Seen everything on your Cincinnati bucket list but still have some time to spare? Launch into the best day trips from Cincinnati, Ohio, to discover vibrant cities, lush parks, historic museums, and stunning wildlife.
Get a taste of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in Louisville, visit the site of the Kentucky Derby in Lexington, then hop into the saddle yourself. Spend a day in Hamilton among art and nature at the Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park and tackle miles of hiking trails at Big Bone Lick State Park. Be on the lookout for bison herds along the way!
Looking for ways to extend your Ohio area travels? Use this complete list of the top Cincinnati day trips to plan the ultimate adventure!
Got more travel plans on the horizon? Check out all our other day trips guides and our Ohio Travel Guide for more ideas on where to go, when to visit & what to do!
Top-rated Cincinnati side trips
Hit the road and head northwest to Indianapolis. This modern metropolis is a hub of world-class dining, exhilarating racing tracks, and family-friendly activities. Set out early from Cincinnati to make the two-hour drive to Indiana’s largest city.
Traveling with youngsters? Let your child explore art, science, culture, and history at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the biggest children’s museum in the world. Examine ancient fossils in the Dinosphere, and step back in time to Ancient Greece in the Take Me There area. Imagine life as an astronaut in the International Space Station exhibit, then marvel at the galaxies in the planetarium show.
Zoom over to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, next door to the famed Indiana Speedway, where the Indy 500 is held. Inspect immaculately restored antique racecars, hop into one of the race car simulators to get in on the action, and tour the Indiana Speedway itself.
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Check out Indianapolis’s buzzing culinary scene along Massachusetts Avenue. Pop into The Rathskeller, Indianapolis’s oldest restaurant. Chow down on authentic German cuisine like Jäegerschnitzel and wurst up the wazoo, then bop to live Polka music in the Biergarten.
How does a day of bluegrass beats and bourbon sound? Just an hour and a half southwest of Cincinnati, Louisville is where Southern charm meets Midwest hospitality. In northern Kentucky, you’ll find Americana around every corner.
Welcome to Bourbon County! Louisville is home to the first stops along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Begin your boozy adventures at the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center to familiarize yourself with the history of this barrel-aged spirit.
Tour some of the trail’s major distilleries like Angel’s Envy Distillery and Michter’s Distillery. Spend a night in town if you’d like to really dig into the whiskey scene, or take your time exploring the area.
Run the bases to the Louisville Slugger Museum. Stand across the street and snap a picture of the 120-foot-tall baseball bat before heading inside to check out baseball memorabilia. Watch a bat-making demonstration, hold bats used by the Baseball Hall of Famers, and test your swing in the cages.
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Horse racing fans, gallop over to the Kentucky Derby Museum and take a walking tour of the historic Churchill Downs race track. If there’s no race on the day of your visit, experience the Derby in the 360-degree immersive theater.
Looking for a cosmopolitan city that’s managed to keep its quaint character? Columbus boasts a rich history, abundant shopping, and a lively arts culture. You’ll want to get an early head start to make the two-hour commute northeast to Columbus.
Amble the 88 acres of flourishing botanical gardens at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Garden. Spot whimsical topiaries trimmed into delightful creatures, and marvel at the stunning colors and shapes of glass sculptures in the Chihuly Garden. Try your hand at a glass-blowing class in the Hot Shop.
Appreciate a wide variety of European and American art at the Columbus Museum of Art. Inspect Renessaince-era Dresden Tapestries, and awaken your imagination in the experimental galleries. Among the exhibits of this art museum, find renowned paintings by Picasso, Monet, Warhol, and more.
Get your shopping on at the Easton Town Center. Browse high-end luxury stores or mid-range retailers. If your kiddo needs a break from the shopping, he or she will surely have a blast at the LEGOLAND Discovery Center.
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Alternatively, head to German Village for an old-world European atmosphere with no buildings over three stories tall. Wander the cobblestone streets, stopping by artisanal coffee shops and boutiques.
Yellow Springs, OH
Escape the hustle and bustle of Cincinnati life with a side trip to Yellow Springs. This Green County village is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, surrounded by lush forests and state parks. Pack up the car and head an hour up to Yellow Springs to be one with nature for a day.
An incredible 752 acres, John Bryan State Park has an activity for every type of outdoorsman and woman. Paddle your way down the Little Miami River, stopping along sandy shores to wade in the water.
Enjoy mountain biking at its finest, or take a calm hike on the south side of the river at South Gorge Trail Loop. In wintertime, the trails of this Ohio state park make for perfect cross-country skiing conditions.
Just up the road, take a reposeful stroll through Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve. Follow the mostly-level path along the Little Miami River, among the tranquil sounds of flowing water and rustling leaves.
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Rock enthusiasts will be in bliss, peeking into various caves on the way to the limestone and dolomite-walled Clifton Gorge. This nature preserve is especially famous for its blooming wildflowers in the spring and summer.
Hocking Hills State Park, OH
Can’t get enough of Ohio’s superb state parks? Hocking Hills State Park spans 2356 acres of back-country trails, caves, and waterfalls galore. Two hours out of Cincinnati awaits vast natural history tucked away into the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.
Old Man’s Cave is legendary for the real-life hermit who lived there in the 18th century. Enjoy a serene hike through the Lower Falls section before facing the cave midway and the Devil’s Bathtub whirlpool near the Upper Falls. Standing at the top of the plummeting waterfall encased by a cylindrical formation of rock, you’ll wonder how nature can create such beauty.
Thrill seekers: Chase an adrenaline rush by scaling steep rock walls at High Rock Adventures. Squeeze through rocky chasms, repel down cliffs, or go bouldering. The climbing team will guide novice climbers through the footholes and natural grips and support advanced ones where they need it.
Experienced hikers may be up to the challenge of tackling the Hemlock Bridge and Whispering Cave trail. The paths are steep and grueling at parts, but the payoff is a stunning view of a 100-foot-tall waterfall at the end. Trek onwards for an even better bird’s eye view of the Hocking Hills forests below.
Giddy up over to Lexington, known as the Horse Capital of The World. Go horseback riding, visit famous race tracks, or simply explore Lexington’s small-town charm. Lovers of these majestic creatures are in for a treat as Lexington is only an hour south of Cincinnati.
Arrive at Keeneland racetrack early enough in the morning to catch the horses and their riders warming up for the day. Stay for a while to watch the equestrians trotting the well-manicured track, or take a guided tour.
Get in the saddle at the Kentucky Horse Park, featuring over 1,200 acres of a horse farm theme park fusion. Peruse the International Museum of the Horse, then meet horses and their riders during The Parade of the Breeds. Take a guided horseback tour through the property for some extra history.
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Step back in time to the 1800s at the Mary Todd Lincoln House. Each of the 14 rooms feels lived in, decorated with family memorabilia. The museum depicts the life of Mary Todd, Abraham Lincoln, and their politically divided family.
Fans of aviation history will want to soar up Interstate 75 to Dayton. Fly around town to discover world-class museums and uniquely Ohio heritage. Less than an hour away, Dayton is one of the best day trips from Cincinnati for history lovers to get their fix.
Arrive at Carillon Historical Park and take in the natural beauty of this open-air museum. Roam the campus dotted with historical structures and museums, each containing artifacts and exhibits about Ohio-made inventions and accomplishments.
Explore a recreation of 18th and 19th-century Dayton in the Early Settlement Area. Immerse yourself in Dayton’s Printing Industry at the Print Shop, and see a 1930s printing press in action.
Swing by the Wright Brothers National Museum to view the original Wright Flyer III. Learn about Wilbur and Orville Wright and their humble beginnings as bicycle shop owners before creating their first aircraft.
Glide over to the National Museum of the United States Air Force and marvel at four hangars teeming with over 360 aircraft, spacecraft, and missiles. Board original Air Force One airplanes, or test your flying skills in the virtual reality jet. Inspect aircraft used during World War II, The Korean War, and The Cold War at this military aviation museum.
Ohio Caverns, OH
Are you ready to tackle Ohio’s largest cave system? Make an expedition to Ohio Caverns. Venture up to 103 feet beneath the Earth’s surface, squeezing between crevices in the rocks and passing by ancient stalactites hanging from the cavern ceilings.
Join the Historic Tour and follow the original route discovered in 1897. Follow lantern-lit paths and be awed by the drip-shaped formations, some around 200,000 years old.
On the Natural Wonder Tour, witness crystal-colored stalactite. Marvel at the multicolored formations hanging from the roof of the cave and meet the Crystal King, the largest stalactite in the state.
Immerge above land and walk through peaceful Ohio Caverns park under shady forest canopies. Stop at a picnic pavilion to fuel up for the rest of your day’s Ohio activities, and let your little ones monkey around on the playground. Check out the beautiful stone and geode treasures in the gift shop, or pan for gems to take home as your souvenir.
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Since Ohio Caverns are about two hours north of Cincinnati, consider staying one night in Dayton, OH, and tacking this onto the next day’s plans. Pack a hoodie or sweater for the cool temperatures before descending into America’s most colorful caverns.
Looking for a quick outing from Cincinnati? Just forty minutes north on route 27, Hamilton is a convenient way to experience another local city within Butler County. With a rich art scene and buzzing downtown, everyone will find something to love about Hamilton.
Art and nature collide across the 300 acres of Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park. Drive the park’s loop, rent a golf cart, or take a stroll around the 1.75-mile-long trail. Observe over 80 sculptures and works of art displayed on gently sloping hills, by placid lakes, and in blooming gardens.
Gaze upon natural wooden and contemporary steel sculptures, contemplating their meaning or simply admiring their beauty. Immerse yourself in the Ancient Sculpture Museum. Browse the exhibits of Roman marble busts, Egyptian limestone sphinx heads, Syrian mosaics, and much more.
Journey into the beautiful downtown, and drop by Municipal Beer Works for a relaxed atmosphere with local craft beer. Sip the Courageous IPA with a hoppy kick or a fruity Orange Agave Blonde.
People watch on the patio and grab a bite at the Mexi-Q, Dine-In Hawaiian, or Twisted Greek food trucks. See who’s on the lineup at the River’s Edge Amphitheater and groove to some tunes along the Great Miami River promenade.
Big Bone Lick State Park, KY
In need of a respite from the city life of Cincinnati? Connect with the Ohio wilderness at Big Bone Lick State Park. Only half an hour southwest, this haven for nature lovers is abundant with animal life and natural history.
Begin at the Megafauna Diorama to examine the Pleistocene bone pits. Trek along the Discovery Trail and immerse yourself in exhibits about the prehistoric past of the park.
Choose Big Bone Creek Trail for stunning views of the creek and the multiple Salt Springs. Coralberry Trail is a bit more of a challenging hike. You could even take an orienteering course to learn how to navigate using a map and compass.
Frolic through rolling green fields and be on the lookout for bison roaming the lands of Big Bone Lick. If you encounter a herd, take in the spectacle of these mighty mammals, one of the last links to the Ice Age.