15 Best Things to Do in Dayton, TN

Dayton, TN
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Dayton, Tennessee, is a perfect destination for any traveler looking for an authentic small-town adventure.

Located in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, it’s a good base for exploring the area’s scenic hotspots and waterfalls.

It has a population of just over 7,000.

You can enjoy some natural beauty by hiking in the Pocket Wilderness or visiting the animals in the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge.

Don’t forget about all the restaurants!

There are many places that serve delicious food in Dayton, like the 1st Avenue Pizza, Books & Treats.

Is it the views, restaurants, or parks that make Dayton special?

It could be any of these.

With so many things to do in Dayton, Tennessee, you will indeed have a great time.

Check out this list of the best things to do in Dayton, featuring top attractions, shopping, dining options, and more.

Discover History in Rhea County Courthouse

Exterior of the Rhea County Courthouse
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The Rhea County Courthouse in Dayton, Tennessee isn’t just a building.

It’s a historical landmark and has a lot to offer visitors beyond its architecture.

The Court House is a beautiful example of Romanesque Revival-Italian villa-style architecture.

In 1977, the National Register of Historic Places added the Rhea County Courthouse to its record.

It's also an official Historic Landmark for Tennessee and the United States.

Check out the original 1891 Rhea County Courthouse and see what life was like back then.

Side facade of the Rhea County Courthouse
HrAtsuo, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The courthouse is also home to the Scopes Trial Museum, which seeks to educate visitors about the landmark Scopes Trial.

The architecture and design of this building are beautiful, perfectly maintained to preserve its historical value.

If you are looking for something exciting in Dayton, Tennessee, visit the Rhea County Courthouse.

Have Fun in Crystal Lanes Bowling

Bowling is a timeless sport everyone can enjoy.

There’s nothing quite like rolling a strike or watching a big shoe crash on the ball to score a spare.

That’s what you can expect at Crystal Lanes Bowling Center in Dayton, Tennessee, in the heart of the Smoky Mountains.

This is the place for excitement, from birthday parties to family fun nights and summer camps!

Whether you’re an avid bowler or a beginner, this expansive facility covers all your needs.

From bowling leagues to open play sessions, Crystal Lanes Bowling has something for everyone.

Go on a Peaceful Walk in Ponds and Plants

Heaven probably looks like Ponds and Plants.

It’s a sprawling property that is part sculpture garden, botanical garden, part playground, part pet store, part zoo, and part wildlife refuge.

Spend an afternoon getting lost in a vast and gorgeous garden filled with sculptures and beautiful plant life.

You can explore paths that weave through exotic plants and flowers, or watch fish swim in ponds created by fallen tree trunks.

Otherwise, climb on rocks formed into sculptures, or visit the jungles of wild birds, reptiles, and other animals.

Ponds and Plants is an educational, recreational, and entertainment complex that educates all ages about nature, conservation, and horticulture.

If you want to see plants grow up close or spend some time with friends, check out Ponds and Plants!

Buy Vintage Stuff from the Gathering Place

The Gathering Place is a must-visit for those who appreciate the beauty in an old, vintage item.

This place is a one-of-a-kind shop in Dayton, Tennessee, where you can explore antiques and collectibles from around the world.

Browse a massive selection of antique furniture, home decor, jewelry, candy, toys, and other unique finds.

Whether you’re after vintage dolls or old photographs, look no further than the Gathering Place for rare and unique items.

With an eclectic mix of treasures you can find, you don’t want to miss this shop on your next visit to Dayton.

Have a Fun Day Out at Crystal Springs Skate Center

Crystal Springs Skate Center, Dayton’s indoor skate park, is the ideal place to visit with friends and family.

Hang out and have fun all day with your friends!

Crystal Springs Skate Center is the oldest roller skating rink in Tennessee, offering a unique experience you can’t find anywhere else in Dayton.

Founded in 1997, Crystal Springs Skate Center has existed for decades and has become a staple of this community.

Even if you don’t skate, you should come and check it out.

It has everything from a full-sized skate park to a small snack bar where you can grab some food and refreshing beverages.

Spending your day at Crystal Springs Skate Center will allow you to push your limits while having fun with family and friends.

Explore the Outdoors in Laurel Snow State Natural Area

A stream at Laurel Snow State Natural Area
Melinda Fawver / Shutterstock.com

Consider Laurel Snow State Natural Area if you’re looking for a fun and entertaining weekend.

Explore the outdoors, off-roading, and spend time with friends and family.

Located in beautiful Dayton, Tennessee, this state park is an excellent place for mountain biking trails, hiking trails, and a horseback riding area.

Laurel Snow State Natural Area gets its name from two falls: Laurel Falls and Snow Falls.

Scenic view from Laurel Snow State Natural Area's overlook
Melinda Fawver / Shutterstock.com

This 2,259-acre natural area consists of forests and rocky ridges with stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

The view should impress visitors even on a bad day.

Likewise, you can enjoy nature from the comfort of your tent at Laurel Snow State Natural Area.

You can’t find a better reason to go outside, so pack your gear and head for Laurel Snow State Natural Area.

Frozen creek at Laurel Snow State Natural Area
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Admire the Sceneries in Blue Water RV Resort & Marina

If you’re looking for a great place to spend your summer in the Smoky Mountains, look no further than Blue Water RV Resort & Marina in Dayton, Tennessee.

This resort is the perfect vacation destination for anyone who loves the water, the outdoors, and the beautiful scenery.

There are plenty of things to do here.

Go boating on scenic Lake Chickamauga, fishing around its shores, and kayaking along the shoreline.

Then, have a picnic in one of the many picnic spots located nearby, or even take a ride along the river’s edge.

When you get tired of playing outside, you can relax in one of the spacious guest suites or dine at the onsite restaurant.

Blue Water Resort & Marina has plenty of amenities that make it the ideal choice for your next vacation or weekend getaway.

Taste Local Flavors in Monkey Town Brewing

Monkey Town Brewing in Dayton, Tennessee, may have the best name of any brewery in the region.

The people behind it are no strangers to the world of microbrewing.

Likewise, its ideal location makes it easy to visit several local attractions.

You can order drinks from the bartender at the brewery, and they’ll bring them over to you.

Otherwise, you can walk next door to get food, hang out in the spacious dining area, or play pool or darts.

They have live music every weekend, and an impressive selection of craft beers brewed on-site.

Those who aren’t into beers will find something they love among Monkey Town’s soda selection.

Monkey Town Brewing Company is one of Dayton's hottest spots, so don’t miss it!

Treat Yourself to 1ST Avenue Pizza, Books & Treats

Are you looking for an out-of-the-ordinary place to eat, shop, and meet new people?

Then, go to 1st Avenue Pizza, Books & Treats in Dayton, Tennessee!

While the name may sound like a mix of businesses, it’s one of the most refreshing places in town to grab a bite and a drink.

This quaint shop offers a variety of delectable foods, including homemade pizzas.

Likewise, it features a small book store with some fantastic merchandise you can purchase.

At the same time, you can enjoy your meal or hang out at one of their tables to read a book.

The books are all over the place, so if you want to get something specific.

You will likely find what you are looking for, though there are no guarantees.

The best part about 1st Avenue Pizza is its laid-back atmosphere.

It’s the ideal spot for grabbing lunch with friends or simply relaxing with the newspaper after work.

Swing by the Swinging Bridge Park

View of the waters at Swinging Bridge Park
Brian Stansberry, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Do you want to cross a swinging bridge?

Believe it or not, but this bridge is one of the most spectacular places you should visit in Dayton, Tennessee.

Swinging Bridge Park is a recreation area offering a pedestrian-only trail with a wooden suspension bridge and picnic shelter.

However, Swinging Bridge Park draws people not because of its excellent hiking trails or a beautiful landscape.

The unique pedestrian-only suspension bridge lets people cross the river while admiring stunning views of the forest and riverbanks.

What makes it so unique?

It gives a great view of the river and the park.

Most of all, you can walk across while others rock it back and forth!

The motion is gentle enough that you don’t feel like you’re going to fall off, but make sure you’re holding on to the handrail.

There are no restaurants or shops at Swinging Bridge Park.

If you’re hungry or need supplies for a picnic, you’ll have to bring them.

Some trails take you around the park if you’re looking for a place to relax in nature’s company.

Swinging Bridge Park is the perfect place to go for a picnic with a loved one or even just by yourself.

Join a Fishing Competition in Fish Dayton

Established in 2012, Fish Dayton is a premiere fishing destination that grants an all-access pass to the waters of Lake Chickamauga.

Fish Dayton is located along the main street of the city and it aims to promote bass fishing and lake recreation in Lake Chickamauga.

The sun-drenched waters of Lake Chickamauga provide excellent fishing for bass all year round.

Because of its abundance of largemouth bass, the lake became the “Land of the Giants” and continues to be the venue for bass fishing competitions.

Fish Dayton is a host to numerous bass fishing tournaments such as the 2013 Walmart FLW Tour in June of 2013 and the 2017 Bassmaster HS Largest Tourney in the history of B.A.S.S.

In 2015, a historic moment in Dayton happened when Gabe Keen caught a 15.3 lb largemouth bass that broke the record in the entire 60 years of fishing history.

You can try your luck and see if you can break the record, or you can simply watch pros cast their rods in an attempt to catch the biggest fish in Fish Dayton.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Explore the Wilderness in Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge

Scenic view of Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge
Deborah Ferrin / Shutterstock.com

The Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge is in Birchwood, Tennessee, 11 minutes from Dayton.

Take a scenic, woodsy walk in the area and feel like you’ve gone all the way to the middle of nowhere.

This 6,000-acre sanctuary is home to an impressive number of bird species.

Even if birds aren’t your thing, this place offers plenty of activities for everyone.

Sandhill cranes at Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge
Deborah Ferrin / Shutterstock.com

Whether you are a birder, photographer, or just someone looking to get some fresh air and see nature, check out the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge.

It’s an entirely serene experience that makes you forget about the cars on the highway just a few hundred yards away.

Flock of birds at Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge
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Check Out Underground Caves with Lost Sea Adventure

For those who enjoy a good descent into underground caverns or for those who need an excuse to stare at rocks, you can’t go wrong with Lost Sea Adventure in Tennessee.

The caverns here are home to some beautiful stalactites and stalagmites that are sure to take your breath away, along with plenty of other interesting rock formations.

What exactly makes this such an intriguing place? First, it’s what you’d imagine a cave to be like—dark, damp, and mysterious.

It’s a mysterious place full of wonderment! The Lost Sea Adventure is also a great place to take pictures; the water is so clear that if you stand at the right angle, your reflection will show up in the crystal clear pool below.

If you’re lucky enough to visit this magical wonderland in person, you’ll also be treated to a fantastic experience.

Learn the Story of the Cherokee Removal Memorial Park

Welcome sign of Cherokee Removal Memorial Park
Brian Stansberry, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re looking for a way to explore the history, Cherokee Removal Memorial Park is a great option.

The park is also in Birchwood, 15 minutes from Dayton.

This place is a historical stop that is definitely worth your time.

It’s a lovely escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

The Cherokee Removal Memorial Park preserves their history through lessons and outdoor exhibits.

The map of Cherokee Removal Memorial Park
It’sOnlyMakeBelieve, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There are separate trail systems with interpretive signs to help tell the story of the Cherokee people and their journey.

It reveals how they lived, what they believed, and how the US government forced them to leave their homes during the Trail of Tears.

The memorial park has many great things to see and do.

Check out the monuments, a museum that explains the story of the Cherokee tribe, hiking trails for active visitors, and much more.

Visit Oren Wooden’s Apple House

If you’re ever passing through Dayton, stop by the Oren Wooden’s Apple House.

You can find it in Pikeville, Tennessee, 16 minutes from Dayton.

This is the perfect place for apple fanatics or those looking for something different from typical fall activities.

In addition to its apple orchard, this farm has an on-site bakery with fresh pies and pastries that will melt in your mouth.

The meat-and-three style restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and homemade ice cream.

If you’re looking for gifts on your trip, go to Oren Wooden’s Apple House.

They have a gift shop stocked with handmade items made by local artisans.

The shop also sells homemade jams and jellies right from the farm!

Final Thoughts

Dayton, Tennessee, is a great vacation destination for anyone looking to get away from the big city.

This place features many little gems and fun activities that will make you want to visit repeatedly.

Plan your trip today and discover the best things to do in Dayton!