Road Trip: Chicago to Denver

As I begin my summer adventure in Denver, I had to plan how to get there. After studying my road atlas and Google Maps, I decided on traveling through Iowa and Nebraska on Interstate 80. I decided to make the most of this time, and here is how I explored 4 major cities in 3 days!

It seemed reasonable to break the trip up into two days, as it was just over 14 hours. I decided that Omaha would be my half way point, so I booked an AirBNB for the night, hopped in the car, and set off on a road trip I’ll never forget.

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DAY 1

Day 1 was a trip to downtown Chicago. I love everything about this city: from the food to the different neighborhoods and all there is to do! On this trip I headed to Navy Pier. It is incredibly commercialized, with restaurants, a theater, art galleries and even rides!

It is known for its ferris wheel that overlooks the city, as well as a swing ride and merry-go-round. However, my favorite spot on the pier is the atrium. Even in the winter this part of Navy Pier is open and I love not only the plants, but the fountains that spurt water in timed intervals.

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DAY 2

The next day, I hit the road. Day 2 took me through Illinois and Iowa. Driving through Illinois is relatively quick and the farmlands are green and hilly. The first stop was in Rock Falls, Illinois. We simply fueled up and purchased some road trip snacks and continued on, crossing the Mississippi River and crossing into Iowa. We did not stop again until we reached Des Moines, Iowa.

Driving through Iowa is pretty repetitive. The land is flat, and usually farmland. At this season the crops haven’t begun to sprout so it’s often wheat-colored fields. The sky was overcast for much of our morning, which made for some incredible cloud formations.

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Des Moines is a perfect place to stop for lunch because it’s about 2/3 of the way to Omaha. By this point I was ready to stretch my legs. I parked downtown and headed to Potbelly’s. What was so cool about this restaurant was that it was connected to the Esquire Building. In search of a bathroom, I headed upstairs only to find that the building connects to a much larger building full of shops and other restaurants. It was a fun adventure. I even found pretty murals to take pictures in front of!

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Once again, I found myself in the car. But it was only two hours to Omaha. We crossed the Missouri River this time and entered a city I would soon fall in love with. I knew virtually nothing about Omaha, but was impressed with its size and cleanliness immediately.

It is small enough that it is easy to navigate, but it has some beautiful parks and fun restaurants. I explored the Old Market district, a beautiful neighborhood with brick roads and lively restaurants. Surprisingly enough, I ended up at a Mexican Restaurant called “Eat the Worm” where I had a tostada and a Corona. It was the perfect end to the night!

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DAY 3

Once again, I turned onto I-80 west and faced an 8 hour day of driving. Day three was an exiting day because I would finally reach Denver, Colorado. However, first I had to make it through the entire state of Nebraska. Once again I was impressed with this beautiful state.

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Despite the warnings I received about Nebraska, it was my favorite part of the drive. There is something to be said for country roads and open skies. Enormous cow farms litter the terrain, as well as many ponds and trees. The Platte River winds its way across the state, so you will cross it many times on your journey through Nebraska.

A good stopping point today is in North Platte, Nebraska. It’s one of the last cities you’ll pass through before you reach Denver. From there, it’s just four more hours to Denver. Eventually you will cross the border, and this will be your view:

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You also may not have noticed, but the altitude has also changed. In Chicago you are at sea level, or just a few hundred feet. Now, the altitude is over 4,000, and by the time you reach Denver it can even surpass 5,000.

All in all, the drive is beautiful. It’s relaxing and carefree and a great way to explore four very cool cities in our country. As I enjoy my first sunset in my home for the next two months I am looking forward to the adventures to come.

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