Planning a road trip can be super stressful, even if you’re excited to get away for a day or two. Not knowing what to do and where to go puts many people off even planning one of these trips.
Luckily we’ve taken the panic and worry out of it all by compiling this list of 15 of the best road trips in and around Cincinnati, all only a car drive away.
Whether you’re a city goer who wants to get away from the hustle and bustle for a day or two, or you’re passing through as part of a larger trip, here are the best and most interesting places you should visit.
Big Bone Lick State Park
A historic site just over 30 minutes away from the city, Big Bone Lick Park is also somewhat of a hidden gem for tourists. A great day out for the whole family, this is a fun experience for the kids who can get hands-on lessons about the prehistoric history of the area. You’re also able to view the park’s resident bison who are there all year round.
If you want a more grown-up day then you should try hiking and orienteering where you can see the stunning wildlife the park has to offer. Birding is also a popular pastime here, as enthusiasts often visit the park in late spring to see the arrival of the Ruby-throated hummingbird. It doesn’t stop here though as throughout the year several bird species come and go as they make the park their home.
If you want to turn this day trip into a weekend trip then you can by making use of the park’s huge campground that features 62 campsites. With a grocery store on-site, and access to exclusive amenities like access to the swimming pool during the summer, it’s a great place for you and your family to get closer to nature.
LEGOLAND Discovery Center
For a kid’s day out (or adults who really like LEGO) this is guaranteed to be a fun-filled experience. Only the 12th Discovery Center to be opened in America, this unique building offers more LEGO experiences than you could ever imagine.
The 3-story LEGO City playground will keep your kids entertained for hours on end, but that isn’t all that’s here. If they want some thrills then they could try out the two rides on-site, then make their way to the factory tour – an interactive experience where your child gets to make LEGO bricks in a virtual LEGO factory.
You can’t leave before checking out MIMILAND Ohio, a huge build showcasing all the iconic buildings of the state, including Cincinnati’s very own Great American Tower. All-in-all, this is a great day out for you and your children, especially on a boring rainy day when the inside is best.
Another historical site and one more for the grown-ups. Built by Native Americans thousands of years ago, it is now the largest serpentine effigy mound in the world. Nearby are three ancient burial grounds, which visitors can view on a scenic walk around the site. The winding path is great for a summer or autumn stroll through nature, and as it’s pet friendly you’re able to bring your furry friends along for the ride.
Do you want to see some fun art while out on a walk? Then this is the spot for you! This park is over 300 acres and features over 70 sculptures and statues that you can view along your walk. There’s also different types of trails depending on what you’re after. If you want a calm stroll we’d recommend walking through the beautiful meadows, or if you want something more difficult you could give the hiking trails a try.
If you prefer history over walking then Pyramid Hill has an onsite sculpture museum that displays ancient statues made by the Greeks, Egyptians, and other civilizations. No matter what you choose to do you’ll never be bored of things to see.
If you love being in a city but still want to see somewhere new, why not try Chicago? Though it may seem a bit far it’s easy to drive to, and by making this a weekend trip you can make the most out of your stay. Once you arrive you won’t believe how many things you can do and see.
A visit to Millennium Park is a must if only to see the famous Cloud Gate. After this, you could try out the ice rink which is located right behind the sculpture. Then there are several museums around the city, like the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Museum of contemporary photography.
From experiencing the Chicago Riverwalk to catching live music and entertainment on the lakefront, Chicago has so many new things to offer you on your weekend away. This is a place you’ll never be bored in and it makes the drive worth it.
Butler County Donut Trail
For the foodies amongst us, this trip will be the tastiest one you’ve ever had. Comprising 13 bakeries, you’re challenged to visit them all and get your special donut passport completely stamped. If you succeed you win a free donut trail T-shirt. This lets you not only show off your proud achievement but also if you wear it in some Butler County businesses you get discounts.
Each bakery is different, so even if you don’t want to take part in the challenge they are still definitely worth a look. Some recommendations are Kelly’s Bakery, who like to put fun icing designs on their donuts, and The Donut Dude, featuring odd flavored cereal-inspired donuts.
The best place to try new flavors, this little day out will fill you up and has the added benefit of letting you take some of that delicious food home with you.
Only a short drive from the city is the largest cave system in Ohio. With over 2 miles of underground pathways, you’ll be taken down over 100ft down to view crystal formations and stalactites throughout the caves.
After exploring the two huge caverns, you can come back to sunlight and spend the rest of the day in the 35-acre park located directly above the caves. Here there are picnic tables, a children’s playground, and a gift shop selling unique souvenirs like rocks, fossils, and crystals. This educational but fun trip is a unique experience that everyone can enjoy.
Another one that needs to be a weekend away, Frankenmuth is a little slice of Germany tucked away in Michigan (see also ‘15 Amazing Things To Do In Ann Arbor During Your Vacation‘). The Bavarian Inn Lodge is the perfect setting for a romantic getaway, with its beautiful German-inspired architecture adding to the illusion of being in Europe.
The perfect time to go is Christmas as the area is home to Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, the largest Christmas store in the world. But that’s not the only attraction. All year round you can take a boat tour down the Cass River that runs through the town, or you can shop for authentic cuckoo and grandfather clocks at the renowned Frankenmuth Clock company.
For your evening meal, you’re spoilt for choice, with Frankenmuth boasting of their world-famous chicken dinners. One of the most famous restaurants is in the Bavarian Inn itself so you won’t have far to walk from your cozy hotel room. This is truly a charming location and one that can be visited again and again.
Boonshoft Museum of Discovery
A nice day out for the whole family, the Boonshoft museum features several fun activities and exhibits to keep you and your children entertained all day.
The Discovery Zoo section is a favorite for visitors, who can see over 100 animals ranging from insects to otters to the very lazy sloth. Every day there are live talks and shows with zookeepers where children can learn about these animals and many even meet a few of them.
The Hall of the Universe might be the most beautiful part of the museum, as you can take a stroll through the stars learning about deep space before coming to the Science on a Sphere section. Here a huge projection of earth is displayed onto a 69-inch diameter globe that’s suspended in the air. A wonderful exhibit, this is one of the biggest draws to the museum.
With far too many attractions and exhibits to list, this museum is one for the books.
If animals are your thing then why not check out Columbus Zoo. Not too far from Cincinnati, this huge zoo will take the whole day to explore. With animals from all over the world, you could see anything from bears to elephants to little insets, with the number of animals who call this place home too many to list.
If you want a change of pace there are many theme park rides you could test out, with some being suitable for tots while others older kids will enjoy. Afterward, why not unwind with some food in one of the park’s dozens of food stalls or restaurants.
A go-to for summer, this park will take multiple visits before you see everything and will be a fun experience every time.
Hocking Hills State Park
Less than three hours away from the city is this stunning natural landscape of over 9000 acres of land. Split over 5 sections of mainly forest, this massive park is a hiker’s dream.
With 7 different areas to choose from, Ash Cave is a favorite hike among visitors thanks to its seasonal waterfall and short distance. There’s also Old Man’s Cave, where hikers cross the rock bridge over the Devil’s Bathtub, a unique rock formation that also features a waterfall.
If you want to stay for a weekend you have the choice of staying in the Hocking Hills Cabins and Cottages, which include a mix of cottages, cabins, and treehouses. If you want to be even closer to nature there’s also a camping site that is open year-round.
This Natural Historic Landmark has the largest and best-preserved manmade earthworks in the county due to its 100-acres of mounds that were once used for protection, ceremonies, and social gatherings over 2,000 years ago.
With short trails kids can easily come along for your walk, and a dedicated children’s museum teaches them about the local history. A recreation of ancient houses is an interesting feature to explore, along with the recreated American Indian garden. A nice place to spend a few hours, here you’re able to get away from the noise and commotion of city life.
Young’s Jersey Dairy
This family-friendly dairy farm is a treat for little ones who love animals. Featuring the cows who are the stars of the show in their own right, the farm also houses a petting zoo for your child to get up close to other farmyard friends like goats and pigs.
As this is a working dairy farm, all milk and cream used in the onsite restaurants are farm-fresh, making possibly the best ice cream you’ve ever had.
If you want to take a break from the animals there’s other activities to try out like the mini-golf courses, the natural grass driving range for the older kids and adults, and a playground. With something for everyone this is a great place to go for the day.
Red River Gorge
Just over a 2-hour drive away is this stunning natural beauty with its waterfalls, sandstone cliffs, and hiking trails that draw people in from all over the state.
The sandstone rocks are what gives this area the famous ‘red’ look, but that’s not all the cliffs are known for. Rock climbing enthusiasts have made this area one of the most popular destinations in the world for the sport. Even if you don’t want to try this, the rocks are still something worth seeing.
Like many other parks this one is popular with campers, and you can see why. If you want to extend your stay this is a great place to camp and be surrounded by nature.
Buffalo Trace Bourbon Distillery
For over 200 years the Buffalo Trace Distillery has been making bourbon whiskey, and now they invite you to come and see how it’s done. With many different tours offered, such as the Trace Tour which charts the beginnings of the distillery’s history, to the Barrel Tour that charts the whiskey’s journey through the distillery, you’ll be able to choose the one you’re most interested in. There’s even a ghost tour.
If you’d prefer to sample the product then you can try the Taste of the Trace experience, allowing you to try the whiskey while also learning about how it’s made. Great for big groups with a love of whiskey, this trip offers a more sophisticated but still fun day out.
This massive 17-mile long lake is one of the best in the area for swimming, fishing, and boating. But that’s not all. For those who prefer dry land there’s also more than 25 miles of trail surrounding this beautiful spot.
With two public beaches and snack bars nearby and plenty of picnic areas surrounding the lake, this is a great location to visit on a hot summer’s day.