This summer Hike It Florida is going on a road trip and we need your help to make it epic!! We’re ditching the heat and humidity for a few weeks to hike, camp, and explore our way through the Mid-west. We’re looking for your help to tell us ‘must see’ spots! Share your stories, adventures, and ‘must sees’ in the comments and on our social media pages. We can’t wait to see where you’ve been!
We should say that while we will try to hike and camp as often as possible there will be times that this won’t be possible. Also, when we travel as a family we like to be frugal…so you’ll get a chance to see some of our travel saving tactics! Many of the places we’ll visit are either free or cheap. This entire trip will be less than $2,500 for our family of 5 including all hotels/campgrounds, gas, food, activities…everything! You can still have an amazing vacation while saving a ton of money! Have other ideas we haven’t thought of? Share away!!
The Plan: Spend 3 weeks roadtripping from Florida through the Mid-west exploring as many cool, off-the-beaten path places we can find. We’ll camp along the way at as many state parks as we can while exploring what each state has to offer.
The Route: Our favorite route planning website is Roadtrippers. We decided that this road trip will be dedicated to the Mid-west so we’ll start in Florida and head through Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, *maybe* a quick trip up to Wisconsin, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and back to Florida. Whew! We’ll 12-13 states along the way!
Here we go! After a few weeks of research here’s what we’ve come up with so far. I plan on updating as places are added.
Day 1 – Leave Florida and head to Clayton, GA.
Day 2 – Leave Clayton and head to Franklin, NC to visit family.
Day 3 – Leave Franklin, NC and head to Cumberland Falls State Park, KY. Along the way we’ll drive through Great Smoky Mountain National Park and stop in Gatlinburg, TN. We won’t have much time in Gatlinburg, but we’d like to ride one of their Alpine Coasters! We’ll camp in/near Cumberland Falls State Park in Southeast Kentucky. If you’re not familiar with this park they have a waterfall that’s called the Niagara Falls of the South. This park is free to visit and campsites run $27-$30 per night. Since we’ll be so close we’ll have dinner at the original Kentucky Fried Chicken located in Corbin, KY! I mean…’when in Rome.’ Right?! 😉
Day 4 – Leave Cumberland Falls S.P. and head to Big Bone Lick State Park, KY. Since Kentucky is Horse Country we’ll stop at Keeneland Thoroughbred Racing in Lexington to see the grounds and horses. After we have our fix of horses we’re going to the Toyota Motors Manufacturing Plant Tour! Who knew such a thing existed! And guess what….it’s free!! Click the link above to sign up for the free tram tour through the factory. We have a son who is obsessed with cars so this is right up his alley! We’ll end our day at Big Bone Lick State Park in Northeastern Kentucky. This state park is a quick 30 minute drive to Cincinnati, OH so it makes the perfect, cheap pit stop! This park looks so cool! They have wild bison, hiking, and camping. Campsites are $25/night.
Day 5 – Leave Big Bone Lick State Park and head to Cincinnati – only a 30 minute drive. While in Cincinnati we’ll check out Smale Riverfront Park, Roebling Suspension Bridge – the same designer as the Brooklyn Bridge, and Washington Park. This should be a pretty cheap day because those are all free things to do! The Cincinnati food scene is also famous for their Skyline Chili…so we’ll have to stop at Camp Washington for their famous chili! I’m not sure where we’ll stay for the night yet. I found a really cool campground (Steamboat Bend) right on the Ohio River, but it’s small and sold out for our dates. 🙁 Have any ideas of things to do or places to camp?! I’m still looking!
Day 6 – Leave Cincinnati and head towards Berlin, OH. This route will take us right through Columbus, OH. I looked around and didn’t find anything interesting enough for us to stop in Columbus other than to quickly check out Ohio State University. Anyone who’s been to Columbus – anything we ‘must see/do’? If not we’re going to head towards Berlin, OH. Still planning this portion!
Day 7 – Berlin, OH to Cuyahoga Valley National Park, OH. This place looks amazing (and is another freebie!)!! With over 125 miles of hiking trails we will definitely be hiking here! We’re looking forward to the Blue Hen Falls, Station Road, Ledges, Christmas Tree Farm, and Brandywine Gorge trails. If you’ve been to Cuyahoga let us know your favorite trail! Since there are only 5 primitive sites in the park we will most likely camp nearby. The National Park Service has a list of nearby campsites on their website.
Days 8 & 9 – Cuyahoga Falls N.P. to Cleveland, OH. We’re camping at the Streetsboro KOA. Since it seems like there’s quite a bit to see and do we’ll be staying here for 2 nights! A few of the things we have on our ‘may-do’ list are – the Holden Arboretum Canopy Walk, USS Cod Submarine, Federal Reserve Bank Museum of Money (free!), Westside Market, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and swing past the house from A Christmas Story. We probably won’t make it to everything on our list, but we like to have options! 😉
Day 10 – Cleveland to Warren Dunes State Park in Southwest Michigan. We’re going to camp in the Mount Randall Campground at the park. This park looks so cool! The dunes are huge (some are 260 ft high!) and butt up to Lake Michigan. Being from flat Florida we’re looking forward to climbing some of the dunes (yes, they allow this in some of the park). If we have time we make take a quick drive up to St. Joseph, MI and check out the cute, picturesque seaside town.
After our stop at Indiana Dunes N.P. we’ll continue on to Chicago. We couldn’t find any campgrounds within a decent distance to downtown Chicago, so we’ll be staying in a hotel. Our ‘must-do’ list includes – the Museum of Science and Industry, which is the largest in the Western Hemisphere. This museum looks amazing! It’s a hands-on type museum with a full size U-boat to explore! We’ll also take a walk on the Chicago Riverwalk, check out Navy Pier, Maggie Daley Park and the Park Millennium (or the silver bean as most people know it!). If we have time we’ll check out the Lincoln Park Zoo (free!). Of course, we’ll have to try some Chicago style pizza, but the question of the day – Lou Malnati’s, Gino’s East, or another one?!
Day 13 – Chicago to Kenosha, WI. Since we’re so close to Wisconsin we decided to add another day to our trip so that we can wander up to Cheese Country! We’ll actually be camping at Illinois Beach State Park, but it’s a quick 15 minute drive to Kenosha. We don’t have much planned for Day 13 so we’ll probably set up camp and then drive to the Jelly Belly Factory Tour in Kenosha. This is another free attraction….well, until we get to the gift shop! Since we’ll be in Wisconsin we also want to check out the Mars Cheese Castle and maybe look for a cow farm. Anyone have a good location?! If we can’t find a cow farm we’ll find a cool place to hike – maybe Petrified Springs Park.
Day 14 – Kenosha to Springfield, IL. Now we start our descent back towards the South! Springfield, IL is our next destination and will be a 5 hour drive. To break up the drive we’re going to stop at the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum (another freebie) in Pontiac, IL.
After we take a ride down Historic Route 66 we’ll continue on to Springfield. This is a town that seems proud of their connection to Abraham Lincoln! We’re going to check out the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Abraham Lincoln Home National Historic Site, and Lincoln’s Tomb. Word on the street is you need to rub Lincoln’s nose on the statue outside of his tomb for good luck!
Day 15 & 16 – Springfield to St. Louis, MO. St. Louis looks like it could occupy a week of our time, but we need to condense it down to the ‘must-dos’ only.You can’t go to St. Louis without checking out another National Park – the Gateway Arch! We would also like to check out the highly talked about St. Louis City Museum. This place looks like heaven on Earth for kids – slides and crawlspaces galore! Another really cool attraction is Grant’s Farm (free, but parking is $13). This is owned by the Busch family, as in Anheuser-Busch. Grant’s Farm is over 200 acres and has everything from Clydesdales to rides to animal shows! Since St. Louis is ‘Busch-town’ we’re also going to take a complimentary, kid-friendly tour of the Anheuser-Busch factory! The St. Louis Zoo is another great free attraction that’s filled with 90 acres of animals! *If* we can find time there’s also Purina Farms (yet another freebie!) where there are dog agility shows, a petting farm, and some other neat pet related activities!
Day 17 – St. Louis to Memphis, TN. We haven’t found too much to do in Memphis yet, but we’re still searching! We’ll definitely stop at the Bass Pro Shops Pyramid because we love to see how store is decorated based on the location! We know that Memphis is the ‘home of Elvis,’ but we’re not big Elvis fans…so we may take a quick drive by Graceland, but we most likely won’t stop there. Any ‘must-dos’ in Memphis?! Share them in the comments!
Day 18 – ? – We’ll start heading home towards Florida and we’ll have another stop or two, but they are undetermined right now. Have a great place we should stop between Memphis and Florida? Let us know!
Whew!! And there you have it…our whirlwind 3 week Midwest Roadtrip! We are the type that can’t sit still (as you can see!) and we love to get the most out of the area we’re visiting. I’m sure our plans will change and we’ll end up hiking more than I’ve mentioned above, but that’s all part of travel!
We’re planning on adding a 2nd part to this blog with all of our money saving tips and how we keep our roadtrips from breaking the bank. Be on the lookout for Part 2 soon!