If you’re looking for fun day trips from Columbus Ohio, we have eleven Midwest destinations that fit the bill. And all are less than two hours from Ohio’s capital city!
Best Day Trips from Columbus Ohio
Columbus is a fantastic travel destination and one of my favorite Ohio cities to visit. Whether you’re a football fan, an art lover or a foodie, you’ll likely find lots of places to enjoy in the capital city of Ohio. But sometimes you need a little change of scenery. Here are some of my favorite places to visit within two hours of Columbus.
Take a short drive along Broad Street from downtown Columbus and you’ll reach the German Village. This charming and quaint community is actually located within Columbus but we’re adding it as a day trip because it’s a great place to explore when you don’t have a lot of time to get away for the whole day.
The brick-paved, tree-lined streets certainly make this quaint community something to see. Book lovers will love visiting the Book Loft in the German Village, a local favorite, which contains 32 rooms of books to explore. It’s perfect for a rainy spring or cold winter day.
During the summer, visitors can gather in Schiller Park and watch Shakespeare in the Park. Or pop in at the visitor center and pick up a map for a self-guided walking tour. Just make sure that you don’t leave the area without visiting Schmidt’s for one of their famous cream puffs!
Distance from Columbus: 74 miles, or 1 hour, 15 minutes
Just over one hour from Columbus is the college town of Athens. Home to Ohio University, Athens is a super fun town to explore on a day trip from Columbus.
With a major university in town, that means that there are a handful of museums and performing arts. There’s also some great public art, interesting architecture, and fantastic food options, even for those on a budget.
Check out some of my favorite Athens Ohio attractions.
Distance from Columbus: 107 miles, or 1 hour, 40 minutes
Cincinnati is a fun city to explore and was even once known as the “Paris of America” due to fantastic architecture and landscaping throughout the city. Situated along the Kentucky border on the Ohio River, it is home to some of Ohio’s best museums and attractions.
While Cincinnati is a fantastic weekend getaway destination, you can also see one or two highlights on a day trip from Columbus. A few great things to see in Cincinnati include:
- More than 200 outdoor murals
- Cincinnati Museum Center
- Taft Museum of Art
- Cincinnati Art Museum
- Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum in Hamilton, Ohio
- Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
- Newport Aquarium in Newport, Kentucky
- Loveland Castle in Loveland, Ohio
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Distance from Columbus: 129 miles, or two hours
Ohio’s only National Park is just two hours from Columbus, making it an easy day trip for spectacular scenery. The Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail cuts right through the park and is a great place to to explore on bicycle.
There are also dozens of hiking trails and fantastic waterfalls. Blue Hen Falls and Brandywine Falls are two of the most popular waterfalls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. There’s also a covered bridge you can check out, as well as a scenic railroad.
Distance from Columbus: 72 miles, or 1 hour, 10 minutes
Another fun city in Southwest Ohio is Dayton, 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, we also have a list of free things to do in Dayton that you won’t want to miss. A few highlights of a Dayton day trip – or a weekend getaway from Columbus OH – 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
Hocking Hills State Park
Distance from Columbus: 57 miles, or one hour
One of Ohio’s most beautiful areas is the Hocking Hills area near Logan, Ohio. Centered around Hocking Hills State Park, the region is marked by deep gorges, old-growth forests, and breathtaking waterfalls. You’ll also find miles of trails to traverse on foot, and even some that can accommodate riders on horseback. Check out our post on the most popular Hocking Hills hiking trails as a starting point.
While it’s a beautiful destination for a romantic weekend getaway, you can also see a lot of the Hocking Hills on a day trip from Columbus. Start on the Hocking Hills Scenic Byway and explore each of the six designated areas of Hocking Hills State Park. Each spot features a short hike to magnificent natural features like caves, gorges, and waterfalls.
It’s a beautiful place to visit and a welcome reprieve for those who need to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city and are craving time in nature. Some ideas for a great day trip include:
- Visit Ash Cave, the largest recess cave east of the Mississippi
- Relax in one of the new sauna pods at Hocking Hills Chalets
- Watch a glass-blowing demonstration at Jack Pine Glass Blowing Studio
- Go horseback riding on one of the equestrian-friendly trails
- Take a hike on the Old Man’s Cave trail to the Upper Falls
Distance from Columbus: 126 miles, or two hours
The riverboat town of Marietta, Ohio has lots of fun things to see and its small size makes it perfectly suitable for a day trip from Columbus, OH.
Located on the banks of the Ohio River, Marietta is one of the oldest towns in Ohio, with historic and natural attractions to explore. You’ll find a cute little downtown area with boutique shops, delicious restaurants (try the Busy Bee in Harmar or The Galley) and even a brewery. A few of my favorite Marietta attractions include:
- Sewah Studios
- Marietta Historic Homes Walking Tour
- Campus Mauritius Museum
- Marietta Historic Churches Walking Tour
- Riverboat Tour on the Muskingum River
- Ohio River Museum
- Explore the Covered Bridges of Marietta
Distance from Columbus: 67 miles, or 1 hour, 10 minutes
My hometown of Mansfield, Ohio is the perfect day trip from Columbus. Also known as the Carousel Capital of Ohio, the small size of Mansfield means you can cover a lot of ground in one day and still be back at your Columbus hotel by evening. A few of my favorite Mansfield attractions include:
- Kingwood Center
- Gorman Nature Center
- Malabar Farm State Park
- The Ohio State Reformatory
- A self-guided driving tour of the Shawshank Trail
Distance from Columbus: 80 miles, or 1 hour, 28 minutes
Cambridge may be best known for the Dickens Victorian Village that transforms it from a small midwestern city to a magical Christmas town overnight. But winter isn’t the only time to plan a visit.
During the summer months, you can explore the great outdoors at Salt Fork, Ohio’s biggest state park which has over 18,000 acres of natural areas to experience. From beaches and marinas to geocaching and golf, to possible Bigfoot sightings! Salt Fork is also home to one of the Ohio State Park Lodges, which is great if you have time for an overnight visit.
You’ll also want to add a visit to The Wilds on your bucket list. Board an open-air safari tour at this animal conservation center and non-profit wildlife park and you’ll be transported from southeastern Ohio to the savannahs of Africa or far away lands of Asia.
A few other things to do in Cambridge include:
- The nation’s largest outdoor drama at The Living Word
- Tour The National Museum of Cambridge Glass and watch the glass production process at Mosser’s Glass (or simply pop in to shop at their beautiful showroom)
- Buy some tasty treats to sample at Kennedy’s Bakery, frequented by locals and tourists alike
Distance from Columbus: 52 miles, or one hour
Did you know that “America’s Most Colorful Caverns” are located in Western Ohio? Just one hour from Columbus, visitors can tour Ohio Caverns and see the largest known stalactite in Ohio.
Located just outside West Liberty, the Caverns are open year-round, offering a variety of tours for visitors. The Natural History tour explores the history of the caverns and their discovery. To see the most cave formations, take the Natural Wonders tour. In the winter months, they offer a hybrid version that combines both tours.
Yellow Springs, Ohio
Distance from Columbus: 55 miles or 50 minutes
If a historic village and outdoor adventure hub is more your style, then head to Yellow Springs, Ohio. It’s the perfect day trip from Columbus, with historic buildings and lots of outdoor areas to explore. A few of the best things to do in Yellow Springs, Ohio include:
- Visit the Historic Clifton Mill
- Bike along the Little Miami Scenic Trail (you can ride all the way from Cincinnati!)
- Hike through Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve
- View waterfalls at Glen Helen Nature Preserve
- Shop at over 50 locally-owned boutiques
- Enjoy locally-grown food at the farmers market or one of 15 local restaurants and pubs
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