When I first found out that we would be moving to Dayton for my husband's graduate school I thought, "Ohio?! But it's so flat!" I had spent most of my life in the mountains, with the exception of Pennsylvania (those are really tall hills, not proper mountains) so I was dreading the corn fields. While Dayton is a lot flatter than I'm used to there's so many trees I don't notice or mind. Plus there has been so much to see, do, and explore! It has been so much fun. I will miss it terribly. I know a lot of people who do complain how boring it is here, so I'm making this list so they can find more fun adventures and for anyone who will soon be moving or visiting the area.
1. The Museums
Of course there's the National Air Force Museum. I've visited it half a dozen times and still haven't seen all of it. Every time I learn something new. There's three large hangers full of airplanes (and they're trying to raise funds for a 4th!) and even more. I love taking people through the beginning of aviation and WWI section and seeing how awed they are by the size and scope. Then I show them a map and tell them they haven't even seen 1/6 of it. And that there's an outside. It's funny seeing their eyes get so big. There's also an IMAX theater and astronaut ice cream. Oh yes, did I mention it's free? I will admit, I don't go to many museums so I haven't gone to the Wright Brothers' bike shop, but I'm hoping to hit it up before I go. There are so many more museums I haven't seen, but always wanted to go to- SunWatch, a Native American village, the Boonshaft Museum (some of my students have even worked there.) There's so many to pick from! Here's a list of More Museums Around Dayton.
2. The Parks
I know I already wrote a post of 19 Dayton Parks, but I can't stress enough how gorgeous and amazing these parks are. They're what we have taken the most advantage of in our stay here, by far. And any time a friend or family member is in town our first conversation is which parks we should take them to. They are so much fun. People are shocked they're free. Usually you have to pay for access to such amazingly well-tended parks.
3. The Festivals, Fairs, and Markets
Holy cow, there's so many fairs and festivals in and around Dayton! Any given week there's at least one and sometimes we have a really hard time picking between a bunch of fairs to visit. Greek Fest, Italian Festival, Oktoberfest, Troy Strawberry Festival (they dye their town fountain pink!), Maple Festivals, Young's Dairy Pumpkin Festival, Cyclops Art Fest, there's a ton! To make sure we didn't miss ones we really wanted to see I took to Looking At This Calender Of Dayton Festivals and putting them into my Google calender to make sure we didn't miss any. Especially make sure you see the Ohio Renaissance Festival- it's incredible! See real jousting with some of the world's best jousters! (No, seriously, they won a lot in the 2013 international champions.) I'm not sure where to put this, but Dayton also has the Dixie Drive-In- see 2 movies for the price of 1 outside under the stars? Yes, please!
4. The Fruit Picking
There are a ton of places to pick your own fruit. I've written before about Apple Picking, but there's a ton of other farms that allow you to pick all kinds of fruit. We have absolutely loved this. I'm not sure where else to put these on this list, so I'll include it here, also look out for the Corn Mazes that pop up in the fall! We've been to 3 and they're all so much fun! Want to pick your own fruit? There's A Great List Of Farms that allow you to pick your own fruit!
5. The Seasons
Out of all the states I've lived in the variations of the seasons in Ohio has been the most stunning. The gorgeous, fiery autumn foliage, the delicious summer greens and golds, the spring that just explodes into bloom, and the fantastic snow and ice formations of winter have been incredible. I have never seen anything like it. Viewing the seasons through the parks really emphasises the changes and gives you some of the most beautiful ways to explore the seasons.
6. The Outdoor Sports
The Dayton area offers a ton of activities for exploring and enjoying the outdoors. Ohio has a stunning amount of bike trails, and the Miami Valley Bike Trails are a ton of fun to ride. You can get to a lot of places using them. A great one for the little ones is to start out at Eastwood Park and ride to Riverscape Metropark, stop for an ice cream, then bike back! With all the rivers, lakes, and ponds in the area, is it any surprise that there's a lot of kayaking? It's so much fun taking a kayak down the Mad River! I can't tell you the amount of times we've gone down that river. To make it even more awesome, Eastwood Park has recently put in Mad River Run, a white water feature- it looks like a slide for boats! Then you can go under the largest river water fountain in the world. How many people can claim that?! (You will get soaked!) There's some rock climbing walls you can visit and John Bryan Park for some outdoor climbing. The walls are crumbly and there's a lot of spiders, but it's still fun. Plus just 3 hours away is Red River Gorge with fantastic climbing. There's a bunch of hiking in the Dayton area, again, just check out some of their Parks, a lot of them are very hiking friendly, especially Englewood, Germantown, Sugar Creek, Taylorsville, and Twin Creeks. (And again, there's John Bryan, Glenn Helen Nature Preserve, and for a bit of a drive, Red River Gorge.) There's a lot of camping opportunities as well- I hear Caesar Creek is a fantastic, nearby place to camp. I do know that Red River Gorge has some fantastic camping. In the winter you can use a lot of the same trails for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and sledding! Not to mention Ice Skating At Riverscape Metropark.
7. The Nearby Towns and Cities
I love that Dayton is just an hour from Cincinnati and an hour from Columbus. It makes it easy to go and explore the cities and see what they have to offer! And it's a ton. For a super quick list in Columbus there's Festivals And Fairs (including the Ohio State Fair,) CoSi, Columbus Park Of Roses, Columbus Zoo/Waterpark (yes, they brilliantly combined them and it's gorgeous at Christmas,) Schmidt's, Jeni's Ice Cream, Franklin Park Conservatory, German Village, a to-size replica of the Santa Maria, the capitol building, and more.
Near Dayton is the town of Yellowsprings, which is a super cool place to visit. It's a cute little "hippie" town with adorable shops and delicious food in the Yellowsprings area is Young's Dairy and Brandeberry Winery- both cool places to visit.
8. Weekend Getaway Opportunities
I've already mentions Red River Gorge. We loved taking weekends to camp, hike, and climb there- fantastic! We've found a lot of cool weekend getaway opportunities that were available. One trip I went on was to drive down to Mammoth Caves, spend the night there exploring, then the next day I went to Cumberland Falls and stayed there. Cumberland Falls is one of only two waterfalls in the whole world to get a moonbow- a rainbow made by the moonlight. The other falls is in Africa. So try to hit it up during a full moon! One year we drove up to Lake Erie and spent the weekend at Cedar Point- how cool, an amusement park out on the lake! We spent a weekend exploring Chicago around Christmas time last year and that was a lot of fun! I really enjoyed when we spent the weekend in Holland, Michigan though. It's a cool town that has tulip farms and windmills! Definitely check it out in the spring. I'm sure there's more awesome weekend opportunities, but there's only so much time!
9. The People
Obviously, as always, there's going to be a mixed bag, but in general I've loved how friendly the locals are. We have made a ton of friends and met so many amazing people. I mean really sweet, amazing people. I think that's one of the things I'll miss the most. It's great to have good people to go off and do all the things mentioned previously in this list with the friends you've met in the area. So go out and explore!
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