One of the challenges when RVing is when you visit big cities. Normally we are either paying a lot like over $100 a night for a campground or else we have to drive our car a good 45 minutes to an hour to get into the city from our campground.
Then once there we have to pay for parking. It can get really expensive and finding parking can be frustrating. We really had our work cut out for ourselves to find the best RV park near Chicago.
Finding The Best RV Park Near Chicago
When we were going to visit Chicago we started to Google “Chicago RV parks”, “RV campgrounds near Chicago” and “RV camping near Chicago” and we found out that you could park at McCormick Center parking lot (specifically the McCormick Place Marshaling Yard) – right in downtown Chicago, IL! Score!
We were super excited so we checked it all out and called the place where we would be boondocking and sure enough you can pay to park there overnight. It isn’t cheap at $35 a night for no hookups but for being within walking or biking distance of most of the downtown attractions we figured it was worth it.
You can go right onto their website and make a reservation. Just make sure you call to verify there aren’t any big events going on. If there are there may not be any spots available. And refunds are not available.
I’m not going to lie, at first I definitely did not consider this the best RV park near Chicago since I was a little bit nervous about staying in a truck parking lot. And right behind the parking lot were the train tracks and one of Chicago’s high rise projects apartment buildings. Upon further research we found out we would be in an OK area just don’t go further south and the further north you go the nicer it gets.
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So we went for it. We are so glad that we did! When we got there – there was one other RV and a few trucks but it wasn’t too busy. We found what we thought was a good spot right in between 2 trucks. Our RV is pretty well insulated so we weren’t bothered by trucks coming and going. But if you are someone who likes it quiet be prepared because it isn’t quiet, trucks are in and out all day and night.
There is a guard at the gate all night who is checking who is coming and going, so that was good to know. To get there you do have to drive on the downtown highways but the exit is really easy and since it is made for trucks it was very easy to get to with our RV.
When heading into Chicago, get on I-55 East, which is the Stevenson Expressway and get off at US-41/Lakeshore Drive South. Then pretty quickly you’ll see the 31st Street exit, which is what you’ll want to take, so stay in the right lane. However, instead of turning right on 31st St, you’ll almost make a wide-arced U-turn to Moe Drive. Once on Moe Drive, the Marshaling lot is just up ahead on the left. Check out the map below which probably tells it better than I did. It’s literally like 2 minutes once you get off the highway.
When we got there I wasn’t 100% comfortable to put all of our slides out – since we have 4 slides so we would take up more then once spot or if a trucker wanted to they could pull in right next to us . . . where they would be almost touching our slide out. After the fact I realize we totally could have put all 4 slide outs out and would have been fine.
Exploring Chicago From Here
The first day we walked to the Field Museum. It was a good 2.5 mile walk there and 2.5 miles back. Lot’s of steps on my Fitbit that day!! For the walk we were able to walk on the Lake Shore Drive trail right along Lake Michigan so that was great.
To get to the hiking/biking trail you go right out of the parking lot and have to walk along the street. It is a large street but obviously be aware of all the trucks coming and going. Then when you get to the stop light you cross over and you are on sidewalks for the rest of the time.
Here is a map showing you where to go. It may look shorter to go left out of the parking lot but we heard that way was a little sketchy so we stayed with the right route – and it worked great for us.
Here is the map of the walk we took to the Field Museum:
If you didn’t bring your own bike there are bike rentals right at the bridge you cross at the stoplights. From there you cross a few streets – with street crossing lights and then you are on the Lake Shore Drive walking/biking trail.
We did ride our bike to the trails a couple days and were able to bike to Millennium Park and see the bean and also go to Navy Pier. Navy Pier was 2.8 miles each way – but you are on a bike trail the whole time.
Then at Navy Pier they have a place to lock your bikes up – just remember to bring your bike lock.
Map Of The Area
Here is a map showing the route to Navy Pier:
If you want to go walk onto Michigan Ave you can cut over from the bike path at pretty much any street (we used E. Jackson Dr.) and park at one the bike locking stations and then walk the few blocks in.
We really enjoyed being able to bike to all these amazing locations and on the last day we figured we would take the car since we wanted to get back early so we could leave to head back to Wisconsin. It was miserable! We were able to find one parking spot so we could try the Vault Doughnuts. Then we were trying to park somewhere by Millennium park to check out the playground and it was impossible to find parking that didn’t cost over $20. We ended up just leaving.
After the experience of biking and walking compared to driving we highly recommend leaving your car by the RV and biking or walking everywhere!
If you are an experienced biker or have more time to research Chicago has amazing bike trails throughout the city and I know we could have done more exploring if we had more time!
Here is our view on the bike ride back to our RV:
If you don’t want to do as much walking or want to explore further Chicago also has great public transportation and you can take train rides, a bus or an Uber anywhere you want to go.
I will also note we did leave our dogs in our RV – just like we would at a campground. And since the weather wasn’t to hot we just left the roof vents open and they were fine. If you have pets and it is hot that may cause a problem since you do not have any electrical hookup so keep that in mind. Maybe your battery could run a fan while you were gone??
We have a wireless camera that we were able to turn on so we could check in on our dogs. So that definitely helped with peace of mind for us. By the time we left there were about 4 RV’s in the lot of all varying sizes and styles: Motorhomes, Trailers, and a Class C.
For $35 a night in downtown Chicago where people normally spend at least $200 a night at a hotel we were very happy with our experience and wish we would have planned to stay longer! Check back in a few days for our post on more details around what we did in Chicago.
If this doesn’t sound like your gig there are some state park campgrounds and RV parks around Chicago. Most of these will offer hiking trails, tent camping, picnic tables and RV sites. But note they are a decent drive from downtown Chicago.
- Chain o Lakes State Park
- Kankakee River State Park
- Indiana Dunes State Park
- Illinois Beach State Park – there are some beautiful camping sites here. Plus you are right on Lake Michigan – but it definitely isn’t close to downtown Chicago.
- Starved Rock State Park
- Goose Lake Prairie State Park
But none of them will get you this close to Chicago! If you want to hear others experiences about staying here check out this post.
More Things To Do In The Area
If you visit Chicago, be sure to check out our Things To Do In Chicago post and plan for a trip up to Kenosha, Wisconsin and Milwaukee, Wisconsin or check out our Wisconsin posts for more things to do in the neighbor to the north!
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