Dayton, Ohio’s big claim to fame is its tie to aviation. In 2003, Congress officially declared Ohio as the “birthplace of aviation” over North Carolina, because Dayton was the home of Flight Kings Wilbur and Orville Wright.
The Wright Brothers were credited for inventing and flying the first-ever aircraft and conducted their research, drew up plans, and created that aircraft in their bicycle shop in Dayton.
But did you know that Dayton is much more than just where aviation was born?
My daughter, Taylor, and I took a road trip to Dayton and found a few things we couldn’t wait to share with you. Here are our 4 reasons why you should visit Dayton, Ohio.
#1 Carefully Sourced Food
When Taylor and I stopped at Wheat Penny Oven & Bar for lunch, I thought we were in for a typical dining experience. That was before I heard about Chef Liz and got a taste of what her “carefully sourced” restaurant was all about.
Liz is one of Dayton’s favorite local chefs. She is partners with Wiley, a passionate soul who loves food, cooking with flair, and feeding the restaurant’s guests. Wiley shared information with Taylor and me about the dishes prepared at Wheat Penny as well as both girls’ culinary histories.
Taylor and I began our meal with Eggplant Fries, a must-not-miss item at Wheat Penny. Dredged in rice coating and dipped in yogurt sauce, I’ve never had anything quite like it before. The taste was fantastic! Main courses followed, which were Green Lasagne (Spinach pasta with homemade ricotta) and Angry Sal pizza (olive oil base with Italian sausage, basil, and mozzarella with a spicy sauce).
Both dishes were definitely something to write home about. If you haven’t been to Wheat Penny, go quickly!
#2 An Impressive Living History Museum
Learn about Dayton’s significant contributions to business, life, and science and inventions at the Carillon Historical Park. Consisting of 30 buildings on a 65-acre campus, this is a fun museum to explore and learn more about history, Dayton, and miscellaneous trivia facts. One of our favorite exhibits was the NCR cash registers, invented, of course, in Dayton.
In Deeds Barn, see where Charles Kettering invented the electric car ignition. The Great 1913 Flood exhibit building was a hard one to visit but I was glad to learn about its significance. Ohio’s worst natural disaster is explained and memorialized in this moving exhibit.
The highlight of our visit was seeing the original Wright Flyer III. It is the only airplane designated as a National Historic Landmark. The plane is housed in part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, still accessible from Carillon Historical Park. We also thoroughly enjoyed watching the film showcasing inventors and inventions made by the people of Dayton.
A unique offering at the living history museum was the carousel that donned inventions from Dayton to sit in as opposed to horses to ride. Seats included the cash register, airplane, the pop-top can, and more.
#3 The National Museum of the USAF
The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force (USAF) is located at the Wright-Patton Air Force Base. Here, you will find a huge collection of airplanes, simulators, a museum store, and the Valkyrie Cafe. It is the world’s largest and oldest military aviation museum.
This world-class museum is actually made up of three enormous buildings. The aircraft are separated into collections based on the time they were used (Korean War, WWII, Cold War, etc.) and what areas of the world they were used in. It could easily take days to see all of the exhibits and memorabilia in the USAF Museum.
The William E. Boeing Presidential Gallery was my favorite part of the museum. It housed aircraft used by Reagan, Bush, Nixon, Roosevelt, and Truman, including Air Force One. Visitors can walk through many of the planes.
Stop by the Air Force Museum Theatre is where you can see movies on an eighty-foot widescreen in either 2-D or 3-D. The fourth Sundays of the month also offer a Hollywood film series at discounted rates for blockbuster favorites.
The National Aviation Hall of Fame is co-located there as well.
#4 The Cool Oregon Historic District
Explore independent restaurants, eclectic shops, a vibrant nightlife, and peruse a very cool brick-lined street neighborhood in Dayton’s Oregon Historic District.
This 12 square-block area is one of the earliest surviving combos of commercial and residential architecture in the city. Architecture styles range from Queen Anne to Federal. The Oregon District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
Come on First Fridays of the month to watch the town of Dayton come alive with arts and culture from 5 to 10 PM throughout the area.
Eat dinner at Lily’s Bistro for a sensational seasonal meal. I can personally vouch for the amazing trio of Deviled Eggs of the Day (what a clever idea!) and the Shrimp and Grits with creole sauce and green onions. Lily’s has really great food! Later pop into the Toxic Brew Company for a house-brewed Bavarian or Belgian beer.
Need a Hotel Recommendation?
Need a place to stay while in Dayton? Try the SpringHill Suites by Marriott Dayton North.
Need a Rental Car Recommendation?
Taylor and I rented a sleek and stylish 2017 Mazda6 for our two-week spring getaway. Red (we named our car) was lovely against the dreary landscape and weather of Ohio in March. We experienced extreme weather; from pouring rain to heavy snow, the rental handled wonderfully in the elements.
Our Mazda6 got 30 MPG and performed like a star on the roads. We really liked its Soul Red Metallic paint and the Parchment Nappa leather interior. What a beauty!
We found these to be the be best features of the Mazda6:
- Heated Steering Wheel
- Heated Front and Rear Seats
- Rear Cross/Traffic Alert
- Bose Speakers
- Steering Wheel Mounted Controls
- Active Driving Display (our #1 feature!)
- Rain-Sensing Windshield Wipers
- Bluetooth Hands-Free Phone/Audio
- Rearview Camera
- Tire Pressure Monitoring System
- Smart City Brake Support
- Lane Departure Warning
- Lane Keep Assist
The Mazda6 received a 5-star safety rating—an important factor when you are hauling around your precious cargo. It also rated 7 out of 10 on the Fuel Economy & Greenhouse Gas Rating scale.
Last, but not least, the Mazda6 had more than enough room for all of our luggage and souvenirs that we accumulated during our two-week road trip.
Dayton is Worth the Visit
If your travels take you to Ohio, don’t miss the chance to visit Dayton. I only had a day to explore the city and was still very impressed. I can’t wait to come back and do the things I missed on this trip. You will find this city worth visiting.
Thanks to the Dayton CVB for hosting Taylor and me on our road trip. As always, reviews and opinions were 100% mine and unbiased.
Check out our other road trip visits:
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