Dayton is a fun city to visit year-round. For things to do in Dayton, Ohio with kids, check out the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery and visit the mysterious Frankenstein’s Castle in Hills and Dales Park, which is also one of the most unique things to do in Dayton, Ohio. Meanwhile, romantic things to do in Dayton, Ohio include a day date at the Dayton Art Institute, which happens to be one of the best indoor things to do in Dayton, Ohio too.
As for things to do in Dayton, Ohio in July, head to RiverScape MetroPark. One of the best things to do in downtown Dayton, it also conveniently hosts live music concerts and the best summer festivals in Dayton, Ohio. Here are more ideas for things to do in Dayton, Ohio today.
1. RiverScape MetroPark
Located on the banks of the Great Miami River, RiverScape MetroPark is a lively destination to visit year-round. It’s home to interactive fountains, an ice-skating rink come winter, landscaped gardens with flowers in bloom, and several paved walking and biking trails. The Pavilion at RiverScape MetroPark hosts live music and dance performances throughout the summer as well. The park is also the city’s festival epicenter; hosting community festivals like the Celtic Fest and Germanfest Picnic.
2. National Museum of the US Air Force
As the name suggests, this is the official museum of the United States Air Force. Located at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, it’s the world’s oldest and largest military aviation museum, as it houses over 360 aircraft and missiles, as well as thousands of historical artifacts. With approximately one million annual visitors, it’s one of Ohio’s most popular tourist attractions. There are museum exhibits on World War II, the Korean War, and the Cold War.
3. Boonshoft Museum of Discovery
A visit to the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery is one of the most family-friendly things to do in Dayton, Ohio, as it’s a children’s science and natural history museum, a technology center, and a zoo. The Discovery Zoo is home to live animals like meerkats and otters, while Oscar Boonshoft Science Central is home to several hands-on exhibits. Other fun attractions waiting inside the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery include the MeadWestvaco Treehouse and Tidal Pool.
4. Charleston Falls Preserve
Charleston Falls Preserve is the county’s most-visited park. With 216 acres of prairie and forest landscape, what draws most people to Charleston Falls Preserve is its four miles of hiking trails and its unique waterfall, which features the same rock strata as Niagara Falls. The park is well maintained, with designated trails, a viewing platform at the foot of the waterfall, a wildlife observation deck beside Cedar Pond, and a prairie lookout platform as well.
5. Downtown Dayton
With over seven million annual visitors, don’t miss a visit to downtown Dayton. It’s home to the city’s best restaurants and craft breweries, nightclubs and entertainment venues, and tourist attractions. See a show at either the Victoria Theatre or the Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center, visit the Oregon Historic District, relax outdoors at RiverScape MetroPark, head inside and explore the renowned Dayton Art Institute, and shop at one of the many independent boutiques.
6. Packard Museum
America’s Packard Museum is an automotive museum that houses the world’s largest collection of Packard vehicles and memorabilia. Appropriately located in a former Packard dealership building from 1917, it’s open seven days a week from 12 pm to 5 pm. The museum is home to over 50 Packard automobiles; dating from 1903 to 1956. There are also plenty of historic artifacts on display, which include car parts and accessories and original sales and service notes.
7. Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park
The Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park was established to honor three important historical figures: Wilbur Wright, Orville Wright, and Paul Laurence Dunbar. The Wright brothers invented powered flight, while Dunbar was an internationally-acclaimed poet that published over 400 poems. The historic park is comprised of several places of interest, including the Wright Cycle Company Complex, the Huffman Prairie Flying Field, the Wright Brothers Aviation Center, Hawthorn Hill, and the Paul Laurence Dunbar State Memorial.
8. 2nd Street Market
Located inside a historical freight house, the 2nd Street Market is a European-style marketplace open year-round. There are over 50 stalls overflowing with locally-grown produce, handmade items, freshly-baked bread and pastries, prepared lunch options, and most importantly – chocolate and wine. 2nd Street Market also expands and hosts a Saturday outdoor farmer’s market from June to October. With live music as well, Saturday is, in fact, one of the best days to visit the market.
9. Victoria Theatre
Established in 1866, the grand Victoria Theatre – built in the Italianate architecture style – is one of North America’s oldest continually-operating theaters. Today, you can see a range of performances at the historic theater, including traveling Broadway productions, music concerts and tribute shows, local ballet performances, family-friendly shows, and local productions of popular musicals like The Phantom of the Opera. Visit the Dayton Live website for the latest events calendar and to purchase tickets.
10. Day Air Ballpark
This minor league baseball stadium was formerly known as Fifth Third Field but became Day Air Ballpark in early 2020. It’s home to the Dayton Dragons, which are a part of the Midwest League and a Single-A affiliate for the Cincinnati Reds. Fun fact: in 2011, the team broke the all-time professional sports record for most consecutive sellouts; selling out Day Air Ballpark for 815 consecutive games. Head here to see a game this summer.
11. The Dayton Art Institute
The Dayton Art Institute is one of North America’s best art museums. Constructed in 1930, the museum’s 60,000 square foot space was built in the Italian Renaissance-style. Walk up the stairway and step inside to see a collection that includes over 20,000 objects of Oceanic, Asian, European, and American fine art spanning 5000 years. The Dayton Art Institute has artwork on display from renowned artists like Dale Chihuly, Claude Monet, and Andy Warhol.
12. Wegerzyn Gardens
A visit to Wegerzyn Gardens is one of the best free things to do in Dayton, Ohio year-round. Home to 10 formal gardens, which include both native and traditional plants and flowers, the park also has the Swamp Forest boardwalk, the Marie Aull Nature Trail and Stillwater River Trail, a giant pedestal oak tree, the Gift and Garden Shop, and the Children’s Discovery Garden. Wegerzyn Gardens also hosts fun events like The Annual Garden Party.
13. SunWatch Indian Village
The SunWatch Indian Village/Archaeological Park is a reconstructed Fort Ancient Native American village and an open-air museum. Open from April to November, people can visit the recreated structures in their original locations from 800 years ago. SunWatch Indian Village also hosts monthly events and features an on-site interpretive center, which plays an introductory film in its indoor theater and has historical artifacts on display (more are located at the aforementioned Boonshoft Museum of Discovery).
14. Thomas A. Cloud Park
Thomas A. Cloud Park is located in one of the city’s outer neighborhoods. The 124-acre park is home to a variety of athletic facilities, including tennis and basketball courts, a baseball and softball diamond, sand volleyball courts, and soccer fields. There’s also a walking trail, playground, and plenty of space for picnics. However, one of the best things to do in Dayton, Ohio in summer is to visit Thomas A. Cloud Park’s family-friendly splash pad.
15. Schuster Center
The Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center (simply shortened to Shuster Center) is more than just a performing arts venue. Its complex is home to restaurants, the large Winter Garden with exotic palm trees, and a 15-story office and residential space. But let’s talk about its Mead Theatre, which can seat 2300 guests. It hosts large touring Broadway productions, local theater performances, renowned musicians, and performances by the local Philharmonic, Ballet, and Opera contingencies.
16. Dayton International Peace Museum
The Dayton International Peace Museum’s mission is to “inspire a local, national, and international culture of peace.” The museum is housed in the three-story Isaac Pollack House, which was built in 1865. Here’s a brief look at some of its exhibitions: The Story of the Dayton Peace Accords (ending the Bosnian War), Gandhi Photo Collection, Children’s Room, and International Cities of Peace. The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday from 1 pm to 5 pm.
17. Carillon Historical Park
The Carillon Historical Park is a 65-acre open-air museum that’s proud to share the story of how Dayton changed the world through industrial and transportation innovations. There’s the Kettering Family Education Center, the Wright Brothers Aviation Center, the fully-operation 1930s letterpress print shop, the Heritage Center of Dayton Manufacturing and Entrepreneurship, and the James F. Dicke Family Transportation Center. Home to six historic local buildings, the Early Settlement Area also offers period demonstrations on occasion.
18. Cox Arboretum MetroPark
Spread over 189 acres, there are plenty of attractions inside the Cox Arboretum MetroPark. This includes the Butterfly House with its Pollinator Gardens outside, the Barbara Cox Center for Sustainable Horticulture, the Tree Tower constructed from a Douglas fir, the Bell’s Children Maze, the Zorniger Education Campus, the Conservation Corner, the Ruth Cummings Mead Woodland. Add on 2.5 miles of walking trails through nature and you could easily spend a day exploring Cox Arboretum.
19. Wright Cycle Company Shop
The Wright Cycle Company was the bike rental, repairs, and sale business of the Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright. As mentioned, their original Wright Cycle Company Shop at 22 South Williams Street (one of six locations across the city) is now a part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park. Today, the building acts as a museum, with historic bicycles on display, as well as a slew of interesting bicycle accessories and artifacts.
20. MetroParks Mountain Biking Area
The Huffman MetroPark’s Mountain Biking Area (MoMBA) contains over nine miles of mountain biking trails for beginner to advanced riders. It’s the only place in the area built specifically and exclusively for mountain bikers. There’s the Mr. Zig Zag Trail literally winding through the forest, while the Tot Track suits even the smallest of riders. A visit to MoMBA is one of the best things to do in Dayton, Ohio for outdoor and adventure enthusiasts.
21. Frankenstein’s Castle
Established in 1907, Hills and Dales Park’s urban forest is home to quite a few historic structures, including the curiously-named Frankenstein’s Castle. Answering to many names over the years, the turret-shaped stone lookout tower was built in 1940. However, it closed under unfortunate circumstances in 1967, when a teenager was killed inside the tower when it was hit by a bolt of lightning. Frankenstein’s Castle never reopened, but it still stands stoically in the park.