24 Hours IncityTravel

24 Hours in Dayton, OH with Bethany and Jana

by Stephanie

24 Hours in Dayton, OH

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.

24 Hours in Dayton, OH

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.

  24 Hours in Dayton, OH

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.

  24 Hours in Dayton, OH

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.

24 Hours in Dayton, OH

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)

Ghostlight Coffee

Carillon Historical Park 

…learn more at oregondistrict.org

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  • This is great! my husband grew up in Oakwood–a suburb of Dayton and his family still lives there . . . it’s a great city!

  • Thank you for this preview of the city! It’s always so handy to have a story to share the best and worst of a place – especially the walking/transportation situation.

    Warm Regards,

  • Thanks for including Dayton!! Love all the spots you picked out. My studio is in Front Street Warehouse, just down from the Market. Don’t miss Taqueria Mixteca while you’re over there.

  • My ex’s family lived in suburban Dayton so I visited frequently and I NEVER had any idea that Dayton was so cool. I think I’ll have to make a trip back to check it out with a fresh perspective!

  • Thank you for featuring Dayton! Friendly people, great arts/culture and delicious local restaurants…It’s a wonderful place to call home.

  • 5th street wine & deli is another great place in the oregon district that has great food and an awesome carryout selection for beers and wines.

  • Thank you for spotlighting Dayton, and do come back! Our paved trail system connects out much further than the local 330 miles mentioned to a really vast network. Love this article and am sharing it widely.

  • Ouch- no mention of the Dayton staple, Omega Music- also located in the Oregon District.

  • Nice feature! Brim is awesome (full disclosure – owners Brian and Amelia are friends). Their building has a really interesting history, and their rehab unearthed some strange and unique treasures.

  • I am from Dayton and proud of it ! The rivers make the city with parks and byways to explore. The art institute is a true treasure not to be missed as well as the air force museum. When I return for holidays I will check out your suggestions. Hope more people come downtown, once a vital city, that has had it’s share of urban flight.

  • I love so many things about Dayton. It’s one of the friendliest places in the USA in my opinion – and lots of interesting things to do with friends and family. Many things to do are free unless you want to buy food, esp. on the weekends. Even free parking in many places.

    I love the arts community in Dayton and the wonderful food choices in markets, groceries and restaurants. Our children were involved in Muse Machine, piano and voice lessons, dance and other things, too. Our daughter and her husband live near Lincoln Park and the Fraze…what a boon that is!

    Friends who have had to get full time care in their old age have had wonderful options and a full life, even after dire changes.

    The opportunities that UD and the AF base offer are overwhelming. You’ll have to live here a long time to do everything. We’ve been here 30 years after living in Columbus.

  • I always come home to the Dayton.One thing not mentioned is The Hometown Dayton Dragons within walking distance as well!An easy drive for others.

  • There’s a little hidden gem called Smale’s Pretzels.
    My husband’s father used to go get homemade pretzels here
    For a nickel over fifty years ago. We buy them by the box to share
    with neighbors each time we visit and crave them when we run out.
    It is located in a little house – pretty sure it’s cash only. One of Dayton’s

  • Thank you so much for this post! Don’t forget Olive the Urban Dive in the remodeled Wympee’s building. – One. Of. A. Kind.

  • It was so great to pop in and see a write up about my city! I moved here 7 years ago and even though I wanted to leave for the first 6 years, I’ve grown to really appreciate Dayton. As stated, it’s great place to live due to low cost of living and. I’m happy to see things happening around the city, and look forward to it’s full bloom. Dayton gets a bad rap, but that’ll change soon! Great to see all my favorite spots mentioned.

  • My mom was born in Dayton and lived there a few years before moving down to Lebanon (and then way further down to Atlanta haha)! I’ve been up to Dayton a few times, but it’s been quite some time. Seems like it might be worth another visit

    Also, an editor may wish to change the somewhat awkwardly-phrased “organic dog cookeries” to something clearer like “organic dog treat cookeries” or “organic dog treat bakeries”–as is, the first phrase sounds depressingly like the pups themselves are on the menu, which I just KNOW isn’t true!

  • We had a nice family, originally from Dayton, now in Virginia bop in yesterday to our B&B/wine bar. They were very excited to see the changes and improvements in the past 10 years. I’m excited to have lived it and built businesses during it. Had a similar chat with Joshua at JLadner Salon last week. Dream it, build it, work it–Dayton!

  • wow. this is like a walk down memory lane. i want to move back home so badly reading about this perfect day in dayton had me close to tears. i’m stuck in LA for 2 more years but the second i can, i’m headed back to dayton!

  • Dayton is a little raggedy, mainly adorable, and no one is going to cuss you out there.

  • I saw this in a thumbnail on today’s feed and had to click on it as I NEVER see a city guide through Dayton, OH! I was curious as I worked for 5 years at a design firm in the Oregon District and wanted to see what has happened since the late 90’s. Great to see the farmer’s market and new life popping up but also glad to see OE and Trolley Stop are still kicking it too. Hopefully there is still a sighting of GBV somewhere :)

    • I agree! I moved to South Park and am decorating my house in a Dayton theme. This would be the perfect map print. Did you end up finding a copy?

  • My husband and I just put this guide to the test last Friday. Good stuff…all of it! We did have time for a one additional thing that I would highly recommend and that is an architectural salvage store: Dayton Reclamation and Restoration

  • Great post, love learning new places to visit in Dayton! I do have a question though, where did you take the picture of the colorful overpass? The large photo sitting atop 3 others, right before “4 P.M”? Thanks!