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Best Route Chicago to Madison?

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Best Route Chicago to Madison?

Postby nbastille » Mon Jul 06, 2009 12:29 pm

My wife and I are spending a few days in Madison in mid-July. We'll be driving from Chicago O'Hare - any recommendations for the best/most enjoyable drive? We're totally unfamiliar with this part of the country. Should we take our time on smaller roads, sightseeing...or speed straight through?

Many thanks!
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Re: Best Route Chicago to Madison?

Postby wallrock » Mon Jul 06, 2009 12:40 pm

Hwy 14 is a nice drive that my parents used to take when I was a kid. It's slow, much slower than the Interstate, but once you get out of the Chicagoland area to around Woodstock the drive is pretty scenic. Walworth and Rock Counties are have nice stretches too. I haven't taken that route in a few years, but I'd say it would take the better part of a day if you stop a few places along the way.
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Re: Best Route Chicago to Madison?

Postby Jazznews » Mon Jul 06, 2009 12:44 pm

I usually go on the Interstate - which is fast, but you have to pay the tolls. If you want to avoid the tolls, and maybe take a more leisurely route you could go on US 12. I'm not sure how you get on it from the airport, maybe ask someone there. US 12 was the way to go to Chicago before the Interstate was build and when they put tolls in my father would drive on 12 to avoid the tolls.

According to wikipedia, 12 is called Rand Rd. in the Chicago northwest suburbs.
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Re: Best Route Chicago to Madison?

Postby wallrock » Mon Jul 06, 2009 12:52 pm

Jazznews wrote:I usually go on the Interstate - which is fast, but you have to pay the tolls. If you want to avoid the tolls, and maybe take a more leisurely route you could go on US 12. I'm not sure how you get on it from the airport, maybe ask someone there. US 12 was the way to go to Chicago before the Interstate was build and when they put tolls in my father would drive on 12 to avoid the tolls.

According to wikipedia, 12 is called Rand Rd. in the Chicago northwest suburbs.

US 12/45 is called Mannheim at O'Hare and you can take the exit off I-190 right out of the airport. You drive north through Rosemont and have to snake through Des Plaines, then 12 and 45 split into Rand and River respectively. Fox Lake is a nice place to stop, and the drive through WI isn't too bad either, though from the State line to I-43 it's a freeway.
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Re: Best Route Chicago to Madison?

Postby Ned Flounders » Mon Jul 06, 2009 1:17 pm

I'd say take the interstate -- save your time and sightseeing energy for Madison and environs. If you want to drive around and look at smaller towns off the beaten path, there are plenty of nice drives in the southern Wisconsin area.

Hope you have a nice visit.
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Re: Best Route Chicago to Madison?

Postby nbastille » Mon Jul 06, 2009 3:59 pm

Thank you - much appreciated! We're been doing research on Madison and are very much looking forward to our (too short) time there.
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Re: Best Route Chicago to Madison?

Postby bitcharista » Mon Jul 06, 2009 4:22 pm

Off the NW tollway from O'Hare, I'd take the 53 north to HWY 12 if you want the scenic route and no tolls.

53 will take you through Schaumburg with all the shopping if you are into that.

HWY 12 will take you through Lake Geneva and a whole bunch of quaint typically Wisconsin little towns.

Both stretches of highway are well maintained and have plenty of interesting stops.

This is my route of choice.
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Re: Best Route Chicago to Madison?

Postby snoqueen » Mon Jul 06, 2009 8:09 pm

I seriously don't think you can go wrong once you get in southeastern Wisconsin. Hy 12 goes through Genoa City to Lake Geneva, then to Elkhorn, Whitewater, Fort Atkinson, and Cambridge before arriving in Madison. The whole way is scenic. Hy H parallels 12 and is, in places, the "old road" before 12 was improved. If you aren't in a rush take H and see the sights.

On 12, there is a bypass around Whitewater but if you want to drive through the town it's simple. If you do, you'll see UW-Whitewater and go past attractive old houses and a relatively unspoiled downtown with a little lake. Fort Atkinson also has a nice downtown with several bridges across the Rock River, which has a little boardwalk along one side if you care to stop, and a good ice cream stand.

If when you get to Fort you're having too much fun to quit, on the west end of Fort turn north. It's a letter road -- I can't remember the letter (N?) but you turn right across from the McDonalds -- and a lovely winding route popular with motorcyclists. There is a historical monument part way to Jefferson if you want to stop and read it. Jefferson is another good place to get ice cream. You can then take 18 west out of Jefferson to Madison.

If you want to take half a day or more and use all county and state roads, just get a map and trace any path. There is no wrong way to do this. All Wisconsin's county and state roads are well maintained and safe, and one is hardly better than the next.

This is only for people who like scenic back roads. If that's not your interest, the Interstate is fine.
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