20 Things To Do In Dayton

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In the southwest corner of the Buckeye State, the city of Dayton is a destination more synonymous with aviation than any other city in the world. Dayton is where in 1905 the Wright Brothers perfected their flying machine that would go on to become the world’s first manned aircraft, forever etching this mid-sized Ohio city’s name in the history books. 

Modern-day Dayton is a far cry from the one the Wright Brothers called home and is a destination teeming with cultural offerings, public parks, fun attractions and access to two of the biggest cities in the state. These are the top things to do in Dayton, Ohio. 

Dayton, Ohio

20 Things To Do In Dayton

Skyline Of Dayton At Night
Enjoy a bunch of things to do in Dayton at night.

1- Explore The National Museum of the US Air Force

First opened in 1923, the expansive National Museum of the US Air Force is an all-encompassing centre dedicated to the history of military aviation in the United States.

Situated on the premises of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, about 6 miles (9 km) outside downtown Dayton, the museum is the largest military aviation museum in the world and exhibits about 360 different aircraft and weaponry.

The museum has more than 19 acres of combined indoor exhibition space and attracts well over a million annual visitors, making it undoubtedly one of Ohio’s most popular tourist attractions and a must-see attraction when passing through Dayton.

The National Museum of the US Air Force is at 1100 Spaatz St, Dayton, OH 45433.

2- Tour Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park

Aircraft Engine Parts In The Museum Of The History Of Aviation
Exploring Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park is one of the fun things to do in Dayton Ohio.

The Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park encompasses several key historic sites related to local legends Wilbur and Orville Wright, the first to successfully fly a manned aircraft.

The Wright Brothers began their journey to international notoriety here in humble Dayton when they opened their bicycle shop in 1895 before perfecting their flying machines at the nearby Huffman Prairie Flying Field between 1904 and 1905.

Orville and Wilbur are not the only historical figures honoured at the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, with landmarks and exhibits related to American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar also on display to avid history buffs throughout the park.

The Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park is at 16 S Williams St, Dayton, OH 45402.

3- Swing By The Carillon Historical Park

Part public park and part open-air museum, Carillon Historical Park is a unique 65-acre (26 ha) Ohio attraction where visitors can take a journey in time to learn more about some of Dayton’s interesting past, biggest inventions and pioneering former residents.

The park got its start in 1940 after Colonel Edward Deeds envisioned a living outdoor museum portraying and exhibiting the very best of Dayton’s past, with the park added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

Among the park’s world-class line-up of attractions and landmarks worth checking out is an original lock from the Miami and Erie Canal, the “John Quincy Adams” steam locomotive, a 1915s Xenia cyclecar, and the Wright Brothers’ 1905 Wright Flyer III.

Carillon Historical Park is at 480 E Broad St, Columbus, OH 43215.

4- Explore and Learn At The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery

The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery is a child-friendly science, technology and zoological centre all rolled into one convenient location that’s situated less than 3 miles (5 km) outside downtown Dayton.

Opened in 1893 as the Museum of Natural History, the centre forms part of the Dayton Historical Society and was formally renamed shortly after the venue’s centennial celebration in 1995.

Featuring about 93,990 square feet (8,732 m2) of total exhibition space, this STEM-oriented museum is home to eye-catching attractions such as the 68-inch (173 cm) “Science On a Sphere” globe, themed play areas and a 150-animal indoor zoo.

The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery is at 2600 Deweese Pkwy, Dayton, OH 45414.

5- Stop By The SunWatch Indian Village

Situated on what was previously known by locals as the “Incinerator Site”, the SunWatch Indian Village is a Smithsonian trinomial-designated historic landmark perched along the shores of the Great Miami River about 4 miles (6 km) southwest of downtown Dayton.

The venue features a perfectly reconstructed 3-acre (1.2 ha) Fort Ancient village complete with Native American artefacts that was brought back to life following extensive archaeological excavations of the area.

Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and awarded the honour of National Historic Landmark in 1990, the reconstructed village operates in tandem with the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery to treat visitors to an eye-opening history lesson of modern-day Dayton.

The SunWatch Indian Village is at 2301 W River Rd, Dayton, OH 45417.

6- Tour The One-Of-A-Kind America’s Packard Museum

Boasting the largest collection of Packard Motorcar Company vehicles, parts, memorabilia and signage in the country, America’s Packard Museum in downtown Dayton is the region’s go-to destination for automotive enthusiasts and history buffs.

The museum is housed inside a restored and repurposed Packard dealership built in 1917 which has been home to the museum since its opening in 1992.

Winner of the 2004 James Bradley Award and named one of the top 10 auto museums in the US by “Car Collector”, the award-winning venue showcases over 50 unique Packard vehicles with some dating back to the early 1900s.

America’s Packard Museum is at 420 S Ludlow St, Dayton, OH 45402.

7- Enjoy The Great Ohio Outdoors At Caesar Creek State Park

With some of the most scenic landscapes the great state of Ohio has to offer, the 7,530-acre (3,050 ha) Caesar Creek State Park is certainly among the premier outdoor attractions in southwest Ohio, situated about 32 miles (51 km) outside Dayton.

Caesar Creek, the park’s man-made freshwater lake, was created during the 70s by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is a popular destination in the state for fun water activities such as boating and water skiing.

The park features some 43 miles (69 km) of walkable nature trails, about 31 miles (50 km) of horseback trails, an on-site nature centre, dozens of campgrounds and a reconstructed pioneer village with 15 historic structures depicting traditional 1800s Ohio living.

Caesar Creek State Park is along 8570 OH-73, Waynesville, OH 45068.

8- Go Bargain Hunting At 2nd Street Market

Housed inside a repurposed B&O railroad building which dates back to 1911, the 2nd Street Market is a popular spot near Dayton’s Oregon Historic District when it comes to picking up fresh produce or homemade treats sourced locally.

This bustling public market got its start as the Wegerzyn Outdoor Farmers Market and is both the oldest and largest public farmers market in the city of Dayton.

Moved to its current home in 2001, the market attracts over 50 vendors from across southwest Ohio every weekend and draws about 370,000 shoppers each and every year.

The 2nd Street Market is at 600 E 2nd St, Dayton, OH 45402.

9- Experience The History and Energy Of The Oregon Historic District

The Oregon Historic District in downtown Dayton is home to some of the city’s oldest mix-use commercial and residential architecture and is littered with art galleries, bars, cafes and quirky independent stores.

Dating back to the 1830s, the Oregon Historic District spans a 12-block area of the Dayton CBD and is a highly touted tourist attraction in the region thanks to the district’s blend of impressive Victorian, Queen Anne, Federal, Italianate and Greek Revival style buildings.

The entire district was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and is best experienced by strolling through the district on foot or by signing up for a guided walking tour of the district.

10- Catch A Broadway Production At The Schuster Performing Arts Center

Desolate Street Sunday Morning Sunrise Dayton, Ohio
You’ll find some cool things to do in Dayton.

The Benjamin & Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center, or just Schuster Performing Arts Center for short, is a state-of-the-art performing arts venue showcasing everything from touring Broadway series to local ballet and opera productions.

Opened in 2003, the centre houses two production stages and boasts a combined seating capacity of about 2,450, as well as eye-catching features such as an illuminated domed ceiling and a Wintergarden stocked with palm trees.

This César Pelli-designed venue comes complete with an on-site café, restaurant, office and residential space, and has hosted popular musical productions such as “The Lion King”, “Beauty and the Beast” and “Les Misérables”.

The Schuster Performing Arts Center is at 1 W 2nd St, Dayton, OH 45402.

11- Tour The World-Class Dayton Art Institute

Recognised as being among the top visual arts destinations in southwest Ohio, the Dayton Art Institute has been exhibiting and showcasing a broad collection of artwork since opening in 1919.

The institute was originally established as the Dayton Museum of Fine Arts and is housed inside a stunning Renaissance Revival-style building based on Rome’s “Villa d’Este” and the “Villa Farnese” in the Italian town of Caprarola.

Among the institute’s vast collection of contemporary and classic art pieces are works by artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Claude Monet, Andy Warhol and Bartolomeo Manfredi, with the entire institute included on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Dayton Art Institute is at 456 Belmonte Park N, Dayton, OH 45405.

12- Spend An Afternoon In Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark

Named in honour of the park’s main benefactor, the Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark is a serene public outdoor space that’s home to a large collection of indoor and outdoor attractions catering to visitors of all ages.

The park forms an integral part of the city’s MetroPark network and is home to the Children’s Discovery Garden, one of the most popular outdoor attractions in Dayton among families travelling with kids.

The Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark is at 1301 E Siebenthaler Ave, Dayton, OH 45414.

13- Brush Up On History At The International Peace Museum

The International Peace Museum was first opened in 2004 as the Dayton International Peace Museum to promote a more peaceful and civil society in Dayton and across the world.

The museum is recognised as the only brick-and-mortar peace museum in the United States is an educative and collaborative centre where visitors can learn more about the lasting impacts of some of recent history’s most brutal conflicts.

Among the world-class museum’s top attractions are detailed exhibits on the 1995 Dayton Agreement which effectively ended the war in Bosnia, as well as rotating exhibits on champions of peace such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Ghandi.

The International Peace Museum is at 10 N Ludlow St, Dayton, OH 45402.

14- Experience 19th Century Opulence At The Victoria Theatre

The iconic cultural landmark that is the Victoria Theatre has been a mainstay in Dayton’s performing arts scene since its grand opening as the Turner Opera House way back on January 1, 1866.

Designed in an ornate Italianate style and oozing opulence throughout, the original theatre was completely destroyed by a fire in 1869 and had to be painstakingly rebuilt in 1871, with the theatre renamed to its current title in 1903.

Nicknamed the “Magnificent Edifice”, the theatre was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and continues to attract some of the largest operas, theatre companies and travelling acts around the world.

The Victoria Theatre is at 138 N Main St, Dayton, OH 45402.

15- Swing On By The RiverScape MetroPark

Dayton, Ohio Downtown City Skyline Great Miami River
Looking for things to do in Dayton, Ohio? Walk along the banks of the Miami River admiring the city skyline.

Perched along the shores of the Mad Dog and Great Miami River confluence, Dayton’s RiverScape MetroPark is the go-to outdoor recreational space in the city’s downtown district and is right next door to the 2nd Street Market.

The park is filled with a series of manicured gardens, reflecting pools and stunning riverside views, and doubles as a public gathering spot where visitors can partake in local events and enjoy open-air concerts year-round.

The Great Miami River Recreational Trail runs through RiverScape MetroPark and is a great spot for hiking, jogging or cycling, while trendy neighbourhoods such as the Historic Oregon District are but a short walk from the park.

RiverScape MetroPark is at 237 E Monument Ave, Dayton, OH 45402.

16- See An Indie Film At The Neon

The Neon is a popular movie theatre among local Daytonians due to the venue’s rich history and unique cinema experience, and is conveniently situated in the city’s historic Oregon District mere steps from downtown proper.

The theatre first began screening films to the public in 1986 as the Dayton Movies and was the first theatre to be built in the city since 1922.

Now as much a cultural landmark as it is an entertainment venue, the theatre specialises in showcasing indie, foreign or first-run films instead of your typical Hollywood Blockbuster and is easily recognisable thanks to its eye-catching colourful exterior.

The Neon is at 130 E 5th St, Dayton, OH 45402.

17- Visit The Scenic Aullwood Audubon

The Aullwood Audubon is a beloved outdoor space and educational centre, where visitors of all ages get to learn first-hand the importance of protecting and enjoying nature sustainably.

Officially known as the Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm, the Aullwood Audubon as most locals call it is situated just 15 miles (24 km) north of downtown Dayton and has been delighting visitors ever since it opened in 1957.

The centre has since grown into a 200-acre (81 ha) attraction where visitors can enjoy activities such as hiking, bird watching and learning through a range of interactive exhibits and animal displays.

The Aullwood Audubon is at 1000 Aullwood Rd, Dayton, OH 45414.

18- Watch Some Minor League Baseball At Day Air Ballpark

Known as Fifth Third Field for much of its existence, the recently renamed Day Air Ballpark is the home of Dayton’s minor league baseball team, the Dayton Dragons.

The Dragons moved into the 8,200-seat venue following its completion in 2000, with the ballpark going on to host the Midwest League All Star Game twice in 2001 and again in 2013.

Day Air Ballpark holds the record for longest-running consecutive sell-out games in all of US professional sports, so be sure to book well in advance if you plan on snagging tickets to see the Dragons play.

Day Air Ballpark is at 220 N Patterson Blvd, Dayton, OH 45402.

19- Explore The Magnificent Ohio Caverns

Dubbed one of “America’s Most Colorful Caverns”, the Ohio Caverns near Dayton is an impressive network of subterranean caves that’s the largest of its kind in the Buckeye State.

The caverns regularly rank among the most-visited attractions in Ohio and are situated just 50 miles (80 km) outside downtown Dayton in the nearby town of West Liberty.

First discovered in 1897, the caverns maintain a year-round temperature of 54°F (12°C) and boast an on-site gift shop and expansive Visitor’s Center where travellers can learn more about this one-of-a-kind natural Ohio landmark.

Huntington Park is at 2210 OH-245 E, West Liberty, OH 43357.

20- Plan A Day Trip To Cincinnati

With just 54 miles (87 km) separating Dayton and downtown Cincinnati, visitors to Dayton will no doubt regret pouncing on the opportunity to stop by Cincy, an iconic Midwest destination renowned for its riverfront views and fascinating cultural attractions.

Cincy boasts the largest metro by population in all of Ohio, giving the city a vibrant nightlife and world-class shopping and dining scene to go with its award-winning museums, art galleries and historic neighbourhoods.

Easy to explore on a whim without having to stay over, Cincinnati is the cultural and economic heartbeat of southwest Ohio and is home to landmarks such as the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Cincinnati Art Museum and Findlay Market.

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Jessica Shaw is a storyteller who has lived in four U.S. states - Missouri, Georgia, Ohio and Illinois - and has visited many others. She loves history and nature and is a big fan of road tripping.