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Find Your Next Adventure Along the Great Miami Riverway

Disclosure: This post was written in partnership with Ohio.  Find.It.Here. and The Miami Conservancy District.

The Great Miami River as it's seen flowing through downtown Dayton with the 1,000 foot long River Run Mural in the background.

The Great Miami Riverway is Ohio’s only national water trail and features the nation’s largest paved trail network.

It also incorporates the charming small towns and cities along the 99-mile stretch of the Great Miami River from Sidney to Hamilton in southwest Ohio to create a destination rich in history, the outdoors and bucket list adventures.

This post will focus on the area extending from Troy to Tipp City to Dayton.

I was asked to experience this adventure with a couple of friends, so I invited two of my best friends from high school to join me. The last time the three of us had been together, we were each 25 years old! I’m not sure where the time has gone but this year, we each celebrate our 50th birthday. Could the timing of this trip have been any more perfect?

Feeling blessed to spend time with friends and armed with an itinerary promising to stretch each of us out of our comfort zone, we made our way to our first stop where things really got off the ground.

Our First Adventure Started at WACO Air Museum & Aviation Learning Center

A peek inside the WACO Air Museum at the WWII exhibit which shows a WACO glider.

If you’re from Ohio, you’re probably familiar with Dayton’s Aviation Heritage. After all, the first flight made by Wilbur and Orrville Wright is not just Ohio’s history, but part of America’s. They may have made that first flight in Kitty Hawk but Dayton was where their story began.

Our first stop was to WACO Air Museum & Aviation Learning Center where we learned Ohio has contributed more to the aviation industry than we were aware of.

WACO (rhymes with taco) built biplanes in Troy, Ohio from 1920 to the late 1940s. The biplanes were mainly built for civilians but during WWII that focus switched to building gliders for the military. This equivalent of today’s cargo plane could carry troops and their equipment such as the popular Willy’s Jeep which was also heavily utilized during the war. 

Today, you can tour the museum, learn about the construction of these wood-framed, fabric-covered planes and WACO’s role in the second world war. 

And for those who want to live it up a bit, you can ride in Sunny. This bright yellow 2004 WACO biplane was handcrafted by the WACO Aircraft Corp. in Battle Creek, Michigan and gifted to the WACO Air Museum & Aviation Learning Center in 2016.

A Flight to Remember

Sunny, a bright yellow bi-plane that gives rides at the WACO Air Museum near Dayton, Ohio.

When I was asked to ride in a biplane, my immediate reaction was to say no. Did I mention that I’m a wimp?

But, I have to tell you, nearing my 50th birthday has stirred up something in me that I’m trying to embrace. I want to do the things that scare me and there was no better time than the present.

My friend, Rachelle and I arrived at the WACO Airfield prior to Nedra’s arrival, who we planned to meet in Tipp City. So, Rachelle was the lucky one to experience this bucket list adventure with me.

While I admit that I was apprehensive prior to arriving, my fears were put to rest when I arrived at the museum and met Bob and Gretchen. Bob is a highly trained pilot with decades of experience and even trains new biplane pilots.

While Bob prepared the plane, Gretchen, the museum’s executive director explained what to expect on our flight.

The Eldean Covered Bridge as seen flying over it in Sunny the Biplane.

Within minutes, we were in the plane, traveling down the runway and in the air. We flew over the Miami County Courthouse, the Eldean Covered Bridge, the Great Miami River and the farmland that looked like quilt patches from the air.

I am proud of myself for taking that step towards conquering my fears. It’s an experience neither myself, nor Rachelle, are likely to forget and while I’m not going to rush out next week and jump in another biplane, it was fun (yes, I used the F word).

Riding in the cockpit of Sunny was an experience I would love to try again, but next time I want to fly with my husband who was extremely jealous when he heard it was on my schedule.  

Tip: If you’re prone to motion sickness, take some Dramamine before hopping in the plane. And, if you have long hair, secure it tightly because you don’t want to deal with the tangles I had in my hair after some of it slipped out of my messy bun.

WACO Air Museum & Aviation Learning Center
1865 S. Co. Ro. 25A
Troy, Ohio 45373
937-335-9226

The Eldean Covered Bridge

The Eldean Covered Bridge is open to foot, bike and vehicular traffic. It is one of two covered bridges remaining in Miami County.

After leaving the museum, we took a slight detour and drove to the Eldean Covered Bridge, which we had seen from the plane.

This historic bridge was built in 1860 and is the focal point of the Covered Bridge Park.

The bridge is situated over the Great Miami River and while you are able to walk through the bridge, use caution because the bridge is open to vehicle traffic as well.

Covered Bridge Park
794 Eldean Road
Troy, Ohio 45373

Shopping Adventures in Tipp City

Tipp City is an adorable small town with good food and an eclectic mix of boutique shops.

Nedra joined us just in time for lunch at Coldwater Cafe. The cafe is housed in a former bank and offers dining in the bank vault. Unfortunately, that was not offered on the day we visited but we were able to peek inside to see what it looked like.

Fancy fried green tomatoes were a delicious appetizer!

The restaurant was adorable, the service was great and the food was delicious.

A woman looking at pottery in a store.

After lunch, we made our way down Main Street admiring the buildings and shopping options of historic Tipp City.

Some of our favorite shops included Bodega Wine and Specialty Foods Market, Topsy Turvy Toys, an independently owned toy store where I bought a few things for my grandbaby, and The Hotel Gallery.

Housed in what was the City Hotel, this unique shopping experience peddles the wares of local artists. You’ll find jewelry, pottery, clothing and much, much more. The second floor is a mix of rooms that are rented by different artists and vendors and if you pop in to the third floor, you may be lucky enough to find one of the local artists at work. If you’re looking for a unique gift or one-of-a-kind piece of art, this is your store. 

Coldwater Cafe
19 E Main St
Tipp City, OH 45371
937-667-0007

Bodega Wine and Specialty Foods Market
27 E. Main Street
Tipp City, Ohio 45371
937-877-1217

Topsy Turvy Toys
31 E. Main St.
Tipp City, OH 45371
(937) 506-7113

The Hotel Gallery
109 E. Main Street
Tipp City, OH 45371
937-667-3696

A woman standing outside a toy store holding up shopping bags of purchases.

By the time we finished shopping, we needed a bit of a pick me up so we popped into Grounds for Pleasure Coffee House. It was 90 degrees outside and my Caramel Frappe hit the spot.

Grounds for Pleasure Coffee
115 E Main St
Tipp City, OH 45371
937-506-7733

Two women laughing and walking down the street.

We easily could have spent more time exploring but decided to check into our hotel to freshen up before heading to the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park

The exterior of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park in Dayton, Ohio.

In addition to visiting the WACO Air Museum and the National Museum of the US Air Force (which I did not visit on this trip, but have previously), I suggest that you explore the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.

This national park shares the story of the Wright Brothers, from their bicycle shop to their foray into printing and finally, that very first flight in North Carolina.

While visiting the national park site, you’ll also learn about local poet and writer, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and have the opportunity to tour the home that he purchased for his mother through his writings. Dunbar was the first African-American to support himself entirely from his writings. 

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park
22 S. Williams St. Dayton, Ohio 45402
937-225-7705

Getting Around is Easy with the Link Bike

We drove to the national historical park but our original plans were to rent one of the Link bikes through the bike share program.

Using the app, users have access to 27 different points around Dayton to access bikes, including the popular e-bikes which make peddling a bit easier.

Visitors to the city and use the PayGo for $1 to unlock the bike and as low as 10 cents each 15-minute increments or purchase a day pass for as low as $8 for four hours.

Free Music at the Levitt Pavilion

A band performing at an outdoor pavilion.

After our visit to the national park site we stopped back at the hotel to change our clothes and headed to the Levitt Pavilion for a free concert.

This outdoor venue provided a relaxing and entertaining evening as we listened to SeeFari, a nationally recognized reggae artist perform.

Three women laughing at an outdoor park.

Beer and wine are available to purchase as well as water and Italian Ice. Take chairs or a blanket to sit on. The grounds are lovely, the bathrooms were very clean and large and everything was touch-free.

The free concerts are held every Thursday during the summer season and feature an eclectic mix of artists. Don’t miss this post if you’re looking for more Free Things to do in Dayton.

The Levitt Pavilion
134 S. Main Street
Dayton, Ohio
937-333-2607

Thai 9 & The Historic Oregon District

A black iron arch that says Oregon lets visitors know they've entered this historic district in Dayton.

It was late but we’d finally found time to fit in dinner. This was the hard part. There were so many places that were recommended to us that we had no idea where to go.

We collectively decided we wanted to try something we wouldn’t eat at home and opted for Thai 9 for authentic Thai food. It was the perfect decision. Located in Dayton’s Historic Oregon District, parking is available right outside the restaurant.

A selection of Thai food from Thai 9 in Dayton.

We arrived at 9 p.m. and had a 20-minute wait, which gives you an indication of how busy the restaurant is. Our server was amazing and offered each of us several entree suggestions based on our meat selection. We opted for a variety of beef, chicken and duck dishes.

The meal was so delicious that I’m already planning a trip back with my husband so he can eat there too.

If you’d prefer to try something else, you’ll find a large selection of restaurants and bars in this section of Dayton.

On the weekends, the roads leading into the 12 blocks known as the Oregon District are closed off allowing more space for people to get out and experience Dayton’s oldest neighborhood that was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Thai 9
11 Brown Street
Dayton, Ohio 45402
937-222-3227

The Fairfield Inn & Suites Downtown 

The view from a riverview room at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Downtown Dayton, Ohio.

The Fairfield Inn & Suites Downtown graciously welcomed us during our stay. Our rooms were located on the 6th floor, the top floor of the hotel and provided us with great city and river view rooms.

My room was a King Suite with views of the Dayton Dragons Baseball Park. The room was clean, comfortable and spacious. The lobby was tastefully appointed and they had a small store where you could purchase things you may have forgotten, snacks, pop and even wine and beer.

A KIng Suite in Dayton Fairfield Inn & Suites Downtown.

The location of the hotel was great and there was plenty of parking available in the parking garage which offered in and out privileges.

The Fairfield Inn & Suites Downtown will definitely be my go-to place to stay next time I’m in Dayton.  

Fairfield Inn & Suites Downtown Dayton
305 E Monument Ave.
Dayton, OH 45402
937-331-9330

Winans Chocolates + Coffee

An iced coffee and blueberry muffin

Winan’s produce handcrafted chocolates and coffee and has been in the baking and confections since the early 1900s. They have 20 retail stores located in western and central Ohio. Located only one block from our hotel,

The Fairfield Inn & Suites Downtown, the coffee shop was an easy morning walk to grab some coffee and pastries.

In addition to the chocolates, coffee and pastries, you’ll find a selection of gift items that include chocolate-covered wine-filled bottles. They also offer wine flights though I decided it was a bit early in the morning to indulge. 

Winans Chocolates + Coffee
221 N. Patterson Blvd. Dayton, Ohio
937-732-1001

RiverScape MetroPark

After our breakfast, we walked back towards the hotel to the Riverscape MetroPark where we had originally intended to watch a surfing demonstration before we tried white water kayaking.

The white water feature in the RiverScape metropark provides an opportunity to river surf, kayak, stand-up paddleboard and more in a mini rapids.

Unfortunately, the weather had not cooperated and the water was too fast and too high for either activity.

Instead, we explored the urban park with the River Run Mural, interactive fountains, pavilion, live music, ice cream and beautiful landscaping. We even learned about the 1913 Flood which we would learn more about later in the day.

During better weather, Surf Dayton offers the opportunity to take river surfing lessons in the Great Miami River, the only place in Ohio this is available and one of the only spots in the United States where river surfing is available.

The white-water features that have been installed on the river make river surfing possible and add another level of adventure to popular water sports like stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking.

Five Rivers Fountain of Lights is the largest fountain of its kind in the United States

Don’t miss the Five Rivers Fountain of Lights, located at the confluence of the Great Miami and Mad Rivers on the other side of the Riverside Bridge. One of the largest fountains in the World, this unique display is lit at night and goes off at the top of every hour for ten minutes until 9:55 p.m.  

The Wright Brothers Statue in Dayton provides a fun photo opp.

You’ll also find a fun photo opp in the form of a sculpture of Wilbur and Orrville Wright in Deeds Park, also located across the Riverside Bridge. The park is a great spot to photograph the Five Rivers Fountain and the Dayton skyline. 

RiverScape MetroPark
237 E. Monument Avenue
Dayton, Ohio

Deeds Park MetroPark
510 Webster Street
Dayton, Ohio

Carillon Historical Park

During agreeable weather, visitors to Dayton could bike or kayak seven miles along the Great Miami River to the Carillon Historical Park since storm clouds were already in the sky, we opted to drive and pray the rain would hold off for a bit.

Wooden barrels inside the Carillon Brewing Company with people seated at tables in the background.

This 65-acre, open-air museum includes dozens of exhibits and 30 historical buildings as well as the namesake, the 151-foot-tall Deeds Carillon that plays the 57 bells each hour. The Carillon was built by the same architectural firm that built the Rockefeller Center.

A flight of beer on a table with light streaming in through the window at the Carillon Brewing Company in Dayton.

We started our tour at the Carillon Brewing Company for lunch where they still brew beer as they did in the 1850’s.

A burger with beer cheese and potato chips.

We enjoyed our lunch on the second floor which overlooked the main floor where we could watch a costumed employee kneading and baking bread.

If you want a dose of Dayton history, the Carillon Historical Park is a must.

Antique cash registers line the walls in this collection of the world's largest cash registers in Dayton, Ohio.

Roadside attraction enthusiasts, like myself, will be enthralled to see the world’s largest collection of cash registers that are on display. Some of the machines, made by the National Cash Register Company, are incredibly ornate.

Riding the carousel in the Carillon Historical Park.

Other notable exhibits in the park include the Carousel of Inventions which was built in my hometown of Mansfield, the Wright Brothers Museum where you’ll see the restored 1905 Wright Flyer III, the Transportation Museum, and the Great 1913 Flood Exhibit Building which shows you the horror of Ohio’s worst natural disaster to date on the Dayton area and how the community rallied together.    

Two women viewing museum exhibits.

We had three hours at the park and easily could have spent two more.

Carillon Historical Park
1000 Carillon Blvd. Dayton, Ohio
937-293-2841

Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum

The tombstone of Wilbur Wright is covered with coins and other meaningful trinkets including a glider plane and seashells.

Our last stop in the city was to the Woodland Cemetery, the final resting place of the Wright Brothers.

The ornate cemetery was founded in 1841 and is one of the oldest rural garden cemeteries in the United States.

These park-like cemeteries were several miles outside the city and contained elaborate tombstones, monuments and mausoleums.

Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum
118 Woodland Avenue
Dayton, Ohio 45409
937-228-3221

What makes the Great Miami Riverway a Bucket List Destination?

The weather may not have fully cooperated during our visit but we loved what we did experience.

Whether you’re looking for a destination where you can relax with an outdoor concert or one where you can experience the thrill of a biplane as it leaves the runway behind, the Great Miami Riverway has you covered!

Here are some of the bucket list activities you’ll want to try in the Dayton area.

  1. Sleep in a tent on the river.
  2. Take a bike ride on the nation’s largest paved trail network.
  3. Go kayaking or give your adrenaline a boost and try white water kayaking.
  4. Try stand up paddle boarding.
  5. Learn to surf on the river.
  6. Ride in a biplane.

So tell me, what do you want to experience first?

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Cindy Ladage

Thursday 12th of August 2021

I love all the history!

Tonya Prater

Monday 30th of August 2021

You would love the museum, Cindy!

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