Follow Dayton’s Aviation Trail
This collection of historic sites and destinations celebrate Ohio’s ties to flight and the people who got us off the ground.
A vintage register, stocked store shelves and an authentic check written by Wilbur Wright illuminate the era in which Dayton’s most famous siblings lived. Upstairs, interpretive displays offer further insight into the Wright brothers, as well as their friend Paul Laurence Dunbar, who went on to become the first internationally acclaimed Black poet.
The Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center & Aviation Trail Visitor Center is a natural first stop when exploring the city’s deep ties to flight. The center covers the Wrights’ in-home printing business and connection to Dunbar, as well as Dayton’s ties to the invention of the first free-fall parachute. Head next door to explore the Wright Cycle Co., a bicycle shop built to re-create the space where the Wright brothers worked and gathered inspiration for their flying machines.
“There’s a replica of one of the original Wright gliders sitting in the lobby,” says Aviation Trail president Steve Brown, who notes that the Aviation Trail was formed to promote Dayton’s aviation heritage, which began with Wilbur and Orville Wright’s invention of the airplane in 1903.
In all, the Aviation Trail encompasses 17 staffed sites in and near Dayton that can be explored by way of a self-guided tour. Wright Brothers Hill is located about 8 miles to the east of the visitor center. There, travelers will find 27 acres and the Wright Memorial, a 17-foot-tall, pink granite obelisk that overlooks Huffman Prairie Flying Field, the site of many of the brothers’ test flights for the Wright Flyer III. Another 2 miles down the road is the National Museum of the United States Air Force, the world’s largest military aviation museum.
“You come to the sites, and you explore things that were impossible,” says Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park ranger Ryan Qualls. “The bigger story is people overcoming problems and challenges to make the impossible possible.”
Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center & Aviation Trail Visitor Center, 16 S. Williams St., Dayton 45402, 937/225-7705, nps.gov/daav; For more information about Dayton Aviation Trail sites, visit aviationtrailinc.org.
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