8 Unique Day Trip Destinations Around Cincinnati

Cincinnati’s convenient location makes it a great jumping-off base to several amazing destinations. Here are some of the best day trips from Cincinnati.

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What are the best day trips to take around Cincinnati?

Some of the best day trips from Cincinnati include Columbus in Ohio, Red River Gorge in east-central Kentucky, Yellow Springs in Ohio, Lexington in Kentucky, Indianapolis in Indiana, Hocking Hills State Park, Louisville in Kentucky, and Hoosier National Forest in south-central Indiana.

The Top Day Trips around Cincinnati

Cincinnati is surrounded by vibrant cities, quaint towns, numerous amazing parks, and secluded wilderness Furthermore, its central, strategic location makes it a great jumping-off base for exploring attractions in Kentucky, Indiana, and various other places in Ohio.

So, if you are visiting Queen City or you live here, there are major attractions that the city has to offer, locations which are located within a short drive from the city. These locations give one an optimal travel experience.

In this post, we will walk you through the top 7 best day trips from Cincinnati.

Columbus, Ohio

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Sitting approximately 105 miles from Cincinnati, Columbus is the most populous city in the Queen City. 

And since it’s also the city’s state capital, you will have no shortage of things to do in this city. Besides, getting here is easy. 

You just need to follow Interstate 71 from Cincinnati downtown, follow it and you will find yourself here after driving for around two hours.

Once you’ve landed in Columbus, you can begin your tour by visiting the Ohio statehouse. 

Here, you have the option of exploring the building yourself or booking one of the free tours. 

After visiting the Ohio statehouse, you can proceed to the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. This park is home to a wide range of flora and fauna.

If you are on a day trip with your family, then you should also check out the Center of Science and Industry.

At this family-friendly museum, you will learn more about dinosaurs, as well as other things like space exploration, among others. 

Your kids will also love the Marvel Superheroes on display.

For some art, you should visit the Columbus Museum of Art, where you will see all manner of exhibits, ranging from contemporary art to classics.

A visit to Ohio is not complete without stopping by the North Farmers’ Market. Here, there are hundreds of vendors, selling locally produced and fresh vegetables and meat. 

And if time allows, you should visit the German Village and Brewery District to enjoy a delicious lunch as you learn more about its history.

Red River Gorge

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The Red River Gorge is a canyon system situated in east-central Kentucky.

Designated as a National Natural Landmark, this canyon is home to several rock shelters, steep sandstone cliffs, natural stone bridges and dozens of waterfalls. 

It’s also filled with trees, making it the ideal destination for nature lovers.

You can begin your trip by visiting the Daniel Boone National Forest Visitor Center, where you can learn more about the area’s flora and fauna as well as several landmarks.

Here, you can also purchase a trail map, which you will use to explore and hike the area. Remember to pack your hiking boots.

If you love water-based activities, then you should head over to the Gorge Underground, where you can explore the subsurface Gorge Grotto on a kayak. There’s also a cavern system in the area, making the trip even more thrilling.

The Red River Gorge is also one of the best places for rock climbing. So, if you would like to try it out for the first time or you are already an experienced rock climber, then this day trip from Cincinnati should be on your bucket list.

Yellow Springs

Yellow Springs is an old, small town strategically located six miles from both the I-675 and I-70. It’s renowned for its laid-back atmosphere, hippie vibes, and vibrant downtown streets.

While this small town may only have a population of around 3,000, there’s a lot to explore. 

In fact, it’s highly likely that you won’t manage to see and visit all its amazing places on a single day trip.

This welcoming town has more than 50, locally-owned and run boutique shops, where you can purchase a wide range of gifts and antiques. 

Also, there’s a season farmer’s market, which runs between March and November.

Here, you can buy locally produced fruits and vegetables, artisan cheese, handmade bread and maple syrup.

You should also check out the part of the town sitting along Route 68. Here, you can find a traditional sweet shop selling candy and a herbal shop that sells essential oils, herbal tea, and various other goodies made from herbs.

If time allows and the weather is good, then you should also visit the Glen Helen Nature Preserve. There are over 20 miles of hiking trails on this nature preserve. 

For more hiking and nature, you should visit the Clifton Gorge Nature Preserve, which also has several hiking trails. You can explore this trail either on foot or on a bike.  

After you’ve finished exploring the town and the surroundings, you can stop for a coffee at one of the coffee shops on Main Street or a beer at Yellow Springs Brewery. 

As you can see, a visit to Yellow Springs offers almost everything.

Lexington, Kentucky

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Most of the people going on day trips from Cincinnati usually overlook Lexington. However, it’s worth a visit on its own. 

Renowned as the World’s Horse Capital, Lexington has the highest number of stables in this state.

Apart from visiting the staples, you should also check out some of the distilleries, if you are a fan of craft beer.

Some of the notable breweries and distilleries in this area include Bluegrass Distillers, James E. Pepper Distillery as well as the Lexington Brewing and Distilling Company.

If you are a fan of horseracing, then a visit to Keeneland is a must. Horse races happen here year round.

Some of the biggest thoroughbred auctions are also held here. And if you would want to learn more about horse racing, then you should check out the Kentucky Horse Park.

Other places that you can visit during your trip include the Mary Todd Lincoln House for an in-depth history of the area and the Henry Clay Estate, where you can learn more about the Civil War.

Indianapolis, Indiana

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Indianapolis is mainly known for the Motor Speedway, where the Indy 500 is held every year. However, Indiana’s capital has something for everyone, whether you are into sports, nature, food, or history.

After landing in Indianapolis, you can begin your trip at the downtown area, centered around Mile Square.

Here, there are several amazing restaurants and boutique shops. Once you’ve had a fill of this place, you can head over to the Broad Ripple neighborhood, renowned for its wide range of delicious cuisines and drinks.

If you love motorsports, then you should check out the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, where the Indy 500 is held every year. 

You also have the option of visiting the Lucas Oil Stadium if you are into football, where you can watch the Indiana Colts playing.

As we mentioned earlier, this city has something for every type of visitor. And, this also applies to history lovers.

If you are a history buff, then you should head over to the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site and the Indianapolis Museum of Art. You can also check out the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis if you have brought your kids along.

In case you need something more active, then you can spend your afternoon exploring the Indianapolis Cultural Trail on a rental bike. 

Also, there are several picturesque hiking trails located a few minutes from downtown.

Hocking Hills State Park

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While Hocking Hills State Park may be a longer drive than some of the other day trips from Cincinnati, the journey will be worth it. 

Located 135 miles from Cincinnati, this park is popular with visitors looking for a quiet and serene place for hiking, away from the hustle and bustle of the cities.

The best areas to explore for hiking in this park include Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave, Hemlock Bridge Trail, Cantwell Cliffs, Cedar Falls, Rock House and Conkle’s Hollow. The trails here come with varying difficulty levels. 

Therefore, they are ideal for all sorts of hikers.

Other activities in this park include kayaking, fishing, swimming and canoeing in the several water bodies in the park, shooting at the archery range, and playing disc golf,  just to name a few. Some areas are also open for horseback riding.

We should point out that this park attracts quite a huge number of visitors from the surrounding cities and towns during the summer. 

So, if you want to enjoy solitude during your hike, you should consider planning your day trip during spring or fall. And if you don’t mind frigid temperatures, then you can also go for your trip during the winter months.

Louisville, Kentucky

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Louisville is a delightful riverside city located approximately 100 miles from Cincinnati. It has an extensive list of places to visit and explore. 

If you love sports, history, culture and music, then a visit to Louisville, Kentucky should be on your list of day trips from Cincinnati.

This city is the home to one of the greatest boxers of all time – Muhammad Ali. So, once you arrive, you can start exploring and visiting some of the important places of his boxing career and life.

Some notable places to visit are the Muhammad Ali Center, where he grew up and Cave Hill, his final resting place. 

After your Muhammad Ali tour, you can proceed to Churchill Downs, which is home to the famous Kentucky Derby. 

Here, you will learn more about the history of the race.

While in Louisville, make sure you enjoy the Hot Brown sandwich, which is a local sandwich, stuffed with bacon, cheese sauce and turkey. 

Also, remember to check out some of the bourbon distilleries. From there, you can head to the Big Four Bridge, where you can enjoy some stunning views of the city.

If you are a history lover, then you should visit Old Louisville, an old district where you can see buildings dating back to the late 18th century. 

And if you still have some time left, then you can hop on the Belle of Louisville steamboat ride, where you enjoy beautiful sceneries along the river.

Hoosier National Forest

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Hoosier National Forest is an expansive nature reserve, stretching from Bedford city in the north to the border with Kentucky in the south. It’s one of the best day trips from Cincinnati for nature lovers.

Some of the activities that you can engage in and around the forest include boating, fishing, bird watching, swimming, canoeing and snorkeling in Patoka Lake, Tipsaw Lake and Indiana-Celina Lake. 

Other activities around the forest include exploring the nearby Hemlock Cliffs, horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, and hunting, among others.

Once you’ve had a fill of the forest, you can head over to Oliver Winery, where you can sample various types of wines while you soak in some amazing views of the surrounding areas.

The drive from Cincinnati to Hoosier Forest National Park will take approximately two and a half hours. 

So, it will be highly advisable to start your journey before sunrise. However, as long as this trip may be lengthy, it will be worth it. It has been consistently ranked as one of the best day trips from Cincinnati.

Key Takeaways

  • Cincinnati’s strategic location makes it ideal as a jumping-off point for day trips
  • There are numerous amazing day trip destinations from Cincinnati
  • You can explore nature parks, museums, historic towns, and other attractions
  • These day trips are ideal for families, couples or solo adventures