17 Best Day Trips from Cincinnati (in 2023)
I’m a Cincinnati local here to guide you to the best day trips from Cincinnati!
This post includes outdoor experiences, historic sites, travel-worthy cities, and much more. Because Cincinnati is centrally located, I uncover destinations not just in Ohio, but also in Indiana and Kentucky.
Read on to discover the most popular Cincinnati day trips, but also some hidden gems and personal recommendations you won’t want to miss!
Table of Contents
- 17 Best Cincinnati Day Trips
- Kentucky Horse Park
- Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
- Hocking Hills State Park
- National Museum of the United States Air Force
- Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum
- John Bryan State Park
- Carillon Historical Park
- Big Bone Lick State Park
- Ohio Caverns
- Red River Gorge Geological Area
- Elk Creek Winery
- Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
- Hoosier National Forest
- Boonshoft Museum of Discovery
- Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill
- Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
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17 Best Cincinnati Day Trips
Kentucky Horse Park
A horse farm and theme park that will teach you about equestrian life
🗺️ Distance from Cincinnati: 70 to 90 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | Kentucky Horse Park Website | 👉 Half-Day Thoroughbred Horse Farm Tour
If you love horses, you need to visit the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. Drive just a little over an hour south to get there, crossing the Ohio River along the way.
Here, you’ll find a 260-acre campground and a theme park. There are also horseback riding trails where you can go on a guided horseback tour and learn some interesting history.
While you’re here, you can also check out the International Museum of the Horse. This is a place to learn about the relationship between humans and these majestic animals.
Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
The biggest children’s museum in the world!
🗺️ Distance from Cincinnati: 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours 15 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | Children’s Museum of Indianapolis Website | 👉 Children’s Museum of Indianapolis Tour
If you’re traveling with the whole family, head to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. This is the biggest museum for children in the world! There are five floors of pure wonder in this museum that will be memorable for people of all ages.
You can enjoy several fascinating, interactive exhibits at this museum. One is the International Space Station exhibit, where you can gain some insight into the life of an astronaut. This museum also covers other areas of science, along with culture, history, and so much more.
👉 Pro Tip: Another great Indianapolis museum is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, adjacent to the home of the Indy 500.
Hocking Hills State Park
Rich in natural wonder, this stunning site lies at the base of the Appalachian Mountains
🗺️ Distance from Cincinnati: 2 hours 15 minutes to 2 hours 30 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | Hocking Hills State Park Website
Hocking Hills State Park is roughly two hours away in Logan, which is in southeast Ohio. The drive is worth it, though, as this is one of the best day trips from Cincinnati! There are seven hiking areas in Hocking Hills State Park, so make sure to pack your hiking essentials.
One of the most popular trails is Old Man’s Cave. You can also visit the many breathtaking waterfalls. Cascading more than 100 feet, Big Spring Hollow Falls is the area’s tallest. There’s also the Ash Cave waterfall that you can see from all angles along the Ash Cave trail!
📚 Related Reading: For more recommended places to visit in Ohio, check out my guide! Many are close enough for a day trip, and the rest are great weekend getaways.
National Museum of the United States Air Force
The largest and oldest aviation museum in the world, full of exhibits on American military history
🗺️ Distance from Cincinnati: 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | National Museum of the United States Air Force Website
Located in Dayton, just an hour north of downtown Cincinnati is the largest military aviation museum in the world. It’s open every day of the year, and even free to the public!
At this amazing national museum, you can browse all of the iconic planes that were part of US military history. You can see all sorts of amazing artifacts, view planes from World War II, and learn all about the Wright Brothers.
If you come on the right day, you may also be able to see an air show! See the museum’s calendar for special events.
💡 Love History? Read my list of Cincinnati facts to learn about the people and discoveries that make The Queen City unique.
Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum
An outdoor art collection for everyone to enjoy
🗺️ Distance from Cincinnati: 30 to 45 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park Website
Art lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, this is the day trip for you. Just a short drive from Cincinnati, this 300-acre space is open and free to the public.
At this park and museum, you can see over 80 sculptures. These include ancient sculptures and work from current local and international artists.
This park is also home to several special events, including children’s programs in the summer. It’s also decorated with all sorts of sparkling lights during the holidays.
🚗 Need a Car? See my guide to driving in Cincinnati for everything you need to know.
John Bryan State Park
A haven for natural beauty, famed for its impressive waterfalls
🗺️ Distance from Cincinnati: 60 to 90 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | John Bryan State Park Website
Located in Yellow Springs of southwest Ohio, John Bryan State Park is full of activities for any outdoorsy type. You can paddle along the gentle Little Miami River, go mountain biking, or take a quiet hike.
This is one of the best day trips from Cincinnati, Ohio because there are so many things to do in Yellow Springs. In addition to the John Bryan State Park, you can go to Glen Helen Nature Preserve, home to amazing waterfalls and yellow springs. After a day of exploring, stop by Young’s Jersey Dairy for homemade ice cream!
Carillon Historical Park
A detailed look into the lives of early Ohioans
🗺️ Distance from Cincinnati: 50 to 65 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | Carillon Historical Park Website
Carillon Historical Park, located in Dayton, is an important historic property. The Early Settlement Area will allow you to explore a simulation of past Ohioans’ lives.
There’s a one-room schoolhouse, as well as multiple-family homes. The main house was built in 1940, while other historic buildings in this park were built in the 1700s and 1800s.
If you’re interested in how people lived in these eras, you can also see live demonstrations of a letterpress print and other historic tools. You can also observe multiple historic appliances and vehicles. Examples are an original Wright Flyer, 1912 Cadillac, and Liberty aircraft engine.
The largest city in Kentucky, full of sights and experiences
🗺️ Distance from Cincinnati: 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours | 📍 Google Maps | City of Louisville Website | 👉 Top Louisville, Kentucky Tours
Louisville was named one of the top places to travel in 2023, and is obviously one of the best day trips from Cincinnati! To reach the largest city in Kentucky, head southwest along the Ohio River.
Once you get to Louisville, you’ll find so much to do. Horse racing enthusiasts can go to the Kentucky Derby Museum, which is adjacent to the Kentucky Derby race course. Exhibits include photographs, sculptures, paintings, trophies, and souvenirs from the Derby.
You can also check out the Louisville Slugger Museum and see the largest baseball bat in the world. Enjoy other historical attractions, cultural sights, the Urban Bourbon Trail, and so much more.
Big Bone Lick State Park
See present-day animal life and learn about species from the ancient past
🗺️ Distance from Cincinnati: 30 to 40 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | Big Bone Lick State Park Website
Located in Union, which is in northern Kentucky, Big Bone Lick State Park gives you the chance to see roaming bison. You can also see the remains of ancient animal life like mammoths, making this a very important natural history site.
Having engaging museum exhibits, plus camping and hiking opportunities, this day trip offers plenty to do.
Head two miles underground to see stunning rock formations
🗺️ Distance from Cincinnati: 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours | 📍 Google Maps | Ohio Caverns Website
If you enjoy experiencing natural wonders, you should head over to Ohio Caverns. You’ll be stunned at the sheer size of these caverns, as well as the multitude of colors and stalagmite formations.
If you take a guided tour, you can go a full two miles into the ground, exploring massive, deep caves. The Natural Wonder Tour is particularly worthwhile because you can see the Crystal King, the largest stalactite in the state.
Additionally, there’s a gift shop where you can buy souvenirs, such as fossils, to commemorate your day trip.
Red River Gorge Geological Area
Rock formations in the middle of an isolated forest that feels like another world
🗺️ Distance from Cincinnati: 2 hours to 2 hours 30 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | Red River Gorge Website
Red River Gorge is located in Stanton, Kentucky, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is a fascinating nature preserve with ancient rock formations that are millions of years old.
This area is situated within the vast Daniel Boone National Forest and provides a great escape from city life. You can go ziplining, canoeing, or rafting in the forest. You can also explore the natural bridge and hiking trails within the gorge, which are part of the site’s rich history.
Elk Creek Winery
A lovely vineyard that allows guests to taste several local wines
🗺️ Distance from Cincinnati: 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | Elk Creek Winery Website
Kentucky is more notorious for bourbon than wine, but the Elk Creek Winery is an excellent day trip destination. Located in Owenton, this winery offers tours and tasting packages.
If you are a wine connoisseur, you’ll be right at home here. There are both classic wines and inventive fruit wines.
You can also enjoy various special events that sometimes include live music. As if this isn’t enough, this winery also offers bed and breakfast options, cooking classes, and an art gallery.
Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
A green refuge with colorful glass sculptures in the state capital
🗺️ Distance from Cincinnati: 1 hour 40 minutes to 2 hours | 📍 Google Maps | Franklin Park Conservatory Website
Located in Columbus, this conservatory makes for a great day trip from the Queen City. Here, guests can admire more than 400 plant species from all over the world.
To make the area even more incredible, there are colorful Dale Chihuly glass sculptures surrounding the plants. In 1974, this landmark was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Hoosier National Forest
A peaceful, quiet forest where you can camp under the stars
🗺️ Distance from Cincinnati: 2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours | 📍 Google Maps | Hoosier National Forest Website
Located in southern Indiana, this 204,000-acre forest is considered one of the state’s best natural areas. It makes for a great day trip, as you can enjoy the rolling hills and backcountry trails. You can even choose to camp out overnight by one of the pristine lakes.
Boonshoft Museum of Discovery
Learn about ancient and modern cultures by observing this museum’s 1.8 million relics
🗺️ Distance from Cincinnati: 55 to 70 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | Boonshoft Museum of Discovery Website
This is an amazing museum that has been amassing its collection since 1893. There are about 1.8 million artifacts on display. These include fossils, Native American relics, and Dayton meteorite fragments, among many others. Many exhibits are interactive, and some are dedicated to children.
👉 Pro Tip: If you have time, check out the Dayton Art Institute while you’re in town! Here, you’ll see art from all over the world, some dating back 5,000 years.
Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill
A place to immerse yourself in Shaker culture and relax in the countryside
🗺️ Distance from Cincinnati: 1 hour 50 minutes to 2 hours 20 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill Website
This Shaker Village is located in Lexington and is the largest National Historic Landmark in Kentucky. It features 300 acres of land and 34 historic structures which date as far back as the early 1800s. You can immerse yourself in Shaker culture by attending the many programs and demonstrations it has to offer.
You can even stay overnight, as there are 72 guest rooms in 13 of its buildings. These accommodations feature countryside views and traditional Shaker furniture.
🛎️ Need a Hotel? For more unique lodging, see my guide to the best places to stay in Cincinnati!
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
The top zoo in the country, located in the state capital
🗺️ Distance from Cincinnati: 2 hours to 2 hours 15 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | Columbus Zoo Website
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium was named the number one zoo in the US by USA Travel Guide. It’s home to more than 7,000 animals that represent over 800 species. It’s divided into eight sections based on where in the world the animals originated.
In addition to providing a home for all these animals, the Columbus Zoo has donated to more than 70 conservation efforts.
👉 Pro Tip: Though more of an overnight trip, animal lovers can also go to the African Safari Wildlife Park in Port Clinton, Ohio. Here, you can interact with unique animals, like red kangaroos, gibbons, giraffes, and more!
Enjoy exploring these incredible day trips from Cincinnati, Ohio! Let me know which of these Cincinnati day trips appeals most to you in the comments.
Next up, check out my guide to what to do in Cincinnati (for those days you aren’t quite up for a day trip!).
(Featured Image Credit: Eric Glenn / Shutterstock)
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