Ohio

12 Incredible Weekend Road Trips From Cincinnati, Ohio

by Holly Riddle
Updated June 06, 2022

Photo: Kenneth Keifer

Get ready for a weekend on the road to the midwest’s finest destinations.

Cincinnati is a fantastic midwest destination for anyone looking for a new city to explore that offers a broad mix of culture, cuisine, breweries and history. Add in the city’s major sports teams and you have everything you could need for one spectacular vacay.

However, if you’re already familiar with The Queen City, or already live there or nearby, you may be intimately familiar with Cincinnati’s charms. If that’s the case, you might want to consider one of these easy weekend road trips for your next getaway, all of which require just a short drive, so you can get to having fun, faster.

Related Read: 9 Beautiful Cabin Rentals Near Cincinnati, Ohio

1. Lexington, Kentucky

road trips from cincinnati - lexington
Photo: Shutterstock

Lexington, Kentucky, is a mere hour-and-a-half drive from Cincinnati, but in that short timeframe, you can transport yourself from a destination that’s thoroughly Midwest, to a destination that considers itself thoroughly Southern. The cultures couldn’t be more different.

Find lots of nods to Kentucky’s horse-racing heritage, the bourbon industry and the Southern tradition of SEC football at the University of Kentucky. Lexington also offers a vibrant downtown, lots of shopping and even a few museums. However, if you’re not keen on staying in town, Lexington makes it easy to access rolling farmlands and bluegrass-covered pastures, both waiting just a short drive away.

  • Distance: 83 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 1 hour, 20 minutes

2. Red River Gorge, Kentucky

road trips from cincinnati - red river gorge
Photo: Irina Mos

If, though, you’d rather escape from Cincinnati’s hubbub to a destination that’s purely outdoorsy, try Red River Gorge, a popular attraction just a short drive away from Lexington and a little over a two-hour drive from Cincinnati. The gorge is arguably Kentucky’s premier hiking and rock climbing spot.

One of the most popular spots to see in the gorge is Gray’s Arch, a natural arch that’s accessible via a four-mile loop trail. The National Natural Landmark sits within Daniel Boone National Forest and you’ll find lots of spots to camp nearby (including back-country camping, if that’s your thing), as well as cabins for rent.

  • Distance: 140 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 2 hours, 15 minutes

Related Read: 8 Magnificent Red River Gorge Cabins with Hot Tubs

3. Gatlinburg, Tennessee

road trips from cincinnati - gatlinburg
Photo: Mark Van Dyke

If you have a little extra time in your schedule — maybe it’s a long weekend or you’re playing hooky from work on Friday — you can make tracks for Gatlinburg, Tennessee. While the family-friendly destination draws travelers from surrounding states like Kentucky and the Carolinas, it’s also popular with folks from Ohio, despite the roughly five-hour drive between Gatlinburg and Cincinnati.

This destination has a little bit of it all and you might just find that it’s worth a longer trip in the future. With hiking and outdoor adventures aplenty in the adjacent Great Smoky Mountains National Park, plus lots of tourist attractions, shopping and dining, it ticks a lot of boxes for a lot of travelers, no matter what you’re into. The best part? You’ll find a plethora of cabins for rent in the nearby area, for both small and large parties, at a range of price points.

  • Distance: 292 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 4 hours, 30 minutes

4. Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

road trips from cincinnati - hocking hills
Photo: Robert A. Powell

If you want to stick around Ohio, though, and would really prefer a shorter drive, you might consider Hocking Hills State Park, just about two hours away, plus some change.

One of the state’s favorite outdoor destinations, the large park draws millions to its thousands of acres of land. You’ll find all your favorite outdoor activities here — hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, caving, etcetera — plus plenty of places to camp. Even if you’re not typically that outdoorsy, you’ll still find easy, beginner-friendly activities that will allow you to immerse yourself in the scenery, without sweating all that much.

  • Distance: 135 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 2 hours, 15 minutes

Related Read: 7 Hocking Hills Cabins with Hot Tubs for a Revitalizing Getaway

5. Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

Photo: Wangkun Jia

If you read “caving” above and said, “Sign me up immediately,” then you need to know about Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky’s only national park and the largest cave system in the world. This amazing natural wonder features hundreds upon hundreds of miles of caverns and is easily accessible to most travelers, despite differing skill levels.

Don’t fancy diving into the deep, underground darkness? No worries. The national park offers other fun activities, too, such as hiking, water sports and horseback riding.

  • Distance: 190 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 2 hours, 50 minutes

6. Louisville, Kentucky

road trips from cincinnati - louisville
Photo: Thomas Kelley

For more urban fun than outdoor explorations, add Louisville, Kentucky, to your road trip bucket list. The largest city in Kentucky, it comes with all the fun you can expect from a major city. Think lots of museums and historical attractions, high-end hotels and eateries and picturesque parks and other green space.

In addition, you’ll also find lots of love for Kentucky’s bourbon culture here, with nearly no end to the distilleries and tasting rooms. You can also book tours that will take you from downtown Louisville to some of the distilleries further away from the city, with all your transport included (safety first!). For even more fun, visit in May and catch a coveted spot at the Kentucky Derby.

  • Distance: 100 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Related Read: 11 Best & Most Unique Airbnb Rentals in Kentucky

7. Lake Cumberland, Kentucky

road trips from cincinnati - lake cumberland
Photo: Shutterstock

Just over a three-hour drive away from Cincinnati, Lake Cumberland is one of the top destinations for Ohio travelers coming to Kentucky in the summer months. This large, manmade lake is the place to be on a hot Kentucky day.

Even if you don’t have your own boat to bring to the lake, you’ll find loads of marinas that offer boat rentals, whether you just want a simple kayak or you’d like to go out on a pontoon for the day. Regional state and county parks offer places to camp on the water or enjoy a bit of swimming, and lakefront dining is easy to find, too. Plus, there are lots of cabins and other home rentals available in the surrounding forests and farmland.

  • Distance: 200 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 3 hours, 15 minutes

8. Columbus, Ohio

road trips from cincinnati - columbus
Photo: Shutterstock

Another urban, Ohio destination, Columbus offers museums, dining and other attractions that you won’t necessarily get in Cincinnati. With a great arts and music scene, you can always find something to do in Columbus, day or night. Additionally, if you’re a college sports fan, you’ll want to head to the city to catch an Ohio State game.

Top attractions include the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Center of Science and Industry and the Columbus Museum of Art.

  • Distance: 100 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Related Read: 9 Unique Airbnbs in Ohio for the Perfect Midwest Getaway

9. Indianapolis, Indiana

road trips from cincinnati - indianapolis
Photo: Coy St. Clair

For a city getaway that offers tons of family-friendly amenities, Indianapolis in Ohio’s neighboring Indiana is the place to go. There’s the Indianapolis Zoo and the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, just to start. The latter is the largest children’s museum in the world, which makes it a must-visit for families with younger children. There are tons of interesting things to do and see there and you could easily spend an entire weekend just taking it all in.

Other top attractions that are worth adding to your itinerary include Indianapolis Motor Speedway (the world’s largest auto racetrack), the Eiteljorg Museum (with its collection of Native American and Western art) and Conner Prairie, another family-friendly attraction with both indoor and outdoor living history exhibits.

  • Distance: 110 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 1 hour, 45 minutes

10. Sandusky, Ohio

road trips from cincinnati - sandusky
Photo: Hendrickson Photography

If the kids are a little bit older (or if you’re just a big kid at heart yourself), you might find that it’s worth the trek to Sandusky, Ohio. Pretty much on the opposite side of the state from Cincinnati, on Lake Erie, Sandusky is home to one major attraction: Cedar Point.

Consistently considered one of the country’s best amusement parks, with loads of roller coasters and even a beach, Cedar Point is a favorite for anyone who loves some good thrills and spending long days at a historic amusement park.

  • Distance: 230 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 3 hours, 45 minutes

Related Read: 6 Cozy Treehouse Rentals in Ohio

11. Walnut Creek, Ohio

road trips from cincinnati - walnut creek oh
Photo: Landon Troyer

Prefer a slower pace? Maybe swap out the sounds of screams and whizzing roller coasters for the gentle clop-clop of a horse-drawn buggy. That’s exactly what you’ll find if you make the trip to Walnut Creek, Ohio, in the state’s Amish country.

Sure, it’ll take about three hours or so to get there, but you’ll find lots to love about this quaint, country-set destination once you’ve arrived. Think lots of shopping (you can’t beat Amish-made furniture!) and rib-sticking Amish eats. If you tire of the Amish vibe, you can find some Swiss influence in the town’s adjacent Sugarcreek.

  • Distance: 200 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 3 hours, 25 minutes

12. New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia

road trips from cincinnati - new river gorge
Photo: Zack Frank

Another weekend road trip that may be best suited to a long weekend, a trip to New River Gorge National Park will take you in a southeasterly direction, to West Virginia and the nation’s newest national park.

The beautiful, Appalachian-set park offers plenty of fun and adventure, whether you want to take advantage of the gorge’s renowned whitewater rafting or rock climbing, or you’d rather go at a slower pace, with some hiking, camping or cycling. Scenic drives are also on offer, if you just really can’t bear to leave the AC for a few hours.

  • Distance: 280 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 4 hours, 45 minutes

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