The sixth largest city in Ohio, Dayton is a fun weekend destination, featuring a diverse choice of museums, attractions, beautiful parks and a vibrant performing arts scene.
Best things to do in Dayton, Ohio for families include the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, the National Aviation Hall of Fame, SunWatch Indian Village and Aullwood Audubon Center. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Dayton Art Institute
© Dayton Art Institute
The Dayton Art Institute is a museum of fine art located in downtown Dayton. The museum was founded in 1919, and in 1930 the building it currently resides in was built specifically to house the collection.
The museum was modeled after a famous Italian Renaissance structure in Rome, and it features detailed architecture and immaculate grounds. The collection itself is comprised of over 20,000 pieces dating 5,000 years apart.
The Institute is home to permanent displays such as 17th-century Baroque pieces, a variety of Asian work, 18th- and 19th-century American pieces, and a variety of contemporary art. The Dayton Art Institute is one of the best things to do in Dayton, Ohio. Throughout the year, the Institute plays host to a series of short term or traveling exhibits.
456 Belmonte Park N, Dayton, OH, Phone: 937-223-4278
2.National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
© National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is located at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and it is the official museum of the United States Air Force.
The museum contains one of the world’s largest collections, including nearly 400 missiles and aircraft on display. The museum’s collection features notable pieces of technological or historical significance, including a variety of memorabilia. The museum’s highlights include the only surviving XB-70 Valkyrie B-36s, and Blokscar, the B-29 Superfortress, which in the Second World War was responsible for dropping the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan.
Permanent exhibits include a presidential aircraft section, a display of uniforms and other clothing, and a collection of information on the pioneers of flight, among other compelling displays.
1100 Spaatz St, Dayton, Ohio, Phone: 937-255-3286
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3.Carillon Historical Park
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Carillon Historical Park is a 65-acre urban green space that is home to several historic structures and interpretive displays on the history of the city of Dayton and its earliest residents.
The park contains a series of educational centers, including the Kettering Family Education Center, the Wright Brother’ Aviation Center, a center of Settlement exhibits, which includes the oldest building in Dayton, a heritage school house, an 19th century stone cottage. If you are wondering what to do in Dayton, Ohio with kids, this is a great place to visit.
Additionally, a center for invention and industry is on site, and it features locally developed inventions, including the first Frigidaire refrigerator, a 1930’s print shop, an automobile electric system, and the liberty aircraft engine.
More places to visit: 16 Best Things to Do in Toledo, Ohio.
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4.Dayton Dragons Baseball
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The Dragons are Dayton’s local minor league baseball team, who call the Fifth Third Field their home base. The Dragons are a local favorite and currently hold the record for setting the most consecutive sold out professional games – over 800. Tickets to watch the Dragons play are considered a hot commodity, and the games are festive, high energy, and customer oriented.
The field the team plays at, the Fifth Third Field, is also a common site of the Midwest league All-Star Games.
Fifth Third Field, 220 North Patterson Blvd, Dayton, Ohio, Phone: 937-228-BATS
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5.Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, Dayton, Ohio
© Boonshoft Museum of Discovery
The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery is Dayton’s local children’s museum. Science is the emphasis of the museum, and its permanent collection includes a large natural history collection, a live animal sanctuary, an aquarium, planetarium, and the museum’s sister site, SunWach Indian Village.
The expansive campus is unique to Dayton, offering the only facilities of its kind in the city. The museum’s permanent exhibits include highlights such as an Egyptian mummy, an interactive solar system tour, a 68-inch suspended globe that illustrates a variety of global dynamics including animal migrations and current air traffic.
Other displays include a tidal pool with live seawater creatures, a fully enclosed tree house, and a zoo, which includes creatures native to the state of Ohio.
2600 Deweese Pkwy, Dayton, Ohio, Phone: 937-275-7431
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6.America's Packard Museum - The Citizens Motorcar Company
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America’s Packard Museum is housed in a restored Packard dealership, which displays classic twentieth-century Packards, along with historic memorabilia and artifacts pertaining to the Packard line.
It is the world’s only restored Packard museum, and visitors are able to experience the automobiles and learn more about this distinct brand. The museum also hosts annual events and gatherings throughout the year, ranging from high end cocktail parties and galas to laid back speaker presentations and workshops.
420 S Ludlow St, Dayton, Ohio, Phone: 937-226-1710
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7.Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park
© Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park
Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park is a historical memorial park commemorating three historically significant American figures and their impact on the Miami Valley.
Those three individuals are Orville Wright, Wilbur Wright, and Paul Laurence Dunbar. The home of the Wright bothers, both born and raised in Dayton, was destroyed in the 1970s, and the last remaining bicycle shop had been moved to Greenfield Village, Michigan for display.
As a result, the city decided to construct a park in their honor, and in the process they also preserved the original home of Ohio born poet Dunbar, a good friend of the Wright brothers. Today, visitors can tour the park, which includes a visitor center, a museum, and several memorials.
16 South Williams Street, Dayton, Ohio, Phone: 937-225-7705
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8.Victoria Theatre, Dayton, OH
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Located in downtown Dayton, the Victoria Theatre is a historic and grand performing arts venue that presents over 300 live performances every year. Owned and managed by the Victoria Theatre Association, the shows are performed by a diverse collection of actors and groups, both local and globally on tour.
Throughout the year, shows that cater to families, children, and adults take place. If you are looking for romantic date night ideas, watch a performance at the Victoria Theatre. The shows include a Broadway Series, star attractions, a family series, discovery series, and a cool films series.
138 N Main St, Dayton, OH 45402, Phone: 937-228-7591
9.Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center
© Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center
The Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center is a community based center designed to host Dayton’s entertainment and performing arts. The center is owned by the Victoria theatre Association and is located inside of what was formerly Rike’s department store.
The Dayton Philharmonic, the Dayton Ballet, and the Dayton Opera all perform at this location, along with a variety of other seasonal and traveling acts. Aside from the arts center, the Center also contains a number of restaurants, a winter garden, and several condos and offices.
For a list of upcoming performances, the Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center website features an events calendar. If you are looking for things to do in Dayton, Ohio today, watch a performance at the Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center.
1 W 2nd St, Dayton, OH 45402, Phone: 937-228-7591
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10.Things to Do in Dayton, OH: National Aviation Hall of Fame
© National Aviation Hall of Fame
The National Aviation Hall of Fame, located at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s National Museum of the United States Air Force, features an expansive gallery outlining the country’s aviation pioneers with the intention of creating a memorial to honor these individual’s actions and educate and inspire the public.
The Hall’s learning center is a comprehensive educational center with seven major sections dedicated to informing the public of the accomplishments of those enshrined and the transformation of aviation history. The seven sections are: the enshrine lab, the history of early flight, the First World War, the Golden Age of Flight, World War Two, Jet Age, and Into Space.
In each section, hands-on activities and interpretive information are available for visitors to become more involved with the content.
1100 Spaatz St, Dayton, Ohio, Phone: 937-256-0944
11.Aullwood Audubon Center, Dayton, Ohio
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Aullwood Audubon Center is an environmental education center with the mission of exposing and educating the public about the protection of wildlife and birds in the area. Aullwood encourages both adults and children to experience and appreciate the world through hands-on learning and opportunity-based engagement.
At the center, visitors can spend time exploring the ponds, meadows, streams, prairies, and woods, along with the Education Center and a sustainable, working farm. The Center’s grounds feature rich diversity in terms of plants and habitats and serve as the home to a wide range of wild creatures and bird life.
1000 Aullwood Rd, Dayton, Ohio, Phone: 937-890-7360
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SunWatch Indian Village/Archaeological Park is an open-air museum featuring a reconstructed ancient Native American village. The park is located on the shores of the Great Miami River, and the 3 acres containing the dwellings highlight a series of archeological excavations that occurred on site.
Prehistoric materials from the ancient village were being excavated for nearly 20 years before state officials stepped in to preserve the land. The remains of the enclosed village were found, along with a variety of artifacts, all attesting to the culture and demographics of the nearly 250 people who once lived there over a period of many years.
Today, visitors are able to tour the village and learn about the ancient population and their way of life at the interpretive visitors center.
2301 W River Rd, Dayton, Ohio, Phone: 937-268-8199
13.Oregon District, Dayton, Ohio
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The Oregon District is a historic neighborhood in central Dayton. The architecture dates to between the 1820s and 1910s, and the buildings line the original brick streets of the 12-block area.
The Oregon district is often noted as a prime example of Victorian dual residential and commercial buildings, and their presence in this area speaks to the early success of merchants in the district at that time.
Today, the area is a popular neighborhood, and the historic buildings are home to art galleries, retail and specialty shops, clubs, cafes, coffee houses, and pubs.
© Meadowlark Restaurant
Meadowlark Restaurant is a warm and casual eatery that serves American fusion cuisine for both lunch and dinner. Meadow Lark is chef-owned and operated, a neighborhood establishment that is friendly and welcoming.
The menu features a variety of classic American dishes with innovative infusions of unexpected global flare. The ingredients used are locally sourced, and a majority of the shop’s ingredients are made by hand. Meadow Lark’s dining space is intimate and cozy, with exposed brick walls and rich mahogany dining tables.
The walls are adorned with bright and vibrant artwork, and when these features are paired with ambient lighting and upbeat tunes, they create an engaging and trendy vibe.
Lamplighter Square Shopping Center, 5531 Far Hills Ave, Dayton, Ohio, Phone: 937-434-4750
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15.Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark
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This large, urban park is located just outside of downtown Dayton. Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark features 10 formal gardens, including a Children’s Discovery Garden, several miles of dirt and paved trails, wooden walking paths, and a tour through a swamp forest.
The park gives visitors the chance to become familiar with the rich ecosystems located within the region, including mature woodlands, the aquatic life in the Stillwater River, and the foliage and fauna of the area’s vast prairies and meadows.
Boardwalks, raised walkways, and soft trails provide the opportunity to traverse through the otherwise inaccessible areas, allowing visitors to emerge themselves in the diverse horticultural offerings.
1301 E Siebenthaler Ave, Dayton, Ohio, Phone: 937-277-6545
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16.Fifth Street Brewpub, Dayton, Ohio
© Fifth Street Brewpub
Serving late afternoon and evening drinks and food, Fifth Street Brewpub is a casual and laid back spot that places an emphasis on its large variety of brews. The beer is sourced both locally and nationally, and a variety of other drinks including wine and spirits are also available.
The dining menu features standard pub food, with an emphasis on creative pairings and high quality ingredients. The pub is located in a renovated timber hall, with an attached outdoor beer garden. The entire eatery is casual and relaxed, with casual furnishings and décor.
1600 E 5th St, Dayton, Ohio, Phone: 937-443-0919
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© Wheat Penny
Open for lunch and dinner, the Wheat Penny is a chic eatery specializing in California style pizzas and Italian influenced fare.
Wheat Penny makes an effort to use hand made and locally sourced ingredients, and they place an emphasis on the quality of their flavors and the freshness of their meals. While pizza is a main feature of the menu, salads, sides, vegetable dishes, sandwiches, pasta, and entrees are also available. The menu also features a unique pairing guide, allowing diners to select beverages and side dishes that perfectly balance the flavors of the meal.
The restaurant itself is rustically elegant, with an industrial vibe and contemporary flare. Guests are able to enjoy the ambient lighting, simple décor, and relaxed but high-end environment while dining.
515 Wayne Ave, Dayton, Ohio, Phone: 937-496-5268
18.Carriage Hill MetroPark and Farm
© Carriage Hill MetroPark and Farm
Carriage Hill MetroPark and Farm is a 900-acre compound that provides visitors with the chance to learn more about the Miami Valley through interpretive education, demonstrations, and historical artifacts, along with the help of period actors.
The park is home to a historic farm where visitors can learn about the Arnold family who once farmed the land and enjoy the livestock in the barn and seasonal produce. Additionally, horses are available for horseback riding through the diverse surrounding land, including forested areas, farmland, and grasslands.
The park offers the public the opportunity to learn more about Miami Valley’s cultural and natural history.
7800 Shull Rd, Huber Heights, OH 45424, 937-278-2609
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19.Dayton Funny Bone Comedy Club and Restaurant
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The Dayton Funny Bone Comedy Club and Restaurant is a casual eatery with live comic entertainment. Open in the late morning throughout the week with late evening hours on weekends, the establishment allows guests to dine on standard American fare while enjoying the variety of shows.
Throughout the day different dining options are available, including seated dinners with an assigned table. For more information on how to book a table for a specific show, check the Funny Bone’s website for up-to-date information. The Club and Restaurant also maintains age-restricted hours, with 18+ being the norm, but certain hours are confined to 21+.
The Greene, 88 Plum St #200, Dayton, Ohio, Phone: 937-429-5233
20.PNC 2nd Street Market, Dayton, Ohio
© PNC 2nd Street Market
Located at the corner of East 2nd Street and Webster Street, the PNC 2nd Street Market is an energetic public market, a focal point of Dayton’s shopping scene.
The PNC 2nd Street Market is the oldest and largest public market in Dayton. The majority of the market is enclosed, and operates year round, allowing local vendors to sell produce, meats, cheeses, baked goods, honey, coffee, maple syrup, and more.
The market also hosts a variety of entertainment events, particularly around festive holidays such as Christmas and Mardi Gras. The market is open three days a week: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
600 E 2nd St, Dayton, Ohio, Phone: 937-228-2088
21.Things to Do in Dayton, Ohio: Wiley's Comedy Club
© Wiley's Comedy Club
Wiley's Comedy Club is an entertainment lounge in downtown Dayton. Known for hosting a variety of local and national acts, Wiley’s draws comedians from around the country to perform on its stage. Aside from offering entertainment, Wiley’s also provides an extensive bar menu as well as a variety of drinks and pub food.
During the week, Wiley’s also hosts an open mic night, and is available for private events. The club is rowdy and festive, with adult content at the core of its material. The place itself is casual and laid back, with a relaxed aesthetic.
101 Pine St, Dayton, Ohio, Phone: 937-224-5653
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© RiverScape MetroPark
The RiverScape Metro Walk is an urban green space located in the heart of downtown Dayton on the shores of the Great Miami River. Aside from offering a valuable nature centric space, this park is also a valuable community center.
Often the venue of concerts and community events, the MetroPark frequently plays host to a variety of entertainment. Additionally, bike and equipment rentals can be found within the park, and visitors can walk, run, or bike along trails or pathways.
Pristine landscaping, gardens, flowering pots, reflecting pools and fountains are scattered throughout the riverside space.
111 E Monument Ave, Dayton, Ohio, Phone: 937-274-0126
22 Best Things to Do in Dayton, Ohio
- Dayton Art Institute, Photo: Dayton Art Institute
- National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, Photo: National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
- Carillon Historical Park, Photo: Courtesy of lawcain - Fotolia.com
- Dayton Dragons Baseball, Photo: Courtesy of Christopher Boswell - Fotolia.com
- Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, Dayton, Ohio, Photo: Boonshoft Museum of Discovery
- America's Packard Museum - The Citizens Motorcar Company, Photo: Courtesy of siraphol - Fotolia.com
- Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, Photo: Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park
- Victoria Theatre, Dayton, OH, Photo: Courtesy of disq - Fotolia.com
- Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center, Photo: Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center
- Things to Do in Dayton, OH: National Aviation Hall of Fame, Photo: National Aviation Hall of Fame
- Aullwood Audubon Center, Dayton, Ohio, Photo: Courtesy of Steve Byland - Fotolia.com
- SunWatch, Photo: Courtesy of Sweet Lana - Fotolia
- Oregon District, Dayton, Ohio, Photo: Courtesy of Gudella photo - Fotolia.com
- Meadowlark Restaurant, Photo: Meadowlark Restaurant
- Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark, Photo: Courtesy of Kenneth Sponsler - Fotolia.com
- Fifth Street Brewpub, Dayton, Ohio, Photo: Fifth Street Brewpub
- Wheat Penny, Photo: Wheat Penny
- Carriage Hill MetroPark and Farm, Photo: Carriage Hill MetroPark and Farm
- Dayton Funny Bone Comedy Club and Restaurant, Photo: Courtesy of sonya etchison - Fotolia.com
- PNC 2nd Street Market, Dayton, Ohio, Photo: PNC 2nd Street Market
- Things to Do in Dayton, Ohio: Wiley's Comedy Club, Photo: Wiley's Comedy Club
- RiverScape MetroPark, Photo: RiverScape MetroPark
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of PatriciaElaineThomas - Fotolia.com
Attraction Spotlight: Boonshoft Museum of Discovery
The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery is located in Dayton, Ohio and was founded in 1893 as a part of the Dayton Public Library and Museum. The collection was gathered and displayed by prominent citizens in the community. When the collection grew large enough, a group of citizens organized the Dayton Society of Natural History in 1952. This Society became responsible for the growing collection and transformed the once random collection into the Dayton Museum of Natural History.
The Museum’s main building was completed in 1958, a planetarium, expanded exhibition space, and large additions to the collection was added in 1991. The Society became more and more dedicated to the scientific discovery and the educational inspiration of children in the community.
The Society, along with a group of community leaders began developing specialized programs and exhibits at the Museum to entertain and educate children of all ages. The idea of creating a dedicated Children’s Museum in Dayton was officially underway.
As the success of the Children’s Museum gained visibility and momentum, a partnership between it and the Museum of Natural History was developing. In 1996, a merger was agreed upon - the Children’s Museum and the Natural History Museum was joined under the umbrella of the Dayton Society of Natural History. As a direct result, the Dayton Museum of Discovery was born.
Through the years that followed, the board commissioned the development of professional exhibits, extensive improvements, and even a name change was in development. As of January 1999, one of the Museum’s most dedicated friends, Oscar Boonshoft, became the new namesake of the Museum. Hence, why it is now known as the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery.
The mission of the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery is: “To be the premier regional provider of interactive science learning experiences which enrich the lives of children and adults, enhance the quality of life in our community, and promote a broad understanding of the world.” The Museum aims to “preserve, protect, and enhance the Museum's anthropology, geology, paleontology, and biology collections, and to make these collections available for exhibition, education, and research purposes.” The Museum is now one of the premiere discovery centers for children in Ohio.
There are a variety of engaging, interactive, and educational experiences to be had at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery. These exhibits include: Space Theater, Kid’s Place, Bieser Discovery Center, Tidal Pool, African Room, Explorer’s Crossing, MeadWestvaco Treehouse, Discovery Zoo, Oscar Boonshoft Science Central, Hall of the Universe, Science on a Sphere, and Splash!.
The Space Theater is the common name for the Museum’s Planetarium and it features realistic and spectacular full-dome films, providing an exciting and new sensory experience. There are three specialized shows at the Space Theater including planetarium shows, which provide interactive experiences with the night sky; full-dome films, which feature full-color life images of Earth, space and the very distant past; and 3D shows that bring scientific images close enough to touch. There is a show to spark every visitor’s interest and the Space Theater is not to be missed.
Kid’s Place offers a safe and hands-on place for young children to explore and learn about natural history and scientific advancements. It is a safe environment which provides tactile learning tools and fun, interactive, and physical activities to engage early learning.
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Bieser Discovery Center is a natural world which aims to foster interest in nature, including reptiles, insects, mammals, fossils, minerals, and much more. There is even a reptilian celebrity named Rajeev at the Bieser Discovery Center, he is a 14-and-a-half-foot long Burmese Python who usually spends most of his day napping and entertaining guests. The Center has seemingly endless areas and exhibits to explore, including a vast collection of biological items to investigate. From understanding the construction process of a hornet’s nest to using a microscope to study the bacterial growth on countertops, there are all sorts of things for budding biologists to study.
The Tidal Pool. Visitors can step up to a small wooden deck area and explore a small piece of the ocean. This small rocky display area contains live sea stars, sea anemones, sea cucumbers, and gumboot chitons. Museum staff will be there to guide visitors through the display and provide educational information about the marine life.
The African Room contains one of the Museum’s oldest inhabitants, Nesiur the Mummy. She is on display with other ancient African artifacts including pottery and jewelry. The Discovery Zoo is one of the most fun hands-on experiences at the Museum. It contains all sorts of animals for visitors to see up-close-and-personal, everything form the furry to the scaly.
Explorer’s Crossing allows children to pursue their dreams role play in any scenario they choose, they can act as a chef, a pest control person, a lawyer, a vet, and even as waste management officials. They can learn the importance of recycling, how to fill all sorts of roles and play as much make-believe as their hearts desire.
MeadWestvaco Treehouse is a fully-enclosed treehouse that extends beyond the traditional walls of the Museum. This allows visitors to gain access to the natural world while learning about environmental preservation.
Oscar Boonshoft Science Central is a world of hands-on scientific fun. Visitors can conduct their own experiments in the “Do Lab”, experience the phenomenon of color recognition and detection at the “Color Wall”, learn about how liquid responds to gravity and various motions at the “Water Table”. There is also a manipulation area where children will learn about points, lines, and curves through rubber band art. The PNC Be Green House is a new eco-friendly home located at the Boonshoft Museum. This house allows visitors to explore what makes a low-impact 21st century house with green technology.
The Hall of the Universe allows visitors to study the vast universe, learn about the galaxy, and explore the intriguing complexities of space. If visitors want even more speace and Earth exploration, the Science on a Sphere exhibit is a 68-inch diameter globe, suspended in mid-air, which takes visitors on a tour of Earth and space.
Splash! Takes visitors on an adventure through the Miami Valley. This exhibit teaches visitors about local aquifers, conservation efforts, and what they can do to preserve important natural resources. There is even education on what it takes to work in the waste management and water department careers.
Each of these exhibits has something wonderful and educational to offer for visitors of all ages and interests.
There are some exciting exhibitions at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, including daily educational programs at the Kid’s Place and the Tidal Pool, as well as daily films at the Space Theater.
When planning a visit to the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery is located at 2600 DeWesse Pkwy in Dayton, Ohio. The goal of the Museum is to make learning and family fun accessible for all visitors. There are a variety of guided and self-guided tours available as well as exciting exhibits and educational programs for visitors of all ages.
The surrounding Dayton area also provides vast entertainment and adventures to be had. There are all sorts of cultural hotspots to explore, world-class dining, and even vineyards to tour with breath-taking scenery. There are always seasonal events and celebrations to attend.
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2600 DeWeese Parkway Dayton, OH 45414, Phone: 937-275-7431
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