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Trip Planning

Chicago and Milwaukee Escapes

For Chicago and Milwaukee locals, there are lots of great getaways within driving distance along Lake Michigan. Jeff Crider shares where to go, what to do, and where to stay.

Bordering the southwest shores of Lake Michigan, Chicago and Milwaukee are less than two hours away from each other, and both are compelling destinations in their own right. Many people travel to Milwaukee to check out the Harley Davidson Museum and the city’s famed beer and brewery tours, and to Chicago to enjoy Wrigley Field, the world renowned Art Institute of Chicago, and the city’s many famous buildings. But as with any big city, the locals often find it therapeutic to escape their everyday surroundings from time to time and head out into the country. The good news for RV enthusiasts who reside in the greater Chicago and Milwaukee areas is that there are plenty of nearby attractions across the four states that wrap around the southern end of Lake Michigan.

Here are several suggestions to stimulate getaway planning for residents of Chicago and Milwaukee, along with nearby campgrounds and RV resorts that can be used as base camps:

Wisconsin Getaways

Apple Holler in Sturtevant: Apple Holler is a restaurant and family farm where visitors can pick their own apples, peaches, and pears. The farm also features an Amish-built train, a music garden and a corn maze in the fall. Other onsite attractions include a pedal kart track and pony rides for children. Nearby campgrounds include:

Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Caledonia

Door County: This county offers everything from sandy beaches at Whitefish Dunes State Park to nature and wildlife preserves with dense forests and beautiful lakes. Door County is also the place where you’ll find historic lighthouses and scores of cherry orchards, vineyards and wineries. Nearby campgrounds include:

Door County KOA Holiday in Brussels

Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Sturgeon Bay

Tranquil Timbers Campground in Sturgeon Bay

Wagon Trail Campground in Ellison Bay

Green Meadows Petting Farm in East Troy: This kid-friendly petting farm features alpacas, bunnies, chickens, cows, donkeys, ducks, emus, geese, goats, kittens, llamas, pigs, sheep and turkeys. The farm also offers pony, wagon and hay rides and has a corn maze that opens in late summer and fall. Nearby campgrounds include:

Country View Campground in Mukwonago

Kenosha, Wisconsin: Kenosha is not only home to a public museum of natural sciences, fine and decorate arts, but a Civil War Museum that focuses on the Civil War from the perspective of the people of the seven states of the upper middle west: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Kenosha also has a Dinosaur Discovery Museum that is the only one of its kind to focus on the unique links between birds and meat-eating dinosaurs. Other summertime attractions include the annual Bristol Renaissance Faire, which takes place Saturdays and Sundays from July 8 to September 4, 2023. Nearby campgrounds include:

Richard Bond State Recreation Area in Kenosha

The National Historic Cheesemaking Center in Monroe, Wisconsin: Retired cheesemakers and knowledgeable docents lead daily tours of the century-old restored Imobersteg Farmland Cheese Factory, offering colorful stories about the history of cheesemaking from the late 1800s to modern times. All the original equipment can be viewed in this factory that was once used for producing Brick, Swiss, and Limburger cheese using the milk from the 40 cows at the Imobersteg Farm, just over the border into Illinois. The nearby Alp and Dell Cheese Store also offers more than 100 varieties of cheese, mostly from local producers. Nearby campgrounds include:

Crazy Horse Campground in Brodhead, Wisconsin

Sweet Minihaha Campground in Brodhead

Kettle Moraine State Forest: The northern section of this forest is just 45 minutes north of Milwaukee and features rolling hills, lakes, forests and grasslands. Activities include hiking along a section of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Nearby campgrounds include:

Bensons Campground in Campbellsport

Hoeft's Resort & Campground in Cascade

Lake Lenwood Beach and Campground in West Bend

Lake Geneva: Long famed as a getaway resort for wealthy Chicago residents, this Wisconsin community is famous for beautiful historic mansions and for the lake’s clear waters. Visitors can enjoy the Lake Geneva Shore Path as well as numerous shops, restaurants, outdoor activities, museums, apple orchards and farms. Nearby campgrounds include:

Coachman's Terrace in Lake Geneva

The Wisconsin Dells: The Wisconsin Dells is widely known as “The Waterpark Capital of the World.” But the Dells also offers ropes courses and ziplines as well as opportunities for hiking, fishing, canoeing, kayaking and ax throwing. Devil's Lake State Park alone offers magnificent views from 500-foot quartzite bluffs overlooking a 360-acre lake. Visitors enjoy nearly 30 miles of hiking trails, lakeshore picnic areas, swimming beaches, paddling opportunities and naturalist programs. Nearby campgrounds include:

Dell Pines Campground in Baraboo, Wisconsin

Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Wisconsin Dells

Sherwood Forest Campground & RV Park in the Wisconsin Dells

Wisconsin Dells KOA Holiday in Wisconsin Dells

Pope Farm Conservancy in Middleton: More than 500,000 sunflowers bloom at this 9-acre sunflower field in late July. Nearby campgrounds include:

Madison Campground in DeForest

Two Rivers: This small coastal town has some interesting attractions and history. The U.S. Post Service recognized Two Rivers as the home of the ice cream sundae in 2016. The local Washington House Museum features Berners’ Ice Cream Parlor, which commemorates the invention of the ice cream sundae in 1881. Other attractions include the London Dairy Alpaca Ranch, an agritourism destination where alpacas are raised, and products are made from their wool. Nearby campgrounds include:

Scheffel's Hideaway Campground in Two Rivers

Village Inn on the Lake in Two Rivers

Illinois Getaways

Abraham Lincoln's Home in Springfield, Illinois: During the summer of 2023, the Lincoln Home National Historic Site will partner with the city of Springfield to present free, public "History Comes Alive" programs in the Lincoln Home neighborhood. Programs will include guided walking tours of Lincoln's 8th Street home with National Park Service rangers and opportunities to try out historic toys and games. Nearby campgrounds include:

Double J Campground in Chatham

Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens in Rockford: This facility, the third largest conservatory in Illinois, offers an 11,000-square-foot tropical plant exhibition area complete with water features, seating areas, and sculptures, all in a tropical plant setting. Nearby campgrounds include:

Blackhawk Valley Campground in Rockford

Kankakee River State Park: This park is a popular location for hiking, biking, boating, canoeing, fishing as well as archery, geocaching and hunting. Campgrounds inside this state park can be booked online. 

Starved Rock State Park: This heavily forested park is one of the most popular locations in Illinois, offering opportunities for hiking, fishing, boating, kayaking and hunting. Visitors to this park can also enjoy rafting on the neighboring Vermillion RiverVermillion River Rafting offers rafting instruction and rents equipment for self-guided rafting tours. Nearby campgrounds include:

Nature's Way RV Park in North Utica

Starved Rock Family Campground in Utica

Indiana Getaways

Explore the Historical Attractions in South Bend: In addition to being the home of University of Notre Dame and its many historic buildings, South Bend’s attractions include The History Museum, which houses collections of photographs, documents and exhibits of northern Indiana history, as well the elegant 38-room Oliver Mansion, which was once home to industrialist J.D. Oliver and his family. Other local attractions include The Studebaker Museum, which not only traces the nation’s automotive history, but includes several “national treasures,” such as the carriage President Abraham Lincoln rode to Ford’s Theatre the night he was assassinated, and a carriage used by the Marquis de Lafayette during his farewell tour of United States in 1824. Venture another 30 minutes east and you can visit the RV and Manufactured Housing Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Indiana, whose exhibits include historic trailers, photos and other RV industry memorabilia dating back to the 1920s. Nearby campgrounds include:

Elkhart Campground in Elkhart

Maple Ridge Campground in Lakeville

Michigan Getaways

Fennville: Many people visit Fennville to enjoy the area’s apples, peaches and cherries and other culinary delights. Popular destinations include Crane Orchards U-Pick and Corn Maze, which offers over 15 different varieties of apples, peaches and sweet cherries. Crane's Pie Pantry is famous for its delicious pies. Late summer and early fall attractions include Crane’s 20-acre corn maze. Other popular attractions include Virtue Cider, a cider house founded by Gregory Hall, the award-winning brewmaster who spent 20 years at the Goose Island Beer Company, and Salt of the Earth, an authentic Midwestern farm-to-table restaurant with a varied menu that includes meat, fish, poultry and vegan dishes as well as wood-fired pizza. Nearby campgrounds include:

Campit Outdoor Resort in Fennville

Holland: This Dutch-themed town is famous for Nelis' Dutch Village and Holland’s annual tulip festival in May, which draws thousands of visitors who enjoy the brightly-colored tulips at Veldheer Tulip Gardens. During the summer months, visitors enjoy Holland’s sugar sand beaches and its downtown area, which features cobblestone sidewalks and over 100 specialty shops, breweries, and restaurants. Nearby campgrounds include:

Drew's Country Camping in Holland

Huron-Manistee National Forests: Hiking and fishing are popular activities here, particularly along the nationally designated Wild and Scenic Rivers, including the Pine, Manistee, Au Sable and Pere Marquette. These forests have numerous campgrounds whose sites can be booked online.

The Historic Lighthouses in St. Joseph: Guided tours run weather permitting on Fridays and Saturdays at 10 a.m. Nearby campgrounds include:

Coloma / St. Joseph KOA Holiday in Benton Harbor

Jeff Crider


Jeff Crider, President and CEO of Crider Public Relations, has been involved in covering the campground industry for over 25 years. Jeff has worked as a freelance writer for publications such as RV Business, Motor Home Magazine, Trailer Life, Highways and other Affinity Group Inc. publications since 1995. He has also successfully pitched many of the nation's top tier media outlets, including CNN, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The Financial Times, Reuters, The Associated Press and National Public Radio. In addition to writing, Jeff is also a talented photographer and humanitarian.