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Planning to travel for a Chicago to Minneapolis road trip? There can be a lot to consider before you pack up and hit the highway. We’ve laid out everything you need to know as you plan the Midwest adventure you’ve been dreaming of.

Once you get to Minneapolis, that’s when the real fun begins! We couldn’t possibly add everything there is to do in the Mini Apple, so we recommend you access our complimentary Minneapolis Travel Guide to finish planning that part of your trip.


How to Plan the Best Chicago to Minneapolis Road Trip

Travel Time

One of the most important parts of any road trip is planning your route. The fastest way to Minneapolis from Chicago by car is to take Interstate 90 West towards Rockford, IL and then Madison, Wisconsin. Just passed the small town of Oakdale, WI, you’ll continue west on Interstate 94 towards Eau Claire and finally Minneapolis. The trip is about 400 miles and can take anywhere from six to eight hours depending on traffic.


There are several stops and scenic routes you can take along the way! Add about 20 miles to the trip and visit Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s biggest city. Simply take I-94 West instead of I-90 in Chicago and you’ll get there in under two hours. Miller Brewing Company and Pabst Brewing Company were both founded in Milwaukee along with some amazing craft brewers.

If you choose to take the quicker route, Rockford won’t disappoint! It’s the largest city in the state outside of the Chicago metropolitan area and is known as the Forest City. Located near several outdoor recreation areas, Rockford also features the Anderson Japanese Gardens, the Klehm Arboretum, and the Burpee Museum of Natural History.Madison Wisconsin

Either way, you’ll pass through Madison, the capital of Wisconsin. Several lakes surround the city, so it makes for a great place to get outside. About halfway along the entire route, you’ll come across Wisconsin Dells. Home to glacier-carved sandstone formations along the Wisconsin River, the town also houses several waterparks kids absolutely love.

Next, you’ll find yourself in Eau Claire, WI. Home to the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, the city likes to refer to itself as “The Indie Capital of the Midwest.” The picturesque city sits along the Eau Claire and Chippewa Rivers and typically offers both city and outdoor activities.

You can also take a more scenic route through Rochester, Minnesota. This way lets you see more of Minnesota rather than Wisconsin and only adds about 30 miles to the trip. You could always take one route on the way there and a different route on the way back! Once you pass Oakdale, continue on I-90 West instead of I-94 West. Then, take U.S. Route 52 towards Minneapolis. This scenic route takes you over the Mississippi River and Lake Onalaska. There is plenty to stop and see in this area like the Great River Bluffs State Park or the river city of La Crosse, WI.

Rochester, MN is home to the Mayo Clinic, a renowned healthcare system. It is a city where intellect and nature come together for a truly unique Midwest experience. From there, you only have about an hour and a half to two hours left until you get to Minneapolis!

Things to Do in Minneapolis

Once you complete your Chicago to Minneapolis road trip, so many fun experiences await you! If you are visiting for a family summer vacation, choose between adventures like a canopy tour over the Minnesota River Valley or beat the heat at one of Minneapolis’s many lakes. The colder months turn Minneapolis into a winter wonderland. Discover beautiful frozen waterfalls, enjoy an indoor waterpark, or hit the ice rink. If you’re on a romantic getaway or don’t have any kids in your group, the Mini Apple is known to use breweries and distilleries to both stay cool and keep warm. Don’t forget to do some shopping at the infamous Mall of America.

Of course, no vacation is complete without amazing food, and Minneapolis definitely won’t disappoint! Start your day off with amazing waffles and coffee. Then, find just about any cuisine you could crave for lunch and dinner. Whether you’re looking for something to eat in North Loop, Brainerd, or a place for a picnic, you’ll love the food and the atmosphere!

Have Options With MinnestaySable 85

From one-bedroom luxury apartments in the middle of Downtown to large lake homes for the whole family, Minnestay has a Minneapolis vacation rental for you. We don’t just have the best selection of properties in the Twin Cities area; we have the best customer service. When you stay with Minnestay, you can rest assured knowing we are on your side from booking to check-out.

Browse our rentals and start planning your Chicago to Minneapolis road trip today!