What should not be missed in or around Dayton, Ohio?
May 14, 2021 7:33 AM   Subscribe

College age son has a summer engineering internship in Beaver Creek, OH. I and wife and high school junior son plan to take a road trip from Rochester, NY to visit in early July. We’re looking for suggestions of weird or awesome museums, hikes, bike trails, record stores, book stores, used-clothing shops, local famous foods, etc in the Dayton and larger area. We’ve not found too much at a first pass of research - what are we missing?!
posted by chr1sb0y to Travel & Transportation around Dayton, OH (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A few interesting things on my list for visiting Dayton:
  • Yellow Springs, OH, is supposed to be a cool and quaint artsy town with vintage stores etc -- it's not Dayton proper but it's not so far
  • National Museum of the Air Force is supposed to be very cool if you are interested in military history
  • I like the Dewey's pizza up by us in Cleveland, and I know there's one in Dayton as well (regional chain).

posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:55 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]

Cincinnati! You're missing Cincinnati! Come to the American Sign Museum and the Museum Center and the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens and the Contemporary Arts Center and the Art Museum!

Or head into Northside (a Cincinnati neighborhood) for Shake It Records and little boutiques and restaurants. Eat at iconic Northside bar The Comet! Everybody's Records is just a few minutes away in Pleasant Ridge (another Cincy neighborhood).

Hike in any one of Hamilton County's Parks or Cincinnati Parks. Bike trails can be found on both of those sites as well.

Joseph Beth in Cincinnati is the bomb for books.

Cincinnati chili is our famous local food; just Google it, but I'd recommend Camp Washington Chili or Skyline.

I have friends from Dayton so I'll send your question on to them, but please feel free to hit me up via MeMail for any and all questions related to Cincinnati! I've lived here for 25 years and I am evangelical about it!

p.s. My son attended and graduated from the University of Rochester; I've made the trip back and forth many, many times and can also clue you in on some fun road-trip stops along the way!
posted by cooker girl at 8:04 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]

Oh! The Dayton Air Force Museum is pretty great, even if you're not into military stuff. I'm not and I've really enjoyed my trips there.
posted by cooker girl at 8:07 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]

The Dayton metroparks are nice - I really like Englewood Park which has some waterfalls. You can check out the metroparks trails here. I also like this site for finding parks and hikes in Ohio.

As noted above, Yellow Springs is supposed to be pretty cool, but I've only ever driven through. I do recommend the Calypso Grill for Caribbean food, located on the edge of Yellow Springs. I've only eaten there during covid times (so I mean, I ate in my car in their parking lot) but the food was great.

Also, on the off chance anyone in your group likes antiques - the Heart of Ohio Antique mall is an huge antique mall about 30 minute east of Dayton in Springfield, OH.
posted by Sabby at 8:08 AM on May 14

There are several cool mound sites nearby. Enon and Miamisburg are big and obvious (unlike some of the smaller ones, which can be pretty subtle.) Serpent Mound is one of the most unique and impressive, but it's an hour and a half drive. On the plus side, it's a beautiful area for a picnic or hike.
posted by eotvos at 9:00 AM on May 14

Yeah, the US Air Force Museum at Wright Patterson AFB is pretty cool.
posted by hwestiii at 9:51 AM on May 14

As others have said Yellow Springs is pretty nice. It's a tiny town, the downtown commercial district is about three blocks long. The Glen Helen Nature Preserve is good for a quick hike. Just north of town is Young's Jersey Dairy, which has about the best ice cream on the planet and the cows are on site.
posted by plastic_animals at 10:04 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]

I am extremely not interested in airplanes or military history and even so the Dayton Airforce Museum is AMAZING and totally worth the trip. Includes many early space-program materials, tons of fascinating artifacts, lots of opportunities to clamber into cockpits and whatnot.

Favorite item: At one time early in the moon mission planning NASA thought maybe astronauts would get around in space via....floating rocket-powered Vespas, basically? They built some, they are hilarious-looking, and you can see one at this museum. Second-favorite item: WWI pilots apparently were expected to keep track of where they were by having little maps on a tray that hung around your neck, with the maps on a scroll system that was operated with a little crank. So you were supposed to fly this thing over enemy territory while turning a tiny handle to scroll your lap-map back and forth. Where can you see one of these? DAYTON! Go.
posted by Ausamor at 10:21 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]

I grew up just north of the aforementioned Yellow Springs, which is to say just northeast of Dayton. My dad actually used to be the postmaster of Beavercreek. (One word, btw.) Also, my wife is from Buffalo. I've made the drive from Columbus to Buffalo and back so many times that I could probably tell you each individual mile marker. Alas, few of them are interesting haha. But if you'd like suggestions for the drive, I'm happy to provide some.

For Dayton itself, you've gotten some good suggestions already. The Air Force museum is the can't-miss thing to do. Especially if your kid's an engineer, there's just so much fascinating stuff. You don't actually have to be into military history to enjoy it. There's also the Wright Brothers National Historic Site just west of downtown, which is actually the bicycle shop where they invented the airplane and another, larger aviation history building around the corner. If you have any interest whatsoever in aviation (not like "I know a lot of trivia about planes"-level interest; I'm talking "I know that planes are a thing that exists"-level), you'll find it interesting.

About an hour, hour and a half north of Dayton in Wapakoneta is the Neil Armstrong Museum, which is a fun way to spend a Saturday. Again, I would imagine an engineer would find it especially interesting. If you do go, continue a little further up I-75 into Lima and eat at Kewpie, which is the fast food place that inspired Dave Thomas to start Wendy's. The food is reminiscent of Wendy's, in the sense that, like, authentic Mexican food in Oaxaca is reminiscent of Taco Bell, which is to say significantly better than Wendy's. Also, the decor is crazy time warp - if you've ever felt nostalgic for the plastic booths of 1980s Burger Kings, Kewpie still has them.

For hiking, the Metroparks are nice. My dad lived in Vandalia, so we hiked at Taylorsville most often, but I've been to a few of them, and they're all pleasant. Yellow Springs is your real star here. I kind of remember hearing that Glen Helen is closed to visitors, which you should double-check, because it's probably the best hiking in Ohio if it's open. (Don't @ me, Hocking Hills.) Even if it is closed, John Bryan State Park is next door, and that's the second-best hiking in Ohio. Next to that is the Clifton Gorge, which is not the third-best hiking but still pretty good. Caesar's Creek State Park isn't far, either, and there's a little place north of the city called Charleston Falls that we hiked fairly often when I was a kid.

Bike trails, you're in luck. Greater Dayton has over 300 miles of bike trails. You can ride from Cincinnati all the way to Springfield. Really nice.

For record stores, the answer used to be Gem City Records in the Oregon District, but they closed a few years ago. There's Dark Star Books in YS. I haven't been there in a while, but it's kind of an institution.

Someone mentioned Cincinnati-style chili, which yes, you should absolutely eat. If you don't feel like going all the way to Cincinnati (you should, if you've got time; it's nice), there are locations of both Skyline and Gold Star Chili (the Montagues and Capulets, Crips and Bloods of Cincinnati-style chili) in the Dayton area. I believe there's still a Gold Star at the Beavercreek mall (Fairfield Commons). You should also try some Dayton pizza - Cassano's and Marion's are the two big names. I think Cassano's is better, but Marion's is also good. They're not really Crips and Bloods competitors, though. For dessert, Young's Jersey Dairy in Yellow Springs makes delicious ice cream from cows milked onsite. It's a must-visit after hiking in John Bryan. Graeter's ice cream out of Cincinnati is also easy to find and incredibly delicious.

You didn't mention sports, but you'd be remiss not to attend a Dayton Dragons minor league baseball game. They hold an all-levels-of-American-sports record for consecutive sellouts, almost 1,400 games, which is another way of saying every game they've ever played. This makes it sound harder to get a ticket than it actually is - it's actually pretty easy. The ballpark is nice, right downtown, and the food is decent by ballpark standards.

In general, your best bets for things to do are Yellow Springs and the Oregon District. Living in Beavercreek, it's actually really easy for you to get to YS - the appropriately named Dayton-Yellow Springs Road is just north of Beavercreek in Fairborn (there's a Skyline Chili on it), so you don't even have to get on a highway. Ten minutes drive. YS used to be super hippie and like, stuck in the 60s. I didn't like it when I was a kid. It has since modernized. Not to like, 2021 or anything, but now you can feel comfortable there if you're not wearing tie dye. I like it a lot more now. The Oregon District is the cool urban neighborhood that every city has, with bars and stuff. There was a mass shooting there a couple years ago (by a guy whose family I knew, incidentally), but like, don't let that scare you. You should absolutely go out to dinner and walk around shopping there. Kind of like a smaller Elmwood in Buffalo, for reference.

Also, Guided by Voices. Not really a thing to do, but they're the world's greatest band, and they're from Dayton. You should listen to them.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:35 AM on May 14 [4 favorites]

nthing that you should visit the Air Force Museum and Young's Dairy. Both were very common destinations when I was in school in Dayton.
posted by mmascolino at 1:37 PM on May 14

Don't miss listening to the Wright State University radio station! WWSU 106.9 FM
posted by unknowncommand at 3:15 PM on May 14

Akron has some solid food for a halfway-point lunch stop if you're driving.

Others have already mentioned the National Museum of the Air Force @ WPAFB -- it's a must see stop.

Looking for trails/hiking? Glen Helen Nature Presever in Yellow Springs is great -- and when you're done, just head north on US 68 to Young's Dairy for ice cream.

Springfield OH has a few large antique malls if that's your sort of thing and is just up the road.

Others have recommended Skyline Chili / Gold Star Chili already if you want to try 'Cincinnati Chili' -- your choice is Skyline, and you want the location in Beavercreek just off N Fairfield Road. ( It's regional food. It's... an acquired taste. )

Bills Donuts is a must visit. Bill's Donuts is donut valhalla. Bill's Donuts is life. ( Centerville )

There's a lot of smaller things to do in the Dayton area ( Wright Brothers museums.... the Paul Dunbar home.... etc ).

Lots of things to do in the Cincy area as well -- the Museum Center is great ( and is the original inspiration for the Hall of Justice in Superfriends cartoons )..... King's Island amusement park is about an hour south of Dayton, but there are other less crowded ways to spend your time.
posted by Ninevolt at 8:09 PM on May 14

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