Are you tired of people telling you that the only things to do for fun in the Cincinnati area involve chili, sports, ice-cream, or visiting a park? If any of those apply, then this post is for you! Here are some super fun day trips from Cincinnati.
Elk Creek Winery in Owenton
Driving Time from Cincinnati: 1 hour (52 miles)
If you’re looking for a place to drink some delicious wine, all while enjoying beautiful Kentucky countryside, then you really need to pay this place a visit! Elk Creek produces their own brand of wines, with many of the grapes grown on site. They also offer tours, wine tastings, and have a tasty on-site cafe. It’s a fun place to visit on a nice day, and is also great for groups or parties. The second floor of this gorgeous building also serves as an art gallery, and in the summer they host concerts and wedding receptions in their outdoor theater. The surrounding town of Owenton is very picturesque as well, as it forms part of the “Owen County Quilt Trail”, displaying beautiful quilt art pieces on various barns.
The Old Town of Rabbit Hash
Driving Time from Cincinnati: 53 minutes (29.2 miles)
This tiny Kentucky town first gained fame when it announced its mayor as being none other than a dog named Goofy. Over the years, the torch has been passed on to various other animals, and currently Lucy-Lou the Border Collie is the residing Mayor. Besides its legal fame, the town is a true historic gem for Kentucky, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The General Store, which was the centerpiece for the town, first opened in 1831. It had continuously operated since then until February 2016, when a devastating fire burned it to the ground. The town is still worth a visit though, while efforts and fundraisers are in place to try to restore the store.
While this town is essentially one small street next to the Ohio River, it squeezes a lot of character into its tiny borders. If you drive in, you can visit the wine shop and tasting room of Verona Vineyards, grab a pulled pork lunch at the Scalded Hog, check out local music on the outdoor stage, shop for antiques, and just soak in the vibes of a good old southern town.
The Dinsmore Homestead
Driving Time from Cincinnati: 34 minutes (22.2 miles)
Do you love history, antebellum houses, or a peaceful country afternoon? If so, you should consider visiting this grand, historic estate located in Burlington, Kentucky. Completed in 1842, this old home offers a glimpse into what rural life looked like in a bygone era. There are various hiking trails, an old cemetery, and places for artists to come and sketch. Guided tours inside the home are offered as well, during which you learn the history of the Dinsmore family, and see its historic interiors and plenty of antiques. The Homestead also hosts a variety of craft-making events and festivals throughout the summer and early fall. A visit here could also easily be combined with one to Rabbit Hash, or Big Bone Lick State Park.
Big Bone Lick State Park (Florence, Kentucky)
Driving time from Cincinnati: 31 mins (25 miles)
If the fact that this park used to be a giant tar pit where dinosaurs and woolly mammoths got stuck isn’t cool enough, then the pioneer era stories might do the trick for you. Named for the “big bones” of prehistoric beasts found in the area, this park is now home to a population of domestic bison, and offers camping and hiking trails. There is also a museum on site, where you can learn about the area’s Native American history, as well as its role in the exploration of America.
In the mid-18th century, two explorers by the names of Lewis and Clark came here. They were under commission by some guy named Thomas Jefferson, and spent 3 weeks digging up massive bones. In addition, a local pioneer-era legend named Mary Ingles also spent several weeks here. She was captured by a local Native American tribe, and spent time here in the homes made out of mastodon and mammoth rib-cages. While the big bones are no longer out on the grounds, the museum has a few of the pieces that have remained in Kentucky.
Driving time from Cincinnati: 56 mins (54 miles)
Dayton is a place that combines big city experiences and attractions with the charm and pace of a small town. One on end, the city offers a variety of cultural venues such as opera, ballet, theater, or art museums. On the other end, you can enjoy the city’s natural side, and visit one of many parks, bike trails, or river activities. The restaurant and bar scene are definitely hopping too, given the close proximity of the University of Dayton (Go Flyers!).
Along with the modern attractions, the city also has a rich aviation history. Follow the steps of the Wright brothers, and visit Carillon Historical Park, the United States Air Force Museum, or the Dayton Aviation Historical Park. If you visit the Air Force Museum (Wright Patt Air Force Base), not only will you see amazing military planes- you can form your own opinion on the conspiracy theory that there are aliens being kept underground there!
Driving Time from Cincinnati: 1 hour (50.8 miles)
This charming, small town was once a stop on the old Whitewater Canal and now is a great place to visit for a relaxing day of arts and crafts shopping and dining. This historic town has plenty of shops and restaurants lining the main walkway, and offers a variety of activities. You can take a tour of its old grist mill, experience a horse-drawn canal boat, or dig in a gem mine. It also offers plenty of hiking and biking trails, and horseback riding. It’s best to go in the spring and summer, as many places are closed in winter.
Author: Michelle Weigold is a native Kentuckian with a love for travel, cats, grilled cheese, and genealogy! She is the author of the travel blog “The Great Wide Somewhere”, and is also a high-school Spanish Teacher. When she’s not busy lesson-planning, she’s probably planning her next trip! You can follow along with her journeys and get tips and inspiration at www.greatwidetravel.com