6 Budget-Friendly Day Trips You Can Do Near Dayton, Ohio in the Spring

Shake off those winter blues — spring is here! If you live near Dayton, there’s plenty of fun to be had in the springtime — both indoors and out! Whether you want to get active, sit back and relax, enjoy the beautiful weather, or find something to do with the whole family, you can find an activity near Dayton that you’ll love. Our list of 6 budget-friendly day trips near Dayton in the spring has something fun for everyone.

6 budget-friendly day trips near Dayton, Ohio in the spring

Five Rivers MetroParks

Nowhere in Dayton does spring bloom as colorfully as it does at Five Rivers MetroParks! There’s an activity for everyone — from outdoor live music to nature trails to biking and boating to just enjoying the outdoors. Here are a few ideas:

  • Short nature walks on the MetroParks’ scenic trails. Try the Adirondack Trail loop (1 mile – Hills & Dales MetroPark), the Blue Trail around Argonne Lake (1 mile – Possum Creek MetroPark), or the Red Tail around Cedar Lake (0.5 mile – Carriage Hill MetroPark).
  • Take the kids out for a fun day to fill your Passport to MetroParks on Friday, May 6th. Enjoy live music and food, meet the MetroParks’ rangers and animal ambassadors, create your own floral bookmark, and be entered to win prizes!
  • Catch a concert at RiverScape Pavilion. The Pavilion features live lunchtime music amidst the park’s beautiful nature from May-September. Once Summer hits, you can also see big bands, progressive bluegrass, and R&B concerts on many Thursday and Friday nights.
  • Paddle boat at RiverScape’s seven-mile River Run, extending from Eastwood MetroPark on the Mad River, through downtown to the Carillon Historical Park and University of Dayton area. The run features a smooth water passageway for beginner paddlers, and a whitewater passageway for those with more experience.
  • Enjoy the flower foliage at Aullwood Garden and Cox Arboretum. Aullwood features 31 acres of prairie, woodland, gardens, and kid-friendly paths and trails. Cox Arboretum is an expansive 174-acre park with equally scenic spaces and many activities for visitors to enjoy. Kids love climbing the 81-step tree tower and making their way through the Bell Children’s Maze.
  • Bike on the Great Miami Riverway. Featuring 99 miles of trails and riverfront scenery, the Riverway runs right along the west side of Dayton and through many of its surrounding suburbs like Centerville and Beavercreek. Along the way, find outdoor activities like sand volleyball, interactive fountains, and picnic areas.

Cincinnati Zoo

Colorful flowers blooming at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens.

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The Cincinnati Zoo is consistently rated one of the best zoos in the entire country — and there are plenty of reasons to enjoy a visit in the spring! It marks the blooming season for the Zoo’s beautiful botanical gardens. Kids can enjoy fun seasonal activities like the Conservation Carousel and Safari Train. Thrill seekers can try the Kanka Klimb Aerial Adventure Course!

And of course, the Cincinnati Zoo features nearly 2,000 animals. Some favorite exhibits include the Elephant Reserve, Cat Canyon, Gorilla World, and Wings of Wonderbird Encounter.

Newport Aquarium

Penguin exhibit at the Newport Aquarium.

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About an hour away from Dayton (and just across state lines) is the Newport Aquarium in Newport, Kentucky. It’s especially budget-friendly for families thanks to their Free Family Day program, which offers free admission for one child under 12 per each accompanying adult.

The aquarium is home to one of the most diverse groups of cold-weather penguins and has several interactive exhibits that are fun for the kids, such as touching the stingrays and sharks, climbing at Jim Henson’s Splash and Bubbles Reeftown Adventure, or reaching into the tide pool.

Other exhibits you don’t want to miss: Gator Alley, Seahorse Gallery, Shark Central, and World of the Octopus (to name just a few!).

Ohio’s State Parks

Lakeside view at Grand Lake St. Mary’s State Park.

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Dayton is surrounded by state parks full of natural wonders. Ohio’s State Parks are a great day trip option for anyone — the solo traveler, couples looking for an outdoor date idea, or families looking for kid-friendly outdoor spaces. Try these spots:

  • John Bryan State Park features 700+ acres of stunning scenery, John Bryan State Park offers a plethora of outdoor activity options you can try, including hiking, fishing, camping, boating, rock climbing, mountain biking, picnicking and more.
  • Grand Lake St. Mary’s is a favorite spot for boaters and anglers, with no restrictions on boating horsepower and unlim fishing access areas on the East and West Bank. Nearby to the lake is a swimming pool, picnic areas, and well-maintained outdoor common spaces. Grab a table and grill for the day to enjoy an outdoor cookout. Feel free to bring your furry friends (on a leash) in this dog-friendly park!
  • Sycamore State Park is located on expansive farmland. It’s perfect for enjoying a quiet day immersed in nature. Featured daytime activities include paddling, fishing, hiking, and horseback riding. There are also sheltered picnic areas for visitors to grab some shade and take a rest.

Great Wolf Lodge

Great Wolf Lodge indoor waterpark in Mason, Ohio.

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Springtime brings anticipation for the warm months of summer. If the kids just can’t wait to jump in the water, Great Wolf Lodge in Mason, Ohio is great for a day trip or overnight stay! The huge indoor water park has 13 slides and plenty of rides and interactive water activities for all levels of thrill seeking.

When you’re ready to dry off, kids can enjoy more fun activities like the Ten Paw Bowling Alley (with lanes and equipment for all ages), Northern Lights Arcade, Magiquest Adventure, and Howl at the Moon Glow Golf.

Visitors can stay overnight at the Lodge, but it’s also a great day trip for the family! Day passes are available at $50 each for a full day or $40 for a half day (arrive after 4pm). Look out for their frequently offered discount deals!

Center of Science and Industry (COSI)

Three children viewing a dinosaur exhibit at Columbus’s Center of Science and Industry.

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Even springtime has inevitable cold and rainy days. When they come around, the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Columbus is the perfect indoor day trip — and it’s educational to boot! A nationally recognized science center, COSI inspires interest in STEM topics through interactive, engaging, and hands-on activities. Its exhibits are made to be enjoyed by people of all ages.

Our favorites: the Planetarium, Dinosaur Gallery, and the Oceans Exhibit. This spring, COSI is running a limited time Marvel: Universe of SuperHeroes exhibit that you don’t want to miss!

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