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23 Spontaneous Day Trips That Are Less Than 3 Hours Away From Cincinnati

There's nothing wrong with settling into a routine. It's nice to know that you'll always be at a certain place during the same hours of the day. You'll meet with friends on a Thursday, you'll go to the gym after work, and you know that Netflix is always waiting for you at home. 

But sometimes, you just need to break free. Instead of having that Saturday night date with your couch and Netflix, get out and do some exploring! All you need to do is choose a destination, grab some friends, and head off onto an exciting adventure.

Going on a trip doesn't always equal a lot of planning. Sure, a two week vacation to Europe would be nice. But that's expensive and, oh, did I mention? It's expensive! So go out and explore Ohio. You'll be surprised how beautiful it is with state parks and nature reserves. Oh, and the caves. The caves are so eerie and cool.

Scan through the list and get that text chain going with your friends! And don't forget to take pictures because everybody could do with some sprucing of their Instagram aesthetic. 

The Wilds

Time from Cincinnati: 3 hours

Where: Cumberland

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Believe it or not, the African Safari is just 3 hours away. It's not quite like the real thing, but you do get to be up close and personal with a wide range of animals. You can get a kiss from a giraffes, say hi to the rhinos, spy on some cheetahs, and look on at some zebras. And for some reason if you get tired of the animals, you can also go horseback riding and even ziplining! The wildlife park also offers accommodations so you can stay overnight and fall asleep listening to the animals.


Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Time from Cincinnati: 1 hour and 45 minutes

Where: Columbus

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Come here to marvel at exotic plants. You'll find peace here as you walk through the conservatory and the gardens. The place is open all year round and there are always different plants and flowers in bloom depending on the season. If you're looking to add on an extra experience while you're there, you can take a number of classes there. They offer yoga, tai chi, painting, gardening, and even baking classes!


Ash Cave

Time from Cincinnati: 2.5 hours

Where: Logan

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Go into the cave. Deep into the cave. It's a horseshoe-shaped cave that is 100 feet deep! It's one of the highlights of Hocking Hills State Park. If you only have time to go to one area, make this a priority. Unfortunately, the waterfall only runs in the spring, but it's still worth it to go see the cave. There's also an inn nearby where you can stay after your exhausting day of hiking, climbing, and exploring. Why not make it a weekend getaway?

Wayne National Forest

Time from Cincinnati: 2.5 hours

Where: Stewart

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It's the only national forest in Ohio! Wayne National Forest is known for its extensive trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Whichever trail you take, you will get a stunning view of the Hocking River. If you aren't the camping type, you can still bring a hammock or a tarp to set up and take a rest along the water. Everybody deserves a break after some hardcore cardio!

German Village

Time from Cincinnati: 1 hour and 40 minutes

Where: Columbus

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This area is overflowing with charm. This laid-back village is lined with 19th century brick houses, bookshops, art galleries, German pubs, and coffee shops. Come here if you and your friends are looking to get out of Cincinnati for a more relaxing day out. You really can't go wrong with window shopping and taking breaks in between to eat fudge and drink coffee.


Time from Cincinnati: 1 hour and 45 minutes

Where: Columbus

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Science can be fun! No really, it can be. Seriously! COSI has a ton of exhibits for you to go through depending on your interests. But the one thing you can't miss is the planetarium. It's the largest in Ohio and the projections will make you feel like you're traveling in space to the farthest reaches of the galaxy. You don't have to be a super genius who works for NASA to experience what it's like to be in space!


Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve

Time from Cincinnati: 2 hours and 20 minutes

Where: Rockbridge

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This gorge is, well, gorgeous! It's 100 feet wide in certain places and it's supposed to be the deepest in Ohio. The trail you take to the top is a moderate hike, but you get to be surrounded by cliffs that rise 200 feet above the mouth of the gorge. Your legs will burn, but your heart will soar as you witness the beautiful scenery. And after that, give yourself a break and skip the cardio for at least 2 weeks. That only seems acceptable!

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Ohio Caverns

Time from Cincinnati: 2 hours

Where: West Liberty

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Head deep underground at the Ohio Caverns. There are several different kinds of tours you can take here depending on how much time you want to dedicate to this natural wonder. You can enter through a sinkhole entrance and walk through the passages formed underneath. You'll hear everything in here so don't be too easily spooked if you hear random noises.


Cedar Falls

Time from Cincinnati: 2.5 hours

Where: Logan

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Go chase this waterfall. Located in Hocking Hills State Park, this waterfall is accompanied by steep rock walls and grottos. The trail to get here isn't too long or difficult, so it's a pretty popular hike. When you get there, sit down and have a snack! There's nothing more relaxing than hearing a waterfall. It's better than hearing construction or car horns in the city!

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Mount Airy Forest

Time from Cincinnati: 15 minutes

Where: Cincinnati

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Take advantage of what's right in your backyard! When you really can't get away for too long, this park is for you. You're still in Cincinnati, but you are far enough from the city where you can get away from the busy area. Take some time to explore the amazing treehouse. Swiss Family Robinson's treehouse has nothing on this one!

Rockbridge State Nature Preserve

Time from Cincinnati: 2 hours and 15 minutes

Where: Rockbridge

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This nature preserve features a natural bridge! It's not as frequently visited as other parks and nature reserves, so it's very peaceful and quiet. You can kayak and canoe here or take advantage of the trails that take you directly to the bridge. While you're there, pay attention to your surroundings. This place is the perfect spot for birdwatching!

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Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum

Time from Cincinnati: 30 minutes

Where: Hamilton

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Come climb and play on the sculptures outside. Art is infinitely more fun when you can engage with it. There are over 60 sculptures displayed outside among the rolling hills, meadows, and hiking trails. So take your time frolicking through the museum and take lots of pictures! You can't ask for a better model than a contemporary sculpture. Just saying.


Sky Zone Trampoline Park

Time from Cincinnati: 20 minutes

Where: Cincinnati

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It's time to fly through the air. If you want to get your friends together for some wild times, come here to this trampoline park! If you get tired of jumping, there are so many activities to do in the facility. You can play dodge ball, try your luck at the skyladder, battle your friends in jousting, or hang out in the foam pit.


Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Time from Cincinnati: 3.5 hours

Where: Brecksville

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Don't come for us for cheating. Yes, this is technically more than 3 hours away from Cincinnati, but that extra half hour is worth the drive! There's so much to do at this national park. The drive just to the park is gorgeous because of the curvy and winding road. There are several lookouts and waterfalls in the park. Just choose your trail and you'll stumble upon a waterfall! If you aren't comfortable hiking based on your own directional abilities, you can always take a ranger guided tour.

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Lane Hooven House

Time from Cincinnati: 45 minutes

Where: Hamilton

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You'll die for the spiral staircase. This historic house is now the base for the Hamilton Foundation, but the public is free to take a self-guided tour of the gothic house. Most of the furniture in the house is from the 19th century and made in Cincinnati. So go explore the house and feel like royalty because nobody is living in a house like this anymore!


Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Time from Cincinnati: 2 hours

Where: Powell

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For those who want a bit more distance from the animals, this is for you. This is closer than The Wilds and you get to see some aquatic animals too! The zoo also holds plenty of adult 21+ events that are at night, if you want something fun to do other than watching the animals sleep and eat.


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Mohican State Park

Time from Cincinnati: 3 hours

Where: Loudonville via

Come on, who doesn't love visiting covered bridges? There's one right in the middle of the state park and it's a very romantic photo spot if you're there with your s/o! If you are looking to stay longer than a day, there are cabins you can stay in. The reviews for the accommodation are all really high!


Time from Cincinnati: 3 hours

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Technically, it's not a ghost town. But it kind of is on its way to being that. There are a few residents that still live here, but there are a ton of buildings left abandoned. There aren't any ghost stories that come out of this town, but you might leave the town with your own.

Franklin Castle

Time from Cincinnati: 4 hours

Where: Cleveland

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No, this isn't the hosue of Frank Castle from the Marvel comics. But it is a haunted house and what's better than that? Get in the mood for Halloween by walking around the building... at night. In the daytime, the house is beautiful! At night, well, who knows. Even though this is 4 hours from Cincinnati, you can spend your time exploring Cleveland! You can never go wrong with a visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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South Bass Island

Time from Cincinnati: 4.5 hours

Where: Put-in-Bay

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This is the perfect weekend getaway. Head to the small island to relax and eat some amazing seafood meals. You can explore the Marblehead Lighthouse and get your adrenaline going at Cedar Point. Take a walk down the boardwalk and stop along the different shops along the water. Some say it's a lazy weekend and others will recognize how nice it is to not have a plan and just seeing where the day takes you!

Ohio State Reformatory

Time from Cincinnati: 3 hours

Where: Mansfield

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The majority of Shawshank Redemption was shot here! The historic prison is open to the public for guided tours. If you're really feeling brave, there's a special Halloween event held there every year. Supposedly, the prison is haunted. So if you're taking the tour, pay attention. You never know what paranormal activity is happening right beside you.


Glen Helen Nature Preserve

Time from Cincinnati: 1.5 hours

Where: Yellow Springs

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Are you ready for some trails? There are 25 miles of trails for this 1,000 acre nature preserve. While you're there, make sure you see the naturla spring that leaves a yellowish-ornage coloring on the rocks. That's where Yellow Springs gets its name!

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Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Train

Time from Cincinnati:


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If you don't want to go to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, consider this instead. Leave the hiking behind and instead see the park while riding the steam-powered train. The train runs between Independence and Arkon with three boarding stations: Rockside, Peninsula Depot and Akron Northside. Choose the one closest to you, buy your ticket, and board the train! Make sure to get a window seat because you won't want to miss the beautiful view of the park.