why is it a must stop

Malibu, California, is a must-stop on your road trip for its stunning beaches, outdoor activities, and celebrity sightings. Start your day with a visit to Zuma Beach, known for its wide sandy shores and excellent surfing conditions. After soaking up the sun, head to Malibu Pier for a leisurely stroll and maybe even some fresh seafood at the pier’s restaurant.

For nature lovers, a hike in Malibu Creek State Park offers scenic trails, waterfalls, and the iconic rock pool featured in many films and TV shows. If you’re a wine enthusiast, don’t miss the opportunity to visit Malibu Wine Safari for a unique experience of wine tasting while interacting with exotic animals.

To catch a glimpse of celebrity homes, take a drive along Pacific Coast Highway and keep an eye out for the luxurious mansions perched on the hillsides. End your day with a picturesque sunset at El Matador Beach, known for its sea caves and dramatic rock formations.

Malibu, California, offers a perfect blend of relaxation, adventure, and celebrity allure, making it a must-stop destination on your road trip from Chicago to Los Angeles.

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