Asheville, North Carolina is a city beloved for its architecture, rich history, arts scene, and the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains. You’ve always wanted to go here on a family vacation, and you’re thinking of driving there.
How feasible is it to drive from Chicago to Asheville?
You can easily road trip to Asheville from Chicago by car, and you’ll cross through Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee on your route before reaching North Carolina. The entire drive takes about 10 hours over 651 miles and is best split into two or more overnight stays.
In this guide, I’ll present a full route to get you to Asheville when departing from Chicago and talk further about your drivetime and what you can do along every stop to make your family vacation that much more magical!
The best route from Chicago to Asheville
You couldn’t sleep this morning, as you were so excited about your road trip. You got the kids out of bed and dressed, and you fed them too of course.
Now you’re ready to embark on your road trip! To make it as successful as possible, be ready to make several overnight stops, as I touched on in the intro.
Trying to push through when you’re fatigued makes you a danger on the road, not only to yourself and your family but to other motorists as well. It’s better to arrive a day late than never at all!
Here is how to get to Asheville from Chicago.
Chicago to Indianapolis
Chicago is your only Illinois stop, so drive south through the rest of the state, cutting through diagonally to Indiana.
Stop once you’ve reached Indianapolis, which should take about three hours if you don’t get held up in traffic.
Indianapolis or Indy as it’s so lovingly known is Indiana’s state capital.
Of all the cities in the United States, Indy is also the most populous!
Keeping the kids entertained if you stop in Indianapolis is not difficult to do in the slightest. From the Indianapolis Zoo to the Indiana State Museum or the Rhythm! Discovery Center, this beautiful city offers oodles of family fun.
Indianapolis to Louisville
After you and the kids have had your fill of Indy, it’s time to pack it back in and continue the trek.
The next stop on your route is Louisville, which is reachable in two hours by driving south.
Louisville is another large city, certainly the biggest in Kentucky. It borders Indiana and is right on the Ohio River.
Between the odes to baseball and horse racing, Louisville is quite the entertaining spot for family-centric fun.
If you find that an hour or two won’t cut it, don’t sweat it. I recommend you stay over in Louisville for the night anyway considering you’ve been driving for quite a while already.
Whatever you don’t have time to do today can always happen in the morning before you continue to Lexington!
Louisville to Lexington
On a fresh day, you’ll drive about an hour and a half from Louisville to reach Lexington if you can dodge traffic.
The route is a short trip east since you’re staying within Kentucky.
There’s more horse history on display in Lexington, namely because Keeneland and other thoroughbred racetracks are located on the city grounds.
If you and the family aren’t so big into horses, then don’t miss the multitude of parks here. They’re sure to make your day that much brighter.
Lexington to London
You have one more stop in Kentucky, and that’s London. I hope you didn’t think I was recommending you go all the way to the UK! I meant London, Kentucky.
From Lexington, it’s a mostly straight shot south. It should take you about two hours to get to London barring serious traffic.
Although smaller than the other Kentucky cities you’ve visited, the Laurel County city of London is the second biggest city with that name in the country, so it’s anything but tiny.
Greenery expands here as far as the eye can see. After driving for as long as you have, it’s always nice to get the whole family out of the car so you can breathe in some fresh air and stretch your weary muscles.
If you wish, you can find a hotel or another lodging option in London. Your drive wasn’t too terribly long today, but you’ll be leaving Kentucky next, so London is as good a place as any to stop for some rest.
London to Knoxville
It’s a beautiful morning in London (Kentucky, that is), but this time, you’ll say farewell to Kentucky and drive to Tennessee.
Your destination is Knoxville, which you can reach in about two hours by driving straight down to the northeastern border of Tennessee.
The suburban atmosphere of Knoxville ought to make you and the kids feel right at home.
You’ll be enchanted by the zoos, gorgeous natural landscapes such as the Seven Islands State Birding Park and Ijams Nature Center, and historical locations like the Mabry-Hazen House and the Blount Mansion.
Knoxville to Asheville
You can take your time leaving Knoxville, as you only have to drive for two hours eastward, and you’ll be in Asheville. You’ve finally arrived!
How long does it take to reach Asheville from Chicago?
You’re ready to hit the road, but you can’t realistically plan your road trip without knowing how long it’s going to take you to get to Asheville.
Driving from Chicago to Asheville takes approximately nine hours and 53 minutes.
The trip is 651 miles in total, so while it’s not the longest driving route we’ve looked at on the blog, it’s not an overly short route either.
The drivetime of about 10 hours does assume that you don’t get caught up in traffic. That may be possible if you’re strategic about when you’re on the road, but you have to expect at least some traffic.
I would also strongly suggest that you spend at least some time at the stops between Chicago and Ashville, as these are some of the most beloved cities in the entire US. They afford plenty of opportunities for making timeless family memories.
Focus less on how many hours it takes you to arrive and how much fun you’ll have on the way! That’s the best way to have a vacation.
Can’t-miss family destinations on the route to Asheville
You decided to take me up on my offer, and now you’re looking for family entertainment and attractions as you drive to Asheville. Here are some that will surely make your vacation 100 times better.
- Indianapolis Zoo
Across a series of habitats such as oceans, forests, deserts, and plains are the animals of the Indianapolis Zoo.
After you and the kids are done gawking at all the birds, reptiles, mammals, and amphibians, get ready for even more fun still!
The Indianapolis Zoo offers several animal feeding experiences, including lorikeets, budgies, giraffes, and flamingos. Each feeding experience costs a separate fee.
The kids can also hop aboard the Endangered Species Carousel and learn more about such at-risk creatures as lions, dolphins, rhinos, elephants, seals, penguins, and seahorses. Each animal on the carousel is hand-crafted.
The Tots Treehouse & Play Area in the Flights of Fancy area of the zoo is for kids ages zero to five who want to swing, jump, climb, and play on a zoo-themed playground.
The Kombo Family Coaster is a 13-seater that takes riders across a track that’s 656 feet. You’ll sit in safari-themed cars in rows of two.
The highest this coaster goes is 24 feet, so it’s fine for kids of nearly all ages to ride.
- The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
A vacation can be an educational experience as well when you visit The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis with the kiddos.
The indoor exhibits are offered all year long while the outdoor exhibits are available between March and November only.
Those outdoor exhibits afford plenty of opportunities for your kids to get active. They can play hockey, soccer, tennis, golf, baseball, football, or basketball.
The children can also race in plastic cars, train at the Fitness Path and Track, or climb the Tree of Sports.
Indoors, the exhibits are of a different nature entirely.
At the Lilly Theater, kids can see plays come to life. The Fireworks of Glass exhibit features more than 3,000 blown glass pieces across five stories.
The kids can also see a replica of a train from the 1890s, learn about the fascinating history of Egyptian tombs, or ride a magical carousel.
- Indoor Splash Island
In nearby Plainfield, the summer fun never has to end when you and the kids can enjoy an afternoon at Indoor Splash Island.
You can swim, float, slide, and splash your cares away all afternoon whether it’s snowing or raining outside. It’s like a little taste of summer anytime!
- Big Four Bridge
The Big Four Bridge interconnects Jefferson, Indiana with Louisville.
First erected in 1895, the bridge later underwent updates in 1929. It was taken out of use in the 1960s but today allows both pedestrians and cyclists to cross.
The bridge is 2,525 feet long, so it’s a bit much to cross all at once, but you and the kids can at the very least marvel at its architectural beauty.
- Flame Run
Foster a whole new appreciation for blown glass at Flame Run, an artistic experience in downtown Louisville.
You and the children can stroll through the gallery and marvel at all the unique shapes and configurations that glass can be shaped into.
That should inspire you and the little ones to sit down and make your very own blown glass creations.
At the onsite studio, you can choose to make holiday ornaments, vases, candy bowls or dishes, stemless wine glasses, bourbon glasses, glass pumpkins, or glass snowman ornaments.
Talented artisans will guide you through the entire process, which takes upwards of 45 minutes.
Then you’ll leave your glass artwork to cool overnight and grab it the next day.
Flame Run will even mail your glass creations to you if you’ll leave Louisville before you can pick up your glass masterpiece.
- The Little Loomhouse
Round out your time in Louisville at the Little Loomhouse in the Kenwood Hill neighborhood.
The three cabins here are a part of the National Register of Historic Places. They were completed from 1870 to 1896 and are called the Wisteria Cabin, Tophouse, and Esta Cabin.
Snap some photos and enjoy the crisp Kentucky air while you’re here.
- Hartland Park
For a quick stop in Lexington, the neighborhood Hartland Park is sure to satisfy.
The park, which isn’t far at all from Lexington, has a newly rebuilt playground with modern equipment, a tiny fishing pond, a .5-mile walking trail, kite flying, and lots of greenery for sitting, relaxing, and sightseeing.
If you and the family are lucky, you may just spot some great blue herons!
- Nostalgia Station Toy & Train Museum
For a look into what toys used to be long ago, the Nostalgia Station Toy & Train Museum is a fun way to spend a few hours in Lexington.
Opened in 1987, the museum features more than 100 linear feet of displays showcasing trains and toys from yesteryear.
Two of the train layouts are fully operational and may be on and running during your visit.
- Wood Creek Lake
Experience the natural beauty of London at Wood Creek Lake, a reservoir in nearby Laurel County.
Spanning 672 acres, the park features Wood Creek Lake Dam, which is 800 feet long by 163 feet tall. It’s filled with rocks but still possesses a great capacity that’s 29,101 acre-feet in all.
The peace and tranquility here are unmatchable, so spend at least an hour if you have the room in your itinerary.
- Air Raid Trampoline Park
And now a complete 180. The Air Raid Trampoline Park is the perfect stop if your kids are begging for more excitement on their road trip.
The attractions here will raise the adrenaline levels of the whole family. Here are some of the activities you can engage in:
- Main Court: The interconnecting trampolines on the Main Court let you bounce from one to another and then back again.
- Dodgeball: This is dodgeball unlike your children have ever played it! The trampoline elements make this game more challenging but a lot more exciting as well.
- Ninja Warrior: Testing the best of your child’s stamina, skill, speed, and strength, the Ninja Warrior course is sure to be a favorite of your family’s. The kids can even compete with each other to see who comes out on top.
- Wipe Out: With spinning arms eager to prevent anyone from getting through the course, you have to be tricky and dip, dodge, and jump.
- Monkey bars: The foam-covered monkey bars will drop you into a foam pit if you’re not careful!
- High jump: Kids will climb a five-foot platform and make a jump into a foam pit for a soft landing.
- Kids’ foam pit: For the little ones under six years old who need a lighter form of entertainment, the kids’ foam pit is a safe play zone.
When the kids are tired out from all the jumping, romping, and playing, you can unleash them in the onsite arcade for a different kind of thrill.
Air Raid Trampoline Park also has snacks such as ice cream, chips, candy, nachos, soft pretzels, pizza, and soft drinks.
- East Tennessee History Center
At the East Tennessee History Center, which is also known as the Museum of East Tennessee History, the family can unlock the history of this southern state.
The exhibits here consistently rotate out, which just gives you an excuse to keep coming back.
The proximity of this place to Blount Mansion and the Tennessee Theatre also makes it that much easier to slot a trip to the East Tennessee History Center into your schedule.
- Old City
The beloved Knoxville neighborhood of Old City was built between 1870 and 1935, so it certainly does live up to that name!
The 33-acre city offers a rich glimpse into Knoxville’s traditional heritage.
Explore art galleries and studios, behold the Emporium Center (a renovated factory house from 1898), and witness 19th-century architecture intact in the modern age.
Restaurants, coffee shops, artisan bakeries, and boutiques dot the streets for some truly unique window shopping.
- Knoxville Food Tours
The award-winning Knoxville Food Tours in downtown Knoxville have been a staple here since 2010.
Learn about the history of Knoxville in the most delicious way possible, by sampling authentic cuisine!
The restaurants along the way are a mix of a new and old.
They include establishments like Awaken, Good Golly Tamale, Fin Two, Southern Grit, The Phoenix Fountain, Kilwin’s, K Brew, Blackhorse Pub, Kopita Authentic Mediterranean, ZenEvo Chocolate, Myrtle’s Chicken, Tupelo Honey Café, Oliver Royale, and Chivo Taqueria.
What can you and the family do in Asheville?
Woohoo! You’ve finally made it to Asheville, which means it’s time to explore this enchanting North Carolina city to the fullest.
Here are a few of my favorite spots in the city that you and the children will fall in love with.
Asheville Museum of Science
The Asheville Museum of Science or AMOS is fun for kids and adults alike!
The exhibits here run the gamut. In the main exhibit hall, you’ll find a forestry tree climb, a landscape sand table, a French Broad water table, a climate and astronomy virtual display, and lots more.
Many of these exhibits are kid-friendly and interactive, so go on and let your children have at it.
The Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics or STEAM Lab and Maker Space are great exhibits, as is the Colburn Hall of Minerals showcasing both minerals and sparkling gems.
Botanical Gardens at Asheville
Get whisked away into nature at the Botanical Gardens at Asheville.
This nonprofit independent botanical garden extends 10 incredible acres.
If you and the family explore the whole park, then you’ll see such locations as the Botany Center, Green Ridge, Glenn’s Creek, Sunshine Meadow, Joiner Bird Deck, the Battle of Asheville Earthworks, the Peyton Rock Outcrop, and Margie’s Springhouse.
The native plants that grow here include ferns, sedges, grasses, mosaic plants, ground cover plants, and many, many species of wildflowers.
Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Mountains are one of the most magnificent parts of Asheville, and you can explore them by car on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
If you’d rather spend the afternoon out of the car because you’re tired of long drives, you can also bike, ride, or hike the Blue Ridge Parkway. Camping is available in case your trip takes longer than anticipated.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is the home of Whitewater Falls in Jackson County, Linville Gorge, New River, and Mount Mitchell. No eastern US mountain peak is taller than that one!
Lodges along the way have fine dining for when you and the kids inevitably work up an appetite.
Are you planning a road trip from Chicago to Asheville? This 10-hour jaunt crosses through a couple of states, although you’ll spend the bulk of your time in Kentucky.
Along the way, remember to go slow and explore, as the route has many wonders waiting for your family!