As I sit here anxiously awaiting the arrival of my boyfriend’s family from California, I thought it might be nice to put all my day-trip planning ideas with them to good use. Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot to see and do in Louisville itself. But the tourist destinations get old quickly.
Lucky for us, Louisville is centrally located to a few other big cities. Nashville is under three hours away, Chicago is five hours (might be pushing it for a day trip), and Cincinnati is two hours away. Here’s a few day trip destinations when you feel the need to get away and see something new.
1 | Go Ape
If a treetop ropes course sounds like a good time, Go Ape is the place for you. Located in Jefferson Memorial Forest, Go Ape is a two hour obstacle course 40 feet above in the forest canopy. It’s a quick 20 minute drive outside the city. If you’re terrified of heights, this could be a challenge. However, as someone who was hesitant to walk across a tightrope with nothing below me but the ground, you do feel a sense of relief because of the harness attached to you at all times. It’s a workout and an adrenaline rush all in one.
2 | Red River Gorge
Red River Gorge is the weekend escape destination for Louisvillians who want to hike. The gorge is a vast canyon system located on the Red River in east-central Kentucky, just over two hours from downtown Louisville. Be sure to bring a map or pay close attention to the maps inside the gorge. The hiking trails can get a little tricky to navigate.
The main attraction at the gorge is definitely the Natural Bridge, a large, flat rock formation about two miles up a hill that overlooks the park. The hike is a bit of a trek, but the views are well worth it.
3 | Bloomington, IN
Bloomington will always hold a special place in my heart because Indiana University is my alma mater. Admittedly, it’s a town that centers around the university, but the landscape and architecture in and around Bloomington is what makes it unique. The limestone buildings on campus transport you to a different time. And in the fall, the trees on campus and in nearby Brown County State Park are the epitome of a postcard fall image.
Take a trip to Hoosier nation in early October to see peak autumn coziness and try a new international meal on 4th Street. Thai restaurant Siam House is BOMB. Their yellow curry with vegetables is worth every single penny.
4 | Cincinnati, OH
Cincinnati is another short trip from Louisville that follows along the path of the Ohio River. The cascading hills surrounding the city on each side of the river make for an incredible view on the drive in. Rhinegeist Brewery is a short drive from downtown. It’s home to new craft beer cult favorites like Truth India Pale Ale and seasonal favorite Peach Dodo. Over the Rhine neighborhood has a Highlands/Nulu vibe to it with a great Mexican restaurant and bar called Bakersfield. The main reason to go? Their $2 boot glass filled with Grade A PBR. Hop across the river to Covington, KY for more family-oriented attractions like the Newport Aquarium where you’ll find best view of downtown Cincinnati.
5 | Nashville, TN
Nashville reminds me a lot of Louisville, but on a bigger, more music-centric scale. If you’re looking for something outside the strip, check out great little neighborhoods like 12 South and East Nashville for boutique shopping, gallery hopping, and delicious restaurants.
I highly recommend Five Daughters Bakery if you’re in the mood for really good doughnuts. When I say really good, I mean the kind of good that had me thinking about them for months. Their famous “100 layer doughnuts” are croissant-style doughnuts made with all natural ingredients.
Nashville is the perfect weekend getaway that’s just different enough to feel like a mini-vacation, but similar enough to feel like a second home.