Creative Free/Cheap Spring Break Ideas

Written by Erin Michel, Graduate Assistant for the Graduate College

Vector illustration of young cartoon blond man sitting under the tree in a park and listening music. Isolated on white

Spring break is next week, and many of us are breathing a sigh of relief. A whole week of no classes and homework feels like an incredibly precious reprieve, a chance to recharge and catch up on some much-needed self-care (for some tips, check out this past GradCurrents article!). Balance is key, so be sure to intersperse your rest time with some fun activities. Fun doesn’t have to come at a steep cost, either; graduate school is expensive, but especially in Cincinnati, your activities can be cheap! Check out this list of free and cheap ideas to get out, get active, and have some fun this spring break. 

Free and Cheap Events  

  • FREE: St. Patrick’s Day parade (March 11). On March 11, many green-clad revelers will crowd the downtown area and process through the streets to celebrate the beloved Irish holiday. The parade will begin at The Banks at 12PM sharp; more details as well as the full route can be seen on the event website

  • FREE: Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park Founder’s Day (March 11). Pyramid Hill is a little-known Greater Cincinnati area gem. Located just outside of Hamilton, the park consists of 300+ sprawling acres of wooded land and trails, dotted with more than 80 outdoor sculptures as well as a museum of ancient sculpture. Weather permitting, guests can rent Art Carts (open air golf carts) for an additional fee to navigate the trails in style. While admission is always cheap—students can purchase a one-year membership for $10—Founder's Day will offer free admission to all as well as exciting activities including free guided tours.  

  • FREE: Guided tour of Georgia O’Keefe exhibit in the Cincinnati Art Museum (March 16). Admission to the Cincinnati Art Museum is always free, excluding special exhibits, which cost an additional fee. The museum contains more than 67,000 works spanning more than 6,000 years! On March 16, gain free admission and a guided tour of the special exhibit Georgia O’Keefe, Photographer. The exhibit explores a little-known artistic side of the famous painter, specifically her contributions to the world of photography. The tour will begin at 6:30PM in the front lobby.

  • FREE: Fifth Third Community Day at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (March 19). From 10AM-5PM on March 19, enjoy free admission to the center as well as special programming and activities. The Freedom Center is rooted in stories of hope, perseverance, and justice for enslaved people and details an important and sobering aspect of American history with the Underground Railroad; impressively, the Center has been nominated for Best History Museum in America by USA Today on multiple occasions, winning the coveted award this year in 2023.  

  • FREE: Line Dancing Class at Shiner’s on the Levee (March 15): Take advantage of your night off with a unique night out! Shiner’s bar and restaurant offers free line dancing classes every Wednesday night at 8:30PM hosted by the Ritz Ballroom dance studio. To truly embrace your country western side, moonshine-inspired cocktails and smokehouse barbeque are available for purchase. Register online here to join in the fun. If you can’t catch it over spring break, don’t fret: the event is offered every Wednesday evening!

Free and Cheap Activity Ideas 

  • FREE: Take a daytrip with a shelter dog! Cincinnati Animal CARE in Northside is Hamilton County’s only municipal animal shelter and in 2020 became the first publicly run no-kill shelter in the state of Ohio. As such, they are very crowded and rely heavily on volunteer support. Through the foster program, community members can take dogs out of the shelter on 3-5 hour daytrips and are provided with all necessary supplies (including an adorable “adopt me” bandana!). Dogs can be brought to local parks, apartments/houses (as long as other animals are kept away), and even pet-friendly patio restaurants! Not only do you get to cuddle with a cute dog for the afternoon, but you also get to provide the shelter with marketing pictures and information about the dog’s personality outside of the shelter environment to help them get adopted. Win-win!

  • CHEAP: Rent a kayak, canoe, or bike at Winton Woods. Winton Woods is a natural gem located about 25 minutes from campus. Operated by the Great Parks of Cincinnati, they have miles of paved trails as well as a lake harbor area. Guests can rent kayaks, canoes, pedal boats, paddleboards, motorboats, or bicycles at relatively low rates; for example, a tandem kayak is only $19 for an hour-long rental, so grab a friend and split the cost! View more information and full list of rates at the Winton Woods website.  

  • FREE: Visit one of the Great Parks of Cincinnati. Cincinnati’s parks system has a great reputation; it has been consistently rated as one of the best in the country, ranked number four in the nation by the Trust for Public Land in 2021. Our natural spaces all have their own individual character, and many boast incredible views of the city, the Ohio River, and more. Personal favorites include Ault Park, Eden Park, Mt. Airy Forest, Smale Riverfront Park, and Devou Park. For a comprehensive park guide, check out this helpful article from Wander Cincinnati.

  • CHEAP: Catch a movie at a historic theater. The Esquire Theater in Clifton is more than 110 years old, having started off showing silent films; the theater is so beloved that it managed to survive the Great Depression and various economic downturns, at points with the support of volunteer community members functioning as employees. The Mariemont Theater, another historic gem, originally opened in 1938 and is known for its unique Tudor-style architecture. Both locations show independent, foreign, and arts films, and frequently host events such as sing-alongs or film discussions. Both locations offer discounted tickets with student IDs at only $7.75 per showing, so be sure to bring your Bearcat card!