How much time do you have? What are your interests?
I-90 doesn't become a toll road until just west of Cleveland. You could instead take route 2 along Lake Erie into Michigan and return to Wisconsin by ferry or across the Mackinac Bridge and through upper Michigan.
Check out Cleveland attractions if interested in I-90. It's one of the nation's cultural centers Here's a travel article about other attractions in northern Ohio.
Much of Ohio will be beautiful during Leaf Turn beginning in the northern part of the state in very late September.
Here's a thread perhaps of interest.
I have been looking through our Ohio tourism guide and am not sure if we will even stop in Ohio. It will depend on how much extra time we have as we want to dedicate most of it to Pennsylvania and DC.
Just looking for the nicest road to travel down.
If you don't like toll roads, take I-70. I don't think there is an appreciable difference in the scenery on both interstates.
However, where you will be coming from in Pennsylvania? I-70 might be out of the way. E.g., if you want a scenic drive from Pittsburgh, you could cut through Ohio Amish country, then Ohio's Mohican region, and take route 250 through north central Ohio's countryside back to I-90. Perhaps route 22 to route 151 to route 39, then north on I-71 to route 250. Or you could take route 60 from Loudonville to route 250, and miss Malabar Farm State Park and its environs around Lucas. Check the Mohican Region in the Cleveland Day Trips article in my first post.
Can't speak to I-70 east of Pittsburgh, as I haven't been that way in many years. But I've been on it between Indianapolis and Pittsburgh many a time in the past few years. It's not a particularly scenic drive, especially between Indianapolis and Columbus. From Zanesville east to Washington, PA, you at least do get some hills and some nice scenery, but nothing earth-shatteringly beautiful, or that much more exciting than 90.
Are you planning to go down 65 from Chicago to 70? That is one of the most monotonous drives I've done. And usually fairly heavy traffic, too. 465 around Indianapolis can be a nightmare, too, depending on time of day and how much construction is going on.
If you're not especially interested in stopping in any of the cities along 70, I don't think you're going to gain a lot in terms of scenery by taking that route vs 90. But if you're mostly interested in avoiding toll roads, it's a viable alternative.
I haven't driven through Gary or Chicago, nor have I driven I-65 to Indianapolis, but I have driven most of the rest of the routes you would take between there and DC.
It looks like it is an hour longer to shoot south on I-65 to I-70 than to take the turnpikes to DC. The decision should be tolls vs an hour extra drive time.
Taking I-80 from Indiana (I-69 interchange area) to I-76 to I-70 to I-270 is an easy drive till about Hagerstown where the traffic starts to pick up and slow way down... Don't forget the stoplight on the interstate in Breezewood.
Similarly, taking I-70 from Indianapolis to I-270 is an easy drive, but you have heavier and slower traffic in Indianapolis, Columbus, Washington PA, then again from Hagerstown on to DC. (Again having the stoplight in Breezewood.) This route picks up the PA Turnpike for a distance too.
If you want to stay off the turnpikes, Take I-70 from Indianapolis to Washington PA. Then take I-79 south to I-68 East to I-70 East to I-270... The I-68 route is a nice drive with nice scenery.
I would suggest I 65 to I 70 then East. This is the reverse of how I go to Door Co. or Manitowish Waters - and the shortest route for your purposes.
70 will take you through central Ohio with the following possible stops - Aviation Heritage area in Dayton, must see; National road and Red Brick Inn; Columbus and Ohio Historical Socierty; Cochocton and canals; amish country.
In Pennsylvania, you can cut up to Pittsburgh or go across state to Gettysburg/Antietam/Harpers Ferry, etc before cutting south to D.C. or go further east to Valley Forge and Philly before cutting south.
As Mike E suggested, I would take neither route. I used to live in Columbus and have used various routes to/from Chicago, then 70 the whole way East, and various other routes to various destinations in the area.
My dramatically preferred route is to take 70 E into PA, south on 43 (a worthwhile toll shortcut) to Rt. 40. That's a beautiful relaxing stretch that will connect you with I-68 (at many points, you can use 40 for a short while or longer if you're enjoying it,) then 70, 270 into DC.
You could get off 80/90 just before the OH border, on 69, then use 30/117/33 if you don't mind driving through Lima. Or you could stay on 30 to 68 to Kenton, 31 to Marysville, 33 to Columbus. Either are routes I've driven often, and are much more pleasant than freeway to me, about the same time when you cut off so many miles but go a lot slower.
The get directions feature on google maps is really cool. As you move the route around, it recalculates miles and time, fairly reliable, barring strange traffic incidents along the way.
We have driven WI to OH numerous times; take I-39 south to 74 east, IN 32 to 65 and 465 to 70 east. From Dayton, we drive 70 east to 77 south to Morgantown, WV, then 68 to 70 and 270 into DC. We enjoy 68 much more than the PA turnpike....prettier and cheaper as well!
You mean I-79 South to Morgantown, WV... I-77 South does not go to Morgantown, WV.
You're right...sorry :)