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7 Family-Friendly Things to do in Dayton, Ohio

It’s easy to forget that Dayton is only an hour away from Columbus! It makes for a great day trip for nearby families. There really are a lot of things to do with kids in Dayton, Ohio!

My family LOVES to visit the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force so the times we have visited Dayton have usually been structured around a visit there! There are so many family-friendly things to do in Dayton that we have even spent the night at a hotel so we could pack in more fun!

Hopefully this list of fun things to do in Dayton, Ohio with your family will inspire your next road trip!

Fun Things to do in Dayton, Ohio:

1. Wegerzyn Gardens

  • Address: 1301 E Siebenthaler Ave, Dayton, OH 45414
  • Website

Wegerzyn Gardens is amazing! If you have young kids, you definitely want to make the Children’s Discovery Garden at Wegerzyn Gardens a stop on your Dayton itinerary! It is magical!

The Children’s Discovery Garden reminds me a lot of Franklin Park Conservatory’s Children’s Garden, but on a smaller scale. The bonus about this interactive garden is that it is totally free to visit!

Boys playing in the creek at Wegerzyn Gardens in Dayton, Ohio.

Kids will love the Music Maze, sandboxes, and the water features where they can wade and play!

Boys playing in sandbox at the Children's Discovery Garden in Dayton, Ohio.

The caves are a unique feature as well!

Caves to play in at Wegerzyn Gardens, a fun thing to do in Dayton, Ohio.

Tips for visiting the Children’s Discovery Garden:

  • Wear waterproof shoes.
  • Bring a swimsuit and towel if you plan to sit in or play in the stream
  • A change of clothes is probably a good idea, too!
Flowers and trees in Wegerzyn Gardens in Dayton, Ohio.

Beyond the Children’s Garden, the grounds of Wegerzyn Gardens are beautiful! Take a walk on the Swamp path in the woods and check out the beautiful gardens and seating areas throughout the park!

2. Cox Arboretum

  • Address: 6733 N Springboro Pike, Dayton, OH 45449
  • Website
The Tree Tower at Cox Arboretum in Dayton, Ohio.

Like Wegerzyn Gardens, Cox Arboretum is one of the Five Rivers MetroParks in Dayton AND this beautiful arboretum in Ohio is free to visit!

The highlight of Cox Arboretum is the Tree Tower! It’s just so cool! Climb to the top to look over the greenery of the surrounding area and view Dayton from a distance! The Tree Tower is 45 feet high and doesn’t take but 5 minutes to climb! It’s reminiscent (albeit a bit shorter) of the Kalberer Emergent Tower at Holden Arboretum!

Boy standing on top of the Tree Tower at Cox Arboretum, a must see sight in Dayton, Ohio.

The Tree Tower is along The Loop Path which is a brick pathway that will keep you on the right track!

The Monet Bridge at Cox Arboretum in Dayton, Ohio.

Other highlights along the Loop Path include the Monet Bridge, the Bell Children’s Maze where kids can run though a labyrinth made of shrubs, the Water Garden and the Shrub Garden and lake.

Boys looking at the cascading water at Cox Arboretum in Dayton, Ohio.

The grounds are beautiful to walk around and there is also a visitor’s center with more information about the gardens and surrounding area. (There are also restrooms and vending machines here!)

Turtles on a rock at Cox Arboretum in Dayton, Ohio.

3. National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

  • Address: 1100 Spaatz St, Dayton, OH 45433
  • Website
Boy walking at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

If you haven’t been to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, I highly recommend it! Before you visit you should know that there are 4 large buildings filled with airplanes and historical displays. It’s huge!

A historical display inside the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

Be prepared to spend 3-4 hours here and still not really see everything. The time you spend here might vary depending on the ages of your kids. There are a lot of places where kids can sit in cockpits and walk through airplanes, which my boys absolutely love, but your toddler probably won’t be entertained by all of the historical displays.

Boy inside a cockpit at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

We’re very fortunate to have this museum so close! And as a major bonus, it’s free to visit!

Dayton is the “Birthplace of Aviation” and If your family has more interest in learning about it, there are many places to visit in Dayton and surrounding Greene County that feature Ohio’s aviation history.

Tips for visiting the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force:

  • Bring a stroller if your kids are of that age! If you forget one, they do have a limited number that you can borrow!
  • No outside food is allowed but you can pack a lunch and eat it at the outside picnic tables. The museum also has two cafes where you can buy food.

4. Oregon District

  • Address: along E. 5th St. in downtown Dayton, Ohio
Two boys walking down the sidewalk in the Oregon District in Dayton, Ohio.

The Oregon District is an up and coming area with restaurants and shops! We’ve visited a couple of times and have found new places to explore each time. Here are some of our favorites stops:

Mike’s Vintage Toys

  • Address: 508 E 5th St, Dayton, OH 45402
  • Website
Inside Mike's Vintage Toys in the Oregon District.

Mike’s Vintage Toys was a super fun find! My boys LOVED their selection of LEGO minifigures!

Press Coffee Bar

  • Address: 257 Wayne Ave, Dayton, OH 45402
  • Website
Inside Press Coffee in Dayton, Ohio.

You know I have to find coffee wherever we go! Press Coffee Bar is a great stop for caffeine and treats in the Oregon District!

Dayton Inspires Mural

  • Address: E. 5th St. at Jackson St.
The Dayton Inspires Mural in the Oregon District.

My oldest son and I recreated our first visit to the Dayton Inspires mural! You can find this mural in the Oregon District at the corner of E. 5th St. and Jackson St. The picture above was taken in 2022 and the picture below was taken in 2016.

The Dayton Inspires Mural.

5. Riverscape MetroPark

  • 237 E Monument Ave, Dayton, OH 45402
  • Website
Interactive fountains at Riverscape Metro Park in downtown Dayton. Things for kids to do in Dayton, Ohio.

In downtown Dayton, along the Great Miami River, Riverscape Metro Park has fountains for kids to splash in, a Pavilion for concerts, large swing seating and gardens.

Riverscape Metro Park in Dayton, Ohio.

We enjoyed walking down by the river and the boys loved the large swings. There is also a snack shop that is open for special events.

Dad and boy on a porch swing at Riverscape Metro Park on the Great Miami River in Dayton, Ohio.

Riverscape MetroPark is not far from the Oregon District, so it makes for a good paring. We found street parking just across the street from the park.

Chairs and tables alongside the river at the Riverscape Metro Park in downtown Dayton.

6. Owen’s Place

  • 2260 Dayton Xenia Rd, Dayton, OH 45434
  • Website

Owen’s Place is an accessible playground for kids of all ability levels! It is awesome!

Owen's Place accessible playground in Dayton, Ohio.

There is a wooden play structure that includes wheel-chair accessible ramps, houses and climbing elements. There are also fun slides built into the hill and musical instruments for kids to play!

7. Boonshoft Museum of Discovery

  • Address: 2600 Deweese Pkwy, Dayton, OH 45414
  • Website

Boonshoft Museum of Discovery is probably one of the best kids’ activities in Dayton, Ohio! This museum totally impressed me when we visited! There are 34 rooms full of activities for kids of all ages!

Boy looking at an Ice Age exhibit at Boonshoft Museum of Discovery in Dayton, Ohio.

Make sure to pick up a museum map when you visit so you don’t miss any of the exhibits!

Splash Water Play area at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery in Dayton.

Don’t miss Boonshoft Kids Park, a play area for younger kids, Splash!, a water play area, and the zoo area called Discovery Zoo! My favorite area was the Treehouse, a room in the trees, surrounded by windows, where you can watch birds and other wildlife!

A boy using binoculars in The Treehouse of the Boonshoft Museum in Dayton.

If you’re coming from Columbus (like us), you can get a 50% discount to Boonshoft Museum of Discovery with either your COSI membership or your Columbus Zoo membership! Also, the museum is right around the corner from Wegerzyn Gardens (listed above), so it would make an easy day trip to do the two together!

Check out my list of children’s museums in Ohio for more ideas!

Family-Friendly Restaurants in Dayton, Ohio:

1. Rip Rack Shake Shack

  • Address: 6010 Rip Rap Rd., Dayton, OH 45424
  • Website

Rip Rack Shake Shack is a must visit for ice cream and dessert! We loved the large outdoor seating area! They have extreme milkshakes, which they call Monster Shakes. My family tried the S’mores Galore, each of us eating our favorite parts!

extreme milkshake at Rip Rap Shake Shack in Dayton, Ohio.

They also have an extensive menu of soft serve flavors, waffle bowl sundaes, floats, shakes, scramblers plus cakes and “munchies” like hot dogs, nachos and soft pretzels.

Two boys sitting on a picnic table at Rip Rap Shake Shack in Dayton.

Pair this with a visit to Wegerzyn Gardens as they are just 5 miles away from each other!

2. Jimmie’s Ladder 11

  • Address: 936 Brown St, Dayton, OH 45409
  • Website
A fun place to eat in Dayton, Ohio is Jimmie's Ladder 11.

Jimmie’s Ladder 11 is a fun place for kids to eat because it’s housed in an old firehouse that dates back to 1892. Inside there is a fire pole, memorabilia on the walls and vintage elements. They also have an outdoor patio that’s covered.

Italian sandwich at Jimmie's Ladder 11 restaurant in Dayton, Ohio.

3. Marion’s Piazza

  • Address: Various locations. We visited: 3443 N Dixie Dr, Dayton, OH 45414
  • Website

Over and over again, I’ve seen people call Marion’s pizza the best pizza in Dayton, so we thought we’d check it out! It was definitely a fun experience and all of us liked the pizza! It’s “Columbus style” pizza: thin and cut into squares.

Boy sitting at Marion's Piazza in Dayton, Ohio.

At least at this location, you place your food order and drink order at separate counters and then wait for them to call your number. This location in North Dayton had a large seating area that was decorated with an Italian feel.

Large pizza at Marion's Pizza in Dayton, Ohio.

We’ve continued to come back to Marion’s Piazza each time we visit the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force! We are addicted to the pizza!!

I hope your family enjoys these fun things to do with kids in Dayton, Ohio! I know we have and we continue to revisit again and again!

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Fun things to do in Dayton, Ohio.

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