21 Best Things to Do in Dayton, OH (for First-Timers!)

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Are you searching for the best things to do in Dayton OH for an upcoming trip? This guide contains the top Dayton attractions and landmarks to help you out!

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If you’re traveling to Dayton last minute, you want to ensure you have lodging ahead of time! Below are some of our top picks in town!

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Dayton, Ohio is the place to go if you’re in love with history, art, and good food.

Known as the birthplace of many inventions, especially aviation, history buffs will have a lot to explore at a variety of museums when visiting Dayton.

Here, you can also take part in a multitude of events, concerts, festivals, and more.

And for the more outdoorsy crowd, there are plenty of places to get in touch with nature in Dayton. In short, it’s the perfect place to spend a weekend or two in the spring or summer whether you’re alone or with family.

Best things to do in Dayton OH
Best things to do in Dayton OH

In this article, we’ve outlined some of the best places in Dayton that you should add to your itinerary.

Did we miss out on any famous Dayton landmarks? Let us know in the comments! Thanks!

Best Things to Do in Dayton

Carillon Historical Park

Carillon Historical Park is an open-air history museum and the ultimate place to learn about Dayton’s culture and history.

The highlights of the park are the original 1905 Wright Flyer III, the only airplane designated a National Historic Landmark, and the Wright Brothers National Museum.

Carillon Historical Park
Carillon Historical Park

You can start your visit by exploring the Heritage Center of Dayton Manufacturing & Entrepreneurship, where you’ll get a lot of information about some historical and innovative companies that were launched in Dayton.

Other must-sees here include the famous Print Shop that has real 1930s printing equipment, and the Early Settlement Area, which features some of the oldest standing buildings in Dayton, like Newcom Tavern and William Morris House.

Wheat Penny

Wheat Penny is one of the best spots in Dayton that makes every visitor feel at home. It’s an American-style restaurant featuring entirely homemade cuisine.

First thing’s first, it’s a pizza-centric restaurant! So, pizza lovers especially are welcome. The dishes are rustic and have some creative twists to them. The bar is very highly rated here, so you might want to reserve a spot.

Wheat Penny via David Wilson (CC BY 2.0 Flickr)
Wheat Penny via David Wilson (CC BY 2.0 Flickr)

Wheat Penny leaves almost all of its visitors wanting to come back due to their imaginative food, tasty pizzas, amazing cocktails, and very friendly staff.

You can even bring your dog with you. Just based on this, it’s quite easy to imagine how friendly and welcoming the hosts are here, right?

Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center

The Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center is known for providing not only local but also international entertainment.

The center was built in 2003 and includes 3 main facilities: Mead Theatre, Mathile Theatre, and Kettering Wintergarden.

The first one, Mead Theatre, is a 2,300-seat area that hosts performance arts including opera, orchestral music, dance, and more.

Mathile Theatre, on the other hand, has a much smaller setting and hosts rehearsals or small audience performances.

Schuster Center via OZinOH (CC BY-NC 2.0 Flickr)
Schuster Center via OZinOH (CC BY-NC 2.0 Flickr)

Lastly, Kettering Wintergarden is a six-story glass atrium that hosts events with around 1,000 people.

Apart from taking part in some of the very best events in Dayton here, note that all facilities are open for reservations and you may arrange meetings, parties, and even weddings.

America’s Packard Museum

Famous as one of the top ten auto museums in the US, America’s Packard Museum is a place worth checking out at least once when in Dayton.

The museum was founded in 1992 and is the only restored Packard dealership operating as a museum. It features the world’s largest Public Packard Automobile collection and has more than 50 automobiles showcased in the halls.

Packard Museum - Roberto Galan - Shutterstock
Packard Museum – Roberto Galan – Shutterstock

In recent years the museum has gained a lot of popularity, and even the neighborhood surrounding the museum has been named Dayton’s Motorcar District.

The museum welcomes guests from fall to winter and is open from Wednesday to Sunday (though Wednesdays are for large groups of 10 and more). The entrance fee is $10 for adults, $5 for seniors, and free for students.

National Aviation Hall of Fame

The National Aviation Hall of Fame is where Dayton honors its aerospace legends, promotes innovation, and aims to create better future leaders.

They showcase inspirational exhibits that convey the idea of how powerful technology can be in the air and space industry.

The Hall of Fame overall incorporates a museum, research center, and an award ceremony. The latter is one of the main activities here, and it’s very often referred to as “The Oscar Night of Aviation.”

You might also want to stop by their store, where among many items you’ll find limited edition prints signed by an aviator of your choice.

The National Aviation Hall of Fame is open during the whole year except for holidays. Admission and parking in the center are free of charge.

Dayton International Peace Museum

As the name suggests, this museum is about peace and has a vision of conveying ideas about nonviolent alternatives to conflict resolutions.

The museum features several exhibits and programs that cover topics like social justice, equity, tolerance, and world protection.

Apart from the exhibition areas, the museum has a library, an interactive children’s room, and a place suitable for gatherings, book debates, and discussions.

Dayton International Peace Museum via Ted (CC BY-NC 2.0 Flickr)
Dayton International Peace Museum via Ted (CC BY-NC 2.0 Flickr)

A fun fact about this museum is that it’s the only peace museum located in Western Hemisphere that still has a physical location.

There is no fixed admission fee, but there is a suggested donation of $8 per person for non-members.

Aullwood Audubon Center

The Aullwood Audubon Center is all about nature, the environment, and sustainability. It includes an educational farm and discovery center, a nature center, and a sanctuary.

Aullwood’s Marie S. Aull Education Center has two themed discovery rooms and six thematic classrooms that have interactive displays and exhibits.

The facility also hosts animals like turtles and snakes, a bird-watching room, a Windows on Wildlife room (great for quiet relaxation), and Aullwood’s Gift Shop, which can be your source of memories in the form of gifts.

The Aullwood Farm features an educational facility with agricultural programs. It also houses farm offices.

In addition, there is the vast Farm Yard and the Wyse Pavilion (which can be rented), a focal spot from which the guests can enjoy the farm’s buildings, landscape, and animals.

The admission fee here is $12 for adults and $10 for seniors.

White Lotus Restaurant

White Lotus has a feel of Asia in it and that’s what sets it apart from other restaurants in Dayton. Here you’ll get delicious food along with a friendly, cozy atmosphere that feels just like home.

Their bestsellers include their yummy burger, green curry, red curry, and pepper steak.

Delicious Thai food in Dayton
Delicious Thai food in Dayton

The menu here is not that big, but it’s a combination of Thai and American cuisines, both of which have very high ratings. If you’re looking for Thai food in Dayton, White Lotus might be your number one choice.

Apart from great quality food, you can enhance your experience here by learning about the story of the owner, who is a true inspiration and a great example of dedication and hard work.

Day Trip to Yellow Springs

When in Dayton, a good option for a day trip is Yellow Springs.

Though it’s a small village, there are many attractions and hidden natural gems located here. You’re very likely to find something to do for the whole day, no matter if you’re visiting alone, with friends, or with family.

When it comes to natural sites, Glen Helen Nature Preserve and Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve provide beautiful scenery and breathtaking views of springs, waterfalls, and limestone cliffs.

Yellow Springs - Madison Muskopf - Shutterstock
Yellow Springs – Madison Muskopf – Shutterstock

Among other must-sees are Clifton Mill – a historic building that takes you back into the 1800s; Little Art Theatre; Village Artisans Co-Op for unique gifts; and around 15 eateries and pubs to experience tasty, local food.

In the area, you will also see some of the beautiful covered bridges in Ohio.

Little Fish Brewing Company – Satellite Brewery

This brewery was built by two beer enthusiasts in 2015 and has quickly gained popularity not only among locals but also among visitors to Ohio.

The owners have designed a few original beer recipes from fully Ohio-grown ingredients, the most famous one of which is called Saison du Poisson. The best part is that the brewery has a vast selection, so you’re sure to find something you’ll enjoy.

The inside has a seating area near the brewing equipment, while the outside features a beautiful garden where you can enjoy your beer with views of hop arbor, fruit trees, and the city-owned wetland.

The company also takes many sustainability initiatives and tries its best to decrease harm to the environment.

SunWatch

SunWatch Indian Village is now a National Historic Landmark. Many years of archaeological research at the site yielded major insights regarding the Fort Ancient civilization.

The site currently operates as an open-air museum.

SunWatch
SunWatch

When visiting the site, you can partake in many activities, including watching an introductory film in the indoor theater, making a journey to the past by immersing yourself in the lifestyle from 800 years ago, and learning some interesting details about the history of the village and its inhabitants in the Interpretive Center.

SunWatch Indian Village and Park are open from April to November. The admission fee is $7 for adults and $6 for seniors.

Boonshoft Museum of Discovery

The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery is all about technology, natural history, science, and children. Boonshoft Museum is a bit similar to SunWatch Indian Village – both places include huge natural history collections and exhibits.

There are a variety of daily public educational and fun programs offered here, the exact dates and times of which you can check out on their daily calendar.

Boonshoft Museum via drquuxum (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Flickr)
Boonshoft Museum via drquuxum (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Flickr)

You can’t, of course, miss the exhibits here. There is a huge anthropology section that includes specimens and artifacts from SunWatch and more; a biology section with insects, plants, and animals; geology, astrology, and the list goes on.

The amount of time needed to explore the Boonshoft Museum could range from 5 hours to a whole day. The entrance fee is $14.50 for adults, $11.50 for children, and $12.50 for seniors.

Dayton Art Institute

The Dayton Art Institute is a premier art museum hosting a collection of 5,000 years of art history, special programs, exhibitions, and events.

The museum holds around 27,000 items from not only American but also Ancient American, Asian, and European fine art collections.

The institute also hosts concerts, youth and family programs, and more. Among the most famous special events are the Art Ball and Oktoberfest, which take place once a year.

Dayton Art Institute via Ted (CC BY-NC 2.0 Flickr)
Dayton Art Institute via Ted (CC BY-NC 2.0 Flickr)

Also, to stimulate some creativity, don’t miss the Lange Family Experiencenter – the museum’s interactive gallery.

The admission fee to the Dayton Art Institute for adults is $15, $10 for seniors, and free for children.

Oregon District

The historic Oregon District is situated in the heart of downtown Dayton and is its oldest neighborhood. It’s home to numerous boutiques, pubs and bars, restaurants, and coffee shops.

​This district has one of the earliest surviving mixtures of business and residential architecture in Dayton.

Oregon District in Dayton via Thomas Dwyer (CC BY-NC 2.0 Flickr)
Oregon District in Dayton via Thomas Dwyer (CC BY-NC 2.0 Flickr)

A prominent site in the Oregon District is Fifth Street, which gets closed on weekends and is known by the name “Out on 5th.”

It opens up more space for eateries to expand their patio, for shopping, and for relaxing while walking through the closed business district.

Victoria Theatre

Victoria Theatre has been one of the main entertainment centers of Dayton for many years. This theatre hosts a variety of events, mostly ballets, concerts, and other performances from Dayton’s arts organizations.

The theater was renovated in 1988 and is now even more stunning both inside and outside. To get to know the events taking place here, you can check out the events calendar, which can be found on their official website.

It’s worth mentioning that the calendar is usually quite full of events, so you’ll most probably catch something interesting no matter when you visit the theater.

If you’re interested in hosting an event in the area, meetings, parties, performances, and banquets can all be held at the Victoria Theatre.

Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark

Wegerzyn Gardens is the ultimate place for you and your family to get closer to nature and some gardening inspiration.

Visitors can take the Marie Aull Nature Trail into the woods to experience the floral diversity of the Stillwater River Corridor.

Alternatively, the gardens offer some great programs for children and designated areas like the Children’s Discovery Garden.

The top activities to do here are walking around and relaxing along with the beautiful sights of the gardens, as well as finding the Giant Pedestal Oaktree and the Swamp Forest, which is home to Fairy Shrimp, only found in vernal pools.

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park

The connection between Dayton and aviation history is undeniably strong, and the Aviation Heritage National Historical Park is proof of that.

This site is the birthplace of aviation – the location where Wilbur Wright started thinking about creating a flying machine and the challenges that come with it.

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park - RozenskiP - Shutterstock
Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park – RozenskiP – Shutterstock

The park includes the brothers’ 4th bicycle shop, the Paul Laurence Dunbar House Historic Site (which was his last home), the Huffman Prairie Interpretive Center, and more.

Here you’ll visit the Wright Brothers’ third airplane, the Huffman Prairie Flying Field, and Hawthorn Hill (the Wrights’ estate).

Almost all areas of the park do not charge a fee for admission.

National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

Visit the world’s largest military aviation museum in Dayton! Here you’ll find more than 19 acres of indoor exhibit area, holding 350 aircraft vehicles and missiles, as well as thousands of fascinating artifacts.

Among the exhibits at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, you can check out the Early Years, World War II, Korean War, the Cold War galleries, and many more.

Museum of the U.S. Air Force - ChicagoPhotographer - Shutterstock
Museum of the U.S. Air Force – ChicagoPhotographer – Shutterstock

Apart from the main tours and exhibits, you can make your visit even more remarkable by watching a movie at the museum theatre, taking a ride in a stimulator, or by visiting the museum store you can take a few souvenir pieces with you.

Both admission and parking at the museum are free.

Dayton Funny Bone Comedy Club and Restaurant

In case you’re into some comedy and food, the Dayton Funny Bone Comedy Club and Restaurant should certainly be on your travel itinerary.

There are stand-up comedy shows taking place here every Monday through Friday. Some of the well-known artists performing here are Gary Owen, Damon Williams, Josh Blue, and Greg Warren.

Something to note here is that they sometimes give away free tickets via email signups, so you have a chance to check out a comedy show at no charge. Overall, it’s a nice and entertaining way to spend your evening when in Dayton.

RiverScape MetroPark

RiverScape is situated around the Grand Miami River and features extra-beautiful gardens and flowering pots.

The park welcomes visitors who want to relax, play, or work while feeling nature close to them. A multitude of events and recreational activities like summer concerts, ice skating, recreation programs, and huge festivals take place here all year round.

RiverScape MetroPark
RiverScape MetroPark

You can grab a bike or hike in the park, enjoy the sights of Five Rivers Fountain of Lights, take children to play around the fountains on a hot summer day, or enjoy a musical performance at the Pavilion.

Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center

The Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center is part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.

There’s so much for aviation lovers to do here, including checking out exhibits of the Wright brothers’ invention of the world’s first practical airplane at Huffman Prairie in 1904 and 1905, the accomplishments of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and their flying school that opened in 1910.

Huffman Prairie in Ohio
Huffman Prairie in Ohio

Located in the same area, there is a 27-acre Wright Memorial on Wright Brothers Hill, which is accessible to the visitors of the center. In addition, there are also prehistoric Adena Native American mounds, which visitors can stroll up.

The Huffman Prairie Flying Field is open daily, except for Wednesdays, and does not charge a fee for admission.

Where to Stay in Dayton

Youʻll find plenty of recognizable places to stay in Dayton on your trip. Below are some of the top-rated options for the Ohio city!

Top Dayton attractions
Top Dayton attractions

Did we miss out on any great places to visit in Dayton?

Let us know your favorite things to do in Dayton OH in the comments! Thanks!

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Are you searching for the best things to do in Dayton OH for an upcoming trip? This guide contains the top Dayton attractions and landmarks to help you out! | Dayton landmarks | Dayton things to do | Dayton travel guide | Dayton museums | Dayton parks | What to do in Dayton | Dayton itinerary | Dayton restaurants | Dayton cafes | Dayton craft beer | Places to visit in Dayton | Dayton OH history | Dayton sightseeing | Dayton bucket list

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