The journey from Chicago to New Orleans is an incredible journey between two of America’s most legendary music cities.

The 975 mile journey from Chicago to New Orleans takes 13 hours and 30 minutes non-stop. You will cross 6 states, down the Mississippi River, from the Great Lakes to the North American border to the Gulf of Mexico in the south.

Read on to discover the best sites, sounds and stops waiting for you in this incredible adventure.

What is the distance between New Orleans and Chicago and how long does it take to get there?

It’s technically possible to make such a long journey in one day, but if you’re in such a hurry to get to New Orleans, you can catch your flight – travelling by road is a matter of travelling, so take a few days to pick it up.

The fastest and most direct route of 925 miles takes at least 13 hours and 30 minutes.

The journey from Chicago to New Orleans is a musical pilgrimage with a short detour, so you should take plenty of time to explore the amazing culture and scenery along the way.

The route we take is slightly longer, 975 miles, and takes almost 15 hours from our starting point in Illinois via Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi before we reach our final destination in Louisiana.

The Nutches Vidal bridge across the Mississippi at sunset in Nutches, Mississippi.
A little more time will allow you to cross the Mississippi with such a view of Nutschez.

Panoptography/Schutterstock.de

Best Road Trip from Chicago to New Orleans

It may be a long journey, but it’s probably one of the easiest, at least as far as the distance you’ve travelled.

You might even say it’s a long ride on the 55, as we take the I-55 south from the starting point in Chicago to La Place, Louisiana, which is about 950 miles.

From there we travel 29 miles east on the I-10 to our final destination in New Orleans.

Environmental highway along the Grande Rivière road

For those who have a little more time, you really should explore the Mississippi more. Even though it takes about 4 hours to drive, if you follow the curves of the Great River Road, you’re guaranteed the best drive you’ve ever had.

In the south along Nutchez you will pass many of the country’s most famous plantations and it is worth taking the time to study and understand the rich history of the Mississippi Delta.

Although the route to Memphis is very similar (depending on how far you want to follow the river), you will follow US-61 and Highway 1, which will eventually take you to Vicksburg and Nutchez before following the Great River Route via Baton Rouge to New Orleans.

Best ports of call between Chicago and New Orleans

As I said in the beginning, it is best to divide this trip into at least 4 days, so there are three great places to stop along the way.

When we travel between Chicago and New Orleans, two cities with such a rich musical heritage, it seems normal that the places where we stay are adapted to our journey.

That’s why below you’ll find the three best places for a longer trip, all of which have their place in the history of American music – you’ll notice a slight tendency to blues. Sue me.

Listen to the legendary Blues of Saint-Louis

Louis, the skyline of Missouri with the bow in the middle at sunset.
With great cities like St. Louis on the way, you’ll want to take your time for this trip from Chicago to New Orleans.

Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com

Missouri’s second largest city, this incredible city claims the fame of Gate Arch.

The Gateway Arch is an impressive 630-foot tall architectural monument on the banks of the Mississippi which claims to be the highest arch in the world. It represents the legacy of the city as the gateway to the West, the last trace of civilization during its expansion to the West in the 1800s.

But for a journey like ours, this is not the only historical significance of this city. St. John’s Louis Blues may be the name of the NHL franchise, but it comes from the history of city music, particularly the blues genre.

Take the opportunity to visit some of the city’s most famous music venues, such as the remains of Gas Light Square, where artists performed during the boom of the 1950s and 1960s.

Enjoy an evening at Blueberry Hill, a legendary music club where the godfather of rock and roll, Chuck Berry, played until his death at the age of 90. There’s even the St. John’s Symphony Orchestra. The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is the second oldest symphony orchestra in the United States.

Wherever you look, the history of music is waiting to be discovered.

With this experience, the accommodation should also be something special, so I recommend staying at the best hotel in town – the Four Seasons Saint Louis.

The rooftop pool and bar offer phenomenal views of the city with the Gateway Arch across the street, while the rooms are the most luxurious in St. Petersburg.

And most importantly, since we are on our way, it is very easy and free to park in the large parking lot next door, or you can hire a parking attendant if that’s your thing.

Listen toBeale Street Memphis Blues

Neon lights up the blues bars on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee.
If you’re a blues fan, you should spend the night in the iconic blues bars along Bil Street in Memphis.

f11photo/Shutterstock.com

Just over 4 hours south of St. John’s, Newfoundland. Louis takes us to Memphis, the second largest city in Tennessee after Nashville.

It is a city where music is not only one of the attractions, but also the main event. He has an exceptional musical scene, especially in the field of rock and blues, where the unique genre of Memphis blues was born.

A stroll down the legendary Beale Street will open many historic clubs waiting for you to discover what Memphis’ music is all about.

For most of them, however, the main attraction is located in the southwestern part of the city. Here you will find the world famous Graceland.

This 16.8 hectare site was home to the legendary musician and rock and roll king Elvis Presley himself.

Five years after his death in 1977, his daughter transformed the manor into a museum with countless musical objects, exhibitions and rooms that he left behind over the years.

If you want to experience the history of music, there’s no better place than here. Graceland is so popular that it receives more than 650,000 visitors a year, making it the second most visited house in America after the White House.

To make the most of Memphis’ music, bars and restaurants, you need to be close to the main attractions.

Arrive Memphis is a brand new hotel with a seriously cool design, with luxurious and original rooms, an excellent breakfast and private parking just minutes away, which is a rarity in the heart of Memphis.

Walking in the city with the soul – Jackson, Mississippi

The State Capitol Building in Jackson, Mississippi, with a classic gun in front of the building at sunset.
Jackson is the capital of the state of Mississippi and offers a variety of cultural and historical attractions.

Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com

The last stop I recommend is Jackson, Mississippi, 3 hours and 210 miles away.

Jackson, the capital and largest city in the state of Mississippi, may not be as well known as the other music cities on our trip, but that doesn’t mean his history is as important and exciting.

Jackson, known as Soul City, is an important place for musicians who love blues, folk, gospel and jazz.

This is a special place on the Mississippi Blues Trail, a commission intended to mark the most important places in the development and evolution of the Mississippi blues genre (and sometimes beyond) from the beginning to the present.

Although there is much to discover and learn in the city, the main attraction is probably the location of the marker itself – in the historic metro lounge.

The lounge is located in the Summers Hotel, one of the few facilities opened to Afro-Americans in the 1940s. The Lounge was created in the 1960s and was one of the most important stages for blues artists in the city long before the 1980s.

Unfortunately you cannot stay at the Summers Hotel because it no longer exists, but to immerse yourself in the history and culture of the Deep South, you can stay at the luxurious historic Fairview Inn.

This colonial-style townhouse dates back to 1908 and offers a combination of modern amenities and the classic charm of local history. It is a small exit from the center, but you can park for free on the spot in a very convenient way.

You want to take Uber into town for dinner and a drink, but that’s the only mistake.

Sightseeing on a road trip from Chicago to New Orleans

Abandoned wood mill on the rocks next to a river in the Marc Twain National Forest in autumn.
You walk in breathtaking nature, such as the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri (photo).

Randy Kostitska/Shutterstock.com

By splitting your trip into shorter journeys with stops along the way, you’ll save time exploring some of the incredible sights, cities and nature along the way through the center of the United States.

Since most of the sites I mentioned were very musical in our entertainment venues, there’s a little more variety here, because the last thing you want on such a fantastic trip is to explore the varied landscapes you’re going to traverse, because you only focus on one thing.

With so many offers, it is impossible to make an exhaustive list of everything there is to see on this incredible journey. However, the 16 points in this list are a strong point of the lottery and it is worth considering them if you can.

  1. Springfield, Illinois – Illinois’ sixth most populous city, known for its culinary innovations and home to legendary President Abraham Lincoln for nearly 25 years.
  2. Gateway Arch National Park – The famous Gateway Arch is an incredible piece of architecture that symbolizes the history of the neighborhood as a gateway to the west during the expansion to the west in the 1800s. It is listed in the U.S. National Park Register in 2018 and is the smallest and third most recent registration.
  3. St. Louis, Missouri – A soulful town in Missouri with great cuisine and musical culture, located on the banks of the Mississippi River.
  4. The Mississippi is the second longest river in the United States and the third longest in the world. It flows 2,320 miles from its source at Lake Itasca in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.
  5. Mark Twain National Forest – A 3 million hectare forest named after the legendary author and Missouri native Mark Twain.
  6. Wapanocca National Nature Reserve – An important stopover for migratory birds on the Mississippi Flyway. This site provides an excellent opportunity to observe many rare and unusual bird species, some of which are year-round, while others are more seasonal.
  7. Memphis, Tennessee – Tennessee’s second most populous city, Graceland is the legendary home of rock and roll king Elvis Presley.
  8. Arkabutla lake – House for a variety of fish and dams built after the great Mississippi flood in 1927
  9. Lac Sardis – A breathtaking lake with a dam, a marina and a variety of fish.
  10. Enid Lake – Home of state and world fisheries records and one third of the network of 4 flood reservoirs in the Mississippi.
  11. Lake Grenada – home of Hugh White State Park and the fourth and last Mississippi flood reservoir.
  12. Jackson, Mississippi – The capital and most populous city of Mississippi, located on the banks of the Pearl River.
  13. Joyce Wildlife Management Area – Wilderness walk, waterfront boardwalk that takes you to the swamp to see the animals up close.
  14. Manchuk Fenn Bridge – The I-55 Manchuk Fenn Bridge, 22.8 miles away, is the longest bridge in the American interstate system and one of the longest bridges over water in the world.
  15. Lac et marais de Maurepas – A lake of 93 square miles surrounded by marshes where a wide variety of rare plants and species or animals grow.
  16. Natchez, Mississippi – This classic southern American city is known for its luxurious front-loading villas.
  17. Plantations along Great River Road – Some of the most famous plantations with huge houses along the picturesque entrance to the Mississippi – the lower part of Nutchez in New Orleans is worth a visit.
  18. Lac Ponchartrain – 630 square miles lake with the longest bridge over water in the world

The Oak Alley Plantation in southern Louisiana along the Great River Road to New Orleans.
The Oak Alley Plantation is one of the many stately mansions you can visit along the Great River Road to New Orleans.

f11photo/Shutterstock.com

Best time to travel from Chicago to New Orleans

If you’re going from city to city, there really isn’t a bad time to make this trip, as most of the sights in your destination don’t depend on the weather to be successful.

But we’re talking about New Orleans, which, as you know, can be very bad during the rainy season. This is even before many of the sights I suggested along the route are outside.

The best time to travel is therefore the beginning or the end of summer. April to May and September to October are the windows that offer the best combination of temperature and precipitation to make your trip a success.

Be careful when driving in winter, drive from Chicago, where it’s cold, to New Orleans, where the temperature is relatively mild, 16° C (62° F) per day in January. You should bring clothes for each season if you plan to do so!

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