Chicago to Omaha – The Scenic Route

We planned to leave at 4:00 am; we slept in until 5:00 am. If anyone has been through Chicago between 5 am and 9 am the traffic is a nightmare and we are pulling a pop-up, I have traffic anxiety, and we are just waking up. We finished packing the truck and then entered our destination into google maps and unbeknownst to us, there was a route that took us north through Wisconsin and then west to Omaha. Google maps stated it was about 1/2 hour longer and only 5 more miles to Omaha on this route. Knowing the difference in driving through Chicago and Wisconsin, it didn’t take us long to make the decision to turn right…yep, we are doing this! So, YES, we went from northern Illinois to Omaha through Wisconsin. Was it worth the extra half hour and 5 miles?

Google Map Home to Omaha

We literally live about 5 miles east of US 41 and Interstate 94 in northern Illinois. When you enter the interstate here, it is only a few miles until you are in Wisconsin. Go the other direction and you are in Chicago in 30 minutes. On this trip we hopped on to the I-94 and headed to Wisconsin. We were surprised at the little to no traffic on this route, even though it was rush hour. It seemed weird we were headed north to go southeast. It was weird, but who wants to fight Chicago Traffic and drive on I80 which is always full of traffic. We drove to Rt 50 and headed west to I-43 towards Beloit. We then exited I-43 and headed west on WI-81 and the remainder of the trip was not on freeways. Mostly, we were on two-lane backroads with a few four-lane highways here and there. Good thing we were not in a hurry, just wanted to avoid the traffic in Chicago. We didn’t get on to I-80 until we were in Iowa City! Once on I-80 TRAFFIC!

Chevy Silvarado with Pop Up Camper

Now, I love the Chicago city skyline as much as anyone, but during rush hour it is not such a beautiful sight. In fact, you generally don’t even get to see the skyline while avoiding collisions with ruthless drivers on their way to work. We were thrilled with our new route! The scenery is more spectacular on this route. Instead of tall building, ugly roads and garbage filled medians/shoulders, we enjoyed flowers, farm fields, animals, and once in Iowa – lots of corn.

Farm In Wisconsin

Rock and Trees, side of the road

Around 9:00 am we were getting hungry and needed gas, we pulled off in a little town of Cascade, Wisconsin. The signs did not give any indication that there were restaurants in the area, we were just going to get gas, snacks in the gas station, and get back on the road. However, when we pulled into the gas station, right next door was a cute little diner! We had to try it out. It was perfect! The coffee was great, the food was hot, fresh and delicious. If you are ever in this area, it is a must do for breakfast!

Outside Cascade Cafe

Cascade Cafe Counter

Cascade Cafe Menu

Cascade Cafe Mushroom Swiss Omelet
Cascade Cafe Mushroom Swiss Omelet
Cascade Cafe Veggie Skillet with Eggs
Cascade Cafe Veggie Skillet with Eggs

Yummy Breakfast in our belly, a full tank of gas and our spirits high, we set out for more of this adventure! We loved the scenery and no traffic. We went through a few towns with stoplights that slowed us down, but nothing as frustrating as the traffic through Chicago, St. Louis, and all the other towns. Did I mention we always miss out turn off in St. Louis and end up driving through town to get back on route…not this time! No issues. Well, more pretty flowers and scenery all the way through Iowa and no traffic.

Around 1:00 pm we needed to stop and stretch and get some gas, and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, in the middle of cornfields…a CASINO! Of course, the perfect place to stretch out legs!


An hour later, fifty dollars lighter, legs stretched and laughing, we were ready to get back on the two-lane country road. More pretty flowers, farms, and corn. We were getting close to I-80 and now we were getting hungry. As we are merging onto I-80 we realize we are in Altoona, Iowa. This is where our favorite Bass Pro is located! We get off at the next exit and circle back for some shopping and lunch!

Bass Pro Altoona

Bass Pro Altoona

We had a wonderful time in the Bass Pro! My pictures are lost on my phone somewhere, but I will post them here when I can get them to download. We had a wonderful lunch. Lucky for us Wednesday is their double burger special for $5.99 – double burger and fries for $5.99 are they out of the minds? I had the clam chowder and we shared Wisconsin cheese curds (yeah, I can’t get enough Wisconsin cheese curds!) Again, bellies full we were back on the road! This time we were on I-80, the scenery was blah and the traffic was horrible.

Omaha Bridge over Missouri River

Omaha Bridge over Missouri River finally, we made it to Omaha! The trip took us much longer with all our new adventures. Would we do it again? Yes, this route was less stressful, more scenic, and had some really fun things to do on the way.

Next post OMAHA! See our previous posts on Omaha here and here.

Would you rather take a longer route and get to experience the new scenery, out of the way places, and no traffic or get there faster with traffic and no scenery?

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8 thoughts on “Chicago to Omaha – The Scenic Route

  1. Life is all about taking the longer route, or for me, it is anyways. I hope to take the long route on a trip coming up this summer 🙂

    1. Hi Vicki! I do love to take the longer route and see everything! Hopefully one of your adventures will bring you by me again!

  2. We love to go off the beaten path and avoid traffic whenever possible. What a great little adventure!

  3. Wow, I felt like I was in the back seat enjoying all of the new adventures. The longer route was worth it. I have traveled to Chicago so I know the traffic is a nightmare. So glad you made it safely to your destination and shared your adventures with us. Safe travels.

  4. I would take the longer route. That’s what adventure is all about!

    Love reading this post. You took me with you on your road trip. ?

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