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!
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
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!
Kids will love the Music Maze, sandboxes, and the water features where they can wade and play!
The caves are a unique feature as well!
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!
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
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!
The Tree Tower is along The Loop Path which is a brick pathway that will keep you on the right track!
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.
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!)
3. National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
Address: 1100 Spaatz St, Dayton, OH 45433
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!
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
5. Riverscape MetroPark
237 E Monument Ave, Dayton, OH 45402
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.
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.
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.
6. Owen’s Place
- 2260 Dayton Xenia Rd, Dayton, OH 45434
Owen’s Place is an accessible playground for kids of all ability levels! It is awesome!
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!
Family-Friendly Restaurants in Dayton, Ohio:
1. Rip Rack Shake Shack
Address: 6010 Rip Rap Rd., Dayton, OH 45424
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!
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.
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
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.
3. Marion’s Piazza
Address: Various locations. We visited: 3443 N Dixie Dr, Dayton, OH 45414
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.
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.
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