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9 Fantastic Day Trips from Cincinnati

Tonya Prater, Owner

Have you ever wondered what are the best day trips from Cincinnati? Once you’ve explored the Queen City, you may want to check out some of these fun locations nearby. These ten Midwest destinations are all less than two hours from Cincinnati!

day trips from Cincinnati

The Best Day Trips from Cincinnati 

Cincinnati is a fun city to explore and was even once known as the “Paris of America.” There are tons of great day trips from Cincinnati, which is situated along the Kentucky border on the Ohio River. It is home to some of Ohio’s best museums and attractions.

Once you’ve finished exploring all the great city of Cincinnati on the Ohio River has to offer, it’s time to branch out to experience these Cincinnati day trips.

Columbus, Ohio

Distance from Cincinnati: 107 miles, or 96 minutes

Set on the Scioto River, Columbus is Ohio’s largest city, with nearly one million residents. It’s also the state capital, so you could easily spend a full weekend in Columbus, exploring all the fun things to do.

Whether you have a whole day or just a few hours to spend, these are some of my favorite things to see in Columbus:

  • COSI (Center of Science and Industry)
  • Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
  • Self-guided tour of the German Village
  • Shakespeare in the Park at Schiller Amphitheater
  • Explore art in the Short North district
  • Visit the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
  • Stroll through the one-of-a-kind Topiary Park

If you happen to visit Columbus on a Thursday, don’t miss the food trucks at Columbus Commons!

People walking with food trucks nearby.

Dayton, Ohio

Distance from Cincinnati: 54 miles, or one hour

Another fun city in Southwest Ohio is Dayton, a short hour drive and the perfect day trip from Cincinnati, it is a city with strong ties to aviation. If you are a fan of flying, then a day trip to Dayton would be right up your alley.

As the birthplace of Orville Wright and home to Wright Patterson Air Force base, there are many aviation-related attractions in Dayton. But that’s not all there is to see in Dayton. A few highlights of a day trip to Dayton should include: 

  • National Museum of the United States Air Force
  • Cox Arboretum
  • Take a self-guided tour of public art and murals in Dayton
  • Visit Wegerzyn Gardens
  • Tour Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum
  • Visit the Wright Brothers Memorial
  • Tour the Dayton Art Institute

Check out this post on free things to do in Dayton or this post that provides ideas on where to find adventure on the Great Miami Riverway

Aurora, Indiana 

Distance from Cincinnati: 34 miles, or 42 minutes

Aurora is a great place for a fun weekend getaway from Cincinnati.

Cross over to Indiana and head to Aurora to tour the Hillforest Mansion, a National Historic Landmark. This Italian Renaissance mansion was completed in 1855 on a beautiful plot overlooking the Ohio River.

Tours are offered daily between April and December, in addition to several special events throughout the year. Before you head back to Cincinnati, take a few minutes to explore the historic buildings and shops along Aurora’s Main Street. 

Carmel, Indiana

Distance from Cincinnati: 122 miles, or two hours

Carmel is much more than just a suburb of Indianapolis. It’s a charming town best known for arts, culture, and design. The summer months are full of festivals and fairs in Carmel, including the Carmel International Arts Festival.

If you are only visiting on a day trip from Cincinnati, I recommend spending your day exploring the Carmel Arts & Design District. You could also take in a performance at the Palladium Concert Hall at the Center for Performing Arts. Carmel also has bike trails and gardens, but shopping along Main Street is the most unique thing to do in Carmel

Indianapolis, Indiana

Distance from Cincinnati: 112 miles, or two hours

For a more urban day trip from Cincinnati, check out Indiana’s capital, Indianapolis. While it’s the perfect destination for a romantic getaway in Indiana, it’s also easily explored on a day trip. Indianapolis has just over 800,000 residents, so it’s not a huge city, but there are certainly many things to see in Indianapolis:

  • Climb the Soldiers and Sailors Monument
  • Visit the Broad Ripple Cultural District
  • Bike or walk along the Central Canal Towpath
  • Take in a professional game: Indianapolis is home to the Pacers NBA team and the Colts NFL team
Dinosaur leaning against the outside of a building.

Frankfort, Kentucky

Distance from Cincinnati: 80 miles, or one hour and 45 minutes

Indiana isn’t the only state easily reached on a Cincinnati day trip; several Kentucky towns are also within a days’ reach. Frankfort, Kentucky was an important Civil War site and is now the capital of Kentucky. Capital cities are always interesting to explore, so here are a few suggestions for your day trip to Frankfort:

  • Visit the Old Capitol building, now home to the Kentucky Historical Society
  • Take a self-guided tour of the “new” Capitol Building
  • Visit Daniel Boone’s gravesite at the Frankfort Cemetery
  • Take a tasting tour at the Buffalo Trace Distillery
  • Visit the Kentucky Military History Museum
  • Stroll through the Josephine Sculpture Park

Lexington, Kentucky

Distance from Cincinnati: 83 miles, or 90 minutes

If you love horses, then Lexington Kentucky is the perfect day trip from Cincinnati. Kentucky’s second-largest city is in the heart of horse country and is home to many attractions worth visiting.

The Kentucky Horse Park offers the International Museum of the Horse and the Hall of Champions. Other things to see in Lexington include:

  • Keeneland Race Course
  • The Mary Todd Lincoln House
  • Fayette Mall, the largest shopping mall in Kentucky
  • A cemetery for horses

Louisville, Kentucky

Distance from Cincinnati: 100 miles, or one hour and 45 minutes

Another fun Kentucky city to explore on a day trip from Cincinnati is Louisville, home of the Louisville Slugger museum and factory. Kentucky’s largest city sits on the Ohio River and has tons of cool things to explore.

Some of the best things to do in Louisville include:

  • Visit Churchhill Downs, home of the world-famous Kentucky Derby
  • Visit the Kentucky Derby Museum
  • Take a tour on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail
  • Tour the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory and see the world’s largest bat
  • Visit the Muhammad Ali Center and Museum

Take a quick drive south of Louisville to Bernheim Forest to see the forest giants. You won’t be disappointed!

Giant made of wood.

Rabbit Hash, Kentucky 

Distance from Cincinnati: 35 miles, or 50 minutes

Rabbit Hash is a tiny village along the Ohio River that makes the perfect day trip from Cincinnati. This spot is most famous for the Rabbit Hash General Store, which has been operating since 1831. In addition to snacks and sundries, the General Store also sells antiques and collectibles.

Just like you would expect from a 19th-century general store, the front porch is lined with chairs where locals and visitors sit back and enjoy the social center of Boone County.

Before you head back to Cincinnati, take a detour past Big Bone Lick State Park, where you can see a bison herd as well as many dinosaur fossils that were found here. 

Ohio is an amazing state to explore. If you’re looking for more day trips in Ohio, check these out:

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