July 2006 Issue
Whoooosh! Soar into Dayton for a summerlong celebration of aviation heritage and aerial delights.
The birthplace of aviation isn't some sandy beach at Kitty Hawk. It's a bicycle shop in Dayton, where those brothers Orville and Wilbur crafted their first flying machines.
Today, the city of Dayton pays tribute to its lofty heritage with air shows and aviation attractions and adventures.
The jewel in the flight crown is the No. 1 free tourist attraction in the state, the National Museum of the United States Air Force (formerly the U.S. Air Force Museum).
Some 1.2 million tourists visited the facility last year, observes retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles D. Metcalf, the director of the museum: "Just looking at our statistics, it's about evenly balanced between first-time and repeat business."
"The museum is always changing, with new exhibits each month," he says. "If you haven't been here for six months, you'll see all-new exhibits."
Metcalf suggests the museum is just one reason to consider a flight plan to this southwest Ohio city. "There are a significant number of flight-related sites in Dayton, quite a menu offering."
From replicas of historic bi-planes to airplane hangars loaded with memorabilia, aviation buffs can find it all here.
Carillon Historical Park
This park's Wright Brothers Aviation Center pays tribute to the accomplishments of those Dayton boys made good.
Exhibits include the original 1905 Wright Flyer III, restored under the close direction of Orville Wright, and a replica of the bicycle shop the brothers operated from 1897 to 1908. Also on display: the camera that captured the famous photograph of the Wrights' first successful flight in 1903 on the beaches of North Carolina's Outer Banks. 1000 Carillon Blvd., Dayton, 937/293-2841 or www.carillonpark.org. Mon.-Sat. 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 12-5 p.m. Admission is $8, seniors $7, ages 3-17 $5, under 3 free.
Dayton Air Show
This month's Dayton Air Show features demonstrations by a U.S. Marines' AV-8B Harrier as well as stunt shows by the precision flying team, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. The Harrier - the only plane in the world capable of lifting like a helicopter and then flying at near the speed of sound - is making a rare appearance (there are only 15 Harrier demonstrations nationwide each year). Also look for precision parachuting demonstrations, rare and vintage warbirds, and military fighter jet demonstrations. Dayton International Airport, 3800 Wright Dr., Vandalia, 800/585-3737, www.vectren daytonairshow.com. Gates open dawn to dusk July 29 and 30. General admission is $19, seniors and ages 6-11 $16, under 5 free. Pavilion seating $35. Blue Sky Chalet package $99 (includes umbrella table seating and luncheon).
Dayton Aviation Trail/Wright Cycle Company
Many visitors begin their tour of the Birthplace of Aviation at the Wright Cycle Company, now the National Park Service's Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center and Aviation Trail Visitor Center. Some 45 sites are marked on a driving tour that begins here and includes such destinations as the National Aviation Hall of Fame and Carillon Historical Park. The center focuses on the achievements of the Wrights as well as literary great Paul Laurence Dunbar. The cycle company is where Wilbur and Orville spent much of their time considering the mechanics of powered flight. Today, bicycles and machinery of the era are on display. 22 S. Williams St., Dayton. National Park Service: 937/225-7705, www.nps.gov/daav. Aviation Trail Inc.: 937/443-0793, www.aviationtrailinc.org. Daily 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is free.
Located at the merging of the Mad River and Great Miami River in downtown Dayton, this MetroPark features an aviation timeline that pays tribute to the roles of the Wright Brothers and Dayton in American powered-flight history. 510 Webster St., Dayton, 937/275-PARK or www.metroparks.org. Open dawn to dusk. Admission is free.
Huffman Prairie Flying Field
The Wrights made hundreds of test flights at the 84-acre Huffman Prairie Flying Field. Huffman is also where more than a hundred pilots, including some of the country's first military flyers, trained at the Wright School of Aviation. It's here where the first commercial air-freight flight took off in 1910 (bound for Columbus). Displays include replicas of the brothers' 1905 hangar and launching catapult as well as the Wright Memorial, a 17-foot-high pink granite obelisk. The Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center includes exhibits that focus on the achievements of the brothers at Huffman Prairie. Gate 16A at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, 937/425-0008. Daily 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., open until 6:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat. from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Admission is free.
Kettering-Moraine Museum and Historical Society
This heritage center includes original Wright Brothers' furniture as well as displays showcasing the inventions of Charles Kettering, who devised the first electric engine starter, among other accomplishments. 35 Moraine St., Kettering, 937/299-2722. Sun. 1-5 p.m. and by appointment. Admission $2, under 12 free.
National Museum of theUnited States Air Force
This is the B-52 of Dayton aviation destinations. From a World War I Sopwith Camel to an Apollo command module, just about every significant moment in the history of flight is represented here - with a special emphasis on the contributions of Ohioans such as John Glenn and Neil Armstrong. Little wonder this is Ohio's most-frequented free attraction. Perhaps most notable - and most eerie - is the hangar that displays every Air Force One since the days of President Truman. As you move through the aisles of these presidential transports, you can feel as if you're moving through history itself - especially when you board the Air Force One that took JFK on his fateful trip to Dallas. Other must-sees include the Hall of Fame Learning Center, which honors the legacies of America's air and space pioneers. (For information on the July 15 National Aviation Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremonies at the Dayton Convention Center, call 937/333-4700.)
The newest exhibit is themed to POWs in Vietnam, and includes the aircraft known as the Hanoi Taxi that ferried freed prisoners home to the States after the war. Other exhibits include the only B-2 Stealth bomber on permanent public display, new Cold War and Missiles galleries, and the only X-3 Stiletto ever built, a later model of the type in which Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier. Area B off Springfield Pike, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, 937/255-3286 or www.wpafb.af.mil/museum. Daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is free (there is a charge for the IMAX theater: $6, seniors 60 and over $5.50, students $4.50, children ages 3-7 $3).
WACO Museum and Airfield
Located just north of Dayton in Troy, the WACO Museum and Airfield is housed on the site of the original headquarters of the WACO Aircraft Company (once the world's largest manufacturer of civilian aircraft). The museum features artifacts and memorabilia related to the WACOs, a series of mass-produced open-cockpit and cabin bi-planes manufactured in the 1920s and 1930s. The company also produced combat gliders during World War II, which are on display as well. The "WACO Fly-In Celebration" is held here each August, when dozens of WACO pilots bring their treasures to the landing field. The museum is currently located at 105 S. Market St., Troy, but is being moved to the airfield property a few miles away on Co. Rd. 25A, so call before visiting: 937/339-8965, www.wacoairmuseum.org. Open May-Oct., Sun. 1-5 p.m., or by appointment. Admission is free.
Wright B Flyer Museum
You can actually fly in a replica of the Wright Model B Flyer - the first mass-produced airplane in the world - at the Wright B Flyer Museum. The museum/hangar, located at the Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport in Miamisburg, also features historical displays. With a takeoff speed of 41 miles per hour, the vintage bi-plane offers a cruising speed of 60 mph and cruising range of up to 100 miles. The Wright B comfortably seats two (you and the pilot). 10550 Springboro Pike, Miamisburg, 937/885-2327, www.wright-b-flyer.org. Tues., Thur. and Sat. 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Admission free (there is a fee for Wright B flights).
While You're in Dayton...
When you're traveling to Dayton, be sure to allow enough time to enjoy some of the other worthy destinations in the area.
Boonshoft Museum of Discovery
At the Boonshoft, guests can visit a zoo, climb a three-story tower, explore the universe, or conduct hands-on science experiments. The EcoTrek takes visitors on a journey through five environments (Ice Age, Woodlands, Sonoran Desert, Amazon Rainforest and Northwest Pacific Tide Pool). The indoor Wild Ohio Zoo boasts 75 furry, feathery and finned creatures that call the state home. And the Phillips Space Theater offers planetarium and laser shows Friday and Saturdays. 2600 DeWeese Pkwy., Dayton, 937/275-7431, www.boonshoftmuseum.org. Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 12-5 p.m. Admission $8.50, seniors 65 and older and children ages 2-12 $7, under 2 free.
You'll find amazing and exotic specimens of trees, shrubs and other plants at Cox Arboretum, where nine specialty gardens and hiking trails wind among green forests and colorful meadows. 6733 Springboro Pike, Miami Twp., 937/434-9005, www.coxarboretum.org. Mon.-Sun. 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Visitors Center open Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is free.
Dayton Art Institute
The Dayton Art Institute features impressive touring exhibits as well as a permanent collection that includes works by artists such as Monet and Degas, all housed in an Italian Renaissance-style building. In September, the touring exhibit "Rembrandt and the Golden Age: Masterpieces from the Rijksmuseum" opens. 456 Belmonte Park N., Dayton, 937/223-5277 or www.daytonartinstitute.org. Daily 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Thur. until 8 p.m. Admission is free except for some special exhibits.
Schuster Performing Arts Center
This recently built performing-arts complex is the pride of Dayton and the new home of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, Dayton Opera, Dayton Ballet, the Human Race Theatre Company and the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company. Broadway touring shows also arrive here frequently. Second and Main streets, Dayton, 937/228-3630 or www.schustercenter.org. Hours and event prices vary.
Young's Jersey Dairy
At Young's Jersey Dairy, located a short drive from Dayton in Yellow Springs, the Young family has been scooping the competition since 1958. That's the year the retail operation opened, although the farm's actually been in the family since the late 1800s. Young's remains a working dairy farm today and features ice cream concocted by implementing a 14 percent butterfat combination of pasteurized milk, cream and sugar. The ice cream is created in batches of 5 to 10 gallons, then it's wheeled into a giant freezer hooked up with a high-velocity wind machine that instantly chills the delectable mixture to minus 30 degrees. (This immediate deep-freeze prevents ice crystals from forming inside the mixture, an unfortunate event that purportedly reduces the creaminess in some store brands.) You'll find dozens of flavors, from bubble gum to fudge brownie, chocolate chip cookie dough to strawberry cheesecake, and cotton candy to something called a cow paddy. (It's double dark chocolate cookie pieces and toffee.) Other popular items include the calfshake (regular), cowshake (thick) and bullshake (large). 6880 Springfield-Xenia Rd., Yellow Springs, 937/325-0629 or www.youngsdairy.com. Hours vary.