With spring (and summer!) break fast approaching, we’re all suffering from a bad case of post-winter wanderlust. And while big trips to faraway destinations are amazing, sometimes a shorter adventure is all you need. Day trips are great because they’re easy to plan, a fun change of pace and most notably – affordable! Fill up the tank and check out these suggestions for trips your kids are sure to love.
Here are 25 One Tank Trips from Cincinnati:
In 2016 a group of moms got together to explore the possibility of creating a hands-on, interactive children’s museum for Lancaster, Ohio. Today, the 8,000-square-foot adventure space they dreamed up features more than 35 hands-on exhibits and activities for children ages 8 and under. The nonprofit museum provides a place for children to learn as they engage in their most important “work” of play.
This hidden gem is tucked away in Covington’s Devou Park, just 15 minutes south of Downtown Cincinnati. The Behringer-Crawford museum is great for the school aged crowd, featuring four levels of interactive fun. Highlights include a prehistoric gallery, trains exhibit and giant riverboat. Once you’re finished inside, head outside to the playscape: a free and contained handicapped-accessible green space which includes kid-sized log cabins and caves, a wooden replica of a flatboat, a cruise line swing and several gardens.
Road trip to Butler County and hit the trails… the donut trails! Butler County’s Donut Trail features a dozen of the most delightful donut shops in the Midwest… all just a drive away! Pick up a Passport at any participating donut trail location, and enjoy a day (or two, if you want to pace yourself) on the most delicious trail in town.
Located just 35 minutes south of downtown in Union, KY, Big Bone Lick State Park is a hidden gem that definitely deserves a visit or two! Big Bone Lick State Park is a 813-acre state park that your kids will actually want to visit. Highlights include hiking, an interactive museum and real bison! The best part? Admission is FREE!
Explore, play and be inspired at this Dayton museum’s exhibits that include more than 60 animals native to Ohio. And here’s a bonus: Boonshoft is part of the Association of Children’s Museums Reciprocal Network, meaning you can get half-price tickets if you’re a member of the Duke Energy Children’s Museum here in Cincinnati.
Dayton is perhaps best-known for its contributions to planes, trains and automobiles. From the original 1905 Wright Flyer III to the 1835 John Quincy Adams to the first automobile self-starter, Dayton’s place in our national narrative is inextricably linked to vehicles. And, any parent will tell you that kids LOVE things that go. Dayton’s Carillon Historical Park is interactive and kid-friendly, and features historical village to National Landmarks, museum collections and more!
This 268-acre preserve protects one of the most spectacular dolomite and limestone gorges in the state. In some areas, cliff overhangs have broken off, forming massive slump blocks scattered along the valley floor.
COSI Columbus “inspires the scientists, dreamers and innovators of tomorrow.” This dynamic hands-on science center is fun for all ages (its Children’s Museum is awesome), and the Dinosaur Gallery is reason to go on its own. Highlights include a 6-foot-long mechanical T. rex model that walks in place; an 8-foot tall Titanosaur femur; a huge, three-horned Triceratops cast; and (for you Jurassic Park fans), a 100-year-old piece of fossilized amber preserving an ancient feather. Definitely worth the trip!
If you think a zoo is a zoo, think again. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium offers a one-of-a-kind experience that’s truly aimed to get families thinking about animals, the environment and conservation. The Columbus Zoo is huge; in each direction you’ll experience different habitats and species, all designed to be interactive and accessible. The polar bears, for example, could be seen both above ground and below; to access the below-ground viewing area, you’ll follow a mining-style path with signage about the bears’ habitat and how to protect this species from environmental and human threats. And of course, once you’re down there, you’re treated to a front-row view of the bears happily diving and swimming in the water.
Located in Oregonia, OH, this National Historic Landmark boasts the largest and best-preserved manmade earthworks in the country. It’s 100 acres of beautiful mounds that were used for protection, ceremonies, functional and social purposes a long, long time ago. Fort Ancient is a living lesson in Ohio history that will definitely leave an impression on your kids.
Columbus’s Franklin Park Conservatory is magical — like walking into Oz from Kansas; everything is so bright and colorful. The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden is a discovery garden and nature playscape rolled into one: the Canopy Walk is a big treehouse complete with a large, trampoline-style net (a big hit with my kids), the Nature Play Zone features large, Lincoln-Log style building sticks and the Sunrise Lawn is an open space for rolling, running and blowing off steam.
You don’t have to travel far in search of a great “staycation” — adventure awaits in Warren County, Ohio’s Largest Playground, at Great Wolf Lodge! Located in Mason, this vacation destination has everything your entire family desires under one roof: an indoor water park, activities, spa, attractions and delicious dining options. Stay for a night or weekend; Great Wolf Lodge is a getaway experience that will have kids of all ages reminiscing until your next visit.
Just over two hours away is another world that’s a must for nature enthusiasts. Hocking Hills State Parks boast 2,356 acres of natural beauty: towering cliffs, waterfalls and deep hemlock-shaded gorges. Families should definitely check out Ash Cave, which features handicap- and kid-friendly trails. Pack a picnic and make a day out of this Eastern Ohio gem!
Located in Lexington, the Kentucky Horse Park is an easy 90-minute drive from Cincinnati (closer to an hour for you Northern Kentuckians!), making it the perfect day trip. With lots of kid friendly attractions and activities, the Kentucky Horse Park is definitely a gold medal winner – and a must for horse-obsessed kiddos!
Just an hour and a half away in the other Columbus (Columbus, IN), youngsters can explore three floors of interactive fun at KidsCommons. Get the ultimate bubble blowing experience in Bubble-ology, create a mini masterpiece in Kids-at-Art and investigate the science of optics and music with the Gateway Bridge Laser Harp. But the piece de resistance for kids of all ages is the giant toilet slide. You read that right – in ExploraHouse, kids can slide down the museum’s world famous giant toilet! Note: the building across the street houses The Columbus Commons – a giant, free indoor playground perfect for burning off some steam before the drive home.
LEGOLAND Discovery Center is 36,000 square feet of fun in Columbus’s Easton Town Center. With indoor playgrounds, two rides, MINILAND Ohio, a 4D cinema, virtual “factory tour” and 10 themed play zones, LEGOLAND Discovery Center is absolutely worth the drive.
Baseball fans of all ages will love this Louisville museum. A larger-than-life baseball bat welcomes visitors, who can get an up-close look at the magic during daily guided factory tours. Guests will see bats being made on every tour, every day. Everyone receives a miniature souvenir bat at the end of the tour! Personalized bats can be ordered when you arrive for pick-up after your tour, or they can be shipped.
The National Museum of the United States Air Force is the oldest and largest military aviation museum in the world. Located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, it’s just a short jaunt up 1-75. Oh, and admission and parking are always FREE!
The largest of all Ohio caves, this park is open throughout the year, offering guided tours for families. At a steady 54 degrees, the Ohio Caverns feature some of the most unique formations in America.
Otherworld is an interactive art installation built by more than 40 artists. Located in Columbus, Otherworld is a 32,000-square-foot space with large-scale works, secret passages and postmodern playgrounds that are reminiscent of laser tag or being inside a virtual reality (welcome to the matrix). Otherworld was recently named one of TIME for Kids World’s Coolest Places — and it truly is. Each of Otherworld’s 47 (!) rooms is completely unique. There are endless spaces to explore, and like any art exhibition, the experience is personal and dynamic. It’s a completely immersive art experience that’s completely unlike anything else in the world.
Pyramid Hill is a true hidden gem – it’s tucked away in Butler County off a rolling country road. But to be fair, nothing about Pyramid Hill is “hidden;” this outdoor sculpture museum is big and bold. A bright red sculpture stands at the entryway; and from there, the hills and valleys of Pyramid Hill’s 300 acres are covered with larger-than-life sculptures that demand to be seen (and admired). This 60-acre outdoor sculpture park is totally awesome and especially beautiful in the spring!
The Red River Gorge is a unique, scenic natural area featuring “gorge”-ous sandstone arches and towering cliffs. Outdoor enthusiasts come to the gorge year round to enjoy hiking, camping, canoeing, wildlife viewing and other recreational opportunities.
The Great Serpent Mound in southwest Ohio is the world’s largest serpentine effigy mound. Writhing in a seemingly effortless way, the mound winds through trees on a cliff overlooking the Brush Creek Valley of Adams County.
Recognized as the world’s largest children’s museum, this Indianapolis gem features fun, rotating exhibits and non-traditional learning experiences for children and families. This spring, be sure to visit the Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience, 14 interactive zones that range from a recreated Indianapolis Motor Speedway where families can race pedal cars on the track to perfecting a hole-in-one on a Pete Dye-inspired golf course. A must for sports fans!
Young’s Jersey Dairy is a family-owned farm that has welcomed and entertained visitors for generations. There’s lots to do at this real, working farm — in addition to wandering its charming facilities and noshing on farm-fresh ice cream and cheese curds at its restaurant, Young’s Udders & Putters is sure to be a big hit with kids. This area features miniature golf, a large batting cage, a play area for those 48” and under, an exciting slide, a barrel train ride and even a driving range! Be sure to check Young’s events calendar before you go — there are lots of fun activities throughout the year!