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$325 Weekend Road Trip You Have to Do!

Cincinnati was a destination we didn’t really choose.  We chose a killer hotel deal on Groupon that decided we were going to Cincinnati.  Once we had the hotel and the destination, we planned the trip.  It turned out to be the perfect weekend road trip, and actually more economical that I expected.

  • DoubleTree Hotel Groupon: $185
  • Gas (in a Prius): $80
  • Food: $60 (Most of the time we picnicked)

Tips: 

  • Obviously the Prius is amazing on gas mileage and keeps the cost of fuel down.  Not everyone has that… but finding ways to make your trip more economical, even with gas mileage, goes a long way for frequent traveling on a budget.
  • We booked a hotel that was not only a good deal, but also had breakfast included.  This way you only have to figure out lunches and dinners.
  • We brought a cooler of drinks and a cooler of food, so we picnicked most of the time rather than eating out.  We spent about $40 at Findley Market to try new, interesting foods and the rest were pit-stop meals or snacks while on the road.

STOP 1: Nashville (3.5 Hours)

Nashville was a perfect stopping point on day one starting off the trip.  There are a lot of great free things to do in Nashville.  We chose to stop at the Parthenon at Centennial Park.  You can stretch your legs with a stroll through the park and enjoy the views, exploring the Parthenon.

Free Things to do in Nashville

  • The Parthenon at Centennial Park
  • Music at the Bluebird Cafe
  • The Tennessee Agricultural Museum
  • Tennessee State Museum
  • Honky Tonk Highway
  • Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park
  • Music City Walk of Fame
  • Fort Negley
  • The Warner Parks
  • Riverfront Park

STOP 2: Louisville, KY

From Nashville, Louisville is only another 2.5 hour drive.  We chose to stop at the Louisville Waterfront Park where they have loads of trails and paths where you can walk, or rent a segway, bike, or cart to ride.  You can picnic in the shade, watch the boats on the river, view the city and bridges, etc.

The park has the Big Four Bridge, a pedestrian bridge you can cross over the Ohio river to gain a better view of the city and walk into Indiana.  This was our highlight of Louisville, and we could have spent a lot more time here… but we had to hit the road again to get to Cincinnati.

View Website for Waterfront Park

STOP 3: Cincinnati, OH

We made it to Cincinnati just after dusk, so the city was lit up and it made a beautiful view arriving over the bridge on the river.  We checked into the hotel and settled in for the evening in the sweet, soft DoubleTree hotel bed!  But the next morning, we had a full itinerary.

DAY 2 ——————————————–

Findlay Market: A longtime hub of vendors selling meat, produce and other local foods and crafts.  You can go to sample different foods, browse the shops, eat lunch, and people watch.

Devou Park: Located in Covington, KY you cross back over the river to walk the trails and enjoy the nature… but the hilltop park’s overlooks offer a panoramic view of Cincinnati skyline and the Ohio River valley below.

Fountain Square: in the heart of the city you’ll find a large square surrounded by shops, hotels, offices where the city constantly has events and gatherings.  The night were were there they had a full boxing match venue set up in the square.

21c Museum Hotel: Cincinnati is an Artsy city… with a lot of museums, many of which are free.  But by the time we were ready to visit a museum, the majority of them had closed.  It was already after 5:00 pm, so we went to 21c Museum Hotel, open 24/7 and although a hotel, it also maintains a free museum of modern art on the first two floors open to the public.

Smale Riverfront Park: This is an amazing riverside venue with fountains, gardens, walkways, playgrounds, event lawns & restaurants.  If you don’t see anything in Cincinnati, you must spend some time here.  This park was our favorite part of the City.  Taking a stroll from one end of the park to the other will let you explore the grounds on your way to the Purple People Bridge (Newport Southbank Bridge) further up-river, another pedestrian bridge you can cross to view the river and city skyline.

DAY 3 ———————————————

STOP 4: Lexington, KY

To finish up the road trip, we planned to stop in Lexington, KY on the way back home.  But we adjusted our plans because the kids were crashed out in the car by the time we arrived to Lexington, we thought it best to let them snooze and keep on driving.

Free Things to Do in Lexington:

  • Keeneland Race Course: Watch the morning horse training
  • Jacobson and Shillito parks – creative playground structures
  • Gratz Park – scenic posh neighborhood of the 1800’s
  • Arboretum gardens
  • Lexington’s Farmers’ Market (Saturdays from spring to fall)
  • Masterson Station Park

STOP 5: Knoxville, TN

We were in Knoxville the weekend prior to this trip, so by the time we got here, we decided to keep going and get home.  But one of the highlights we had in Knoxville was the Sunsphere’s observation deck – offering a great 360-degree view of downtown Knoxville and beyond.  It was built in 1982 for the World’s Fair, and free to the public (just the observation deck).

Other Free Things to Do:

  • Alex Haley Statue: Located next to a playground, this statue honors Alex Haley, author of Roots.
  • Frank H. McClung Museum: Offers exhibits on archaeology and the Native people of Tennessee, Ancient Egypt, decorative arts, geology and fossils, the Civil War and local and natural history.
  • Knoxville Museum of Art: Showcases exhibits from around the world and a permanent collection of contemporary art.
  • Ijams Nature Center: 150 acre nature sanctuary on the banks of the Tennessee River with mulched and paved trails, a waterfront boardwalk and wildlife viewing areas.