The 15 + hour Chicago to Myrtle Beach drive can seem daunting, but with some pre-planning using this post, it can be an adventure your kids will not soon forget.
Keep reading for 25 spots that make fantastic stretch breaks while driving cross country. The cities featured below are well paced for a break every few hours and have energy busting, affordable, kid friendly attractions.
Enjoy your journey through several of America’s iconic cities!
Route Options for Your Chicago to Myrtle Beach Drive
The Chicago to Myrtle Beach drive time doesn’t change significantly if you drive through Louisville / Asheville Route or if you opt to choose a route that passes through the Appalachians.
Choose your route based on attractions that appeal to you most, keeping in mind you could always take the alternate route on your return.
How long is a round-trip from Chicago to Myrtle Beach?
Louisville / Asheville Route
If you choose to take this route, it is 952 miles without any stops and takes about 15 hours 7 minutes.
If you opt to travel through West Virginia, cutting through the Appalachians, the 920 mile route takes about 15 hours even.
Best Paces to Stop on A Chicago to Myrtle Beach Drive
There are more road trip attractions on this list than you could possibly hit up on a single journey, especially if you actually want to reach Myrtle Beach in any reasonable amount of time!
Depending on your kids preferences, time of day, duration you’d like to stop, the weather and more, some stops may work for you while others will not.
There are endless things to do in the Indianapolis area with kids, but some require much more time commitment than others. Three spots in Indianapolis that are fairly quick with great wow factors for kids are:
Cool Creek Nature Center and Playground
The perfect spot to bring a picnic and let the kids run out energy, learn from the naturalist, meet some of the animals inside the nature center, and get creative in the natural playground.
You can pull this off in an hour or easily spend a half day here.
Smiley Indoor Playground
If it’s cold or rainy outside, you might be looking for an indoor spot to burn off energy on your Chicago to Myrtle Beach drive. The Smiley Indoor Playground is an excellent option!
It is designed for children aged 12 and under. Toddlers and preschoolers can enjoy the soft play areas, rice pit, ball pit, and smaller climbing structures, while older children can explore the larger play structures, foam pit, rock climbing wall, slides, tunnels, and obstacle courses.
Cost: Varies by day and desired duration. Check out their pricing page. (Check for deals on Groupon)
At the time of writing this article, they are closed on Tuesdays.
There is FREE excitement to be found if you can only make a quick ‘pit stop’ here.
The Speedway offers ride-along drives in Indy cars so if you visit, there is a decent chance you’ll actually get to watch cars whiz around the track. Call ahead to find out when you might be able to catch drivers on the track and bring a picnic to sit on the lawn.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum is affordable and interesting as well. It showcases the history of auto racing and the Speedway. Families can see historic cars, trophies, and other memorabilia from the Speedway’s long and storied history.
Kids will like designing their own helmet on coloring pages, the race simulators, and sitting inside an Indy Car.
Louisville Slugger Museum
If your family has baseball players or MLB fans, you’ll want to make a stop at the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory.
It celebrates the history of baseball and the iconic Louisville Slugger baseball bat and is suitable for all ages, but some of the exhibits may be more interesting for older children who are familiar with baseball history.
The museum offers guided tours that take you through the factory; lasting approximately 30 minutes. Don’t miss the live demonstrations of how the bats are made!
The museum has interactive exhibits that allow kids to test their batting skills and learn about the science behind baseball. Inquire at the ticket counter about the scavenger hunt for kids too.
The museum is wheelchair accessible and strollers are permitted.
Cost: Adults $22, Kids ages 6-12 $14, 5 and under are free.
Kentucky Science Center
The Kentucky Science Center excels at hands-on exhibits that allow visitors to interact with science in fun and engaging ways. Exhibits cover a range of topics including space, health, physics, and technology. Some popular exhibits include “The World We Create,” “Maker Place,” and “Science in Play.” We found Science in Play to be the most engaging for our two kids, ages 5 and 3.
In addition to the exhibits, the Kentucky Science Center also offers a planetarium, an IMAX theater, educational programs and workshops, and special events throughout the year.
We spent two hours here which was a great stretch break on our Chicago to Myrtle Beach drive.
Cost: Adults $16; $13 for children ages 2-12. ASTC Reciprocity is accepted.
Soak in Knoxville’s Market Square, the center of activity for more than 150 years for commerce, entertainment, and politics.
The atmosphere is fantastic if you want to stop for lunch at an open air restaurant, shop at locally owned stores, or delve into the history by reading the historical markers.
Ice Cream at Cruze Farm
The Cruze Farm family has been making ice cream for over 100 years and has gained a reputation for its high-quality, homemade ice cream. Their shops serve up unique flavors and swirls. Make sure to try one of the DoleWhips!
The Knoxville Zoo is home to over 900 animals from around the world, and offers a variety of interactive exhibits, including a petting zoo and a splash pad.
Cost: $27 ages 13+, $22 ages 3-12, Under 3 is free. Reduced admission with AZA Reciprocal Membership.
Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge
Located just outside of Knoxville, this museum offers hands-on exhibits and activities for kids of all ages, focused on science, technology, engineering, and math.
Cost: $6-8, Under 3 is free. Free with ACM Reciprocal Membership.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Located just a short drive from Knoxville, Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers miles of hiking trails through stunning natural scenery. We found all the nearest hikes still added a decent amount of drive time to the overall journey, so we didn’t prioritize this, but I know National Parks are bucket lists for many families so I wanted to keep it on this list!
Cost: $5 Daily, $15 Weekly, $40 Annually (per Vehicle)
Have more time to kill on your Chicago to Myrtle Beach drive?
Spend a day at Dollywood! This theme park, located just outside of Knoxville, offers a variety of rides, shows, and attractions for kids and adults alike.
Cost: Find pricing details here.
Asheville, North Carolina
Tour the Biltmore Estate
This grand estate is the largest private home in the United States, and kids will enjoy exploring the grounds and gardens.
I toured as a kid and to this day remember feeling completely in awe that a person could actually live in such luxury. I mean, come on, a bowling alley in the basement!?
After touring the mansion, head to the Farmyard or Antler Hill Village for a playground and petting zoo.
Cost: Find ticket options and pricing here.
Kid Friendly Breweries
Many breweries in Asheville welcome kids. They cater to families by offering board games, cornhole, changing tables, and serving soda.
Some of the top options include Burial Brewing, Asheville Beer Company, Ginger’s Revenge (Alcoholic Ginger Beers), and Hi-Wire.
Play at the WNC Nature Center
This zoo and nature center features more than 60 species of animals native to the Southern Appalachian region.
Cost: $14 for ages 13+, $10 ages 3-12, free under 3.
Discover the Asheville Pinball Museum
This museum features over 75 vintage pinball machines that kids and adults can play as long as they want for $15 per person.
Cost: $15 per person
Asheville Area Hikes
Asheville is surrounded by beautiful mountains and forests, offering endless opportunities for hiking and outdoor adventure. You might consider taking a detour from your route to drive into Rocky Mountain National Park or pull off to hike one of the trails on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Grab a meal at the Bistro at the Asheville Arboretum and let the kids stretch out their legs before finishing up your Chicago to Myrtle Beach drive.
Kids love the model trains that run on weekends April – October, the quirky bonsai trees, Nature Discovery Room, the coy pond, and the short 3/4 mile hike on the Natural Garden Path. Grab a TRACK trail guide to allow kids to document what they observe on your visit.
Cost: There is a parking fee, but no admission fee. A personal vehicle is $20.
Congaree National Park, South Carolina
About half way between Asheville and Myrtle Beach, is a free National Park. The park has over 20 miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy walks to more challenging hikes. The trails are well-marked and maintained, and there are plenty of options for families with young children. A family favorite is the Boardwalk Loop, which is a 2.4-mile trail that takes you through the heart of the park’s old-growth forest.
Stop at the Visitors Center upon arrival to pick up a self guided tour brochure for the Boardwalk Loop as well as the Junior Ranger Workbook so your child can earn their Junior Ranger Badge.
The park can be hot and humid in the summer, so make sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and insect repellent.
National Museum of the US Air Force
Nothing will have your family feeling more “over the moon” than a stop at the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton Ohio. This 19 acre facility houses the most impressive collection of military and civilian aircraft you will ever see.
The 4 massive hangers are filled to the brim with an inventory of flying machines beginning with canvas and wood and ending with titanium and carbon fiber. A few of the highlights you will encounter on your adventure thru the halls of aviation include the Airforce One exhibit, the first operational fighter jet and the Apollo 15 space capsule.
A few tips to make your visit more enjoyable:
- Pickup a map when you first check in. They are free, but a donation in encouraged.
- There are free strollers and wheelchairs to use during your visit, so take advantage. This is a lot of walking for little ones.
- Start at the very end of the complex (Space, and Airforce One exhibits). This way when your child gets tired you are not very far away from your car. The furthest building has the most engaging exhibits for kids too.
Cost: FREE! This was shocking to me!
Boonshoft Museum of Discovery
Dayton’s Science Museum offers dozens of exhibits promoting STEM education. What makes the museum stand out for young kids is their Discovery Zoo, which features animals native to Ohio and other parts of the world, including bald eagles, river otters, and red pandas. The museum also has a large collection of fossils and minerals, as well as a replica of an Egyptian tomb.
Cost: $14.50 adults, $11.50 ages 3-17, under 3 FREE. Free with ASTC reciprocity.
Charleston, West Virginia
New River Gorge National Park and Preserve
Located in West Virginia, this beautiful park offers breathtaking views of the New River Gorge and plenty of opportunities for a quick hike to break up the Chicago to Myrtle Beach Drive.
There is no entrance fee to visit New River Gorge National Park & Preserve. It is free for visitors to access and explore the park, including the visitor centers, hiking trails, scenic overlooks, and other recreational areas.
The Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine and Youth Museum
This historic coal mine in Beckley, West Virginia presents underground tours that provide an authentic look at what life was like for coal miners in the early 1900s.
Between April 1 – November 1 the tours and museum are open daily from 10am-5pm.
Cost: $22 adults, $12.50 for kids
The Charleston Riverfront Park
If you need some space to run and get fresh air, head to the Charleston Riverfront Park for a playground, a skate park, and plenty of green space for picnics and movement.
The Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences
Enjoy interactive exhibits, a planetarium, and a performance theater that are perfect for kids.
Cost: $8-12 per person. Free with ASTC membership.
The West Virginia State Capitol
Tours inside this beautiful building provide a great history lesson for kids. Call (304) 558-4839 for information. Guided tours are typically hosted 9:30am – 3:30pm Monday thru Friday. Saturdays 1pm – 4pm on the hour. Tours are about 30 minutes.
Cost: Guided tours are free.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
You made it! I’m confident your family is going to love Myrtle Beach. If you want some inspiration on how to spend time in the area, check out our Myrtle Beach with Kids guide.
If you plan to spend time exploring the windy city, here are our favorite kid friendly spots in Chicago.
Things to Do Before Starting Your Chicago to Myrtle Beach Drive
Before leaving home, make sure you have your iPass/EZPass (toll transponder) ready, plenty of snacks, beverages, kid activities, and a full tank of gas. Here’s what we keep in our vehicles at all times.
Chicago to Myrtle Beach Drive
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Catherine – Savvy Family Travel
My favorite pastime is finding fun, interesting experiences to share with family and friends.
I’m a mom of two energetic and curious boys who have endless patience with my tendency to over plan activities on our family vacations. My tireless husband, Troy, provides comic relief, is our favorite photographer, and expert navigator.
I’m a firm believer that travel with kids doesn’t have to be intimidating or expensive. It can be affordable, epic, and, dare I say, even relaxing!
Are you a travel loving parent too? I’d love to meet you, please reach out via Messenger and say “hi!”