Dayton is perhaps best-known for its contributions to planes, trains and automobiles. From the original 1905 Wright Flyer III to the 1835 John Quincy Adams to the first automobile self-starter, Dayton’s place in our national narrative is inextricably linked to vehicles. And, any parent will tell you that kids LOVE things that go. So, last weekend, my family took a drive up 1-75 to Dayton’s Carillon Historical Park.
There was so much to take in! From the historical village to National Landmarks, museum collections and more — you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time at this amazing museum. After spending an afternoon exploring, here are our must-see attractions at Carillon Historical Park:
Located at the top of rolling hills and greenery, the Park’s titular carillon was truly a sight (and sound!) to behold. After a 40-minute car ride, my kids excitedly ran up the hill to inspect the beautiful tower. This 151-foot-tall carillon and its 57 bells chime every 15 minutes. It’s named for Colonel Edward Deeds, a Dayton industrialist and innovator. It’s Ohio’s largest carillon — and it’s completely breathtaking.
Heritage Center of Dayton Manufacturing and Entrepreneurship
We could have spent all afternoon exploring every nook and cranny of this museum. From car assembly lines to bicycles, soap box derby cars to vintage toy displays, there was just so much to see! The big attraction for my kids was the interactive train display, which featured tons of buttons, and, much to Harvey’s delight, many a “dig dig.”
Located in the Heritage Center, this is a fun place to cool off and explore. There are shows every hour where kids can learn the story of Dayton through the Wright Bros, Col. Deeds, John Patterson and Charles Kettering live-action figures.
Obviously, this was a big hit with my carousel-loving kids. This carousel features 31 figures and a 38 foot hand-painted mural illustrating the turn of events in the Wright brothers’ flying experiments. Hand-carved figures depict various Dayton icons (Orville Wright’s dog, Esther Price candies, soap box derby car), much like Carol Ann‘s showcases iconic Cincy figures.
We had so much fun exploring these old houses and buildings! It was great to let the kids wander in and out of the old houses. The covered bridges, old-fashioned water mill, gas station and historic demonstrations captured my kids’ interest. (And — again, letting them wander was awesome! I imagine this outdoor museum would be especially beautiful in the fall.)
This building was specially designed to house the Wright Flyer III — and the room felt very special and almost sacred, with the plane fitted into a expansive, dropped floor. The Wright Flyer III is the world’s first practical airplane and the only plane designated a National Historic Landmark. (In fact, Carillon Historical Park has more Wright Brothers artifacts on display than in any other place in the world!) My kids eagerly listened to the presentation, and we all had lots of questions for the (very knowledgeable) guide. There were lots of interactive parts to this exhibit, including a wind-up plane crank and mini theater showing old videos of the Wright Brothers.
James F. Dicke Family Transportation Center
Easily one of the highlights from our visit, the James F. Dicke Family Transportation Center was all about things that go! The Transportation Center boasts five rail cars and a half dozen other historical modes of transportation. Many of them are open for your kids to explore.
Most notably, the Transportation Center houses the oldest American made locomotive in the U.S., the 1835 “John Quincy Adams,” built by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and used until the 1890s.
Morrison Iron Bridge
Outside the Transportation Center is a bridge a photographer’s dreams are made of. (In fact, this bridge is a very popular wedding venue!) The Morrison Iron Bridge was built in 1881 by David Morrison, founder of the Columbia Bridge Works. It’s stunning.
You’ll find yourself totally swooning over this beautiful part of the park.
The Carillon Park Rail and Steam Society is a must for train-loving kids. This 1/8th scale railroad was built to give kids the full railroad experience, complete with the sights and sounds of the railroad industry from its earliest days to the present. The train only runs on select Saturdays and during special events — so be sure to check the schedule before you go!
Don’t let the name fool you — this brewery is very family friendly! You can see live brewing demonstrations, have lunch or dinner, and taste a variety of historically brewed beers and non-alcoholic, home-brewed soda like root beer, ginger ale and cream soda. My husband is a self-described root beer connoisseur, and was very excited about this.
Sadly, ginger ale was on tap when we went (the Brewery only has one non-alcoholic brew on tap at a time) — and while the adults loved the spiciness of it, the kids weren’t so sure! (We’re told the Cream Soda is worth the drive alone — cane juice, sparkling water and vanilla make for a sweet, kid approved beverage! There’s even real cream served on the side for an authentic 1800s experience.) The building was amazing, however — and we enjoyed taking it all in before heading home.
With summer in full swing, definitely make the trip to Carillon Historical Park. There’s so much to take in, and you and your kids will learn so much about Ohio history! This interactive museum is absolutely worth the drive.
Carillon Historical Park is located at 1000 Carillon Boulevard, Dayton, OH 45409. It’s open Monday – Saturday from 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday from 12-5 p.m.