15 Best Day Trips from Cincinnati

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
Our travel recommendations are based on our personal experiences and research, written by locals and travel experts with deep familiarity with the destination. When you book a hotel or tour that we link to, we may earn a commission.

While the Ohio River laps against the banks Cincinnati lies in wait for you.

Home to a diverse cultural heritage with dozens of quaint European-style inner-city villages to explore Cincinnati is often overlooked on the tourist trail; totally undeservedly so.

Once you have enjoyed a saunter along the riverfront, visited the dummy museum, the zoo and botanical gardens it’s about time to expand your horizons.

Cincinnati’s central placement makes visiting big cities, national forest and Ohio’s hidden gems incredibly easy.

Let’s explore the best day trips from Cincinnati:

1. Indianapolis

IndianapolisSource: Alexey Stiop / shutterstock

Motor-mad Indianapolis will be top of the must-visit list for any mechanical minded traveller for it is home to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Track.

It is, in fact, the largest auto racetrack in the world.

Hosting dozens of motor races throughout the year be sure to time your visit with an event day.

For those who prefer a more low key day trip then the White River State Park is a lovely spot to spend an afternoon, as is Indianapolis zoo.

If you want to get to grips with local culture then head to Broad Ripple where you’ll find all the cool kids hanging out in relaxed cafes and laid back brewpubs.

Up and coming bands can be found gracing the stages of underground music venues.

2. Columbus

ColumbusSource: f11photo / shutterstock

Ohio’s state capital, Columbus, has a wealth of museums, gardens and galleries to enjoy.

In the space of a day you can hop from a relaxed and beautifully manicured park to blooming gardens and back again.

The Columbus Museum of Art offers visitors the chance to observe a wonderful collection of masterworks from contemporary American artists across the mediums.

If you just want to explore Columbus and get a feel for this thriving city then head to Scioto Mile in downtown.

This cultural micro-hub has a free outdoor climbing wall, a beautiful fountain and a performance area that is regularly occupied by talented groups of local performers.

3. Louisville

LouisvilleSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock

Should you be keen to tick off as many states as possible during your time in and around Cincinnati then heading to Louisville is not only a great day out but see you cross Kentucky off from your list.

Best known for the Churchill Downs Racecourse and the Kentucky Derby the atmosphere around town is electric in the run up to the event.

If you’re not around for the race itself you can swing by the Kentucky Derby Museum to learn more about the long history of his world-famous race.

If you’re more taken by baseball than horse racing then a visit to the Slugger Museum and Factory would perhaps be more appropriate.

4. Yellow Springs

Yellow Springs, OhioSource: Doug Lemke / shutterstock
Yellow Springs

The quaint and charming village of Yellow Springs is one of Ohio’s best kept secrets.

Home to just 3,400 people Yellow Springs is the perfect off the beaten track day trip destination.

Strapping on the hiking boots is your best bet and get out to the John Bryan State Park, the Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve or the Glen Helen Nature Preserve; you are totally spoiled for choice.

Where to start?! Wherever you choose to roam you’ll be greeted by rugged rocky river canyons, lush, dense forests and crystal clear streams and creeks.

The Clifton Mill sits just outside Yellow Springs and has a great, traditional American diner to help refuel you after the hike.

5. Chicago

ChicagoSource: Rudy Balasko / shutterstock

The city of Chicago is one of the most audacious cities in the United States of America, especially when it comes to architecture; just take a look at the Willis Tower and Cloud Gate.

Chicago is an incredibly photogenic city and this is largely due to its multiculturalism, serving as a home for many Irish, Indian and South Asian communities.

Being the third largest city in the USA there is always something happening in Chicago, be it a big ball game, stadium concert or political rally.

Millennium Park and Navy Pier are considered to be the two must-visit spots in Chicago.

6. Cleveland

ClevelandSource: f11photo / shutterstock

Sitting comfortably on the shores of Lake Erie is steadfast Cleveland.

Best known and loved for being home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this is surely the first stop off for any day visitor to Cleveland.

If you time your visit right you could grab yourself one of 35,000 seats at an Indians game.

Cleveland is a sporty city and to see the Indians play at home is a real privilege and a must-do for any avid sporting enthusiast.

Cleveland has an emerging food scene that is predicted to develop to be on par with LA and NYC in the not too distant future.

Foodies should head to Westside Market.

7. Detroit

DetroitSource: f11photo / shutterstock

Being the largest city in midwestern Michigan means that there is always something exciting happening in Detroit.

This city hub is a hive of activity come rain or shine.

Music lovers will be keen to explore Detroit for it is the birthplace of Motown music and don’t they like to remind you.

Detroit is in a state of flux, youngsters and ambitious city slickers are slowly but surely transforming the city into their own.

There is no shortage of hipster cafes and craft brewery companies to discover.

You could easily spend a day hopping from one innovative brew house to another.

In which case, bring a driver or book a cheeky overnight stay.

8. Hoosier National Forest

Hoosier National ForestSource: carroteater / shutterstock
Hoosier National Forest

Spanning an incredible 202,814 acres the Hoosier National Forest is a lush wilderness just waiting to be explored.

Sitting in the southern hills of Indiana a visit to Hoosier National Forest is an ideal opportunity to tick off another US state from your bucket list.

There are dozens of hiking trails to choose from.

Some are dead flat and require minimal fitness levels, others are somewhat more strenuous and cover the rolling hills and rocky ascents of the forest’s more remote areas.

With over 260 miles of hiking trails to choose from suffice to say there is a route to suit everyone.

You can find information about hiking routes and trail conditions at the Hoosier National Forest visitors centre.

9. Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park

Pyramid Hill Sculpture ParkSource: pyramidhill.org
Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park

Simple honest fun for all the family the Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park is a great place to visit on a day trip from Cincinnati.

Featuring both indoor and outdoor exhibits the Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park is a fantastic day out come rain or shine.

The outdoor park encompasses an area of over 300 acres and features over 60 different sculptures.

There is great cultural heritage held here, at the Ancient Sculpture Museum you’ll find exhibits from Greek, Syrian and ancient Egypt.

If you need to escape the city smoke or are in need of some creative inspiration then Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park is the perfect place to head.

10. Big Bone Lick State Park

Big Bone Lick State ParkSource: Mattguyver / Wikimedia
Big Bone Lick State Park

Not only a fantastic name, Big Bone Lick State Park is a fantastic place to visit.

With a wealth of wildlife, flora and history to explore the Big Bone Lick State Park is an engaging and educational day out.

The highlight of a visit to Big Bone Lick State Park is surely taking the time to observe the Bison who reside on the property year round.

Sadly, Kentucky lost the last of its wild Bison in the 1800s but thanks to Big Bone Lick State Park they are conserved in a free range environment forever more.

11. Sandusky

Sandusky, Cedar Point Amusement parkSource: David McGill 71 / shutterstock
Sandusky, Cedar Point Amusement Park

Sandusky is a quaint lakeside city in Ohio State.

Tucked away on the shores of Lake Erie Sandusky is a little off the beaten track for many travellers but is well worth the hike from Cincinnati.

Adrenaline junkies will be well aware of Sandusky already for it is home to the legendary Cedar Point amusement park that features dozens of scream-inducing roller-coasters and fast paced rides.

The Merry-Go-Round Museum is one of those oddball tourist attractions that must be visited when in town, if only to say that you’ve been.

For those interested in maritime history finding time to visit the Maritime Museum of Sandusky would be advisable.

12. Ripley

Ripley, OhioSource: Aesopposea / Wikimedia

A visit to the village of Ripley sees you step back in time.

Home to less than 2,000 people Ripley is a village trapped in time in the most endearing of ways.

The highlight to a day trip to Ripley is without a doubt a visit to John Rankin House.

Built in 1828 the house, now a museum, was home to the Presbyterian abolitionist.

A tour of the property sees you gain a greater understanding as to the life and times of the influential man himself and see artefacts from his life.

Many people take the time to visit the Kinkead Ridge Winery when in Ripley too.

Their Cabernet Sauvignon gets rave reviews.

13. Holmes County

MillersburgSource: pikappa51 / shutterstock

Holmes County is the gateway to Amish Country and is a great place to spend a day.

There are dozens of villages to explore in Holmes County each with a distinct charm of its own.

Sugarcreek is a popular little stop off, as is the historic downtown of Millersburg.

For those interested in wine be sure to schedule time to visit the Breitenbach Winery vineyards.

The Victorian House and German Culture Museum will satisfy your cultural itch and an afternoon spent searching for Dundee Falls provides you with your nature fix.

14. Dayton

Dayton, OhioSource: Beeline Aerial / shutterstock

Dayton is, in fact, the sixth largest city in Ohio and there is a wealth of historical and cultural gems to explore.

Those travelling with children and young adults will be delighted to discover the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery.

A truly inspirational find, the Boonshoft Museum has hands on experiments and exhibits for visitors to take part in and open their minds to science in a fun filled way.

The Dayton Art Institute is home to a wonderful collection of fine arts from all over the world.

Travellers with an avid interest in military and machinery will surely enjoy a visit to the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

15. Madison

Madison, WisconsinSource: Rudy Balasko / shutterstock

Best known for being the Wisconsin state capitol, Madison is a quintessentially American city that has a diverse range of activities and landmarks to enjoy.

Madison, as a city, is rather stylish and was the former home of Frank Lloyd Wright.

There are dozens of museums to discover in Madison, if you’re travelling with children you are in luck for Madison has its very own Children’s Museum.

For the adults there is the Chazen Museum of Art, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art and the University of Wisconsin Geology Museum.

No doubt you’ll return to Cincinnati a more informed individual than when you left in the morning.

15 Best Day Trips from Cincinnati:

  • Indianapolis
  • Columbus
  • Louisville
  • Yellow Springs
  • Chicago
  • Cleveland
  • Detroit
  • Hoosier National Forest
  • Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park
  • Big Bone Lick State Park
  • Sandusky
  • Ripley
  • Holmes County
  • Dayton
  • Madison