Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Dayton, OH

  • Published 2022/11/13

Are you looking for something fun to do in Dayton, Ohio?

There are plenty of great activities that won’t cost you a dime!

Dayton is known as the “Gem City,” belonging to Montgomery County, Ohio.

It is a great place to visit if you’re looking for a mix of city and suburban life.

Each neighborhood has its character, and you’re sure to find something that interests you.

Whether you’re looking for a place to relax, learn, or party, Dayton is the perfect destination.

Here are the free things to do in Dayton, Ohio:

Check Out Jaw-Dropping Aircraft at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

Blackbird aircraft in the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

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The largest military aircraft museum in the world is the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

You can find it at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, not far from downtown Dayton.

With over 350 aircraft, missiles, and thousands of other exhibits worldwide, the museum is not one to miss, especially if you are a fan of aviation and aircraft.

It offers free parking and a variety of walk-through aircraft experiences that previous presidents have used.

Feast your eyes on historic and iconic aircraft used by significant figures in the country’s history.

Exhibit in the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

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One example of this is the Boeing VC-137C, also called SAM (Special Air Mission) 26000.

Six presidents between JFK and Clinton used this aircraft: Lyndon Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan.

Stop by this place and marvel at the majestic aircraft you can see!

A plane in the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

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Stroll along the Great Miami Riverway

Take a peaceful walk alone or with a close friend at the Great Miami Riverway.

Known as the country’s biggest paved trail, the Great Miami Riverway is next to the Great Miami River.

This trail spans over 99 miles of paved walkways where you can stroll, jog, walk, or sit while gazing at the river.

A walk on this trail might do the trick if you want to explore nearby neighborhoods since it also connects several communities near the river.

Lace up your jogging shoes and break a sweat!

If you own a small boat or canoe, you can bring it here and launch it into the waters for free!

This is a great place to visit if you’re in the mood to explore the different sights in the city on foot.

Discover the Prairie at Carriage Hill MetroPark

Carriage Hill MetroPark is one of the best places to enjoy the outdoors in the Dayton area.

In April 1965, while Carriage Hill MetroPark was still known as Dry Lick Run, the new park district created its first park.

The property was chosen because of its closeness to Huber Heights.

It was the part of the metropolis that developed the fastest and needed open space preservation.

Spanning more than 900 acres, this historic farm has plenty of open space, so there is something everyone can do here.

Learn about the unusual plants of the tallgrass prairie, or deeply rooted, sun-loving flowers and grasses that grow up to ten feet tall, flowering in the middle to end of the summer.

This artificial prairie evokes an earlier period before Ohio was founded.

Back then, bison roamed the area, and there were more than 300 natural grassland openings.

You can stroll along the paved trails, take a challenging hike on the off-road trails, or even explore the farm grounds on a Segway.

There are plenty of family fun opportunities, including an adventure playground, a disc golf course, and horseback riding lessons.

Tour the Wright Cycle Company Complex

Exterior of the the Wright Cycle Company Complex

EWY Media /

The Wright Cycle Company Complex is one of Dayton’s best places to visit.

The Wright Cycle Company complex comprises three buildings: the Wright Cycle Company building, the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center (a renovated portion of the Hoover Block), and the brand-new Aviation Trail Visitor Center and Museum.

The Wright brothers started making bicycles under their brand here, which gave them the mechanical know-how and financial means to begin their powered human flight experiments.

You can learn about the history of the Wright brothers and see how they invented the airplane.

Interior of the Wright Cycle Company Complex

EWY Media /

You can also have fun riding the bicycles that they made.

Discover the history of flight, see how airplanes are made, and even ride in one.

The Wright Cycle Company Complex is a must-visit if you love everything related to aviation history.

Facade of the Wright Cycle Company Complex

Chris Light, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Cross the Top of the Dam in Huffman MetroPark

By its name, Huffman MetroPark conjures up images of bicycles for locals.

The Huffman family founded the Huffy Bike Corporation in 1892.

The park and earthen dam honor the family business and community efforts.

In the 1970s, Horace Huffman, Jr., a community activist, fought to create river bikeways.

There’s no better way to spend a sunny afternoon than the top of the dam in Huffman MetroPark.

The breathtaking view of the river below makes it the perfect place to relax and enjoy the natural beauty.

The views from the top are incredible, and you can get a sense of the size and scope of the park.

Watching the boats pass through the locks is also a lot of fun, and you can sometimes see fish swimming in the water below.

Plus, it’s free to enjoy, making it one of the best things to do in the park.

Bring your bicycles and prepare to break a sweat as you bike through this park.

If you’re looking for a place to picnic or stroll, head to the top of the dam for fun in the sun!

Ride “The Flyer” Shuttle

The Flyer shuttle in Dayton is one of the most exciting things to do in the city.

It takes you around all of the best places to go and see, and you can enjoy the scenery from the comfort of your seat.

You can also get off at any stop and explore on foot.

The shuttles continuously loop from Monument Avenue at RiverScape MetroPark to Irvin Avenue near the University of Dayton.

The shuttles arrive approximately every ten minutes and make stops at essential job hubs, food and entertainment venues, amenities, and hotspots.

The best part is that it’s free to ride, so you can save money for other things while exploring the city.

Whether you’re a local or a tourist, the Flyer is a great way to see Dayton and have fun while you’re doing it.

Hike through the Landscapes of Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark

Sunflowers at Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark

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Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark is a great place to enjoy the outdoors and have fun.

Spanning over 88 acres, there’s plenty of room to explore in this meticulously landscaped park.

With a variety of amenities, there’s something for everyone.

Explore six and a half acres of garden space and 11 formal gardens, including the Federal, Memory, and Victorian gardens.

Dayton residents plant and care for vegetables, herbs, and flowers every season, which you can witness bloom if you visit at the right time!

You can take a hike on one of the park’s many trails and try biking or cross-country skiing and wooded pathways for strolling.

Explore the beautiful gardens and scenery as you hike through the trails!

You can also fish in the parks’ lakes or do paddle boating, canoeing, or kayaking for a more adventurous time here.

The Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark has a vast area where you can play a game of volleyball or frisbee with your kids and friends.

See Aviation Legends at the National Aviation Hall of Fame

A visit to the National Aviation Hall of Fame is a must for anyone interested in aviation.

Located on Spaatz Street, this museum houses an impressive collection of planes and artifacts that chronicle the history of flight.

You can explore exhibits focusing on early aviators, discover how planes are designed and built, and even take a virtual tour of the Wright brothers’ first flights.

Also, visitors can enjoy exploring the aviators’ achievements in the museum.

They can also tour the hallowed grounds where some of America’s most famous pilots are buried.

A visit to the National Aviation Hall of Fame will be enjoyable, especially for aircraft and aviation enthusiasts!

See How a Famous Poet Lived at Paul Laurence Dunbar House

Exterior of the Paul Laurence Dunbar House

Zack Frank /

Few places can beat the Paul Laurence Dunbar House in Dayton.

The Paul Laurence Dunbar House is where the renowned American poet once resided.

He published over 400 pieces throughout his short career, including novels, poetry collections, song lyrics, and more.

The Paul Laurence Dunbar House was the first African American home that supported himself with his writing.

Today, it’s a prime spot for tourists looking to have fun and learn something new.

Guided tours of the house are available, as well as poetry readings in the garden and writing workshops.

The property is also home to a museum and library dedicated to Dunbar’s life and works, making it an ideal place to learn about him.

Whether you’re looking for a fun day out or learning something new, the Paul Laurence Dunbar House offers an enjoyable experience.

Learn about the Heritage and History of Island MetroPark

The 43-acre Island MetroPark is in the heart of Dayton.

The park encompasses beautiful mature trees, rich cultural history, a scenic landscape, and plenty of recreational facilities for visitors to enjoy.

The waterway that borders both sides of the park provides ample recreation and relaxation opportunities.

Island MetroPark is best known for its heritage and history.

The park has been home to many cultures, including the Native Americans who once inhabited the area.

Also, it’s home to several historical buildings, including a log cabin, a blockhouse, and a grist mill.

These buildings offer a glimpse into the past, and the park staff is always on hand to answer any questions.

Island MetroPark is the perfect place to spend a day outdoors enjoying nature.

Visitors can picnic, canoe, boat, dance, ice skate, play Carnival games, listen to evening band performances, and more.

Today visitors can also enjoy taking walks through different ecosystems, including wetlands, prairies, and forests, while learning about the plants and animals that make it their home.

Try Yoga at Deeds Point MetroPark

View of water fountains at Deeds Point MetroPark

Susan Law Cain /

Stretch your weary body as you enjoy the unobstructed view of the city from the beautiful Deeds Point MetroPark.

Deeds Point was named in honor of Colonel Edward Deeds, a businessman and inventor from Dayton.

He contributed to the city’s recovery from the 1913 disaster.

Deeds played a crucial role in establishing the Miami Conservancy District and led it as chairman until 1954.

The Deeds Point MetroPark offered a clear, scenic, and encircled nature vista of the downtown Dayton skyline.

The park has various things to do, from hiking and biking trails to a playground and picnic areas.

There’s also a riverfront boardwalk where you can take in the scenery, walk, or run.

One attention-grabbing thing you can find at Deeds Point is the wide grassy circle in the middle that is ideal for morning calisthenics.

You can lay your yoga mat and meditate here while appreciating the gorgeous views.

Also, the park hosts various events throughout the year, so you can always experience something new for each visit!

Pay Your Respects at Calvary Cemetery

There are many great things to do in Dayton, Ohio, but one of the best is to visit Calvary Cemetery.

This cemetery is a beautiful place to take a stroll or have a picnic and is full of history.

Calvary Cemetery was officially established in 1872 as the final resting place for many Civil War soldiers.

This beautiful cemetery is also the final resting place for many of the city’s most famous residents, including Titanic Survivor Phillip Zenni and NBA basketball player and the very first “Rookie of the Year,” Donald E. “Monk” Meineke.

Calvary Cemetery is home to several rare and endangered plant species.

Not only can you enjoy the beauty of the cemetery, but you can also learn about its rich history and unique flora.

Whether you’re a history buff or just looking for a peaceful place to spend an afternoon, Calvary Cemetery is worth a visit.

Gaze at Historic Trees at Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum

Wright Brothers gravesite at Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum

CiEll /

On a beautiful spring day, you can stroll through the Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum in Dayton.

With over 200 acres to explore, there is plenty of room to enjoy the fresh air and soak up some sunshine.

The Arboretum is one of Ohio’s premier green places, including more than 3,000 trees and almost 200 specimens of woody plants.

The cemetery is home to thousands of plants and trees, making it a veritable oasis for nature lovers.

Visitors can also admire the numerous monuments and sculptures scattered throughout the grounds.

Entrance to Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum

Wdzinc, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Here, you can pay your respects to the Wright Brothers, considered pioneers of the aviation industry.

This is also the place where you can find century-old trees!

The arboretum also has a pond where you can feed the ducks.

If you are looking for a peaceful place to reflect or enjoy a leisurely walk, the Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum will delight you when you visit.

Explore Nature, History, and Community at Possum Creek MetroPark

The 58-acre Possum Creek MetroPark is the best place to have fun and enjoy with your family.

The combination of nature, history, and the Possum Creek community will enthrall adults and kids.

Together, take a hike across one of Ohio’s finest tallgrass prairies and see all the breathtaking scenery.

It’s unbelievable that this beautiful sanctuary for bluebirds and butterflies was once a deteriorated farmland.

There are playgrounds for the kids, walking trails, a fishing pond, and plenty of picnic tables.

Argonne Lake’s broad vistas of trees and wildlife offer the ideal location for fishing catfish, bass, or trout.

Spend the night camping or picnicking with loved ones and explore historical relics on the Argonne Forest Trail.

You can bring your dog to the park if you keep them on a leash.

Possum Creek MetroPark is a great place to spend a day outdoors.

Take Memorable Snaps in Front of the Victorian Theatre

Exterior of the Victoria Theatre

Greg5030 Photo by Greg Hume, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Visit a magnificent architectural feat in downtown Dayton and feast your eyes on the gorgeous Victoria Theatre.

The Victoria Theatre is a beautiful and historic theatre initially built in 1866.

This elegant structure hosts many performances, including comedies, dramas, and Broadway musicals.

Although it is only open for special events, many people flock to the theater to take pictures of its magnificent building!

With its picturesque Italianate architecture, the Victoria Theatre is a popular spot for pre-wedding and engagement photoshoots.

The whole look of this theater is reminiscent of the early 19th century and will surely transport you back in time.

Stop by and take pictures with this stunning landmark as your backdrop!

Final Thoughts

You don’t have to break the bank at Dayton to have fun and enjoy your trip!

This city is where you can relax and enjoy a budget-friendly vacation.

What are you waiting for?

Don’t forget to try these free things to do in Dayton, Ohio!

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