Bethany, a Daytonian and graphic designer, and Jana, a new (just over a year!) Daytonian and writer/teacher, met at one of the Oregon District’s monthly summer picnics. They bonded over their love of pets, farmers’ markets, and of course, Dayton. Both gals have blogs where they document their adventures as a Southern Ohio explorer and the highs (and very low lows) of renovating a historic home, and today they are sharing their “perfect day” in their home city. Take a 24-hour tour with these ladies! -Stephanie
Illustration by Libby VanderPloeg
Read the full guide after the jump…
Dayton has a rust-belt city reputation, but it’s more than that. Dayton is a city for dreamers. The Wright Brothers designed their planes here, cash registers were built here, and things that we have come to take for granted (hello, stepladders and flipcharts!) call this city their birthplace. Being “the silicon valley of the late 19th century” means glorious old homes can be found everywhere.
The city of Dayton, aka The Gem City, is starting to sparkle again. The low cost of living and easy-going lifestyle makes it possible for people to take risks and launch adventures in a way few other cities allow. From local coffee shops to hat stores to organic dog cookie bakeries, the city is fueled by the creative and passionate.
A great day in Dayton means visiting some of the quirky new businesses popping up, leisurely taking in the gorgeous architecture spawned in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and maybe even hopping on some of the best bike trails in the country. Oh, and did we mention eating? Lots of that, too.
8 am: Every weekend in the summer there’s something to see or do in Dayton, with so many festivals popping up every other weekend. We’d start out at RiverScape, a park at the edge of downtown built along the Great Miami River. In 1913 the river spilled over and caused catastrophe, but now the banks of the Miami are a much-loved place for yoga and Zumba, relaxing in the grass and serious running (you know who you are).
If it’s especially nice outside, we might rent bikes from Ride the River rentals. Dayton has some of the most interconnected bike trails in the country, so we could bike 330 miles. But since we are not athletes, it’s much more likely we’d head off to nearby Yellow Springs (and yes, THAT Yellow Springs, home of the amazing Dave Chappelle) and grab some great local ice cream or beer. On a day where even that feels too ambitious, we’d stick by the river for a walk and (maybe, depending on the day) some music.
10 am: Both of us can be found at 2nd Street Market on Saturday mornings, which just happens to be a mile walk from Riverscape. It was voted Ohio’s best farmers’ market by Ohio Magazine’s readers; it’s big enough to have lots of locally produced food, but small enough to really get to know the vendors. What we love most? Crepes for breakfast, people watching and picking up $3 bouquets of flowers.
11 am: We both live in the Oregon Historic District, but we love all of the historic neighborhoods in town. Historic South Park is a great place to wander and take in the architecture. Victorian mansions with gingerbread trim sit next to shotgun shacks that have been there for over a century. This still-somewhat-gritty neighborhood lies next to the lush University of Dayton, which is another great place to explore.
12 pm: For lunch it’s an easy walk from South Park over to Coco’s Bistro. We love the food and cocktails (think upscale comfort, like Coco’s BLT, which has bourbon-glazed bacon, mustard salt tomatoes, and brown ale aioli on sourdough) and we wish we could steal the leopard carpet that stretches wall-to-wall.
1:30 pm: From Coco’s we can take the 10-minute walk back to our neighborhood. The Oregon Historic District used to be the red light district, but now secondhand shops, boutiques, bars and restaurants have replaced most of the “theatres,” and the beautiful old Victorian homes have been restored. Every place along 5th Street has one thing in common: it’s all homegrown, no chain stores in sight. We both love Brim, which has amazing hats for ladies and gents, and Sew Dayton, which has great fabrics (and, even better, people that can actually answer questions about sewing). Feathers is another great stop, with real vintage clothing – long 30s dresses stowed next to 60s polyester – and records.
3:30 pm: After some shopping, we love to head just around the corner to recharge at Press Coffee. Press features world-class coffee and they often collaborate with nearby breweries, like Warped Wing, to make delicious, coffee-infused beer. As a bonus, the sleek and industrial space makes a great backdrop for the ever-changing art on display.
4 pm: Oftentimes date night with our respective partners means heading to The Neon, which is an easy walk from Press. It’s an independent theater that is cozy and has beer and wine. They often have many cultural film festivals here and will have a great mix of independent films across all genres.
6 pm: We believe in following movies with a delicious dinner. Wheat Penny is the place for that, and it’s less than a 10-minute walk from The Neon. Wheat Penny knows what it is about: delicious vegetables, gourmet pizzas on carefully aged dough, and way-too-drinkable cocktails. The menu changes seasonally, so it’s hard to say what we’d get, but the Tommasso – which has blue cheese, Romesco sauce, and either figs or grapes with crisped onions on top – is a strong contender.
9 pm: Since everything is within walking distance after dinner, drinks are a must. Bethany would stop by Salar, a Peruvian-inspired restaurant that serves classic and creative cocktails and has a stylish lounge. Across the street is Jana’s favorite, Lily’s Bistro, where you can find cocktails that change regularly. Jana orders herself her summer favorite, The Muse, which is made with strawberry moonshine!
10 pm: Truth: Jana will end her night at Lily’s but Bethany is more likely to head over to Masque, which features an amazing lighting and sound system and fantastic dance music. They get killer acts like Kevin Saunderson and you’ll see everyone dancing.
This plane can be found at Carillon Historical Park above their recreated, old fashioned carousel. Another place, among many, that we like to visit in Dayton!
Other great places worth noting:
Century Bar (bourbon bar)
Lucky’s (taproom and eatery)
Trolley Stop (amazing patio)
Oregon Express (amazing deck near the train)
Warped Wing (brewery)
Toxic Brewery (brewery)
South Park Tavern (great pizza)
…learn more at oregondistrict.org