The vacation resort city of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina has always been a place you’ve wanted to take the kids. You’d like to drive there from Chicago.
As you begin planning your road trip, what do you need to know?
Driving from Chicago to Myrtle Beach, SC requires crossing through Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina before finally reaching South Carolina and Myrtle Beach. The trip takes about 15 hours one-way and should be split into three days.
Are you ready to pack your bags and drive to Myrtle Beach? As you and the kids venture from Chicago, this guide will tell you everything you need to know, including routes and trip planning times.
I’ll also recommend the best sights along the way!
The best route from Chicago to Myrtle Beach
The bags are already packed, and you’ve got a full tank of gas.
You woke up especially early this morning (which was a feat considering how difficult it is to get the kids out of bed) and you’re ready to hit the road!
The drive from Chicago to Myrtle Beach, SC will be a multi-state trek as I mentioned in the intro.
First, you’ll exit Illinois and then make stops in Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina. The route ends in South Carolina, of course.
It’s a trip that can have some long hours, so I recommend breaking up your drive into at least three days and possibly even four.
Without further ado, here is how to get to Myrtle Beach from Chicago.
Chicago to Crawfordsville
From your home in Chicago, you’ll leave Illinois entirely and enter Indiana by heading slightly southeast and driving for approximately two and a half hours.
If you don’t hit too much traffic, this first bit of the trip should go fast enough.
Your first destination is Crawfordsville, which is about 49 miles away from Indiana.
This Montgomery County city offers many picturesque lakes and historical buildings if you feel like stopping and exploring for a bit. I recommend doing plenty of that during each of your stops!
Crawfordsville to Louisville
Your time in Indiana is brief as well, as you’ll drive southeast diagonally from Crawfordsville to Louisville, Kentucky.
This is another long drive, about two and a half hours if you can avoid traffic along your route.
Since you’ve driven for five hours by this point, I would advise you to take a rest and stay in Louisville overnight.
You’ve certainly selected a great city for a reprieve. Louisville is the biggest city in Kentucky and offers stunning views of the Ohio River.
The city is an ode to horseracing and baseball especially and has plenty of activities and sights to captivate the kids from zoos to museums, caverns, and parks. I’ve even covered some of these sights on the blog before!
Louisville to Lexington
When you wake up the next day to a beautiful Kentucky morning, you don’t have to rush right out of bed to reach your next destination. You’re staying within Kentucky for the moment, after all.
Your goal is to get to Lexington, so you’ll drive eastward for about an hour and a half. If you leave early enough, you should be able to avoid the morning rush and the ensuing traffic.
Lexington continues the Kentucky lineage of horseracing, as this city is the home of Keeneland and other thoroughbred racetracks.
You can find horse farms aplenty, including the Kentucky Horse Park. There’s also the International Museum of the Horse for those who truly love equine animals.
Lexington to Knoxville
Once you and the kids pile back into the car, you’ll say goodbye to Kentucky and arrive in Tennessee for the next part of the drive.
About two and a half hours south of Lexington is Knoxville, a city that overlooks the Tennessee River.
This city in the eastern part of the state has a robust downtown area with 19th-century architecture, restaurants, shops, and the Market Square district.
Knoxville also boasts an assortment of historical museums and artifacts for history buffs, from James White’s Fort to the Museum of East Tennessee History.
Knoxville to Asheville
Knoxville is your only stop in Tennessee, as next, you’ll cross state lines into North Carolina by driving to Asheville.
You’ll drive southeast for two hours to get there if you don’t get caught up in traffic.
Now that you’ve arrived to your third state of the day, I’d recommend staying overnight in Asheville.
This city in the Blue Ridge Mountains is in the western part of North Carolina. Asheville has a bustling arts scene as well as stunning architecture.
Some of it dates back to the 19th century such as the Biltmore estate displays while others like the Basilica of Saint Lawrence are even older.
Asheville to Spartanburg
The next day, get an early start so you can complete the last leg of your journey.
It’s not a far drive from North Carolina into South Carolina, so you’ll drive an hour southeast to Spartanburg.
This city in the northern part of South Carolina has woodland trails, gardens, parks, a rich cultural district, and history museums.
There’s a little something for everyone here, so if you want to stay and explore for a few hours with your family, I certainly couldn’t blame you!
Spartanburg to Columbia
At your leisure, it’s time to continue your tour through South Carolina to eventually reach Myrtle Beach.
From Spartanburg, you’ll drive for about an hour and a half (barring traffic, of course) continuing south diagonally to Columbia.
Columbia is South Carolina’s capital city, so it’s certainly worth seeing!
You’ll find such beloved destinations as the Riverbanks Zoo & Garden, a historic Greek Revival building, the South Carolina State House, the Columbia Museum of Art, and the Robert Mills House from 1823.
Since the last bit of driving is a bit long, if you wanted to stay the night in Columbia, that would be wise.
For those who are feeling amped up and ready to keep going, you can finish your trek.
Columbia to Myrtle Beach
The drive from Columbia to Myrtle Beach will take you approximately three hours if you can evade heavy traffic. You’ll drive straight east to get there.
Congratulations, you made it!
How long will it take you to get to Myrtle Beach from Chicago?
You’re ready to make this drive, but approximately how long will it take you to reach Myrtle Beach from Chicago?
The entire trip takes approximately 14 hours and 33 minutes.
This drivetime estimate does assume that you can avoid heavy traffic for the entirety of your road trip.
Is that possible? If you only drive in short stretches and you plan your trip times to dodge rush hour twice a day, then maybe.
If you do hit traffic, then expect the trip to take upwards of 15, maybe even 16 hours to complete one-way.
Awesome sights and attractions on the way to Myrtle Beach
Myrtle Beach may be your destination, but it’s all about the journey too!
I’ve compiled a handy list of awesome activities and attractions in each of the cities and towns on the route from Chicago to South Carolina.
Feel free to check out these places as time allows or add an extra day or two to your vacation so you can see all these sights.
- Sugar Creek Nature Park
The incredibly expansive Sugar Creek Nature Park is almost 64 acres.
The park grounds have 12 classroom workstations (all outdoors), two sizable shelters, and more than 4,000 feet of trails to get lost in (but not literally, of course).
The park is a nice refuge from the confines of the car. The kids will appreciate the meaningful break.
- Lane Place Antebellum Mansion
For a taste of Indiana’s architecture, be sure to stop by the Lane Place Antebellum Mansion, which is part of the Montgomery County Historical Society.
The mansion, which is also known as Lane Place for short, was owned by Henry S. Lane and Joanna Lane.
Once the two passed, their niece inherited the home, which the niece then graciously donated to the Montgomery County Historical Society.
If you’re in Crawfordsville in June, the Lane Place Antebellum Mansion is also the home of the Annual Crawfordsville Strawberry Festival, which was started by Joanne Lane herself.
- Kentucky Derby Museum
As an ode to Kentucky’s long-running equestrian heritage, you should take the kids to the Kentucky Derby Museum.
Here, you can all get caught up in the excitement of the Kentucky Derby even if derby day is nowhere near close.
The Kentucky Derby Museum has two floors and a variety of exhibits that showcase the lifecycle of a thoroughbred horse, the history of the Kentucky Derby, and the winners over the years.
- Louisville Equestrian Center
If your kids want to do more than look at exhibits on horses but actually ride horses, there’s always the Louisville Equestrian Center.
Founded by Betsy Webb, a lifelong horse lover, the LEC features full-service tack rooms, full-service viewing areas and a lounge, 78 horse stalls, and large indoor and outdoor riding areas.
Riding camps are even offered for the young’uns four years old and older.
- Louisville Nature Center
Another great way to taste the fresh air in Louisville is by planning a stop at the Louisville Nature Center.
This nature preserve features an assortment of educational programs on animals such as Birds in My Backyard, Animals in My Backyard, Insects Don’t Bug Me!, All About Plants, It’s Not Just Dirt, Earth Rocks!, and more.
- Thoroughbred Park
I hope you and the kids aren’t tired of the horse exhibits and attractions yet, as I’d recommend a stop at Thoroughbred Park as you roll through Lexington.
The park has more than 40 plaques and an assortment of statues dedicated to Kentucky’s history of breeding and riding horses.
The statues, of which there are 12 in all, were built by the famed sculptor Gwen Readon. All the statues are made of timeless bronze.
- Kentucky Horse Park
Kentucky Horse Park is yet another excellent spot to experience the importance of horses in Kentucky culture.
The park first opened in 1978 and receives more than 500,000 visitors a year.
The Commonwealth of Kentucky manages the Kentucky Horse Park, which offers live shows, the International Museum of the Horse (with 60,000 square feet of exhibit space), pony rides for the kiddos, horseback trail rides for older kids and adults, and overnight camping.
The campsite has all the amenities you need so that even if you don’t have an RV, you and the kids will be cozy. Playgrounds, tennis courts, and a pool are in the vicinity of the campground.
The Kentucky Horse Park is open in the summer from May 18th to August 28th, in the fall from August 31st to November 6th, and in the winter from November 9th.
The hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday through Sunday except in the winter. Then the park is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the same days.
- Malibu Jack’s Lexington
If the kids are begging for something a little more engaging (at least to the mind of a child), you can always take them to Malibu Jack’s Lexington.
This indoor theme park is open no matter the season for some reliable entertainment.
The attractions include go-karts, laser tag, Malibu golf, the Twist N Shout Coaster, an onsite 4D dark ride, a 4D motion theater called the XRider, the kids’ play zone the Bounce Beach, spinning bumper cars, and a centrifugal coaster called Wave Rider.
Each attraction has a separate fee.
When the kids get hungry, stop by the onsite Jack’s Sandbar & Grill, which serves up 10 varieties of wings, fries, chips, soft pretzels, mozzarella sticks, pizza, chicken tenders, subs, cheeseburgers, funnel cake, and ice cream.
- Zoo Knoxville
How about a zoo to stave off travel-related boredom?
Zoo Knoxville will put a huge smile on your kids’ faces as they explore these great habitats:
- Black Bear Falls
- Boyd Family Asian Trek
- Chimp Ridge
- Clayton Family Kids Cove
- Gorilla Valley
- Grasslands Africa!
- River Otter Habitat
- The Boyd Family Red Panda Village
- Tiger Forest
- Valley of the Kings
There is so much more to do at Zoo Knoxville than touring the animal exhibits. You can also sign your kids up for an unforgettable animal encounter or a behind-the-scenes zoo tour.
The Fuzzy-Go-Round Carousel lights up after dark but is fun for a daytime spin as well. The kiddos can also ride the Zoo Choo Train.
When it’s hot enough, the Clayton Safari Splash opens up. This water play area with a safari theme is 5,000 square feet. Access is free when you buy a zoo ticket.
The splash pad offers oversized faux flowers, team spray activities, water loops and hoops, and plenty more!
The Sunsphere in downtown Knoxville’s World’s Fair Park is quite the sight to behold!
It’s got a steel truss construction that’s 266 feet tall. Atop that is a glass sphere tinted gold that’s 75 feet in size.
The globe was an ode to the World’s Fair of 1982.
The observation deck of the Sunsphere should be open for visitors, so make sure you don’t miss it. The Sunsphere looks especially stunning at night.
- Muse Knoxville
Knoxville’s premier children’s museum, Muse Knoxville, empowers children through the power of play.
Besides all the immersive, hands-on experiences throughout, Muse Knoxville also has a planetarium for witnessing kid-friendly shows such as Rusty Rocket, Little Star, Capcom Go!, Sunstruck, Beyond the Sun, Tilt, and One World, One Sky.
- Hands On! Children’s Museum
Once you and the kids get to Asheville, reward them for being patient in the car by planning a visit to the Hands On! Children’s Museum.
The museum features an assortment of exhibits designed to engage and improve a child’s gross and fine motor skills, cognitive skills, and their emotional and social development.
The museum is open from Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- The Adventure Center of Asheville
For some high-octane thrills, The Adventure Center of Asheville is a must-visit attraction.
The kids will be ultra-active here as they partake in fun activities like the KidZip zipline adventure with four climbing elements and nine ziplines.
The Asheville Zipline Canopy Tours feature a backdrop of red and white oaks that date back more than 100 years.
The children can also try the Asheville Treetops Adventure Park, which features more than 75 rappelling, swinging, jumping, walking, zipping, and climbing challenges on seven trails.
- Pritchard Park
A quick stop at Pritchard Park is an excellent way to refresh while planning the next leg of your journey to Myrtle Beach.
The urban park is surrounded by boulders, boasts appealing water features, and has plenty of trees and other greenery.
If you stop by on a Friday, you can see a live drum circle!
- Croft State Park
The Spartanburg County Croft State Park was once known as Camp Croft in the days of World War II.
Today, the park is used as a shooting range and playground with equestrian facilities, mountain bike trails, and picnic shelters. An onsite store is available as well.
- Hub City Railroad Museum
All aboard! The Hub City Railroad Museum showcases all nature of vintage trains, from restored cabooses to real train models and memorabilia.
There’s also a gift shop if you wish to pick up a souvenir to commemorate your visit.
- EdVenture Children’s Museum
Foster learning and fun through play by fitting the EdVenture Children’s Museum into your trip itinerary.
Kids can learn about what grows in their own backyard, discover their inner scientists at the Bio Lab, learn about the ins and outs of flight, become broadcasters for a day in the News Room, and learn about the health of animals at the Wags and Whiskers exhibit.
- Riverbanks Zoo & Garden
If you had to miss Zoo Knoxville, then do your best to get your kids to the Riverbanks Zoo & Garden on the way to Myrtle Beach.
The zoo showcases an impressive display of reptiles, mammals, birds, and other creatures.
An onsite botanical garden features all sorts of greenery, flowers, and plants. Kids will at the very least love the Waterfall Junction, a three-acre kids’ garden with water features and a treehouse!
What can you do around Myrtle Beach?
You’ve finally reached Myrtle Beach, so now your trip can officially get underway.
You will find no shortage of engaging family activities around this part of South Carolina. Here are some to explore first.
Ripley’s Aquarium of Myrtle Beach
How about a visit to an aquarium to start your day off right?
The Ripley’s Aquarium of Myrtle Beach offers upper and lower levels of aquatic entertainment!
On the upper level are the Penguin Playhouse, Cargo Hold Gift Shop, Planet Jellies exhibit, Friendship Flats, and Rio Amazon.
The Friendship Flats exhibit, by the way, is a one-on-one interactive exhibit that lets your kids pet a stingray as it swims.
On the lower level of Ripley’s Aquarium, you’ll find Rainbow Rock, Dangerous Reef, a Living Gallery, the Ray Bay, and Systems Control, an exhibit that takes you behind the scenes on how an aquarium works.
Broadway at the Beach
The entertainment and shopping center in Myrtle Beach called Broadway at the Beach is a can’t-miss.
Kids can ride carousels, traverse a mirror maze, play escape games, or take a stroll through the Hollywood Wax Museum Entertainment Center.
Have you worked up an appetite yet? Broadway at the Beach offers an assortment of restaurants, including Dave & Busters, Hard Rock Café, Extreme Pizza, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, King Kong Sushi, Joe’s Crab Shack, and Senor Frog’s.
The shopping here is also excellent, as you can pick up nearly anything and everything your heart desires.
Family Kingdom Amusement Park
For an amazing day trip that everyone will love, the Family Kingdom Amusement Park fits the bill.
This park has rides appropriate for kids of all ages, from kiddie rides to family rides and thrill rides.
The family rides include bumper boats, a carousel, a ginormous Ferris wheel, and a log flume if you don’t mind getting soaked.
Older kids will gladly queue in line for the Sling Shot, Swamp Fox Roller Coaster, and the Twist’n Shout Coaster.
Are you more eager than ever to plan a road trip from Chicago to Myrtle Beach? The route is very doable, and the sights and destinations along the way make every minute of the trip worth it!