The Ultimate Chicago to San Francisco Road Trip
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Looking to take a road trip across the US? We’ve put together the ideal travel itinerary that takes you from “the windy city” of Chicago to “everybody’s favorite city”—San Francisco. You’ll stop by Omaha, Denver, Salt Lake City, and Reno along the way.
Nervous about hitting the road? Jerry will keep you fully secured on your trip with our emergency roadside assistance program, which offers everything from towing and winching to fuel delivery, advice from certified mechanics, tire repairs, key replacements, jump starts, and more!
Now, let’s get ready to take a journey out West!
Start in—Chicago, IL
Kick off your trip in Chicago, Illinois, the third-most populous city in the nation. Chicago is known not only for its “windy” politics but also for its excellent food and lively atmosphere.
In Restaurant Row in the West Loop, find The Girl & the Goat, where you can get get a crafted cocktail or locally-brewed beer and pick from a selection of dishes—Wood Oven Roasted Pig Face, Goat Empanadas, and Duck Tongues, to name a few.
Looking for a breakfast joint? Try Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe for some decadent breakfast dishes—from pancakes and waffles to skillets and omelets.
As a hot-spot tourist destination, Chicago has tons of accessible entertainment for all. Catch a baseball game at Wrigley Field or look over the city from Skydeck Chicago. The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States.
For affordable entertainment, take a Free Tour by Foot through the city, where you’ll learn the city’s history and stop by some well-known film locations.
Wrigley FIeld, Chicago
Chicago to Omaha
Length: 470 miles
Next up, take a seven-hour drive from Chicago to Omaha, Nebraska. As the largest city in Nebraska, Omaha will prove to have everything you need—from good food to fun things to do.
The oyster bar and seafood grill Plank Seafood Provisions will get you all the seafood you need, whether you’re looking for classic entrees or unique twists (Smoked Salmon Carbonara, anyone?).
You might not have had a restaurant at a monastery on your road trip bucket list, but add it now! Brother Sebastian’s Steakhouse & Winery is a monastery-run steakhouse serving you top-of-the-line dishes in a relaxed, ultra-aesthetic ambiance: bookshelves and dim lighting surround you as you’re dining with your party—and they’ll accommodate parties of nearly any size.
Take the family to Henry Doorly Zoo to see some wildlife, or stop by The Durham Museum and The Joslyn Art Museum for some more relaxed entertainment.
Definitely make sure to check out downtown’s Old Market, which has loads of shops, art galleries, and restaurants.
The Old Market, Omaha
Omaha to Denver
Length: 540 miles
You’ll need to drive a little over seven hours from Omaha to Denver, Colorado, where you can enjoy Colorado’s breathtaking topography in an active and bustling big city.
Chefs Amy and Dustin Barrett have cultivated their restaurant Tables with a keen focus on having a relaxed, eclectic, cozy ambiance—from the mismatched salvaged decor to the simple but sophisticated menu.
And for your breakfast and brunch needs, get a Bloody Mary or an Eggs Benedict at Snooze, an A.M. Eatery. All of your favorite brunch entrees and drinks will be on the menu!
The Clyfford Still Museum or the Denver Art Museum, which takes inspiration from the surrounding Rocky Mountains, will keep any art-lover entertained. Or, catch a show at Red Rocks Amphitheater, an outdoor amphitheater that gives you magnificent views of Colorado’s natural beauty.
Stroll through South Broadway—otherwise known as So Bo—for some antique furniture shopping.
Want some rigorous activity? Enjoy Colorado’s Rocky Mountains by taking a walk to Lookout Mountain or doing a more arduous climb in Eldorado Canyon State Park.
Denver Art Museum
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Denver to Salt Lake City
Length: 520 miles
Next, you’ll get a scenic drive through southern Wyoming as you make your way to Salt Lake City, Utah, Utah’s most populous city. Be sure to check out the dried-up salt lake (yes, it’s literally just a bunch of salt) while you’re here!
Salt Lake City, Utah
Just outside of downtown Salt Lake, find Ruth’s Diner, a classic diner that will cater to all your breakfast needs—Bloody Marys included.
For high-end seafood, pasta, meats, and other classic dishes go to Valter’s Osteria. House-made Spinach and Butternut Squash Ravioli with Valter’s Mother’s Meat Sauce is just one of the delicious entrees offered at this award-winning restaurant.
In Salt Lake City, founded by Mormon pioneers, you can see Salt Lake Temple, the original granite temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you are not an active member of the church, you can’t go in the temple itself—but the exterior architecture is enough to fully appreciate the temple’s beauty, plus you are welcome in any of the surrounding religious sites.
Want to add some easy and non-touristy fun to your trip? Play a round of bowling or mini-golf at Fat Cats.
Salt Lake Temple, Utah
Salt Lake City to Reno
Length: 520 miles
Gear up for another seven-hour drive —but once you make it to Reno, Nevada, where you can appreciate Nevada’s mountains and wildlife, you’ll see that the drive was totally worth it! As a quick-growing city on the west coast, Reno provides convenience and ample entertainment for all travelers.
Go to Atlantis Sky Terrace Sushi & Oyster Bar in St. Atlantic Casino Resort for some high-quality Japanese seafood cuisine. The crab cakes and seafood pasta are highly recommended, along with their classic sushi rolls.
For a high-end steak dinner in the same location, dine at Atlantic Steakhouse.
Peg’s Glorified Ham n Eggs can bring you all your favorite brunch offerings, like huevos rancheros and classic pancakes.
The National Automobile Museum in Reno may not be for all, but car-enthusiasts will enjoy this specialty museum.
Take a brewery tour at one of Reno’s many local breweries, or walk down the Truckee River Walk for some beautiful river views in the center of the city.
Reno to San Francisco
Length: 220 miles
Your final (and shortest) stretch of the drive will be about four and a half hours, and will take you straight to the Golden (and probably foggy) City in California.
San Francisco, California
Souvla has something for all—this contemporary Mediterranean eatery offers gyro wraps and salad bowls, with everything from chicken and lamb to falafel. You also have to try their frozen Greek yogurt with one of the offered topping combinations—the frozen Greek yogurt with honey and baklava is really good.
4505 Burgers and BBQ has some of the best meats in the city, with their fried-to-perfection french fries fried in tallow. Sides range from baked beans and fries to fried mac ‘n’ cheese. But be warned: vegetarians may not find too many veggie items on the menu.
An easy walk through San Francisco’s Presidio District is a great way to unwind after many days on the road—the Presidio hosts multiple walking trails and exotic birds indigenous to the area. Plus, you’ll get great views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
If you want to unwind even more, have a picnic at Dolores Park, and pick up some specialty ice cream from Bi-Rite afterward.
The drive to Twin Peaks will give you great views of SF, but walking through the city is also a great way to experience it.
You can finish off your trip by getting a Snowy Plover—a signature iced espresso tonic drink—at Andytown Coffee Roasters and taking a walk from there to Ocean Beach.
Why you need roadside assistance
No matter where your road trip takes you, it’s essential to have emergency roadside assistance to give you peace of mind.
Jerry’s roadside assistance program keeps you secure with a slew of benefits, including towing, winching, fuel delivery, tire changes, key replacements, tire repairs, and more! For an affordable monthly rate, it’s really a no-brainer.
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