5 Notes on Visiting Dayton, Ohio

5 Notes on Visiting Dayton, Ohio 1

For the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse, I got to drive straight up I-75 to Dayton, Ohio (the closest decent size city to Atlanta inside totality. I got to stay two nights and see the city a bit before heading back after the Eclipse. Here are a few notes about the city.

Dayton & Cincinnati Are Very Close

When I visited Cleveland, I was surprised how close it was to Akron – they are very much sister cities. Ok, Dayton and Cincinnati are the same way. They have distinct central business districts of course, but the entire stretch between them is just one long connected sprawl. The outskirts are the same.

Dayton = Aviation

5 Notes on Visiting Dayton, Ohio 2

As an unbiased resident of Georgia, North Carolina should not get to call itself “first in flight”. Sure, the first flight happened in North Carolina, but humans truly learned how to fly in Dayton, Ohio. The Wright Brothers are and forever will be, Dayton’s most famous citizens. And they weren’t just from Dayton, they actually set up shop and mastered flying in Dayton, ran their aviation school in Dayton, and even got the US Air Force to setup their first airbase in Dayton. It is actually the historical center of American aviation.

Dayton Has a River!

Atlanta’s founders marked my city’s “zero mile marker” an awkward ~8 miles from the Chattahoochee. So Atlanta’s “river” is our lovely 10 lane Interstate. I’m always excited to visit a city with a proper waterfront. And Dayton has an excellent web of parks and pathways all along the Miami River. A++

Dayton Has A Surprising Number of Amenities

5 Notes on Visiting Dayton, Ohio 3

Like other Midwestern cities, Dayton has many more major tourist attractions and institutions than you’d expect given their size. Just from past wealth and longevity (and the Wright Brothers), Dayton has some excellent parks and museums. And, thanks to the Air Force, they have the National Museum of the Air Force – a Smithsonian / DC level museum that just exceeded all expectations.

Rust Belt Just Keeps Getting Hit

Every time I get to visit a major city in the Midwest, I’m just sort of taken aback by how the area keeps getting….not rejuvenated? It’s just so bizarre to me that there are all these lovely cities with all the “ingredients” of a thriving city with great jobs and a great quality of life…that just keep getting hit by crises after crises every few years since the 1970s.

Dayton has a beautiful river, gridded streets, very affordable houses, some good restaurants, nice parks, no traffic, lovely in-town architecture, welcoming people, awesome institutions (like the Air Force Museum, art museum, Wright Brothers, etc). They have major economic institutions like the Air Force base, several universities, etc…but the city just doesn’t feel like it’s thriving and growing.

And it’s really weird after visiting cities like New York and Boston (and increasingly Atlanta)…it seems like American doesn’t so much have a housing problem…we just have a people living in the wrong place problem.

Dayton definitely seems to have been hit by suburbanization, then deindustrialization, then the housing crisis, the Great Recession, then by COVID.

I hope it comes back – the city, like Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Cleveland, seems very much underrated and ready to boom again.

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