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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.
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.
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!
A 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!
How 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.
Is 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.
Now 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! So 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!
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
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!