Quiet in the midwest
August 4, 2016 12:24 PM   Subscribe

What is the quietest place a day's drive from Chicago?

Nature sounds are fine. Trains blasting their whistle or highways and people honking, not fine. No motorboats. Just quiet. Is there anywhere like this?
posted by mike_bling to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
See if this helps.
posted by jferg at 12:42 PM on August 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Here's a higher quality version.

posted by jferg at 12:47 PM on August 4, 2016 [5 favorites]

Are you looking to stay overnight or just drive there and back during the day? Northern WI has some beautiful and quiet parks.
posted by notjustthefish at 12:53 PM on August 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'd head for the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. For example, the Ottawa National Forest is going to be a 6-7 hour drive from Chicago, depending on exactly where you go.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:53 PM on August 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

Serpent mound in Peebles, OH.
posted by Atrahasis at 12:54 PM on August 4, 2016

The UP, absolutely.
posted by praemunire at 12:55 PM on August 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

DevilsAdvocate got to it first, but I was also going to mention the Upper Peninsula - very rural and quiet in many areas - barely any highways! Slightly closer you could look at Manistee National Forest north of Grand Rapids, MI. That would be maybe a 5 hour drive from Chicago.
posted by Sabby at 12:58 PM on August 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Using Science!, the folks recommending the UP and northern WI is the correct answer. Taking the NPS map I linked above, and using another site to find all places within an 8 hour drive of Chicago, overlaying the two, and badly adjusting for different projections, you get the following:


All the darkest blue places are in the yoop.

If you truly meant a 24-hour drive, I can recalculate. :-)
posted by jferg at 1:10 PM on August 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

The UP is great, but it does stretch the meaning of a "day's drive" to its full extent (Google maps lists it as a little less than an eight hour drive , but three of those will be behind someone towing a boat). If you want to be able to do something on the day you get there, you might want to look at south central Wisconsin - places like Spring Green, Mineral Point and Dodge. Beautiful moraines from the glaciers, quiet but for the very heart of the towns and a real nice section of the Wisconsin river for tubing and kayaking. I don't think there are any motor boats. Both Governor Dodge and Tower Hill Parks are great, quiet places. And they are three hours from Chicago.
posted by rtimmel at 1:40 PM on August 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

Would less busy botanic gardens be an option? Morton Arborteum has some quiet sections.
Rockford's botanic garden or Japanese garden might be worth checking out as it's less than a 2 hour drive.

My family rents a lot of quiet simple cabins in local state parks to go fishing or just have a day out in nature (mainly in Iowa in the Quad City region about 2-4 hours from Chicago) and the park staff tends to be knowledgeable and helpful, but it would require some calling around as depending on the park the noise level with vary a lot (e.g., motor boats allowed vs not).

I'd also imagine that the Amana colonies in Iowa -- Amish colony (4 hour drive) has a quiet place to stay in the area but I don't have a personal recommendation.

If was looking, I'd probably look on vrbo or airbnb for a single family house near Madison, Geneva or another place in Wisconsin, but that's far enough from town (naybe secluded as a key word) to be quiet. I don't like a long drive for a getaway.
posted by typecloud at 2:07 PM on August 4, 2016

Failed to preview -- Governor Dodge looks like the kind of place near Madison I was trying to think of and couldn't locate. It also has hike-in campsites.
posted by typecloud at 2:15 PM on August 4, 2016

I just got back from Door County Wisconsin and it's a lot quieter than I expected. It's not overrun with tourist attractions and x-treme sportz like you might see in the Dells or Lake of the Ozarks.

If you go north on the peninsula to Ephraim or Sister Bay, that's only 4 hours from Chicago. Peninsula State Park is absolutely beautiful and quiet, and there's calm civilization very close by.
posted by JoeZydeco at 3:22 PM on August 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Like others, not sure what your goal is, but there's a place in central Missouri (just under 7 hours from Chicago) that I've been saving for whenever I need to hole up and finish a book. It's the kind of place that has a general store and a state campsite and two b&bs and, inexplicably, a summer stock theater.

I'm sure it's not the only one of its kind; lots of towns with double digit populations exist hiding in the US. (But if that is the sort of thing you want, MeMail me for my secret hidey town.)
posted by cobaltnine at 4:22 PM on August 4, 2016

As a native WI and lover of escapes to the UP (I even honeymooned there), I agree with rtimmel that driving to the UP in a day is a stretch. But if you don't mind the drive, go for it! If a 3-5 hour drive is easier, you could achieve "max quiet" in a lovely state park in south central Wisconsin. Or give the Montello, WI area a look on vrbo too - lots of small lakes off the Fox River and it shouldn't be expensive or overly crowded because it's not a tourist destination.
posted by areaperson at 4:42 PM on August 4, 2016

Define "a day's drive". How fast are you driving? What roads? How long? Might seem like nit-picking, but it's tough to give you an answer without knowing what you mean.

Michigan's UP would be fine, but I feel like northern Minnesota would be better. And the Dakotas better yet. Heading east, check out West Virginia or eastern Ohio/northwest PA.
posted by jdroth at 5:17 PM on August 4, 2016

When do you want to take this trip? Because I can vouch for Michigan's lakes emptying out nearly completely of people and boats right after Labor Day. I have a house on a lake there and September is awesome because it still has warm days left and you have the lake all to yourself.
posted by cecic at 5:22 PM on August 4, 2016

Google thinks the Boundary Waters is 9 to 10 hours away by car. It's a non motorized wilderness, so once you hike or canoe away from the entry points, it gets plenty quiet fast. It's also an amazingly beautiful place.
posted by advicepig at 5:33 PM on August 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Even the rural southwestern Michigan is pretty quiet, the few times I've visited. Not super nice, but very quiet.
posted by wotsac at 6:26 PM on August 4, 2016

Pictured Rocks Nat Lakeshore in the UP is gorgeous.

Devil's Lake in WI is nice and much closer.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:28 AM on August 5, 2016

Shawnee National Forest (Southern IL) has some lovely areas.
posted by sorrygottago at 1:54 PM on August 5, 2016

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