The Midwestern state of Ohio is 34th largest state in the U.S. but it is the seventh most populous. The Birthplace of Aviation is more than just those as it is also a great spot for tourists to visit every once in a while. Of all its counties and cities, we find that Dayton, Ohio to be one of the top destinations in the state. Also known as Gem City, Dayton serves as the county seat of Montgomery County. The city’s economy is powered by its defense, aerospace, and healthcare industry. Of course, it’s tourism industry is something to be proud of as well as the city takes in hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.

Dayton was named after Jonathan Dayton who was a captain during the American Revolutionary War and was one of the people who signed the U.S. Constitution. He also held a significant amount of land in the city.  

On April 1, 1976, Dayton was founded by 12 settlers who are now known as the Thompson Party. The party began their travels in March from Cincinnati up to the Great Miami River and they ended up on St. Clair Street. In the area, they discovered two small camps of Native Americans whom the party acquainted themselves with.

A year later, Daniel C. Cooper laid out Mad River Road which was the first overland connection between Cincinnati and Dayton. This also served as the foundation of the Mad River Country to settlement. The state of Ohio was eventually admitted into the union on 1803 and the then village of Dayton was incorporated into the state in 1805. It was on 1841 that the Dayton was officially made into a city.

In 1827, construction on the Dayton-Cincinnati canal began. When it was eventually completed, it served as one of the economic drivers of the city. It provided a better way to transport goods from Dayton to Cincinnati, and back. Because of this canal, Dayton underwent a ton of changes both economically and structurally.

Tourism in the Dayton region only began to emerge during the mid-1950s. One of the strongest drivers of tourism in the city is the National Museum of the United States Air Force located at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. It is the largest and oldest military aviation museum in the world and it draws over 1.3 million visitors per year. In the museum also lies the National Aviation Hall of Fame. Aside from museums, there are also several parks worth visiting in the city. These are just some of the core tourism drivers in Dayton and others include its lively culture, sports, arts, and entertainment scene.

We’ll be diving into these attractions later but for now, let’s talk about the essentials and important aspects of the trip if you are planning to visit Dayton.

How to Get to Dayton, Ohio

One of the best ways to get into Dayton is via the James M. Cox Dayton International Airport. It is in the northern part of the metropolitan area in Dayton. It offers nonstop service to major U.S. cities such as Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Baltimore, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Philadelphia, Washington, and more. The airport is equipped with free wifi. The problem with this airport though is that there is no public bus service that gets to the airport for now so you may have to take a cab on the way back.

If you are already nearby and are hoping to drive to get to the city, there are several routes you can take. The Interstates 70 and 75 meet just north of Dayton near the airport. I-75 runs from north to south past downtown Ohio. From this road, the city is less than an hour from Cincinnati. On the other hand, I-70 runs from east to west. The city is two hours from Indianapolis to the west. 

Alternatively, you can take I-675 and U.S. 35 to get to the city. I-675 is an eastern interstate by-pass for the city and it connects with I-70 at the north and I-75 at the south. On the other hand, U.S. 35 is a freeway as far east as Chillicothe. West Virginia is only 4 hours away to the south and east from this freeway.

Getting Around Dayton, Ohio

To get around Dayton, we recommend renting a car ahead of your arrival at the airport. Since the airport doesn’t have public transit nearby, a rented car would be your best bet at getting to the city. Moreover, a rented car is cheaper and more convenient than ridesharing services which are also available at the city.

For public transit, you can seek guidance from the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority that runs a number of convenient bus routes including an electric trolley bus service within the Montgomery County. The bus service will be your best option when moving from the urban city to the rural county and back.

Best Time to Visit Daytona, Ohio

If you want to avoid the influx of tourists in Dayton, then you should av visit the city in July. Other months that have the most visitors are June and May. Visiting during these months also means you have to face higher hotel and flights rates. However, if you pay earlier, then you can get discounts on the very least.

Tourism is at its weakest in Dayton during November. While the weather will be on the cooler side, the city is still pretty nice to travel around in. Moreover, the rooms and flight rates will be at their cheapest so if you are hoping to save up on some cash, then this is the way to go.

Daytona, Ohio Activities

If you’re looking for some unique non-touristy activities, Ohio has plenty of them. Dayton, Ohio alone has a lot of such activities to offer. But they aren’t just unique but are equally fun too; and they are worth the try as such activities will definitely give you the most memorable travel experience in Ohio. In case you are curious as to what the city has to offer, here are some of the bizarre but fun things to do in Dayton, Ohio that we can recommend. We’re sure that you’ll love them so just read on.

1See a real flying saucer

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A closer look at the Avro Canada VZ-9 (Source)

We often just hear tales about sightings of flying saucers. Sometimes, we only see it in movies. But what if we tell you that there is a real flying saucer in Dayton, Ohio and seeing it in person is one of the most bizarre but fun things to do in Dayton? Yes, you read it right, flying saucers are somewhat real and they’re not just an imagination, thanks to the Avro Aircraft Ltd. who created it in the early years of the Cold War.

Called the Avro Canada VZ-9 or the Avrocar, this car is actually created as a part of a secret US military project. And the way it works is actually the way how we have actually imagined flying saucers – it vertically takes off and lands. It exploits the Coanda effect – the tendency of a fluid jet to be attracted to a nearby surface – to provide thrust and lift in the form of a single turbo rotor that blows exhaust out of the rim of the unique aircraft, sort of like a hovercraft. It is also meant to be many by a crew or two.

However, the saucer wasn’t that polished. It is immensely difficult to fly, has sensitive controls, and eventually, its funding ran out in 1961 that it got canceled. While you won’t be able to ride it, you can still catch a glimpse of this unique vehicle in Dayton as it is displayed in the National Museum of the United States Air Force; so don’t miss a chance to visit it to testify that flying saucers are (sort of) real.

2Walk through the famous SAM 26000

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Sam 26000 (Source)

If you’re not quite familiar with SAM 26000, it is actually the first jet-powered aircraft that was built for American presidential passengers. Popularly known as Air Forces One, this aircraft was also built to transport other officials on Special Air Missions. A number of powerful and famous figures have traveled the world in this notable machine. It also served during some of the United States’ tragic and tumultuous events in the past. In fact, t carried eight sitting presidents, such as Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Ford, Reagan, H.W. Bush, and Clinton, to name a few, in its nearly 40 years of flying career. It also flew John F. Kennedy’s casket from Dallas to Washington D.C. Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in on the plane that same day as well; making it the backdrop of one of the iconic photos from that era in America’s history.

But now, it has retired. Even so, you can still walk through it and somewhat feel what it’s like to be one of the important persons in the history of America being inside the aircraft as it is displayed in the National Museum of the United States Air Force. And with the countless stories that it holds, visiting it is definitely one of the bizarre but fun things to do in Dayton that you shouldn’t miss.

3Visit Johnny Morehouse’s grave

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Johnny Morehouse’s grave with gifts from visitors who were touched by their story (Source)

Okay, visiting a grave if you’re looking for some fun things to do in Dayton might be a really bizarre activity. But why should you not pass on it? This is because aside from the fact that Johnny Morehouse has a unique headstone that stands in Dayton’s Woodland Cemetery, it also tells a sad and interesting story. If you’re familiar with the story of Hachiko, well, Johnny Morehouse’s story is nearly the same as it also tells about a dog’s love and faithfulness.

Apparently, this gravestone was made in remembrance of Johnny Morehouse and his dog. Back in the 1960s, five-year-old Johnny was playing with his friend dog by the Miami & Erie Canal when he fell into the water. His dog leaped in after him, trying to save him, but was unsuccessful. The boy drowned and was buried at the Woodland Cemetery. His fur friend, on the other hand, allegedly stood by the grave for weeks waiting for Johnny. Eventually, Johnny’s family made him a gravestone that depicts him nestled against his faithful dog, surrounded by a harmonica, a cap, a ball, and a top to remember him, and probably his dog’s love as well.

4See the famous stuffed pigeon of war

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Stumpy, Ohio’s heroic winged messenger (Source)

During wars, who plays an important role? In Ohio, it’s not just soldiers but a pigeon. Yes, you read it right, a “mere” pigeon played a big part during World War I and you can get to see him (sort of) displayed at the National Museum of the US Air Force. But what did it actually do during the war to be worthy of including him in this bizarre but fun things to do in Dayton?

Apparently, this pigeon named John Silver (also known as Stumpy) actually served in World War I by delivering messages. One of the most important roles that it played was when it delivered a message under heavy fire during the Meuse-Argonne drive. Even if he was hit by a nearby exploding shell, lost his right leg, and was heavily injured by shrapnel, he still managed to regain his flight and delivered the message successfully. After his courageous feat, he was nursed back to health and became known as a war hero and mascot. He even earned the admiration of soldiers, as well as the civilians around the nation.

After some time, though, he died of natural causes in 1935. He was taxidermied and is now on display at the US Air Force Museum at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

5Visit the Miamisburg Mound

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Miamisburg Mound (Source)

Another one of the bizarre but fun things to do in Dayton that you shouldn’t miss is visiting the Miamisburg Mound. At first glance, you might not find this 70-foot-tall mound that interesting. But what makes visiting it as one of the most bizarre but fun things to do in Dayton is that it holds pieces of the city’s history – literally!

It turns out that the Miamisburg Mound isn’t just the usual heaped pile of land. This is because it is actually a burial mound of Native Americans back in the day, constructed approximately 2,500 years ago by the culture that experts refer to as Adena who flourished between 1,000-200 BC and established their homes across to what is now Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, New York, and Pennsylvania where they created several burial mounds throughout their territory. Excavations back in the late 1860s found a bark-covered skeleton and a chamber that’s located 28 feet deep into the mound.

Today, you can climb to the top of the Miamisburg Mound via concrete staircase and marvel at this historical site. This activity is definitely unique and you can even get to learn more about the nation, as well as its early inhabitants’ past.

6Savor the seafood dishes at Jay’s Seafood

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Jay’s Seafood’s beautiful antique carved bar (Source)

Dining, needless to say, is also a not-to-be-missed activity in Dayton too. However, being one of the largest cities in Ohio, you might find it hard to look for the best restaurants in town. There are lots of specialty restaurants but one of the best ones that we highly recommend is Jay’s Seafood. Located at 225 East Sixth District, this place is frequented by many locals and tourists alike because of its classic seafood menu that will surely satisfy your cravings for fresh and delicious seafood. But its dishes aren’t the only one that draws a lot of diners. Its unique ambiance is what a lot of diners love too.

Constructed in the 1950s, Jay’s Seafood has nice antique mahogany and red velvet décor that really goes so well with its classic seafood menu. You might find it’s ambiance a bit odd, though, because of how vintage it looks. But it will not disappoint you. Even if it has an odd design, a lot of people still find it special, also because of its interiors. It’s a unique dining experience. It also has a bar that serves good drinks and provides good service and a lot of diners love it.

RELATED: Denver Food and Accommodation Guide: Best Places to Eat and Stay in Denver, Colorado

7Eat some Asian food

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A peek inside Thai 9 (Source)

Dayton also has restaurants for those who crave or want to try some Asian cuisine. One of the noteworthy ones that we have tried is Thai 9. As its name suggests, it is a restaurant that serves authentic Thai cuisine that will make you love Thai cuisine all the more. The dishes they serve aren’t just delicious and presentable but also comes in huge portions. The serving is so big that a single salad actually is really enough to be an entrée.

On top of that, Thai 9 has a nice atmosphere to offer that makes diners keep on coming back too. It has high ceilings, exposed brick walls, and wooden décor. The restaurant is spacious as well that you will feel really comfortable as you dine. Ivy plants also hang around the restaurant that livens up the vibe. The Thai and other Asian themed décors also set the place, making you feel what it’s like to be in Asia.

The best part of this restaurant is that it has a sushi bar and a Japanese menu as well. You’ll not just get to have a taste of Thailand but Japan too. It’s like hitting two birds with one stone. Cool, right? It’s definitely worthy of that spot in your list of bizarre but fun things to do in Dayton because who doesn’t want a good Asian restaurant in the west?

8Be surprised at the Meadowlark’s dishes

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One of Meadowlark’s dishes (Source)

Speaking of restaurants, another place that you shouldn’t miss if you are looking for some good places to eat is the Meadowlark. This place also offers a nice atmosphere with its neighborhood vibe in a brick-exposed setting. It is also a chef-owned restaurant so you can really expect good dishes. But what makes dining here one of the bizarre but fun things to do in Dayton, you say? Apparently, you’ll be a bit surprised by what kind of dishes awaits you. This is because they frequently change their menu. So it’s really exciting to see what’s on when you dine. And the best part of that is they make their dishes from scratch. Even their caper mayo and ketchup are made from scratch. Plus, they take pride in their contemporary every day cooking. That said, you’ll really taste good flavors. It is so good that it was even awarded a certificate of excellence by Tripadvisor from 2015 to this day! And don’t worry if you require special diets as they have menus for vegans, vegetarians, and even for those who require gluten-free meals. The reviews say it all. It’s definitely a must-try restaurant if you’re traveling to Ohio.

9Bring the whole family in Proto Build Bar

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Proto Build Bar’s staff guiding one of its visitors (Source)

You might find it really odd to bring your whole family, including kids, to a “bar” because of its name. But don’t pass on it just yet as the Proto Build bar is not the kind of ordinary bar that you might probably have in mind. Apparently, this place is a 3D printing lab and electronic maker space. What makes exploring this place one of the bizarre and fun things to do in Dayton is that it is the world’s first build bar where kids (and even kids at heart!) can enjoy creating anything that they can imagine using a 3D printer. You can even recreate your favorite model or 3D print your face with their 3D printer. Don’t worry if it’s your first time using such machine as Proto Build Bar has some staff to assist you.

If you want to go for an easier but still a fun activity, you can just browse through a huge collection of existing 3D models online, download the one you like, size it, pick a color, and then print it.

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10Go biking

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Inside Mike’s Indoor Park (Source)

Biking might not be a unique activity but hear us out first. What makes it counts as one of the bizarre but fun things to do in Dayton is that you can do it indoors, and this is the city’s first indoor biking activity to offer yet. If you want to try it, head to Mike’s Bike Park. However, it might not be hidden for long. Since it’s the only indoor bike park in the city and it just recently opened, a lot of people might already flock it. Still, don’t miss a chance to try this one out.

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