In the heart of America, two cities typify the nation. Peoria, IL, the largest city on the Illinois River, and Lexington, Kentucky, the "horse racing capital of the world." Though the physical distance between the two towns is short, the social and cultural distances symbolize the diversity of America. Therefore, creating a road trip itinerary from Peoria to Lexington involves more than the brief 400-mile trip. The journey includes national and state parks set aside to preserve nature as discovered and the small and large communities along the way.
Indiana Sand Dunes National Park
Before embarking southward on your road trip from Peoria to Lexington—take a detour of 185 miles toward the east through Bloomington and Joliet, IL, to see the Indiana Sand Dunes National Park. A recent addition to the national park system, this set of dunes has enjoyed the protection of local activists for centuries. However, most who see this 15,389-acre park are mystified about the location of giant dunes along the Great Lakes. These dunes were created by the southerly currents that scour the bottom of Lake Michigan and the waves that toss the sand onto the beaches. The result is a stunning 20-mile shoreline of dunes that build higher as winds carry the sands inland. Wildlife thrives in these dunes. Along the shore, pools harbor aquatic life that draws immense flocks of migratory birds twice per year as they stop to rest and feed for the remainder of their journey southward in the winter months and northward during the summer.
Gateway Arch National Park
After returning to Peoria from your visit to Indiana Sand Dunes National Park, take a 170-mile detour through Springfield to Saint Louis to see the magnificent Gateway Arch National Park. The Gateway Arch is a parabolic structure symbolizing the connection of the east and west coasts through exploration and settlement. Indeed, the Arch sits on the spot from which the Lewis and Clark Expedition launched its boats in 1805. Visitors who ride the trolley to the top of the Arch are treated to a view of Saint Louis and the surrounding countryside from 630 feet up. At the ground level, the park includes 91 acres of reconstructed buildings that serve as museums depicting other significant events, such as the abduction of Dredd Scott by escaped slave hunters, that occurred in the city.
Mammoth Cave National Park
You are not finished with your Peoria to Lexington RV road trip when you reach Lexington. Extend your journey by visiting two national parks within driving distance of the city. The first is Mammoth Cave National Park. These caverns are the largest known worldwide. When first discovered, these caves served as a curiosity for decades before spelunkers revealed the enormity of the find. Today, visitors find 400 miles of caves rich in flow-stone formations, stalactites, and stalagmites formed over thousands of years. Above ground, 52,830 acres of hills, streams, and deep valleys covered in woodlands surround the caves. Hiking trails run throughout the park, and the fishing is amazing.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The second national park to visit in this region is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Located 212 miles south of Lexington, its entrance is an easy drive from Mammoth Caves National Park. The 500,000-acre park consists of land covered in mists that early explorers found intimidating. Walking some of the hundreds of miles of hiking trails today, visitors begin to understand the incredible barrier these mountains presented to those early colonists who wished to move westward.
Jubilee College State Park
Before you leave on your road trip from Peoria to Lexington, take your RV 18 miles northwest of Peoria to stay at Jubilee College State Park for a day or two to familiarize yourself with it. The park offers a pleasant stay on 3,700 acres covered in deep prairie grasses and dense forests. In addition, visitors find over 40 miles of hiking trails in a peaceful environment where they can relax with their neighbors before taking on the road.
Mounds State Park
Just 46 miles southwest of Indianapolis, sits the 250-acre Mounds State Park. The park sits next to the White River where guests are welcome to fish. The park provides several RV camping spots, six hiking trails, a playground, and a swimming pool. The close-by town of Anderson, IN, offers friendly restaurants and shops where visitors are welcome.
General Butler State Park
General Butler State Park, located 52 miles northeast of Louisville, KY, is the oldest park in the Kentucky state system. The park covers 791 acres that include the hilltop residence of the Butler family and 30-acre Butler Lake. The location provides the only view found in Kentucky of the convergence of the Kentucky and Ohio Rivers. Activities at this park include hiking, boating, swimming, fishing, and birding. The park is an example of the friendliness and laid-back approach to life symbolic of the culture found in northern Kentucky.
Peoria Riverfront Museum
Take the family to Peoria Riverfront Museum before leaving the city on your Peoria to Lexington road trip. The museum houses exhibits of artifacts the Native Americans left before European explorers entered the area. Other displays include tools brought by French explorers — the first European visitors to the site — and those brought by immigrants in the 1800s to settle and farm the area. Along with the museum is a state-of-the-art planetarium that fascinates kids and adults with fantastic displays of the constellations in the past, present, and future.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum
Whether or not you are a NASCAR fan, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum holds something for you. The museum sits on the famed racetrack's grounds. It displays 75 cars, many of which won the race at some point. These cars are exhibited in chronological order to accent the steady advances made in race cars over the last century. Many of those improvements are used in vehicles today. Visiting this museum takes you back into the pioneering and inventive days of early automobile making and brings you forward to the modern era. By visiting this museum, you may get a glimpse of what is in store for future automobiles.
Muhammed Ali Center
When you reach Louisville, KY, you are 325 miles into your Peoria to Lexington road trip. However, you would be remiss if you did not stop at the city's celebration of its favorite son—the Muhammed Ali Center. The six-story museum features a 40,000-square-foot theater where you can view many of his fantastic boxing matches. Inside the museum is one of the mock boxing rings that he used to train for his fights. Included in the museum are many of his awards, his musings, and memorabilia.
Saint Louis, Missouri
There is so much to see in this historic city. From the time when the Lewis and Clark Expedition left to explore the West to the construction of the Gateway Arch, this city has been at the forefront of exploration, transportation, and innovation. It deserves a thorough visit that may include days where you need to use the city's multiple dump stations and campgrounds.
About 70 miles south of Peoria, you pass through the state's capital, Springfield, IL, on your way to Saint Louis to visit Gateway Arch National Park. The city offers many amazing restaurants, shops, museums, and points of historical significance. It is an essential stop on your return journey from Saint Louis to Peoria to find a relaxing spot to rest before tackling the rest of your road trip itinerary from Peoria to Lexington. Make sure to visit one of the many dump stations available for your use. Find one of the campgrounds that the city offers for a brief stay while you explore its environs.
Indianapolis, the capital of Indiana, offers a delectable mix of restaurants, shops, and points of interest. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a one-of-a-kind experience that demands the attention of every visitor to the city. Take the time while you are here to visit the downtown area. Scattered throughout the city are several dump stations to clean your tanks. Check out the surrounding campgrounds to make your one or two-day stay comfortable.
When you follow this road trip itinerary from Peoria to Lexington, you will enjoy historic locations and beautiful scenery along the way. If you want to travel in comfort and style, consider an RV rental from RVshare. From large motorhomes to compact campervans, there is a rig that will meet your travel and budget needs. Once you hit the road, you are protected by our renter guarantee and 24/7 roadside assistance. Find the perfect vehicle for your travel needs in Peoria or Lexington.