Here’s one of the best things about the Dayton area: During the summer, it’s a great place to get outside and enjoy the season.
And you can do it pretty easily, too. Not only does Dayton’s comfortable middle-city size allow you to get from concrete to countryside in just a few minutes, but the area also is crisscrossed with a network of floatways and bikeways and dotted with MetroParks, inner-city green spaces and affordable outdoor venues. Add to that a bounty of festivals, events — and, of course, Dayton Dragons games — and suddenly, summer has come and gone.
The way Daytonians really know that the warm months have arrived is with the first crack of the bat at Fifth Third Field downtown, where the minor-league Dayton Dragons are in their 10th sell-out season. The ballpark has become the place where Dayton meets, greets and hangs out on hot afternoons and warm summer evenings, as some 8,000 folks arrive to watch their young team battle it out with their foes in the Class-A Midwest League. Sometimes the team’s good, sometimes not so much — but Dragons games are entertaining nonetheless, with lively on-field shenanigans and slapstick that’s always good for a laugh. And there’s always Heater, the popular reptilian mascot — presuming that dragons are reptiles, that is. The stadium’s seats are sold out, but lawn tickets are usually available on game days. What you need to know is at www.daytondragons.com
Do you like your baseball a bit retro, perhaps? You might consider stepping back in time with a game of good, old-fashioned — and we mean old-fashioned — 1860s-style baseball with the Dayton Clodbusters, who play most of their summertime games on the lawn at Carillon Historical Park, on Patterson Avenue just south of downtown. This is baseball the way Abner Doubleday would’ve recognized it — although he’d be mystified, no doubt, by the club’s Web site, www.clodbusters.org
. It has their schedules and all the rest.Get Wet
Would you have thought of landlocked Dayton as a paddler’s paradise? Well, they do call the local parks system the Five Rivers MetroParks for a reason, and the folks in charge of it have really started in recent years to emphasize the recreational potential of the waterways that meander through the region. For kayakers, they offer everything from start-up classes (learn how to roll!) to organized trips for more advanced enthusiasts, taking advantage of Eastwood Lake, the Great Miami River and Twin Creek. This is a great way to see nature up close, learn a new skill and just plain relax. Visit www.metroparks.org
Want to cool off, but not in a river? Splash Moraine, a wave-pool waterpark opens for another family-fun season on May 23, with its pools and slides providing a great way to cool off. Located just off I-75 in Moraine in south-suburban Dayton, the 8-acre complex is open most days during the summer, and sports a jam-packed schedule of special events. Wade over to www.splashmoraine.com
Five Rivers MetroParks operates more than a dozen parks around Montgomery County that provide a diverse range of trails for walking, jogging and hiking. There are the wooded hills of Sugarcreek MetroPark, and the open prairie of Possum Creek. It’s thrilling to walk across the dam at Germantown, or to follow the river at Englewood. From the barns at Carriage Hill to the butterfly house at Cox Arboretum, there’s plenty to show to the kids, too. Maps, hours, events and amenities are all at www.metroparks.org
Interestingly, Five Rivers MetroParks can help you have a little indoor fun, too. The system manages the very popular National City 2nd Street Market, which is open year-round, but truly comes alive during the summer. Local farm produce, flowers by the bunch, art and specialty items and food, food, food are all available in abundance in this restored, converted 1917 railroad building that’s been drawing crowds downtown since 2001. Hours are Thur.–Fri. 11 a.m.–3 p.m., and Sat. 8 a.m.–3 p.m. Parking is easy and on site. The details are at www.metroparks.org
Summer means listening to music outdoors, doesn’t it? The place to spread your blanket is Kettering’s Fraze Pavilion, located in the heart of the suburb south of Dayton, at Shroyer Road and Lincoln Park Boulevard. It’s a gorgeous amphitheater that seats 4,300 and is marking its 18th season this summer. This year’s lineup includes Robert Randolph & the Family Band’s blues-pop on June 28; Joe Cocker on June 30; Diana Krall on July 7; The Beach Boys on July 8; Lyle Lovett on July 16; The Steve Miller Band on July 21; Randy Travis on Aug. 14; and Elvis Costello and the Sugarcanes on Aug. 27. With a mixture of community concerts, low-dough local band performances and free family-oriented concerts along with the higher-profile national touring acts, the Fraze has something going on nearly every night, rain or shine. There’s also a fun lineup of free daytime festivals, including the “Blues, Brews and Barbecue” celebration on June 28, the Swamp Romp Cajun-Zydeco Festival on July 18, and Art on the Common on Aug. 9. For the schedule and ticket information, check out www.fraze.com
Each of the last dozen years, in early July, Daytonians have turned out in large numbers to hear musicians they don’t really even know very well — which is actually the point. The Cityfolk Festival, produced by Cityfolk, Dayton’s presenter of ethnic and folk art, is a three-day downtown extravaganza all about music that’s different from what you hear on most radio stations. It’s jazz, Celtic, bluegrass, world music, Latino dance tunes, old-style country, blues, Afropop and more — all by artists who come from around the nation and the world to teach and entertain Dayton’s many music lovers. This year’s festival is July 3–5 at RiverScape MetroPark downtown, along the Great Miami River. The event draws some 80,000 people annually for music, food, culture and visual arts (this year, quilts) displays. Every year, it’s capped off by the city of Dayton’s fireworks, which happen on July 3. This year’s performers include the Canadian acoustic group the Duhks, Cajun band Feufollet, Cincinnati-based salsa combo Son del Caribe, Americana singer Jim Lauderdale and others — including two headliners: multi-intrumental jazz/pop player Bela Fleck, and bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley. For more details, visit www.cityfolk.org