Dayton Live Well: Family Fun

Top 10 best family fun activities in the Miami Valley.

By Tim Walker

Parents are always looking for fun local activities they can do with their kids. Luckily, there’s no shortage of great, family-friendly destinations right here in the Dayton area. Whether you enjoy taking your little ones to a museum, hitting the arcade or just spending some quality time down on the farm the Miami Valley has a variety of activities you and your family might be interested in checking out.

The National Museum of the United States Air Force
1100 Spaatz St., Dayton. 255-3286,
With free admission, daily hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and only three closed days each year—Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day—the National Museum of the United States Air Force has been Dayton’s reigning champion of fun family destinations for decades. Since opening a fourth hangar in June 2016, the museum now boasts more than 360 aerospace vehicles and missiles on permanent display, many of them rare and one-of-a-kind. The museum is sure to provide hours of fascination for aviation buffs of all ages.

“I think the Air Force museum is the unsung hero of families with kids,” says Dan Patterson, author, photographer and world-renowned authority on aviation history. “It’s just a great place to go, particularly in the wintertime. The museum’s education center is a great place to take the kids—(it has) exhibits which are designed for kids, which are very educational and fun for them.”

Carillon Historical Park
1000 Carillon Blvd., Dayton, 293-2841.
This 65-acre park and museum is always a family favorite. The park contains a number of historic buildings and exhibits which showcase the history of the Dayton area, its technology and its residents from 1796 to the present. The historical elements of the park were the brainchild of Col. Edward Deeds.

Sunwatch Indian Village
2301 W. River Road, Dayton. 268-8199,
Sunwatch Indian Village is a reconstructed Native American village located on the banks of the Great Miami River. The dwellings that make up the 3-acre village are based on lengthy archeological excavations sponsored by the Dayton Society of Natural History, which owns and operates the site as an open-air museum. Sunwatch was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

The Dayton Art Institute
456 N. Belmonte Park, Dayton. 223-4278,
The Dayton Art Institute is a well-known landmark in the Dayton area and a beloved destination for local families. Located on Grafton Hill, the fine arts museum has been rated by as one of the nation’s Ten Best Art Galleries for Kids. Inside the Dayton Art Institute, the Lange Family Expericenter, an interactive art gallery for all ages, was created specifically to host both formal and informal educational opportunities for museum visitors of all ages.

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park
16 S. Williams St., Dayton. 225-7705,
The Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, a United States National Historical Park located in Dayton, is a part of the Aviation Trail and commemorates three local historical figures—Orville and Wilbur Wright, inventors of powered flight, and beloved writer and poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. The park, conceived by local resident Jerry Sharkey, also contains the last surviving Dayton bicycle shop owned by the Wright Brothers.

Boonshoft Museum of Discovery
2600 Deweese Parkway, Dayton. 275-7431,
All local families should be aware of the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, a children’s museum, science and technology center and zoo located right off Ridge Avenue in Dayton. The museum focuses on science and natural history and has been a destination for local families since first opening in 1999.

“I think the Boonshoft Museum really offers something for everyone,” says Kristy Creel, director of marketing and public relations for the museum. “Especially when you have families where you have a range of ages. We’re really a family museum, although lots of people think of us as just a children’s museum, but there are lots of things that appeal even to adults here. We have our planetarium, we have the Hall of the Universe, we have Science on a Sphere. We also have the zoo here, which appeals to visitors of all ages. We’re always changing things and trying to create a new experience for our visitors.”

Scene75 Entertainment Center
6196 Poe Ave., Dayton. 619-3200,
Scene75 Entertainment Center, located off of Interstate 75’s Benchwood Road exit in Butler Township, is one of the nation’s largest indoor entertainment complexes. Open year round, with more than 124,000 square feet of fun and games for all ages, Scene75 features indoor attractions like electric go-karts, a two-story laser tag arena, over 130 arcade games and the largest inflatable kids area in Ohio. Parents might also be happy to find a restaurant (and a fully-stocked bar) inside the facility.

Cox Arboretum and Gardens MetroPark
6733 N. Springboro Pike, Dayton. 275-7275,
The 189-acre Cox Arboretum and Gardens MetroPark is an arboretum and park located on Springboro Pike in Dayton, just south of Moraine. It is open daily without an admission charge. One of many local Dayton-area metroparks within the Five Rivers Metroparks system, Cox Arboretum was established in 1962 and is always a fun and beautiful family destination.

Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm
1000 Aullwood Road, Dayton. 890-7360,
Aullwood Audubon Center is a local natural area and educational farm located about 10 miles northwest of downtown Dayton. Aullwood’s mission is to provide activities that increase understanding and preservation of the planet for families through education, research and recreation. There are over six miles of trails running through the 200-acre nature sanctuary and visitors will find two themed discovery rooms and six classrooms containing interactive displays, exhibits, games, as well as a number of native animals and animal specimens.

Young’s Jersey Dairy
6880 Springfield Xenia Road, Yellow Springs. 325-0629,
A long day of visiting the Miami Valley’s family attractions can leave a person hungry, and Young’s Jersey Dairy is just the place for families to remedy that situation. A working dairy farm that makes and sells homemade ice cream and cheese, the facility also features a family dining restaurant, a gift shop, a petting zoo, miniature golf, a driving range and batting cages. Festivals and special events are conducted throughout the year, but any day is a good day to make the trip out to Clark County to visit Young’s Jersey Dairy.