The Wright Stuff – Dayton, Ohio

Not gonna lie – I LOVE flying.  It was totally the shizz back before deregulation in the 70’s.  Even cattle class passengers enjoyed endless leg room, free food that wasn’t as bad as people will tell you it was, no nickel-and-diming for every little thing; heck, smoking in the lav was okay!  Eek!  Well, maybe flying wasn’t perfect, but it was a beyond magical experience for a young girl like yours truly.  My daughter loves flying too, even though nowadays passengers are treated like third-rate cattle with a coinpurse attached.  Hard to imagine that the Wright Cycle Co. in Dayton, Ohio is where it all began.

CVG airport observation area
CVG airport observation area

As I look forward to a new journey by air soon, I sometimes wonder if the Wright Brothers ever could begin to imagine air travel in the 21st century.  I think I’d rather sit cramped in the rearmost middle seat any day than have to lie prone on top of a flimsy biplane wing, because at least I’d get a few frequent flier points and a pack of pretzels for my troubles.

Time Travelers?

Seriously though, how cool would it be though if the Wrights could come time travel to the present?  I’d give anything to know what they’d think about our complex jet engines and sleek, aerodynamic fuselages.   How would they marvel at their humble flying machine making the innovation of the sound barrier-breaking Concorde possible?  Most importantly, how indignant would they feel to have to remove their jaunty caps and tweed jackets in the TSA slow lane?

North Carolina may stamp “First in Flight” on their license plates; their Kitty Hawk field, where the Wright Brothers first slipped the surly bonds of earth, is a pretty cool place.  However, the preface to this very flight occurred right here in Dayton.  If you’re a fan of aviation to any degree at all, this should be a very cool place indeed for you to explore!

 


Dayton Carillon Park

OutdoorsCultureA park is a park is a park, unless it’s this 65 acre historical overview of Dayton during the Wright Brothers era, Carillon Historical Park. Entertaining exhibits of Dayton’s role in the technological revolution at the turn of the 20th century compete with the sight of the well-tended grounds.

The Wright Brothers center within the park includes a reproduction of their cycle shop, interpretive materials including films of early flights, and a room devoted to display of a Wright II Flyer, the world’s first practical airplane, built by the Wright brothers in 1905.  I would recommend the Aviation Heritage NHP for Dayton visitors with limited time who wish to focus on the aviation history aspect of their visit.  But if you wish to examine additional facets of the history of the area in a beautiful setting, this is the place to be!

 

OutdoorsIndoorsCultureHow did the workings of the humble bicycle evolve in Orville and Wilbur Wrights’ heads into the prototype of a successful flying machine?  Ponder the answer at The Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center.  This is where it’s real: enter the world of the Wright Brothers in their restored print shop and subsequent bicycle shop, and just try not to get inspired to turn your dreams into reality!  A cool exhibit chronicles the parachute’s invention in Dayton up to its use in the space program.  The Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center, a short drive away, allows you to see the field where they tested their airplanes.  No skydiving offered here, alas.  A visit to both Centers is a terrific way to prepare for the pièce de resistance – a visit to the Air Force Museum, as described below.

 

Air Force One at USAF Museum

IndoorsOutdoorsTranspoIs there a larger, more comprehensive military aviation exhibition facility anywhere in the world to compare to the National Museum of the United States Air Force?  Not a chance.  This is the place to check out if you’re the least fascinated with air and space travel, civilian, military or otherwise.  The museum is laid out in historical sequence. You’ll start your visit with the Wright Brothers in Building One, and finish up in Building Four with displays showcasing the future of aeronautics.

Among the countless aircraft on display is President John F Kennedy’s Air Force One plane, a  Boeing VC-137C SAM 26000.  This is the vehicle that transported his body back to Washington from Dallas after he was tragically shot. If you’ve ever seen the iconic black and white photograph of the inauguration of President Lyndon B Johnson with the  widowed Jackie Kennedy, this is the very plane in which this event occurred.  Anyway.  Kids and their families will all love the IMAX theater for movies, and flight simulators for those who want to try their hand at flying.

 

IndoorsTranspoNow that we’ve looked into all the amazing aviation history on display in Dayton, you may wonder if aeronautics is the only form of transpo anyone cares about in town.  Not hardly!  PackardSo if you prefer historic cars to planes?  Dayton’s down with that.  Visit America’s Packard Museum at the Citizens Motorcar Co., a renovated art deco Packard dealership from years past.  In addition to housing more than 50 lovingly restored vehicles and accessories from years ago, you’ll see fascinating exhibits detailing Packard’s many contributions to the war effort.  Pony up a little coin and take a ride with a staff member in one of the cars! What a neat way to participate in the theme of retro transportation this city celebrates!

 


OutdoorsTranspoCultureSeasonal  Dayton takes outdoor fun to the next level and it’s either free or very low cost!

Terrific views of the Great Miami River aren’t the only thing on offer at RiverScape MetroPark!  The heart of RiverScape is a big white permanent pavilion, which becomes the home of an enticing ice rink in winter.  In the summer you’ll find a vivacious cultural festival going on more often than not, along with a fun water play area for the whole family.  So no matter the season, this is always a rewarding place to visit.  Be sure to take in the views of the river from one of the many swinging benches along the river.  Whenever you visit, be sure to stop by here during lunch, when food trucks and live music are on offer.

MetroParks Mountain Biking Area (MoMBA) – The thrill of Mountain Biking is available for all experience levels on several exciting trails.  You don’t have to bring your own bike; you can rent them along with helmets here at MoMBA on Saturdays from 10AM to 1 PM – first come, first served, so get here early! Enjoy over nine miles of dedicated single-track trails in the beautiful wilderness not far from town, and bring the whole family.  There are bike rentals available for small children along with trails suited just for them.  Be sure to check the weather, and the website, before you go.  What a fabulous way to get in some exhilarating exercise!

The Riding Center at Carriage Hill MetroPark provides opportunities for everyone in the family to participate in a variety of horseback riding activities. Safety and proper horsemanship skills are taught, and weekend trail rides offered Saturday and Sunday from 10 AM to 2 PM, June through October, at the park’s Riding Center.  Seven miles of wooded bridle trails provide a serene, scenic backdrop to your ride.  Check the website for important details.


Stay Inside Awhile

Scene 75

IndoorsGood eatin'Just wanna kick back and find some legit fun while you’re in town?  One of North America’s largest and most spirited indoor entertainment emporiums lies north of downtown Dayton, just off of Interstate 75.  Scene 75 offers pizza, burgers and salads to slay your hunger before or after you’ve slain your enemies.  Take part in the competitions of your choice, which may include the multi-story laser tag arena, go-kart track, arcade, blacklight mini-golf course or Valkyrie experience.  But why stop there?  According to Scene 75, the one-of-a-kind Chaos Room is designed to “immerse yourself in your favorite video game on 15 ft HD projection screens with surround sound.”  Personally, if I feel like entering a chaos room I just tiptoe gingerly into my kids’ bedchambers, but what do I know?

 

What do you most want to do in Dayton?  Let me know in the comments!

And a word about Cincinnati Chili

Adventurous-minded travelers only!  Do try our world-famous Cincinnati-style chili.
Gold Star Chili logo
One of Cincinnati’s largest chili parlor chains – dare to try it!

But be forewarned!  This is not the stuff you load up with chili peppers or serve in a bowl with cornbread.  “Cincinnati style chili” should really be renamed “Cincinnati-style meat sauce” for proper accuracy.  The thin, ground-beef based concoction is really quite tasty.  You’ll find the chili to be ever-so-slightly sweet, with hints of exotic spices

Cincinnati chili
Care for some chili with that cheese?

that together blend magnificently with cheddar cheese and, in my opinion, minced onions.

 

HOW IT’S SERVED

Most commonly served on spaghetti or “cheese coneys,” the sauce (the chili) is the one thing Cincinnatians miss the most when they travel.

 

A simple, kid-friendly combination of ingredients is known as a “three way” and consists of spaghetti, chili and mounds of cheddar cheese.  A “four way” adds your choice of beans or onions.  For a “five way” add both.  If you want a hotdog with just chili and cheese, simply request a “cheese coney.”  You can ask for it to be served with mustard and/or onions.  A common alternative to the above is the coney without the dog, known as a “chili cheese sandwich.”

 

Again – be forewarned – most (okay, pretty much all) of the non-natives I’ve met here do not care for it.  Born and bred Cincinnatians, however, would happily hook themselves up to a chili IV.  The two most ubiquitous chili chains in the city are Skyline  and Gold Star.  You seriously can’t sling a hot dog more than a few yards in any direction within greater Cincinnati without hitting one or the other.

 

Try a four-way today, and let me know your thoughts!

 

-Maggie

Columbus – Ohio’s Capital of Fun

“The Ohio State University… and the insignificant environs over which it forever reigns” would probably be an apt moniker for Columbus, the capital of Ohio.  With a population of over 850,000, there’s a lot going on within the city and off campus, even though die-hard Buckeye fans might think otherwise.  Cee-bus, as we like to call it in Ohio, will entertain you even if you don’t bleed OSU’s famous crimson and gray.  The good stuff can be a little difficult to find, but that’s what I’m here for.

IndoorsColumbus’ own science museum is called the Center of Science and Industry, or COSI (pronounced “Co-Sigh”).  Much of it is geared towards younger folks, but there are cool exhibits for all ages of both permanent and temporary varieties.   My favorite is the “Progress” exhibit, which entices the visitor on a fun pathway of technology from the years 1898 and 1962.   Movies on the Giant Screen Theatre and multiple live shows are available multiple times per day.  We recommend visiting as early in the day as possible.  On weekends the cavernous hall fills up rapidly with families; weekdays see the usual school groups.   Buy your tickets online and avoid the line!

 

Zoombezi Bay, Columbus
Zoombezi Bay fun

OutdoorsSeasonalI’m seriously not sure that any visit to Ohio’s capital city would be complete without a stop at its world famous Columbus Zoo.  Its famous former director, Jack Hanna, still films here and greets guests as his schedule permits!  Plan on a full day of walking and enjoying the magnificent animal exhibits and aquarium.  Summertime, and the animals would rather snooze in the summer heat than entertain you?  No worries!  Take the time – and extra expense – to chill out at the water park adjacent to the zoo, Zoombezi Bay.

 

TranspoOutdoorsNow that you’ve sampled the animal delights at the zoo grounds, why not take an afternoon experiencing life up in the air the way the monkeys do?  Columbus offers a magnificent opportunity to do just that at the ZipZone.  According to the attraction’s website, “The (ZipZone) adventure park is a series of platforms in the trees connected by ladders, bridges, ropes, ziplines and obstacles of every kind, all situated in a beautiful forest on the edge of the city.”   Be sure to carefully peruse the park’s website for more information on making reservations, what happens during inclement weather, what to do if you’re afraid of heights, etc.

 

OutdoorsLooking for a casual, inexpensive day out?  An outstanding, partially forested lake and park facility is located within the city of Columbus itself at Sharon Woods Metro Park.  Locals and tourists alike come here to marvel at the great outdoors along its many paved and unpaved trails, perfect for biking, jogging, hiking, picnicking and strolling.  Fishing in the lake is encouraged if you are 15 or younger.  If you’re visiting the capital city with Fido, he is more than welcome here (on a leash, natch).

 

CultureIndoorsWould it be a shocker to admit that my intellectually remarkable kids get tired of cultural museums when we travel?  As their Mom, I get tired of trying to keep them entertained while simultaneously helping them glean an appreciation of the exhibits.  The Columbus Museum of Art to the rescue!  Many of the permanent displays in this compact museum hail from world-famous artists of modern eras.  If that weren’t enough to warm the cockles of your art sophisticate self, the museum overflows with interactive displays and miniature hands-on art endeavors for kids of all ages to get into.   Our family had a lot of fun building pipe cleaner sculptures on a particularly memorable Sunday.  Kudos to this fabulous place for truly having something for everyone and working tirelessly (!) to intensify kids’ creativity.

 

Good eatin'CultureIt’s a huge stretch to denote German Village as a Columbus cultural must-see.  But Imma do it anyway, at least if you promise to visit Schmidt’s Sausage Haus.  Splurge on their buffet, which they call the “German Autobahn Buffet,” when you’re super hungry, and sample the multitudes of German wursts begging for a taste.  The so-called “Bahama Mama” is an especially delectable version, which you can enjoy while pondering its mysteriously-nicknamed Caribbean island moniker.  Another challenge: saving enough room to split a half-pound cream puff!  Ja, das ist sehr gut!

 

OutdoorsOnce you’ve busted a gut at the ‘Haus, do shop for German candies and knickknacks at the gift shop across the parking lot in front of the restaurant.  Then, be sure to stroll through German Village and enjoy its historic architecture and atmosphere.  The neighborhood, while lovely, seems to have little other than Schmidt’s that reminds one visually, or viscerally, of any past travels to Deutschland.  Nevertheless, the area is unique, and a welcome diversion from the monochromatic, cookie-cutter McMansions so popular in today’s exurbia.  Which kind of neighborhood would you prefer to live in?

 

IndoorsI don’t want to hear how much you hate to read.  You only think so because your ELA teacher forces you to read a particular classic instead of whatever graphic novel series is currently in vogue.  Luckily, you WILL find graphic novels, classic tomes, and more than you ever dreamed of at the fabulous Book Loft located in the heart of the German Village.  It has, I kid you not, 32 (yes, 32) actual ROOMS of every kind of book imaginable.  It’s just an amazing place to “get lost” – in a book – in a bookstore.

Cincinnati – Awesome Places to Check Out

Home of almost a million folks, the “Queen City” enthralls visitors with its major league sports teams, unique food treats and special place in history.  This is the town that put the Underground Railroad on the map, nestled as it is for many miles against the mighty Ohio River.  Noteworthy is the city’s orientation on “Seven Hills,” many of which recall San Francisco due to the steepness and architectural history.  Cincinnati does love its Victorian houses!

Adult visitors will no doubt appreciate Cincinnati’s ever popular food and drink scene.  Never fear, though, my teenaged friends.  Here are some really rad things to do here:

 

Outdoors

Purple People Bridge:

Purple People Bridge
The Enquirer/Anna Bentley

The most interesting passage between northern Kentucky and the Central Business District (downtown) of Cincinnati picturesquely traverses the mighty Ohio River.  Pedestrian only, and only a half mile long, the officially named “Newport Southbank Bridge” is outfitted with park benches, wrought-iron handrails, gooseneck streetlights, security cameras, call boxes for emergencies, and the always-there-when-you-need-’em trashcans.  What a fabulous way to introduce yourself to the city at your own pace and enjoy its glamorous panorama!

 

Good eatin'Graeter’s Ice Cream:  Folks, this is very likely the most incredible ice cream you will ever experience.  The proprietors use old-fashioned ice cream-making procedures, which, combined with the old-fashioned, pure ingredients, make a modern mouth as happy as could be!  Especially recommended are any flavors with chocolate chips.  If you do nothing else in Cincinnati, you cannot leave without experiencing truly remarkable Graeter’s.

 

Good eatin'Good (if pricy) eatin’ along the Ohio River:  Beg, borrow and plead with your folks to take you to one or all, which share gorgeous river views, remarkable food and terrific service:

A special treat that Cincinnatians are happy to indulge in is Montgomery Inn.  It’s most famous entrée is barbecued ribs (well, boiled ribs… served with barbecue sauce) that fall off the bone.  The sauce may be a bit sweeter than most people are used to.  It’s still very much worth trying; just hie to the bathroom after the meal’s over and brush your teeth right away.  The best thing about this Montgomery Inn location is its orientation right on the Ohio River.  There is good seating here with fabulous views of the river and beyond.

The Yard House is an upscale eatery with truly unique entrees, rock music to please your fuddy duddy parents and a fabulous vibe for the young and young-at-heart.  It’s a chain restaurant that’s perfect for splurging on very good food and enjoying all that the Cincinnati riverfront has to offer.

Continuing with the upscale eatery on the river theme, I had the pleasure of dining at Moerlein Lager House around the holidays when the extended family came to visit.  The convivial atmosphere and terrific views over the river were both conducive to good conversation, and the food was as good as any I’ve tried in the area.  It’s evident that a love of sports permeates the place, given its primo location between Paul Brown Stadium and the Great American Ballpark.  Highly recommended!

 

CultureIndoorsCincinnati Music Hall:

View of the Music Hall from the park

I am positively giddy, because my mother-in-law has invited the kids and me to a chorale event in this freshly renovated, late nineteenth century architectural treasure next month.  It’s a given that the music will be phenomenal.  As to the building, and the source of my excitement?   To quote Otto M Budig, Jr: “This renovation will affirm Music Hall as one of the world’s greatest performance venues, celebrate the hall’s remarkable history, breathe new life and accessibility into the Music Hall experience and lay the foundation for a bright future. People from all over the country will look to Music Hall as one of the greatest renovations and restorations of this century.”

 

CultureIndoorsCincinnati Art Museum:   In May 1886, a permanent art museum was completed in Cincinnati and heralded worldwide as “The Art Palace of the West.”

Cincinnati Art Museum. Cavernous

Another really cool building, this one is nestled within the embrace of the aptly-named Eden Park.  This treasure trove houses thousands of pieces of fine art spanning centuries.  For lovers of art of all sorts, this is a must-see venue, which you can top off with a stroll around the gorgeous park.  There is no cost for general admission, and the museum strives to bust out of any stuffy mcstuffiness by appealing through its events and programs to teens and families.

 

SeasonalKing’s Island:   Is there a teenager anywhere in the tri-state area who hasn’t heard of all the delights on offer at this ginormous theme park just north of Cincinnati?   I’ve seriously lost count of the number of roller coasters on hand.  The Beast, my favorite, looms both very large… and very wooden.  When you are old enough to have witnessed the way wood deteriorates over time, well… let’s just say the fright engendered by this coaster is severely underrated.  The park is an easy drive from anywhere in the city, or plan a stay at a nearby motel.  Great Wolf Lodge, a magical treat for your little brother or sister, lies adjacent to the park.

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