Dad and child at CenterPoint Energy Dayton Air Show (photo courtesy of Dayton Convention & Visitors Bureau)
Travel | Cities

15 Ways to Explore Dayton this Summer

Whether you’re looking to plan a visit around summer events, aviation history or travel-worthy restaurants, here are ideas for building your trip to this storied city.

Festivals & Events 

Brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright not only invented the airplane but also launched the world’s first flying school and airplane factory in Dayton. The city’s Birthplace of Aviation heritage is unsurpassed, and the annual air show at Dayton International Airport ranks among the oldest and most respected exhibitions of aviation skills and thrills.  

“Dayton is known as a flagship show for both performers and spectators,” says Kevin Franklin, executive director of the CenterPoint Energy Dayton Air Show, which happens this year June 22 and 23. “It’s always an impressive and exciting experience that builds enthusiasm for aviation.”

While the Air Show attracts upwards of 82,000 people from around the globe, 2024 promises to be bigger and better than ever because the event is celebrating its 50th anniversary with an impressive lineup of military and civilian acts. Its headliner is the United States Navy Blue Angels, an iconic squadron that smokes the sky with precision aerobatic maneuvers in supersonic F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets. Other featured performances include the high-flying U.S. Air Force F-16 Viper Demonstration Team; the elite skydiving soldiers of the U.S. Army Golden Knights; and Tora! Tora! Tora!, an explosively realistic reenactment of the Pearl Harbor attack by World War II warbirds. Plus, the show boasts a decidedly Dayton attraction: a replica of the first airplane manufactured at the Wright brothers’ factory — the 1910 Wright “B” Flyer.

Heritage celebration events are also a hallmark of summer in Dayton. From Irish jigs and Highland bagpipes to Welsh cakes and a Parade of Kilts, the United Irish of Dayton Celtic Festival (July 26-28) celebrates all things Celtic at RiverScape MetroPark. Later in the season, savor homemade schnitzel, drink a beer and delight in the Victorian houses and rich heritage of the city’s St. Anne’s Hill Historic District during the Germanfest Picnic (Aug. 9-11).

The Dayton area’s favorite fine arts and crafts festival, Art on the Commons (Aug. 11) showcases works by 100 top artists from across the country at a picturesque neighborhood park. For those who love music, the region has a range of options. Bring a chair, bring a friend, but never buy tickets for the free outdoor concerts presented at Levitt Pavilion Dayton. Check out Lyle Lovett, Travis Tritt, Alice Cooper, Norah Jones and other nationally touring artists at Rose Music Center in Huber Heights, or visit Fraze Pavilion in Kettering to see Ringo Starr, Ludacris and others this season.    

Interior of The Pine Club in Dayton (photo courtesy of The Pine Club)

Dining Finds

Nationally acclaimed and locally beloved, The Pine Club is a classic American steakhouse that’s legendary for both its old-school atmosphere and superb house-cut meats.

“People constantly tell us that our steaks are the best they’ve ever had,” says manager Karen Watkins.  

With its cozy red booths, retro chrome barstools and knotty-pine paneling, the restaurant’s decor has remained virtually unchanged since it opened in 1947.  So has its menu of timeless dinner fare — think shrimp cocktail, sauteed mushrooms and asparagus with hollandaise. The Pine Club’s famous stewed tomatoes perfectly complement a filet mignon or porterhouse, while the Red & Bleu French dressing with cheese is a house favorite that elevates any salad.

Since The Pine Club doesn’t accept credit cards, bring cash or a check. It also never takes reservations. In fact, the first-come, first-served policy is so entrenched that even President George Bush and his wife, Barbara, had to wait their turn for a table.

Ensconced in downtown Dayton’s historic Arcade complex, Est! Est!! Est!!! has a casually modern interior and classic Italian food. Its homemade pizzas are baked in an imported brick oven, and the street-corner patio is a perfect spot for enjoying a Rosemary Old Fashioned, a customer favorite made with Woodford bourbon.

Elegance meets originality at Manna, a sophisticated suburban spot in Centerville where plush banquettes and sparkling chandeliers set the stage for a singular culinary experience featuring classic French and Peruvian dishes. The eclectic cocktail selection includes a refreshing Watermelon Cosmo and the handsome patio provides alfresco dining.

Drawing on their Colombian roots and zest for experiencing international cultures and cuisine, the Castro family created one of Dayton’s largest — and certainly most colorful — restaurants. El Meson specializes in Latin American dishes like its signature Chilean salmon stack, and its outdoor dining area has an oven specially designed for baking Argentinian empanadas.  

Women and boy observing demonstration at Boonshoft Museum of Discovery in Dayton (photo courtesy of Dayton Convention & Visitors Bureau)Attractions

Explore Dayton’s history of flight along the Aviation Trail. This self-guided driving tour highlights Ohio’s incomparable aerospace legacy, and its far-reaching array of stops delivers a unique adventure that extends from Dayton to the moon.

“We have 60 different sites ranging from nationally known destinations to a backyard where the first emergency freefall parachute jump ended,” says Aviation Trail president Stephen Brown.  

Begin the trail at the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, home to the Aviation Trail Visitor Center, where you’ll find maps and information. Visit the Wright Cycle Co., where the Wright Brothers first applied their knowledge of building bicycles to building airplanes. Then, check out other must-sees like the world’s first practical airplane — the 1905 Wright Flyer III — at Carillon Historical Park; the Memphis Belle and presidential airplanes at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force; and the Armstrong Air & Space Museum, where exhibits salute Ohioan Neil Armstrong’s history-making walk on the moon.

While you’re in town, spend an evening with the family at a Dayton Dragons baseball game. The Cincinnati Reds farm team set a record for consecutive home-game sellouts and have produced major leaguers such as Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. Day Air Ballpark delivers all-star fun from letting kids run the bases to fireworks following night games.

Another standout attraction in the city is the Dayton Art Institute. When it opened in 1919, the institution gave the city a masterpiece of Italian Renaissance architecture. Today, the museum’s collections range from the ancient to the avant-garde, but its ever-popular first acquisition — Harriet Whitney Frishmuth’s “Joy of the Waters” sculpture — is still displayed in the American wing.  

Brimming with fun, educational activities, the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery combines three different experiences: a children’s museum, a zoo and a science and technology center into one family-friendly destination. Touch a starfish, learn about the night sky’s constellations and observe paleontologists reconstructing the skeleton of a hadrosaur.

When You Go  
For more information about events and destinations in the Dayton area, visit daytoncvb.com

Festivals & Events 

CenterPoint Energy Dayton Air Show
daytonairshow.com

United Irish of Dayton Celtic Festival
daytoncelticfestival.com

Germanfest Picnic
germanfestdayton.com

Art on the Commons
playkettering.org

Levitt Pavilion Dayton
levittdayton.org 

Rose Music Center
rosemusiccenter.com

Fraze Pavilion
fraze.com

Dining

The Pine Club
thepineclub.com

Est! Est!! Est!!!
estestestdayton.com

Manna
mannauptown.com

El Meson
elmeson.net

Attractions

Aviation Trail
aviationtrailinc.org

Dayton Dragons Baseball
milb.com/dayton

Dayton Art Institute
daytonartinstitute.org

Boonshoft Museum of Discovery
boonshoft.org