My husband has a theory. It’s called the “Dayton Sucks” theory. The premise is if you’ve ever lived in Dayton and for whatever reason move away, at some point in your life you will return because Dayton sucks you back in. Why? Because in the grand scheme of things, Dayton – aka Gem City – is a pretty darn good place to live.
The uninformed believe the only thing Dayton has going for it is the fact it’s located between Cincinnati and Columbus. But as someone who was sucked back to Dayton almost 30 years ago, there is a lot more to Dayton than meets the eye. Here are the top 10 reasons I got sucked back and decided to stick around.
1. It is illegal to get a fish drunk in Dayton.
If getting a fish drunk on a lazy Saturday afternoon is your idea of fun, well, sadly, Dayton may not be the place for you since Ohio law, er, outlaws it.
However, if you’re willing to have an open mind, there are plenty of things to do in Dayton to keep you entertained on lazy Saturday afternoons. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Parks – Dayton has tons of them including the very popular 752-acre John Bryan State Park.
- Indoor rock climbing at Urban Krag.
- Dayton Art Institute – a wonderfully diverse range of exhibitions, events and activities.
- Scene75 Dayton – go-karts, bumper cars, arcade games, food and drinks, laser tag and more!
- Schuster Center – the place for local, national, and international performing artists including the Dayton Ballet, Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, musicals, Broadway plays, etc. I saw comedian Bill Engvall at the Schuster Center last year. I laughed so hard I was afraid I might have left pee stains on the chair. True story.
- Forget the Red’s … we have our own baseball team! The Dayton Dragons and they are smokin’ hot!
- Boonshoft Museum of Discovery – great place for adults and children.
- Warped Wing Brewery – largest craft beer brewery in Dayton, and who now serves food along with tasty beverages. Just don’t feed it to fish.
2. Cardio? Just go shopping.
You don’t have to live in a big city to get your shop on. Dayton’s got plenty of places for you to spend money.
- The Greene in Beavercreek
- Tanger Outlets in Jeffersonville
- Austin Landing in Miamisburg
- Miami Valley Centre Mall in Piqua
- The Mall at Fairfield Commons in Beavercreek
The Dayton Mall in Centerville
- Upper Valley Mall in Springfield
- Traders World
- Antiques Village
- Heart of Ohio
And even more shopping:
- Second Street Market
- Shops of Oakwood
- Yellow Springs
- Oregon District
- SunWatch Indian Village
3. We’ve got roots (and wings).
Dayton is chock full of history. To start, do the Wright Brothers ring any bells? If not, please stop reading this article immediately and consider moving elsewhere.
It’s incredible to think how far aviation has come in a little more than 100 years.
- National Museum of the United States Air Force – probably the top tourist spot in Dayton – filled with incredible history honoring our nation’s best and bravest along with really cool planes.
- Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park and Wright Cycle Company Complex.
- Paul Laurence Dunbar House – poet, novelist, and voice for equality. The house showcases where he wrote, his collection of Native American art, and the ceremonial sword presented by President Theodore Roosevelt to him. It even includes a bicycle he purchased from the Wright brothers.
- Carillon Historical Park – beautifully landscaped park with a museum showcasing Dayton’s contributions to the world.
- Woodland Cemetery – sounds creepy, I know – but you’d be hard pressed to find a prettier spot in Dayton, including the highest point in the city offering a panoramic view of downtown. Headstones go back to 1841, the year the cemetery was founded. The King and Queen of the Gypsies, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Erma Bombeck are buried here.
- SunWatch Indian Village and Archaeological Park – a leap back in time and fascinating American Indian archaeological site.
4. Great schools
Despite Pink Floyd’s proclamation we don’t need no education, those of us who enjoy learning and/or believe in making sure our kids get the best education possible, head to Dayton’s suburbs.
There are 32 school districts in the Greater Dayton area. Twenty-four of those (75% overall) score an A or B on the graduation rate component which means they have a graduation rate at 89% or higher.
In addition, there are 56 public and private colleges within a 50-mile radius of Dayton including University of Dayton, Wright State University, Sinclair Community College, Central State University, Wilberforce University, and Miami University.
5. So many festivals … so little time
- Strawberry festival?
- Feast of the flowering moon festival?
- Popcorn festival?
- Dayton Heritage festival?
- Sauerkraut festival?
- Dayton Celtic festival?
- Wine and gourmet food festival?
- Country music festival?
- Dayton gay pride festival?
- Dayton jazz festival
- World culture celebration festival?
- Ohio Renaissance festival
- Banana split festival? and
If you like going to festivals, I counted 72 in this calendar year alone. Food, music, cultural … you name it, we got it. Keep in mind, these 72 are just in the Greater Dayton area and don’t include festivals in “big cities” like Columbus and Cincinnati nor does it include the multitude of fairs, expos, and bazaars!
6. A foodie’s paradise and your waist’s worst nightmare
Festivals aside, Dayton has got food. Lots and lots of really good food.
Every Daytonian is going to have their favorite place and there’s certainly no shortage of national chains. However, if you really want to get a taste for Dayton, try locally owned restaurants like Joe’s Pizzeria in Dayton, Rue Dumaine in Centerville, Young’s Dairy in Yellow Springs, or even southern Ohio’s claim to fame, Skyline Chili (this is the exception to the restaurant chain rule). Because, if you’ve never tried chili on spaghetti noodles piled high with shredded cheddar cheese, you haven’t truly lived.
And for dessert, because where’s the joy in eating without a sweet culmination, you can’t do better than Dayton’s own Esther Price chocolates. Pick up a box or three. Your taste buds will thank me.
7. Affordable housing
Using a 100 index as the average housing cost in the United States (mortgage payments, apartment rents, and property taxes), Dayton comes in at 27 – that’s 73% lower than the U.S. average. Not bad! Even better, there is such a diversity of neighborhoods, suburbs, and apartment communities it’s easy to find a fit for anyone’s lifestyle and personality.
If you’re going for a trendy vibe because the cookie-cutter scene isn’t your thing, check out Dayton’s Oregon District. The 12-block area is loaded with galleries, shops, bars, restaurants, and incredible, historical architecture including beautifully preserved brick streets.
If life in the ‘burbs is what you’re looking for, there are 67 to choose from in the three counties (Montgomery, Greene, and Miami) that make up the Greater Dayton area. Beavercreek, Centerville, Bellbrook, Springboro and Oakwood are often at the top of the rankings for best suburbs based on crime, public schools, cost of living, job opportunities, and local amenities.
Yard work-free and maintenance-free living can be found in any number of apartment communities. If you want to be in the thick of restaurants, bars, and shopping, places like The Greene (an outdoor mall) includes apartments and townhomes for rent. If you want to be close, but not in the middle of all the excitement, communities like Austin Springs, across the street from Austin Landing, or Hunters Chase, a residential community within a short drive to Dayton Mall, are great choices.
8. Jobs, jobs, jobs
Dayton is home to a surprising number and variety of businesses: aerospace research and development, health care, education, real estate, banking, and manufacturing are just a few. Some of Dayton’s top employers include:
- Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
- Premier Health Partners
- Wright State University
- Honda of America Manufacturing
- The Kroger Company
- Cox Media Group
- Emerson Climate Technologies
- Fifth-Third Bank
- Behr Dayton Thermal Products
9. Dayton produces talent … along with some pretty major eye candy.
I’m not always shallow, but when I am I have to admit it’s kinda liberating.
From Hollywood actors and actresses to world-class athletes, rock bands, and more, Dayton produces some major talent. Here are just a few.
- Allison Janney, Emmy- and Academy Award-winning actress (C.J. Cregg on West Wing, American Beauty, Finding Nemo)
- Ken Jenkins, actor, best known for his role as Dr. Bob Kelso on Scrubs.
- Phil Donahue, talk show host
- Roger Clemens, MLB pitcher. Known as the “Rocket,” Clemens’ career spanned 24 seasons with four different teams including the Red Sox, the Astros and the Yankees. He had 4,672 strikeouts (3rd best all-time) and a 3.12 career ERA.
- Rob Lowe, actor (West Wing, Grinder, The Outsiders)
- Chad Lowe, actor and director. He’s the younger brother of Rob Lowe – known for roles on Pretty Little Liars, Unfaithful and Highway to Hell)
- Martin Sheen, actor (West Wing, Catch Me If You Can, Apocolypse Now
- Nancy Cartwright – the voice of Bart Simpson. Also voiced Kim Possible and characters on the Rugrats
- Edwin Moses, Olympic Gold Medalist (Moses won 9 gold medals for Hurdles. Dayton loves him so much, we named a street after him – Edwin C. Moses Boulevard).
10. The people are the best you’ll ever meet.
One of the best things about Dayton is its people. We’re curious, enterprising, friendly (some more than others before that first cup of coffee), and when a neighbor is in need we come together. In fact, Travelocity recently ranked the top 25 most charitable cities in the United States. It certainly didn’t surprise me to see little ol’ Dayton come in at the #8 spot. That’s just who we are.