Dayton’s Aviation Heritage Trail in a Weekend

Headed to Dayton’s Aviation Heritage Trail and want to see the highlights over a weekend?

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As a member of the National Park Association, I receive a fantastic magazine with excellent articles and ads about places to visit. A stuffed animal bear called “Wilbear Wright,” an aviation teddy bear, was in an ad about visiting Dayton’s Aviation History. 

The bear was nearly a look-alike to a bear my sister had growing up – we just had to get the bear! Wilbear Wright is a big deal – he’s even got his own Facebook page

So, if you're planning a weekend getaway and eager to explore the unique aviation heritage in the Dayton area, you're in for a treat. In this blog post, we'll guide you through an action-packed two-day adventure, uncovering the captivating stories and landmarks that shaped the world of flight. 

Wilbear Wright passport flyer to get stamped at locations that are visited along Dayton's Aviation Heritage Trail.

From aviation-related sites to unique attractions, we've got your itinerary covered. Our mission was to visit eight of the seventeen stops along the Dayton Aviation Trail. We were able to visit the required number of stops within 28 hours with careful planning. Some optional places to visit are only open a few days a week or for limited hours.

So fasten your seatbelts and get ready to take flight into the past and present of aviation history in Dayton!

Dayton Aviation Heritage – Day 1 Itinerary

10:15 AM Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center & Aviation Trail Visitor Center

The Interpretive Center was our starting point and is also one of the four required stops. We picked up the flyer we were to take around and got our passport stamped at the appropriate location. The flier can also be found online and printed if you want to start your tour elsewhere. Also, make sure to get your National Park Unit Stamp!

We received some information from the park ranger and were off on our adventure. Due to limited hours at two locations, we headed out and would return to this site later.

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park Sign with red brick building in background.

This site is one of the six units of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.

  • Address: 16 South Williams Street, Dayton, OH 45402
  • Hours: Daily, 9 AM to 4 PM
  • Cost: Free

10:30 AM-11:00 AM Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum    

The Woodland Cemetery welcome center staff stamped our flyer and provided a highlighted map showing key sites to visit within the Cemetery. These sites included the Wright Brothers, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and the Huffman Family Vault.

A view from the "outlook" at the Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum.

The “Look Out” was also recommended, and it provided a spectacular panoramic view of downtown Dayton.

  • Address: 118 Woodland Avenue, Dayton, OH 45409
  • Hours: Monday – Friday 8 AM – 5 PM, unfortunately, this site is currently closed on the weekends
  • Cost: Free

11:10 AM-1:30 PM Carillon Historical Park

Carillon Historical Park offers more than just a required stamp on a piece of paper; it's a window into Dayton's past, spread across a sprawling 65-acre outdoor museum. It's also just one of the amazing aviation sites in the Dayton Area.

A replicated 2-story wooden structure at Carillon Park.

While the stamp is available in the gift shop, I encourage you to immerse yourself fully. Delve into the exhibits and displays that echo with the spirit of innovation. The park is reminiscent of the Henry Ford Museum in Metro Detroit.

As you enter the grounds, you will greeted by the captivating story of flight's early days. The centerpiece is the 1905 Wright Flyer, the first practical airplane, a tangible marvel of the Wright Brothers' ingenuity, displayed in the Wright Hall.

1905 Wright Flyer located at Carillon Park.

This Flyer was meticulously restored under Orville Wright's watchful guidance.
But that's not all. Within the wings of the Wright Hall, you'll find more than history; you'll find inspiration.

A replica of the bike shop where the Wright Brothers crafted the 1903 airplane stands, reminding us of their dedication and audacity. And here, the story connects seamlessly to the John W. Berry, Sr. Wright Brothers National Museum, a tribute to an influential chapter in aviation history.

  • Address: 1000 Carillon Blvd., Dayton, OH 45409
  • Hours: 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM Monday through Saturday, 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM on Sunday
  • Cost: $14 adult (ages 18-59), $12 senior (age 60+), $10 child (3 –17), Children age 2 and under and Dayton History members are FREE

2 PM-2:20 PM Wright “B” Flyer

Wright “B” Flyer is an optional stop we decided to visit. This site is only open a few days a week and has shorter visiting hours. After entering the small area just inside the door, a staff member greeted us and told us about what they do at the facility. 
We loved this site! It was one of the highlights of our trip.

My sister and I sitting a Wright "B" Flyer.

If you want a lifetime experience, consider riding in the Wright B Flyer! (There is a fee associated with taking a flight.)

  • Address: 10550 Springboro Pike (Rt. 741), Miamisburg, OH 45342
  • Hours: Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM.
  • Cost: Free

2:20 PM-2:50 PM Paul Laurence Dunbar House Historic Site

The Paul Laurence Dunbar House State Memorial is an optional stop. Besides just the house to visit, there is a visitor center. The National Park Service staff will take you on a home tour if you would like. Having been on the home tour before, we did a quick revisit, where we checked out the rooms but didn’t have the guide explain everything. If it is your first time visiting, expect the hour to be about 30 minutes.

If you haven't heard of Paul Laurence Dunbar, he is a celebrated African-American prolific writer who left an indelible mark on literature with verses that captured the struggles and aspirations of his time. Through his eloquent words, Dunbar illuminated the African-American experience, bridging cultures and generations with his unique voice.

An exterior photo of the Paul Laurence Dunbar Sate Memorial, with the sign in the foreground.

The home was once in an upper to middle-class neighborhood. The surrounding homes have been slipping into disrepair. On-street parking is available. We were comfortable visiting the site during the day, but it might not be the safest at night.

  • Address: 219 North Paul Laurence Dunbar St., Dayton, OH 45402
  • Hours: Friday – Sunday 10 AM to 4 PM
  • Cost: Free

3 PM-4 PM Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center & Aviation Trail Visitor Center

We made it back in time for the 3 PM Wright Cycle Shop tour. The tour meets at the front desk of the visitor center. Once inside the bicycle shop, the park ranger tells a little about the history and lets you wander around the bicycle business and ask questions.

Some old bicycles in the Wright Cycle Shop.

Back in the visitor center, we explored the two floors of exhibits, including the Aviation Trail Parachute Museum, which is another stamp for the flyer! The Parachute Museum tells the story of the development of the free-fall parachute.

I am posing in the parachute cutout at the Aviation Trail Parachute Museum.
  •  Address: 16 South Williams Street, Dayton, OH 45402
  • Hours: Daily, 9 AM to 4 PM
  • Cost: Free

Accommodations: Comfort Inn & Suites Dayton

We found the Comfort Inn & Suites in Dayton to be an affordable option. The room was clean. The bedding was comfortable; however, the quality of the sheets was relatively poor during our visit.

The towels were soft. This hotel features an indoor pool. Breakfast was comparable to other chain hotels.

➡️Book your stay at Comfort Inn & Suites Dayton here! ⬅️

  • Address: 9305 N. Main Street, Dayton, OH 45415

Food:  Company 7 BBQ

This fire station-themed BBQ joint featured a wide array of smoked meats and sauces. There is also a large selection of draft brews. We enjoyed the food – the cornbread was some of the best we’ve had – and the portion was large – no one-inch square here.

A plate of BBQ from Company 7 BBQ - green beans, pulled port, cornbread, squash.

Tip: On Saturdays after 6 PM, there is a special where the chef tries out a new menu option – it was Rueben Sliders on the day we visited.

  • Address: 1001 S. Main, Englewood, Ohio 45322
  • Hours: Mon-Sat: 11 AM – 10 PM, Sun: Noon – 8 PM

Dayton Aviation Heritage – Day 2 Itinerary

9 AM-1:15 PM National Museum of the United States Air Force

This place is enormous – the world's largest military aviation museum!

It was a required Wilbear Wright stop – the stamp is at the information desk.

There is also a Wilbear stamp at the National Aviation Hall of Fame inside the Museum. Note that the Hall of Fame has different hours than the rest of the Museum. The museum is located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

A plane displayed in the early years portion of the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

Currently, there are four hangers of displays to work your way through. (Apparently, the current goal is to construct two more!) The first hanger covers the Early Years and World War II and has the most stuff to look at and read. We covered hanger one very thoroughly in roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Since we wanted to make it home at a decent hour and had other stops to visit, we did the remaining hangers in less detail. Hanger 2 covers the Korean War and the Southeast Asia War (Vietnam). 

The Memphis Belle Plane at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

You will find Cold War information in Hanger 3 and Presidential, Global Reach, Space, and Research & Development in Hanger 4. Hanger 4 has the most planes that you can walk through. If you don’t like confined space, you will probably want to skip the walk-throughs.

There is also a Missile Gallery between buildings 3 and 4 and a Holocaust Exhibit in a hallway between buildings 1 and 2.

An old Air Force One at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

Like many museums, there is a store, theatre, café, and lockers.

Tip: Don’t try to visit this place in one day – there is too much to see. Maybe break up your trip by spending a few hours and then return for a few more the next day.

  • Address: 1100 Spaatz St., Dayton, OH 45433
  • Hours: Daily, 9 AM to 5 PM
  • Cost: Free

1:20 PM-1:40 PM Wright Brothers Memorial / Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center

Our last stop on the Wilbear Wright mission was the Huffman Prairie Interpretive Center! You can turn in your stamp flyer at this location and receive your Wilbear!

The Huffman Prairie Flying Field Sign.

The Interpretive Center is not too large and has a few displays that were not at other locations. 

The memorial lists the names of the pilots who trained at Huffman Prairie. It’s a great place to get a photo taken with your Wilbear!

Three Wilbear's posed in front of the Wright Brothers Memorial.
  • Address: 2380 Memorial Road, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio 45433
  • Hours: Wednesday – Sunday, 9 AM to 4 PM
  • Cost: Free

Collecting the eight stamps is doable in two days, but if you are feeling adventurous, check out the remaining nine sites to learn more about the home of aviation!

Other aviation sites listed on the Wilbear flyer include the following:

Wright State University

The university is named for Wilbur and Orville Wright. The university holds the world's largest collection of the Wright brother’s manuscripts. There are many photos, awards, etc., on display.

There is also a full-scale replica of the 1903 Flyer that the Wrights developed in the library atrium. Wright State University also holds a large collection of Dunbar material and historical information about the Miami Valley region in which it is located.

  • Address: 3640 Colonel Glenn Highway, Dayton, OH 45435
  • Hours: vary; please refer to WSU website for current hours.
  • Cost: Free

Hawthorn Hill

Explore the Oakwood Mansion, which Orville Wright called home for 34 years. The Carillon Historical Park provides tours of the estate and transportation to the home. 

  • Address: 1000 Carillon Blvd, Dayton, OH 45409
  • Tours by reservation only – Wednesdays & Saturdays: 10 AM, 12:30 PM
  • Cost: $16 per person, $14 per Dayton History member

Historic WACO Field and Airplane Museum

This grass airfield, similar to what you would have seen in the 1930s and 40s, is still a working airfield, meaning planes still land on it. The museum has a large collection of photographs, artifacts, and exhibits related to the WACO Aircraft Company. There are also aircraft on display at this Airplane Musuem.

  • Address: 1865 S. County Rd. 25A, Troy, OH 45373
  • Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 9 AM – 3 PM, Saturday and Sunday 12 PM – 5 PM
  • Cost: Adults $6, Military with ID $5, Students $3, under 4 is free

Tri-State Warbird Museum

This warbird museum was opened in 2004 and is home to multiple WWII aircraft. The museum's goal is to educate people on America's role in WWII and honor the veterans who fought in the war.

Note – this site is just over an hour south of Dayton, near Cincinnati. 

  • Address: 4021 Borman Drive, Batavia, OH 45103
  • Hours: Wednesdays from 4 PM – 7 PM, Saturdays 10 AM – 3 PM
  • Cost: Adults $12, Students or Veterans $7 

Armstrong Air & Space Museum 

This air and space museum near Dayton, Ohio was opened a few years after NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon. There are multiple interactive exhibits and flight simulators in the museum. A 25-minute documentary is also shown that discusses Apollo 11’s lunar landing.

  • Address: 500 Apollo Drive, Wapakoneta, OH 45895
  • Hours: Daily 10 AM – 5 PM, summer months
  • Cost: 12.00 for adults, $11.00 for seniors 60+, $7.50 for children 6-12, and free for 5 years old or younger. AAA, veteran, and active duty military discounts are available.

Butler County Warbirds, Inc.

The Butler County Warbirds serve to acquire and maintain historic aircraft. Flights in a Fairchild PT-19 Trainer are available and should be reserved in advance.

  • Address: 1707 Run Way, Middletown, OH  45042 (Middletown Regional Airport)
  • Hours: Saturday and Sunday, 10 AM – 5 PM
  • Cost: Free to visit the museum

Champaign Aviation Museum

Similar to some of the other museums previously mentioned, the goal of this Champaign Aviation Museum is to restore and preserve World War II-era aircraft to flying conditions.  

Some aircraft on display or are being worked on include an A-26 Invader, a B-17G Flying Fortress, a B-25N Mitchell, a C-47 Skytrain, an S-10, and a 1939 Fairchild 24R. B25 ride-a-longs are available for a fee.

  • Address: 1652 N. Main St., Urbana, OH 43078
  • Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 10 AM – 4 PM
  • Cost: Free

Grimes Flying Lab

The Grimes Flying Lab is home to where Warren G. Grimes developed nighttime lighting systems.  There are memorabilia of the Grimes Manufacturing Co. and of Grimes's personal life.  Both modern and historical light products are on display. 

  • Address: 1652 Main St., Urbana, OH 43078
  • Hours: Saturdays, 10 AM to 1 PM, April through October, or by special appointment.
  • Cost: Free

Sinclair National UAS Training and Certification Center

This center leads the national in Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and offers traditional aviation education and training.

Visit the kiosk on the first-floor lobby to get the Wilbear stamp. Free parking is available in Lot K, which is off Perry Street. Self-guided tours are available.

  • Address: 444 W. 3rd St., Dayton, OH 45402 (Sinclair College)
  • Hours: Monday – Friday, 8 AM – 5 PM
  • Cost: Free

Final Thoughts: Dayton’s Aviation Heritage Trail

As we wrap up our whirlwind tour of Dayton's Aviation Heritage Trail, we hope you've enjoyed this immersive experience through the milestones of flight. 

Dayton holds an undeniable place in aviation history, and the Aviation Heritage Trail serves as a testament to the remarkable achievements of pioneers like the Wright Brothers and the countless others who followed in their footsteps. 

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