Skip packing a bag and making hotel reservations. There are tons of great day trips from Cincinnati that are ideal for adding a little adventure in your week.
While Cincinnati is a fantastic tourist destination in and of itself, it also makes an excellent base for exploring the surrounding area. While frequent day trips from Cincinnati include visits to Indianapolis, IN, and Columbus, OH, we have compiled a unique list of fun places and experiences that are lesser-known.
Create Your Zoo Passport
One great attraction in Cincinnati is the Cincinnati Zoo. However, four other zoos in the neighboring cities are perfect day trips. Create your Zoo Passport, which should include the Indianapolis Zoo, Louisville Zoo, Kentucky Down Under, and the Columbus Zoo.
Spend a few weekends crossing them off your list or a little something from each zoo to put in your passport. Each place is unique and has a variety of different exhibits and animals. If you are a member of the Cincinnati Zoo, you do get a discount at the Louisville Zoo and Columbus Zoo.
Ancient Ohio Trail
Discover ancient America where, two thousand years ago, Native Americans filled the Ohio River region with vast and precious earthen monuments. The Ancient Ohio Trail will take visitors to Native American ceremonial centers throughout Ohio. Learn about their architecture, meanings, and the remarkable cultures that built them.
Follow the trail to all of Ohio’s significant earthworks. The routes link Newark (Octagon, Great Circle) with Chillicothe (Mound City, Hopewell Mound Group) and Serpent Mound, and then via Fort Ancient to Cincinnati (Shawnee Lockout) and Dayton (SunWatch Village). Many of these sites do require admission.
Also listed on the website are driving directions and tour resources, in addition to many other well-preserved ancient and early historic sites.
Rent A Pontoon Boat at Rocky Fork State Park
Located in Hillsboro, OH Rocky Fork State Park is home to a nearly 2,000-acre lake that is perfect for boating and fishing. Boat rentals are available but often on a first-come, first-serve basis.
A favorite summer pastime is renting a pontoon boat for the day, packing lunch, and relaxing on the water. The Rocky Fork State Park is home to a disc golf course, two trails, and a swimming beach.
Stroll Through Wegerzyn Gardens In Dayton
Dayton is home to a unique park system called the Five Rivers Metro Parks. With over 20 parks to discover, this is one of our favorite day trips from Cincinnati because you can visit a different park on each trip. Wegerzyn Gardens is home to a gorgeous children’s discovery garden. This garden has plenty of great interactive displays and captivating gardening experiences.
The formal gardens will inspire home gardeners with the beautiful floral combinations. The Marie Aull Nature Trail and Stillwater River Trail are other popular areas among guests of all ages. The Five Rivers Metro Parks is part of Ohio’s Scenic Route.
Schedule A Tour and take a picnic to the Meldahl Locks and Dam
Situated at mile marker 436 on the Ohio River, you will find the Captain Anthony Meldahl Locks & Dam. This dam creates a 95-mile navigational pool between Meldahl Locks & Dam and Greenup Locks & Dam. Tours of the facilities are available upon request. The site offers fishing, picnic and restroom facilities (open from April to October), an observation tower, and wildlife viewing. Pets are allowed.
B&B Riverboats now offers a Lock and Dam Cruise for those looking to get a first-hand experience of the Meldahl Locks and Dam.
Brewgrass Trail: A Perfect Day Trip From Cincinnati For Couples
While Lexington is known for its famous Horse Park, Keeneland, and bourbon, they also have a great craft beer scene. Pick up your Brewgrass Trail Passport at any of the six participating breweries or the Visitors Center. Collect a stamp at each of the breweries then turn it in for an official Brewgrass Trail T-Shirt.
Discover The Catacombs In Indianapolis
Go underneath the City Market to discover the remains of Tomlinson Hall, an imposing building that burned in January 1958. Indiana Landmarks offers a guided tour of the Catacombs shows you a Roman-looking expanse of brick arches beneath the outdoor Whistler Plaza of City Market.
Hit The Chocolate Trail In Richmond Indiana
Want to know what is better than chocolate? FREE CHOCOLATE! Richmond Indiana is home to a variety of trails such as a Mural Trail, Tiffany Glass Window Trail, and a Wine & Ale Trail. The sweetest one of them all is the chocolate trail. This trail will take you throughout town on a pursuit of delicious chocolate.
Pick up your passport at The Old National Road Welcome Center before embarking on your journey. To receive your free chocolate samples, you must present your passport.
Visit Who North America
Doctor Who fans will delight in knowing that tucked away in Hendricks County, Indiana, is the only Who North America. Fans from all over the world have made a pilgrimage to this Doctor Who mecca.
Who North America is the only dedicated retailer to the longest-running science fiction show, Doctor Who! They have an impressive museum packed full of rare and unique memorabilia. It is the perfect day trip for Doctor Who Fans in the family!
Art In Public Places In Dublin OH
Spend the day finding all the public art that Dublin, OH, has to offer. Touring the public art was a family favorite because the majority of parks that house public artworks also have great playgrounds.
Pack a picnic and spend the afternoon park-hopping and admiring the local art. Don’t forget to swing by and behold the mystery of Corn Henge!
For easy assess, download the cell phone tour, which maps out all the works of art and gives the history behind each piece. Be sure to see the dancing rabbits located at Ballantrae Park. If visiting during the summer months, be sure to bring swimsuits for the kids as there is a splash area.
Discover even more of Dublin with these 11 Things To Do In Dublin OH.
Hang Out With A Pack of Wolves
For a truly unique experience, go hang out with a pack of wolves at the Wolf Creek Habitat. This Wolf Rescue and Education Center allows guests to observe the wolves from the Observation Deck. There is also the option to get in and interact with the wolf pack. Wolf Creek Habitat is in Brookville, Indiana.
Take A Hike In Brown Country State Park
Brown County State Park is Indiana’s largest State Park offering scenic hiking trails, mountain biking, horse backing riding, and more. The beauty of the state park is not to be missed.
From peaceful lakes to magnificent views, there is the perfect trail to explore. While anytime is great to visit, it is ideal in the fall to see the foliage changing color.
This is one of many of the great parks that tops our list as great day trips from Cincinnati. Get inspired by these Brown Country IN Getaway Ideas.
Go On A Ferry Ride at Shaker Village
Hop aboard the Dixie Belle for a scenic cruise down the Kentucky River. Operating since 1982, the Dixie Belle has provided guests with an array of sailings from casual to themed. The Dixie Belle is part of the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. While Shaker Village offers a plethora of activities, this is always a guest favorite.
Sip Your Way Through The West Side Wine Trail
With so many great wineries located on the West Side of Cincinnati, we have put together an unofficial West Side Wine Trail. Our Unofficial West Side Wine trail consisting of the following wineries: Henke Winery, Vinoklet Winery, and Holtkamp Winery. Include a stop for lunch or dinner at Somm Wine Bar to round out your trip.
Discover Mounds State Park
Located in Madison County, Indiana, Mounds State Park is known for its prehistoric Indian earthworks. The park is home to ten unique mounds. It is believed that the Adena-Hopewell people constructed these back in 160 B.C. with the largest being the Great Mound. Beautiful hiking trails make their way through the shady forest to all the earthworks.
A Nature Center, picnic areas, and camping are available on-site.
The Ark Encounter
Tucked away in the rolling foothills of Kentucky is an attraction that many have heard of, but have yet to see. The Ark Encounter has sparked lively conversations and piqued the curiosity of many. This full-size wooden replica of Noah’s Ark has attracted visitors from all over the world.
It gives guests a glimpse into what life could have been like in the times of Noah and aboard the Ark. While controversial to some, others have deemed it an enjoyable experience. Our recommendation: If you are intrigued, go and make your own opinion.
Franklin Park Conservatory
Explore the beautiful gardens of Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus. These gardens are home to a stunning collection of Chihuly glass found throughout the Conservatory. With a fun children’s garden and plenty of arts on display, this is a place for all ages.
Explore the German Village in Columbus OH
Columbus is full of great day trips from Cincinnati. While you are visiting, be sure to spend time exploring the charming German Village. The historic German Village is home to many great German restaurants, such as Schmidt’s Restaurant and Sausage Haus. Wander into many of the boutique shops, including the famous Book Loft.
Visit the Cardboard Boat Museum
New Richmond, OH, is home to the world’s only Cardboard Boat Museum. The museum offers classes on cardboard boat building, tours and is the hub for the Annual Cardboard Boat Regatta that is held on the 3rd Saturday of August. Call ahead for operating hours and keep in mind nominal donations are suggested to support the museum.
Take The Family To Visit Conner Prairie
Where can you build a windmill, take an 1859 Balloon Voyage, and shop in an 1836 general store?! Look no further than Conner Prairie in Fishers, Indiana. This interactive outdoor museum will take your family on a journey of adventure while sparking creativity and learning along the way.
Step back in time to see what life was like Central Indiana in 1863 before crossing the bridge into the Civil War Era. A four-story treehouse, farm animals, and discovery center are just a few more great reasons to visit Conner Prairie.
Step Back In Time In Metamora
This historic small town located in eastern Indiana is home to Whitewater Canal Historic Site. This charming town is full of boutiques, shops, and a Grist Mill that dates back to 1845. Guests can enjoy a canal boat ride, hop about the Whitewater Valley Railroad and go on a scenic nature walk along the Whitewater Canal Trail.
Visit during the holidays for special events and activities.
Go Antiquing in Lawrenceburg
An antiquer paradise can be found in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. Several antique stores, including the Whiskey City Antique Mall, are full of treasures waiting for you to take home. Plan a visit during the first Sunday of the month from May to October for the Tri-State Antique Market. The market is held at the Lawrenceburg fairgrounds and brings in vendors all over.
Adventure in the Underground World Of Caves In Harrison County, IN
Set out for an epic day trip from Cincinnati by exploring the vast cave systems located in Southern Indiana. Whether you wish to go spelunking or a walking tour of the caverns, there is a caving adventure for you.
Visits to Marengo Cave, Indiana Caverns, and Squire Boone Caverns are always family favorites. Remember that the temperature inside the caves is between 52- 55 degrees year-round. Bring a jacket and consider visiting during the winter months for fewer crowds.
Celebrate Christmas Year-Round In Santa Claus, IN
Get in the holiday spirit with a visit to Santa Claus, IN. This quirky town is full of holiday magic with Santa taking center stage regardless of the season. Uncover the location of all the Santa Statues found throughout the city while others may enjoy a visit to Lincolns boyhood home. During the summer months, many guests visit for their top-notch amusement park: Holiday World.
Visit A Famous Prison
Made famous for its appearance in the movie The Shawshank Redemption, The Ohio State Reformatory has become a popular tourist destination. The prison is no longer in operation and is open for tours.
A wide variety of events happen at the prison from Murder Mystery Dinners to Music Festivals. If you are a fan of the movie, The Shawshank Redemption then consider downloading the Shawshank Trail. The self-guided trail takes movie fans to 16 filming sites for the movie.
Go Looking For Forest Giants
Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest celebrated their 90th birthday by having Danish artist Thomas Dambo constructs three giant structures throughout the Arboretum. Guests will enjoy meeting these three friendly forest giants as they explore nature trails in the area.
More Great Day Trips From Cincinnati
25 Day Trips From Cincinnati