Located on the scenic Ohio River, Cincinnati brims with a uniquely vibrant and charming energy that invigorates citizens and visitors alike. Even better, its central location in Ohio, bordering Indiana and Kentucky, makes it a perfect starting point for day trips of all kinds.
After all, who doesn’t love a relaxing day trip adventure? They offer an excellent combination of convenience and entertainment without having to spend months planning an expensive, lengthy vacation.
Cincinnati is perfectly located in the crux of national parks, museums, cities, and attractions to make your trip exciting and engaging. Whether you’re searching for something kid-friendly, outdoorsy, or educational, there’s a fantastic day trip waiting for you.
Keep reading to check out our picks for the best day trips to take from Cincinnati.
Big Bone Lick State Park
Nature lovers will be at peace in Big Bone Lick State Park with 4.5 miles of hiking trails, orienteering, and ample opportunity for birding and other animal watching. In particular, bison herds roam the acres of this park and are viewable nearly every day.
Are you worried about children’s activities? Worry not as picnic areas and playgrounds provide recreation spaces for kids, along with a large campground, a pool, tennis courts, a miniature golf course, and a gift shop.
Plus, the Visitor’s Center has to brand new exhibits to learn more about history, science, nature, and the prehistoric sites and fossils of the park.
Big Bone Lick State Park offers entertainment for people of all ages, including families, groups of friends, and even individuals on a solo trip.
Yellow Springs, Ohio
Take a break from the grind of everyday life with a quick one-hour drive to Yellow Springs. A quaint and picturesque village, Yellow Springs is home to around 3,600 people, as well as numerous shops, restaurants, and natural attractions.
For outdoor recreation, head to Glen Helen Nature Preserve or John Bryan State Park. Both offer hundreds of acres of nature, wildlife, cliffs, and gorges to explore and discover.
Or if shopping is more your speed, check out downtown Yellow Springs where you will find numerous art galleries, restaurants, and shops. The Historic Clifton Mill Restaurant offers classic, home-cooked dishes with old-fashioned ambiance.
With so much to see, you might find yourself in Yellow Springs a bit longer than one day! Whether you visit with your family, children, or friends, you will always enjoy its charming vintage vibe and eclectic assortment of activities.
Fort Ancient Earthworks & Nature Preserve
Only a 50-minute drive from Cincinnati, Fort Ancient is a historic site that features North America’s largest hilltop enclosure built 2,000 years ago by the Hopewell.
The site includes a museum, guided tours, overlooks, picnic areas, and 2.5 miles of walking trails. With this combination of indoor and outdoor activities, it is both educational and interactive for children and adults.
Fort Ancient is a great destination for anyone interested in learning more about the culture and history of Ohio and the region’s American Indians.
How about a day of interactive learning? Look no further than Dayton, Ohio, a city only an hour’s drive away from Cincinnati and home to a number of museums sure to keep visitors engaged.
The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force attracts history buffs from all over the U.S. with its war and history exhibits, special collections of artifacts, and aviation and missile displays.
Carillon Historical Park is a 65-acre campus with many museum buildings and exhibits. Perfect for those interested in the history of the region, this museum educates visitors about the area’s industrial innovations and transportation advancements.
For the kids, Boonshoft Discovery Museum has plenty of interactive exhibits, like Splash!, which teaches about water in the Miami Valley, and the Discovery Zoo, where you can observe live animals from all over the world.
Besides museums, check out downtown Dayton for eclectic, premier restaurants that serve a variety of food. Foodies can choose from steak, pasta, sushi, and much more in unique locations like a Thai garden or a converted flour mill.
Dayton has so much to offer all of its visitors that it provides hours of entertainment for children and adults alike. Check out a museum, go shopping, taste authentic dining, or explore one of the festivals or special events happening all year.
Franklin Park Conservatory
The Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens located in Columbus, OH, spans 13-acres and contains beautiful gardens, children’s experiences, art collections, and special exhibits. There are always seasonal activities and exclusive events happening throughout the year, so make sure to check their calendar before visiting.
The main attraction for your kids, the Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden offers a variety of interactive activities that reconnect children with nature. Several exhibits, like My Ohio Woods and Wetland Explore, provide kids with the opportunity to discover and explore the natural world.
The Conservatory contains biomes, like the American Southwest desert or the Amazon Rainforest, that visitors can explore to learn more about ecosystems from around the world. Plenty of exhibitions are also on display in the Conservatory building.
The Franklin Park Conservatory is best for families and outdoor lovers, especially those who enjoy horticulture and botany. If you are a gardener, you will especially love the plant and flower displays throughout the park.
Indianapolis provides all of the liveliness and excitement of a major city less than two hours from Cincinnati. A mixture of museums, landmarks, nightlife, sports, and shopping makes this city an excellent choice for people with different interests.
Calling all foodies! You will love Indy’s eclectic selection of restaurants that specialize in authentic food and friendly service. St. Elmo Steak House is award-winning and was voted one of the best restaurants in Indianapolis by locals.
What about the kids? We recommend visiting the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, which is the largest children’s museum in the world and has tons of exhibits to explore.
A Dinosphere, planetarium, and five-level playground are just a few of the attractions that combine interactivity with education to keep kids entertained while learning.
Because Indianapolis offers such a wide range of activities, anyone could go there for a day trip and stay busy all day. Shopping, restaurants, and art galleries are great for adults; young adults will love the vibrant nightlife; while children’s museums and sporting events make excellent choices for families.
Louisville Mega Cavern
How about a trip to Kentucky? Louisville, KY, is another major city near Cincinnati that offers a vast array of activities for all people.
Restaurants, shopping, and museums dedicated to the Kentucky Derby and to the Louisville Slugger baseball bat are just a few of Louisville’s attractions.
If you are looking for a truly unique day trip, head to the Louisville Mega Cavern, one of the largest caverns in the United States. Formerly a limestone quarry, it is now open to the public for discovery and tours.
Visitors have a few options for touring the cavern. Choose from tours that include ziplines and challenge bridges, a full walking tour, or a tram tour to take in all of the incredible sights and learn about geology and mining.
Great fun for the whole family, you will love exploring the Mega Cavern with anyone who wants an exciting experience with fantastic underground views.
Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum
With over 300 acres filled with more than 80 enormous outdoor sculptures, Pyramid Hill is a paradise for art lovers. An Ancient Sculpture Museum offers even more opportunities to view art from around the world, like Greek, Roman, and Egyptian.
A spectacular backdrop for studying the monumental sculptures includes lakes, hiking trails, and meadows. Events for art, music, and nature are planned throughout the year for bonus fun.
Are you looking for an enriching activity for your kids? Check out one of the educational events at Pyramid Hill, which covers art, conservation, culture, and much more!
Only a 40-minute drive from Cincinnati, Pyramid Hill is perfect for art aficionados interested in studying unique art within a beautiful, natural setting.
Falls of the Ohio State Park
Are you looking for a day trip with amazing scenery and fascinating history? Look no further than Falls of the Ohio State Park, which features 390-million-year-old Devonian fossil beds and an essential step of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
There are 600 different types of fossils that you can walk through and examine. Other outdoor activities include birding, hiking, visiting the George Rogers Clark home site, or fishing.
The Interpretive Center has exhibited for adults and children about history, wildlife, culture, and the future of the Ohio River area. You can also shop at the gift store or relax in the wildlife and river viewing rooms.
Falls of Ohio State Park has something for everyone. Breathtaking natural scenery, outdoor activities, historical sites, and archeological discoveries make this a place for all people to enjoy.
A National Historic Landmark, Serpent Mound is a 1,348-foot effigy mound shaped like a serpent. It is the world’s largest surviving effigy mound and was built by the American Indian cultures of Ohio thousands of years ago.
Serpent Mound is an awe-inspiring historical site with a lovely walking path that takes you around the effigy. You can also climb to the top of a tower to take in an astonishing view from above.
A small museum and gift shop offer additional fun and learning, or you can take a pleasant stroll down to the creek on a mile-long hiking trail.
While Serpent Mound is an important sight for all to see, it is probably not suited for young children as there are no activities designed specifically for them. However, all audiences will find this day trip worth the time for its significant historical and cultural importance.
Are you tired of the frantic pace of modern life? Then consider a day trip to Historic Midway, the first town in Kentucky founded by a railroad.
A charming small town with plenty of quaint shops and restaurants, Midway is located in the heart of horse country with farms accessible in the Versailles, KY area. Many are available to tour in certain parts of the year.
Orchards, vineyards, antique shops, and much more provide ample opportunity to explore the town. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail features ten bourbon distilleries and gives visitors a chance to learn about the science of crafting bourbon.
With such a variety of activities and only a little over an hour away from Cincinnati, Midway is a wonderful day trip for adult groups in particular.
Hocking Hills State Park
Hocking Hills State Park, a two-hour drive from Cincinnati, offers incredible outdoor activities for adventurous day-trippers.
Kayak or canoe along lakes and rivers to discover the natural wonders of the park or ride one of the ziplines for a thrilling way to explore Hocking Hills.
What about must-see attractions at Hocking Hills State Park?
Make sure to see Old Man’s Cave, one of the most popular places in Hocking Hills with its dramatic falls and gorges. Or visit Ash Cave, one of the most spectacular natural features of the park and the largest recess cave in Ohio.
If you’re looking for great hiking, Hocking Hills is the place for you. Miles of hiking trails are available to walk and explore, two of which are even handicapped accessible.
Hocking Hills State Park is an excellent destination for outdoorsy people who crave adventure and nature lovers, who want to connect with the natural world around them.
Loveland Castle & Museum
Are you obsessed with medieval architecture, or maybe you just love learning about the history of castles?
Then take the convenient 45-minute drive from Cincinnati to Loveland Castle, a perfect day trip for history buffs. Designed to model a 10th-century French Norman castle, it includes a watchtower, ballroom, chapel, armory, gift shop, and game room.
Loveland Castle offers plenty of interesting activities. Explore the grounds and gardens, tour the castle, picnic on the lawn, or study the vast array of weaponry on display.
Loveland Castle is a perfect spot for people curious about history and architecture. Ghost hunters will also enjoy Loveland Castle for the spooky spirits that haunt its halls.
There’s a Day Trip from Cincinnati for Everyone
With easy access to destinations in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana, Cincinnati is the perfect city to use as a headquarters for exciting, fascinating day trips.
Children will enjoy interactive museums and outdoor recreation areas at a number of locations. At the same time, adult visitors can choose from a wide variety of outings to cities, parks, restaurants, old-fashioned towns, and more.
Whether you prefer a day of learning at a museum or historical site, adventure in a state park or shopping in a quaint town, there’s something for you near Cincinnati. Don’t miss out on exploring this underrated, spectacular, charming region and all it has to offer!