In southwestern Ohio, two cities sit close enough to tap into each other's radio and television stations. They're almost near enough to smell each other. Dayton, called the gem city, sits just above Cincinnati, the queen city, close enough to be part of the crown jewels.
Dayton is quite a bit smaller than Cincinnati, but living in either one, there will probably come a day where you need to get to the other city - for a cheap flight, a job, to visit someone, to go to a shopping mall, etc. Even if you're just visiting, you may realise that you can't see a Major League baseball game in Dayton, and you can't see a Wright Brothers aeroplane in Cincinnati. Sometimes, after a long night you might just wake up in the wrong city. In such cases, it's useful to know how to get to Dayton from Cincinnati or to Cincinnati from Dayton.
However, you must first know where each is. Dayton is north of Cincinnati, and in turn Cincinnati is south of Dayton. They are approximately 57 miles apart. Dayton is in Montgomery County and Cincinnati is in Hamilton County. Between them are Butler and Warren Counties, the towns of Lebanon, Hamilton and the appropriately named city of Middletown. They are about as far away from each other as San Jose, California is from San Francisco, California or London from Oxford, England. They are so close that it is reckoned that by 2010, that area could reasonably be considered the same metropolitan area.
The main way of getting from one city to the other is by driving there. The simplest way of doing that is to use Interstate 75 - a scary highway1 with more than too much traffic that is a source of frustration for many commuters.
The entirety of Interstate 75 stretches from the top of Michigan to Miami, Florida - well over 1,000 miles. So it is very important that you know which way you're heading. If you start driving north on I-75 from Dayton, you'll probably see Canada before Cincinnati. If you go south from Cincinnati on I-75, you'll get to Dalton, Georgia before Dayton.
The on-ramps for Cincinnati are rather complicated, and only Mitchell Avenue and Glendale-Milford Road feed onto I-75 normally. Cincinnati is a very old city, founded long before the days of highways, and it has hilly, old neighbourhoods. This is the cause of the abnormal interchanges. Dayton is a bit more regular.
If you can, try to avoid I-75 at rush hour, when folks are driving to or coming home from work, and follow the appropriate driving etiquette. If you cannot, good luck.
The Canal Days
The state of Ohio used to have a system of canals to move goods and people north and south. One such canal was the Miami and Erie Canal, which connected Dayton and Cincinnati. In those days, from 1829 until the railroad era (when the canals fell out of use), a man could move between the two cities, lazily drifting through the canal while mules pulled his boat.
Those days are gone. However, it's interesting to note that the section of I-75 between Dayton and Cincinnati follows roughly the same path as the canal used to. So the next time you're stuck in traffic between those two cities, imagine a team of mules pulling your car as you stretch out and yawn...2.
It sounds silly to go through all the trouble to fly a distance of less than 60 miles to some, but it's not uncommon among those in a rush and those who have enough money so that they don't have to put up with terrible traffic. Even after extensive security checks, it takes a well-prepared traveller less time to fly than to drive. Plus, you could make the case that flying is just a lot more fun than driving, what with seeing all the swimming pools and the tiny people...
Once you're in Cincinnati or Dayton, you can get around the cities with their respective inner-city bus systems, which are fairly reliable.
Dayton and Cincinnati both happen to have major airports. Cincinnati is one of the air travel hubs of America, and Dayton has a good airport largely because it has a strong history with aviation - one of the many legacies of the Wright Brothers.
As there are two major airports in what is essentially one large metropolitan area, some find it cheaper to fly from the airport closest to their home to the other airport and then fly to their destination airport. Whether it is cheaper to fly out of Dayton or Cincinnati depends on the specific case.
Hop a Train - But Not Yet
One of the first railways in Ohio was a commuter line between two cities, called the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railroad (The CH and D, which was nicknamed 'Charge High and Damn Rough Ride'). Several cities were built along this route, and there are still many cities between the two urban centres. The construction of that line began in 1851. However, despite the early recognition of the importance of a commuter line between Cincinnati and Dayton, there is not currently a rail line in use.
In order to ease congestion, a plan of a light rail transit system between Dayton and Cincinnati and an expansion of that section of the I-75 have been put forward. In the future, it is entirely likely that you may be able to jump onto a rail system for a journey to the Gem or Queen City from the Queen or Gem City.
Devoted cyclists might have no trouble with the idea of spending a day on their chosen mode of transportation to get from one of the southwestern Ohio cities to the other.
There are two major rivers in Dayton, the Little Miami and the Great Miami River. The Little Miami happens to meet the Ohio River near Cincinnati. Someone decided one day that the route of this river made sense for a bike trail, and it was constructed. The Little Miami Scenic Trail officially stretches from Milford (in the south) to Springfield (in the north), Ohio, going through Yellow Springs, Waynesville and Loveland.
Naturally, there are ways to get onto the trail if you do not live in one of those communities. The suburbs of Dayton (such as West Carrollton, Kettering, Beavercreek, and Miamisburg) all have bike paths that meet the main Little Miami Scenic Trail at Xenia.
The vast majority of this trail hugs the beautiful Little Miami River, which is inevitably more interesting to be around than open fields and cattle for 60 miles. There are plenty of facilities along the way that provide places to rest, water, restrooms, telephones, etc for users of the trail.
When you go along this trail, you will pass very close to two things that citizens of Dayton and Cincinnati frequent. About half-way down the trail, Caesar Creek is an old tributary of the Little Miami which is known by locals for having lots of fossils. If you want some proof you actually cycled the at least half the way, stop there and look around for a fossil. The other tourist attraction along the trail is the Kings Island Amusement Park - southwestern Ohio's answer to Cedar Point. If you get too tired, just say To hell with this, I'm riding a rollercoaster!
A nice, cheap way to get from one city to the next is to use a bus. The Cincinnati and Dayton route is a fairly common, so buses are available regularly. A good place to start in looking for a bus is Greyhound.