With tasty restaurants, charming neighborhoods, and serene city parks, Cincinnati’s packed with impressive attractions and activities. But just beyond the Queen City, a host of day trip adventures await. And, the city’s proximity to Kentucky and Indiana means you can cross multiple states and sights off your bucket list, all within two hours.

The following six Cincinnati day trips offer a bit of something for everyone—from sports and roller coasters to outdoor adventures and adult beverages. Here are the best day trips from Cincinnati for a quick getaway:

The skyline over Cincinnati
The best day trips from Cincinnati include everything from bourbon trails to rock climbing © Benedek / Getty Images

Dayton, Ohio

Why go: Learn aviation history

Ohio is the birthplace of aviation, and it has two Dayton legends to thank: Wilbur and Orville Wright, the brothers who invented and flew the first aircraft. This aviation history abounds throughout the city, starting with the Wright Brothers National Museum in Dayton’s Carillon Historic Park. Beyond aviation artifacts like the 1905 Wright Flyer III plane, the Carillon Historic Park also features an onsite brewery and grill, with beers crafted using a traditional 1850s-era brewing process. 

The National Museum of the United States Air Force, the largest and oldest military aviation museum in the world, is another Dayton gem. This hub, with 350 aerospace vehicles and thousands of artifacts, brings the U.S. Air Force’s history to life. And the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center, housed in the same building the Wright brothers used for their main business, a print shop, rounds out Dayton’s aviation attractions.

The best bites near the museum include craft beer and tater-tot heaven Warped Wing, named after the Wright brothers’ design feature of “wing warping.”

How to get to Dayton

Driving is the best way to get from Cincinnati to Dayton; public transit is available via Greyhound, but takes triple the time. The route is an easy one-hour drive up Interstate 75, with rental cars available throughout Cincinnati and at the CVG airport. If time allows, add a stop at Dayton-favorite Marion’s Piazza, a no-frills but flavor-packed pizza spot, located just off I-75 (near the Dayton Mall).

Yellow Springs, Ohio

Why go: For the LGBTQI-friendly community

Spirited getaway Yellow Springs is one of Ohio’s most unique small towns—and it’s also among the most welcoming, with higher LGBTQ+ members than most other Ohio communities. Peace signs, pride flags and Black Lives Matter window displays show that the city is proud of its inclusive values. Mark your calendar for late June when the Yellow Springs community comes together to celebrate YS Pride, a gathering with a parade, tailgate and home-decorating contest.

Yellow Springs, also the home of comedian Dave Chappelle (who’s rumored to be opening his own Yellow Springs comedy club), is a town of 3,400. Its downtown is packed with yoga studios, artist markets, and restaurants, including Sunrise Café, a local favorite with ingredients sourced from 20 nearby farms.  Yellow Springs Brewery is bike-friendly, with an outdoor taproom adjacent to the 80-mile multipurpose Little Miami Scenic Trail

How to get to Yellow Springs

Driving is the easiest mode of transport between Cincinnati and Yellow Springs. It’s just over an hour's drive up Interstate 75 to Interstate 675. Rental cars are available throughout Cincinnati and at the CVG airport. Stop for Midwest comfort food at Nick’s Restaurant, a chill American joint known for its award-winning wings sauces and fried vegetables.

Red River Valley in Kentuckey's Daniel Boone National Forest
The Red is legendary among rock climbers, with steep sandstone walls offering thousands of routes © Lottie Davies / Lonely Planet

Red River Gorge Geological Area, Kentucky

Why go: Climb and hike through glacier-carved landscapes

Red River Gorge Geological Area, known locally as “The Red,” is an action-packed oasis in Kentucky’s Daniel Boone National Forest—and one of the best day trips from Cincinnati, particularly for adventure seekers. The Red is legendary among rock climbers, with steep sandstone walls offering thousands of routes. Climbing guides like the local Bluegrass Climbing School lead rock climbing and rappelling trips.

But this Kentucky getaway adventure extends well beyond climbing. Red River Gorge boasts over 70 trail miles along canyons, gorges, and arches. Some of the most scenic routes include the three-mile Natural Bridge & Laurel Ridge Trail, as well as the four-mile jaunt to Gray’s Arch. Mind-blowing underground kayaking and boat tours also wind through The Red’s caverns.

While you’re in town, don’t miss Miguel’s Pizza, famous in the climbing world for kick-starting The Red’s climbing scene in the 1980s. In addition to lunch, dinner, and margaritas, Miguel’s offers a rock-climbing store, along with their own accommodations nearby.

How to get to Red River Gorge

Red River Gorge is two hours southeast of Cincinnati. Car is the easiest way to get from point A to B, with the drive mostly following Interstate 75 south to Interstate 64 east, before hitting several backstreets on the way into The Red. Build in time for a stop in Winchester, Kentucky, the birthplace of beer cheese—where you can sample this local delicacy across the town’s Beer Cheese Trail.

Mason, Ohio

Why go: Ride the rollercoasters at Kings Island

Cincinnatians grow up testing their roller-coaster limits at Kings Island, a theme park in suburb Mason, just 25 minutes from the Queen City. Kings Island is among the best Cincinnati day trips, with 100 rides, shows, and attractions, plus 15 roller coasters, including the award-winning Orion, one of only seven giga coasters (rollercoasters with drops of 300 to 399 feet) in the world.

Food and drinks abound at Kings Island. For a local favorite, grab pizza from family-friendly La Rosa’s, praised for its subtly sweet sauce. And Cincinnati’s famous Skyline Chili, beloved by many for its spaghetti with sweet chili on top, is available in the park as well.

Kings Island is easily doable in a day, but you can also stay overnight at the adjacent new Kings Island Camp Cedar, a luxury resort and RV park with onsite pools, camping, restaurants, bars, walking trails, and more.  It’s less than a mile from the theme park.

How to get to Mason

Via car is the fastest way to get from Cincinnati to Mason. It’s a quick 25-minute drive to the northeast along Interstate 71 north. The park is right off the highway. You can also take the local Metro’s 71X Kings Island Express bus to the park. This bus stops in downtown Cincinnati and travels north to the park. 

Indy cars racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Erected in 1909, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway welcomes some of the fastest car races in the world © Action Sports Photography / Shutterstock

Indianapolis, Indiana

Why go: Visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Museum

Like Cincinnati, Indianapolis is a charismatic Midwest city with its own vibrant culture, from art museum Newfields, one of the oldest museums in the country, to the White River State Park, an urban getaway which plays host to the Indianapolis Zoo, the Indiana State Museum and an art museum dedicated to Indigenous and western art. Of course, no Indy trip is complete without a stop at its most famous attraction: the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Erected in 1909, the speedway welcomes some of the fastest car races in the world, including the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend (although different races run all year). To learn the history of this adrenaline-pumping track, visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, with 37,500 square feet of exhibitions, including cars, racing records, and memorabilia. 

Need a post-race bite or drink? Stroll a few blocks for hearty fare at Barbecue and Bourbon or craft beer at Daredevil Brewing, home to Indiana’s best-selling IPA, the Lift Off IPA. Both spots are less than one mile south of the track.

How to get to Indianapolis

Indianapolis is one hour and 45 minutes northeast of Cincinnati on Interstate 74. It’s most accessible via car, with rentals available throughout town and at the CVG airport. Grab a snack halfway between Cincinnati and Indianapolis in Batesville, Indiana, where the historic and recently renovated hotel, The Sherman, boasts a new biergarten and bier hall serving authentic German fare.  

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail
The 250-mile Kentucky Bourbon Trail includes more than 30 distilleries © Thomas Carr / Shutterstock

Lexington, Kentucky

Why go: Explore the Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Lexington is arguably the best place to soak up Kentucky’s culture, with attractions like the Keeneland horse-racing course and a host of stops to try the state’s signature beverage: bourbon. There are 14 distilleries within 45 miles of Lexington and Kentucky makes 95% of the world’s bourbon. See the Kentucky Bourbon Trail for proof.   

The 250-mile Kentucky Bourbon Trail includes more than 30 distilleries, with shuttles and tours from Cincinnati, just 80 miles away. Cincy Brew Bus hosts private Bourbon Trail day tours to several distilleries like Buffalo Trace, Wild Turkey, and Woodford Reserve. Executive Transportation offers similar all-day excursions from Cincinnati as well. 

If you’d rather hit multiple distilleries along the trail for a weekend-long trip, go a bit further west to Louisville, 90 minutes from Cincinnati, where Mint Julep Tours offers two and three-day options to safely hop from distillery to distillery. You can also do a self-guided bourbon trail tour following this map. (Always have a designated driver).

How to get to Lexington

Private tours offer transportation from Cincinnati to Lexington. If you’re driving yourself, the ride is roughly one hour and 20 minutes south along Interstate 75. Louisville is 100 miles southeast along Interstate 71. Tour transport or rental cars are suggested, as public transportation isn’t efficient. If you’re driving to Lexington, make a quick stop north of the city in Georgetown, where restaurant Local Feed pairs hip digs with drool-worthy comfort fare (don’t miss their crispy fried chicken).

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