Cincinnati is a beautiful city with no shortage of things to keep visitors entertained, but if you want to get out of town for a day, there are plenty of wonderful places you can go. The city's central location makes it easy to access everything from secluded wilderness areas to bustling cities like Louisville and Columbus, but if you're looking for a more unique experience, consider visiting the African Safari Wildlife Park or the mysterious Serpent Mound believed to have been built during prehistoric times. No matter what you're in the mood for, choosing one of these incredible destinations will ensure you won't get bored. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Some restaurants are currently offering pickup only. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.African Safari Wildlife Park
© Jack Tamrong/stock.adobe.com
Africa isn't the only place you can spot zebras and giraffes from your car; you can do it right here in the Midwest at the African Safari Wildlife Park. The park is home to a wide variety of animals, including camels, bison, and several species of deer, and visitors can drive through the park in their own car to feed and pet the animals at their own pace. There is also a walking safari section, where visitors can see warthogs, gibbons, and tortoises. For an additional fee, visitors can ride a camel, feed the kangaroos, and mine for gems at the African Safari Mining Outpost.
267 S Lightner Rd, Port Clinton, OH 43452, Phone: 419-732-3606
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Set on the banks of the Hocking River and home to Ohio University, Athens is best known as a college town, but it's much more than that. There's no doubt that the large student population gives the town a vibrant, youthful edge that can be felt in its hip cafes and restaurants, but the area also has a rich history. Visitors should make a point of stopping by the Southeast Ohio History Center, but you don't forget to make time to do a bit of shopping while exploring the historic buildings along the brick Court Street.
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© Behringer-Crawford Museum
Located inside the beautiful Devou Park, the Behringer-Crawford Museum is dedicated to preserving and sharing the unique culture and history of Northern Kentucky. The museum is housed inside an elegant 19th-century residence that was originally built for the Devou family, and it boasts a diverse collection of family-friendly exhibits, including a 1959 Buick Electra set up to watch a drive-in movie, an interactive model train that travels through a mid-century city, and a carefully restored streetcar from 1892. There's also an outdoor play area with activities designed to teach children about the region's history in a fun, interactive way.
1600 Montague Rd, Covington, KY 41011, Phone: 859-491-4003
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4.Boonshoft Museum of Discovery
© Boonshoft Museum of Discovery
It can be tough to plan a day trip when young children are involved, but the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery is a destination the whole family can enjoy. The displays are centered around science and natural history, and highlights of the permanent exhibits include an Egyptian mummy, a live Burmese python, and a large replica globe that shows changing images of Earth. The museum offers plenty of hands-on learning opportunities as well, and children and their parents can enjoy interactive exhibits like a rubber band art board, a demonstrative laboratory, and an enclosed tree house where visitors can watch birds through the windows.
2600 Deweese Pkwy, Dayton, OH 45414, Phone: 937-275-7431
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5.Big Bone Lick State Park
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Big Bone Lick State Park was named for the enormous bones that have been found scattered throughout the area, and it's widely recognized as an important key to understanding what life looked like during the Ice Age. A boardwalk leads visitors around a diorama dotted with recreations of mammoths, mastodons, and other Ice Age animals, and the Visitor's Center features a number of informative displays about Native American history, the research being performed in the park, and the area's fossilized plants and animals. The park is also home to a small herd of live bison, which can be seen all throughout the year.
3380 Beaver Rd, Union, KY 41091, Phone: 859-384-3522
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Tucked away in Indiana's picturesque Whitewater Valley, Brookville Lake is one of the best places in the area for swimming, boating, fishing, and other water recreation activities. The lake stretches for approximately 17 miles from north to south, and its shores offer more than 25 miles of hiking trails as well as two public beaches equipped with dressing rooms, snack bars, and a lifeguard on duty. Visitors are welcome to use the picnic areas at the beaches, but there are also plenty of excellent restaurants in the area if you'd rather go out for lunch.
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7.Carillon Historical Park
© Carillon Historical Park
Situated on a beautiful 65-acre property in Dayton, Carillon Historical Park is an open-air history museum that tells the story of the city's community from 1796 until the present day. While walking through the park, visitors can marvel at the period demonstrations in the Early Settlement Area, visit a working 1930s letterpress print shop, and learn about the area's history of innovation at the Heritage Center of Dayton Manufacturing and Entrepreneurship. The park is also home to a fascinating collection of vehicles, including vintage bicycles, a 1903 Barney & Smith Parlor car, and the original Wright Flyer.
1000 Carillon Blvd, Dayton, OH 45409, Phone: 937-293-2841
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8.Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve
Established to protect one of the state's most magnificent dolomite and limestone gorges, the Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve is a 268-acre piece of land located along the Little Miami State and National Scenic River. Several short trails lead down to the gorge and around its rim from the parking lot, allowing visitors to explore the many dramatic rock formations and waterfalls, and a small nature center is open between April and October. Visitors who come in the spring will also get the chance to see beautiful wildflowers in bloom, including the rarely seen snow trillium.
2381 OH-343, Yellow Springs, OH 45387, Phone: 614-265-6453
As the capital of Ohio, Columbus is an obvious choice for a day trip destination, but you might be surprised by just how many things there are to do here. The city's many distinct districts offer almost an incredibly wide range of experiences for visitors to enjoy; lunch on authentic bratwurst in the German Village, browse the boutique shops in the Short North Arts District, and check out the up-and-coming arts scene in Franklinton. If you're traveling with children, check out the exciting LEGOLAND Discovery Center or the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium for an afternoon of family-friendly fun.
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10.Columbus Center of Science and Industry
© Columbus Center of Science and Industry
The Columbus Center of Science and Industry, often referred to simply as COSI, is one of the top science museums in the country. It offers hundreds of exhibits spread throughout ten themed areas, including an Ocean exhibit with a submarine laboratory, a space exhibit where visitors can land the Mars Rover, and a dinosaur gallery with a life-size model of a T. rex. For an additional fee, visitors can also choose from exciting add-on experiences like a ride on the Motion Simulator, a visit to the Planetarium, and the chance to watch a film on the museum's National Geographic Giant Screen Theater.
333 W Broad St, Columbus, OH 43215, Phone: 614-228-2674
Known as the "Birthplace of Aviation", Dayton is a must-visit for anyone who has even the slightest interest in the history of flight. The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force offer the opportunity to gawk at more than 360 missiles and aircraft free of charge, and the Wright Cycle Company complex gives visitors a glimpse at the workshop where Orville and Wilbur first came up with the idea to build a flying machine. If you need a break from learning about aviation, you can visit the Dayton Art Institute, kayak down the river, or stroll through one of the city's beautiful parks.
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12.Edge of Appalachia Preserve
The Edge of Appalachia Preserve is located 75 miles outside of Cincinnati, but as one of the most biodiverse areas in the state, it's well worth the drive. The preserve is home to more than 100 species of rare plants and animals, and it's an excellent place for birdwatching, particularly in the spring and autumn. There are more than 10 miles of secluded trails for hikers of almost all ability levels; depending on what you're looking for, you can hike past sheer limestone cliffs, climb up Buzzardroost Rock for a spectacular panoramic view, or take a gentle stroll through peaceful prairie land.
4274 Waggoner Riffle Rd, West Union, OH 45693, Phone: 937-544-2880
© Fort Ancient
Built approximately 2,000 years ago by the Native Americans that inhabited the area, Fort Ancient is an incredibly well-preserved earthworks enclosure perched on top of a hill. It's believed that the structure was built for special ceremony purposes, and visitors can learn about the culture and history of the people who created it at the on-site museum. There is also a replica Hopewell era house and garden designed to show visitors how people lived during the time of the earthwork builders. Guided tours of the site are only available for groups of 20 people or more, but visitors are welcome to explore on their own.
6123 OH-350, Oregonia, OH 45054, Phone: 513-932-4421
14.Hocking Hills State Park
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Full of scenic sandstone caves and rock hollows, Hocking Hills State Park is a spectacular park complex made up of seven distinct areas. Hiking trails of varying difficulty lead to the park's main points of interest, which include an incredible 100-foot-long natural bridge, a large cave formerly inhabited by a hermit, and a picturesque 105-foot waterfall. Other park activities include playing disc golf, shooting at the archery range, and fishing in the 17-acre Rose Lake. The park is most popular with visitors in the summer, but most of the hikes are possible in the winter as well.
19852 OH-664, Logan, OH 43138, Phone: 740-385-6842
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If you'd like to spend the day in a different state, a day trip to Indianapolis fits the bill perfectly. Almost everything in the downtown core is within walking distance, so you can park the car and visit the Indianapolis Museum of Art, have lunch at one of the incredible restaurants on Mass Ave, and perhaps catch a live music show at the Old National Centre. Visitors with children can stop by the Children's Museum or spend the day at the zoo, and if you're looking for something more active, you can rent bikes and cycle along the Indianapolis Cultural Trail.
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16.Kentucky Horse Park
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Occupying a gorgeous 1,200-acre piece of farmland just outside Lexington, the Kentucky Horse Park is a unique equestrian facility home to almost 50 different species of horse. The Hall of Champions is home to some of the most famous racehorses in the world, who are shown in daily presentations, and visitors are welcome to stop by the Big Barn to watch as draft horses are groomed. Between April and October, visitors can also take a horse-drawn trolley tour of the grounds or take a guided horseback tour along the edge of the park. Children’s pony rides are offered during the warmer months as well.
4089 Iron Works Pkwy, Lexington, KY 40511, Phone: 859-233-4303
A fascinating blend of Southern and Midwestern charm, Louisville is a beautiful riverside city with a long list of attractions. Some say the city was built on bourbon, so take some time to stop by a distillery and check out a few of the bars on the Urban Bourbon Trail before visiting the Muhammad Ali Center, the elegant 19th-century, Conrad-Caldwell House, and the unique Speed Art Museum. Visitors also flock to the city for the Kentucky Derby in May, but don't worry if you can't make it; you can learn all about the history of the race at the fascinating Kentucky Derby Museum.
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18.Louisville Slugger Museum
© Louisville Slugger Museum
Most baseball fans will be familiar with Louisville Slugger baseball bats, and the Louisville Slugger Museum offers the opportunity to get an up-close look at where these bats have been made since 1884. The factory tour tends to be the highlight for most visitors, but there are plenty of other things to see as well, including a 120-foot-tall baseball bat, an exhibit that demonstrates what it's like to face down a 90-mph fastball, and batting cages where visitors can try out Louisville Slugger bats produced throughout the years. After the factory tour, all visitors will receive a tiny souvenir bat to commemorate their experience.
800 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202, Phone: 877-775-8443
19.National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
© National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
Found at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is the world's oldest and largest museum of military aviation. The museum boasts more than 360 historically significant missiles and aircraft displayed in chronological order; the Early Years Gallery features exhibits detailing the dawn of aviation and the use of aircraft during World War I, while other galleries cover topics like World War II, the technological advancements made during the Cold War, and modern aerospace vehicles being used for space exploration. Guided tours are held several times a day, and admission is free of charge.
1100 Spaatz St, Dayton, OH 45431, Phone: 937-255-3286
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Discovered in 1897 thanks to a sinkhole that mysteriously emptied of water overnight, the Ohio Caverns are the largest cave system in the state. The caves boast thousands of colorful crystal formations, stalactites, and stalagmites, and they are only open to visitors by guided tour. Visitors can choose from two different tours in the summer, each of which explores a different part of the caverns, and a separate tour is offered during the winter. During the summer, there is also a special tour for visitors with limited mobility. All tours include fascinating information about the history and geography of the caves.
2210 OH-245 E, West Liberty, OH 43357, Phone: 937-465-4017
21.Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park
© Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park
Opened to the public in 1996, the Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park is one of the only parks of its kind in the country. More than 60 monumental sculptures are scattered throughout the 335-acre property, and visitors are welcome to explore on foot or in a rented Art Cart. In addition to the outdoor displays, there is also a 10,000-square-foot display room filled with ancient sculptures from Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Special children's programs are held during the summer, and the park is lit with twinkling lights every Christmas season for its Holiday Lights on the Hill event.
1763 Hamilton Cleves Rd, Hamilton, OH 45013, Phone: 513-868-1234
22.Red River Gorge
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Part of the Daniel Boone National Forest, the Red River Gorge is a uniquely beautiful canyon system known for its spectacular rock formation, dramatic cliffs, and rugged sandstone arches. People have been using the area for food and shelter since prehistoric times, but today, it's primarily a destination for hikers, campers, and nature lovers. The most popular attraction in the area is Grey's Arch, a stunning sandstone arch that can be accessed via a 4-mile hiking loops, but more than 60 miles of hiking trails meander through the area in total. Trail maps are available at the Visitor's Center, which is open Friday through Monday.
Robbie Ridge Rd, Stanton, KY 40380, Phone: 606-663-8100
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Named in honor of General Ripley, an officer who fought in the War of 1812, Ripley is a welcoming little village set on the Ohio River. It served as a stop on the Underground Railroad, and visitors are encouraged to learn about this important piece of history by touring the Rankin House and the Parker House. If you're longing for a taste of the good old days after your tour, stop by Rockin' Robin's Soda Shoppe to listen to a few songs on the jukebox while you enjoy a homemade ice cream or a nostalgic phosphate soda.
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Recognized as a National Historic Landmark, Serpent Mound is a prehistoric earth mound in the shape of a large snake. The mound is approximately 1330 feet long and 3 feet tall, and carbon dating suggests it was built around 300 B.C., which suggests that it was made by the Adena people who inhabited the area between 800 B.C. and 100 A.D. The park is open to visitors every day between dawn and dusk, and there is also an interesting museum that's open daily between April and October. There is no admission fee, but visitors must pay to park their vehicles.
3850 OH-73, Peebles, OH 45660, Phone: 800-752-2757
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Conveniently located approximately six miles off both the I-70 and the I-675, the town of Yellow Springs is known for its relaxed, welcoming atmosphere and its bustling downtown streets. The town boasts more than fifty locally owned boutique shops selling everything from unique handcrafted pottery to designer shoes, and a seasonal farmer's market sells locally produced goodies like organic fruit and veggies, maple syrup, artisan cheeses, and handmade bread between March and November. A paved bike path runs along the outskirts of the town, and there are several beautiful state parks and family-owned wineries within easy driving distance.
25 Best Weekend Getaways and Day Trips from Cincinnati, Ohio
- African Safari Wildlife Park, Photo: Jack Tamrong/stock.adobe.com
- Athens, Photo: Jacob Lund/stock.adobe.com
- Behringer-Crawford Museum, Photo: Behringer-Crawford Museum
- Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, Photo: Boonshoft Museum of Discovery
- Big Bone Lick State Park, Photo: Sherman Cahal/stock.adobe.com
- Brookville Lake, Photo: Gary/stock.adobe.com
- Carillon Historical Park, Photo: Carillon Historical Park
- Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve, Photo: sonyachny/stock.adobe.com
- Columbus, Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/stock.adobe.com
- Columbus Center of Science and Industry, Photo: Columbus Center of Science and Industry
- Dayton, Photo: John/stock.adobe.com
- Edge of Appalachia Preserve, Photo: motortion/stock.adobe.com
- Fort Ancient, Photo: Fort Ancient
- Hocking Hills State Park, Photo: Kenneth Keifer/stock.adobe.com
- Indianapolis, Photo: Coy St. Clair/stock.adobe.com
- Kentucky Horse Park, Photo: Adam Jones and Danita Delimont/stock.adobe.com
- Louisville, Photo: hstiver/stock.adobe.com
- Louisville Slugger Museum, Photo: Louisville Slugger Museum
- National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, Photo: National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
- Ohio Caverns, Photo: pedrosala/stock.adobe.com
- Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park, Photo: Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park
- Red River Gorge, Photo: R. P. Jennings/stock.adobe.com
- Ripley, Photo: ParinPIX/stock.adobe.com
- Serpent Mound, Photo: George Bailey/stock.adobe.com
- Yellow Springs, Photo: Paul Lemke/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: aceshot/stock.adobe.com
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