My husband, Ben, is an officer in the Air Force, which means we’ll be moving every few years as he gets new assignments. His last base was Hanscom AFB, right outside of Boston, and it was a perfect place for him to be stationed as a young officer when we were first dating. Boston is a city filled with young people and lots to do in the downtown and surrounding areas. We packed so much into those 4 years while he was stationed there and while I was in college at Wheaton. We even made a Boston Bucket List, but not until we had about a year left in the area, and between me finishing up college and us planning our wedding and move, we definitely didn’t check off as many places as we had hoped.
During the winter of 2014, we found out where he would be headed next – or should I say we, since we were engaged and planning our wedding. He had applied to AFIT, the Air Force Institute of Technology, what seemed like AGES ago, and got the call one evening that he had been accepted to a program to get his Masters in Engineering! We were thrilled! But then came the realization that we would be moving to Dayton, Ohio.
I’ve grown up on the East Coast and near big cities my whole life, so when I heard “Ohio” my mind immediately went to: Midwest, cornfields, empty, sad cities past their prime, economically depressed, old houses, no fun, nothing to do!
And while there are plenty of cornfields out here, I could not have been more wrong about Dayton.
AFIT is a part of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, which is one of the biggest AF bases in the country. Because of that, many people that live here have current or past ties to the military. Dayton sits between Columbus and Cincinnati, and as it turns out, there is a TON OF STUFF TO DO HERE. Seriously. While the downtown area is not as vibrant as the big Cs, there is definitely a movement to revitalize and repair it – I haven’t seen so many empty, worn-down factory & warehouse buildings in one place before! And yes, revitalize can be a codeword for gentrification, but that’s a whooooole other can of worms…
The downtown area of Dayton is pretty teeny-tiny compared to the areas where most people actually live, like Beavercreek, Huber Heights, Fairborn, Kettering, Oakwood, Centerville, Yellow Springs, etc. etc. Each of these little towns has a different vibe and a different set of things to do. We also found out that Ben’s follow on assignment is going to be at Wright-Pat, so instead of the usual 1.5 year assignment at AFIT, we will likely be here for a total of about 5.5 years. As weeks turned into months of living in the Dayton area, we realized that there was so much more to do around here than we could have imagined! It also helps to be a part of an awesome AFIT Spouses group – military spouses get uprooted and have to move every few years so they are experts at making the most of their time at each base, and are fountains of information when it comes to finding places to check out & restaurants to try. Through these ladies, through connections at work, and through some plain ol’ internet research, we’ve got a nearly endless list of things to do and places to go running through our minds. So why not put it together into a bucket list?
Our bucket list comprises of things that we want to do and places we want to see while we’re living in Dayton. Yeah, a lot of them are food related! Some of these items are in the surrounding areas and cities, even up to Cleveland and out to Chicago, but that’s just because we want to challenge ourselves to make the most of our time at this base, and that doesn’t mean only exploring Dayton itself. So without further ado, in no particular order, here is our Dayton Bucket List!!!
- Eat at all of the restaurants in the Oregon District.
- Go to a Dayton Dragons game.
- Try a Killer Brownie at Dorothy Lane Market.
- See a show at the Schuster Performing Arts Center.
- Try all of the coffee shops in Dayton. (my favorite item on the list!!!)
- Go to a Cincinnati Reds game.
- Try Jeni’s Ice Cream – churro ice cream? Yes to the yes.
- Check out 2nd Street Market in downtown Dayton. #lovelocal
- Visit Young’s Jersey Dairy – especially in the Fall for corn mazes, pumpkin picking, hay rides, etc!
- Go to Hocking Hills State Park for outdoors galore.
- Visit King’s Island to ride lots of rides!
- Go to the Ohio State Fair and eat all the fried things and food on a stick.
- Eat a buckeye! It’s the Buckeye State after all!
- Visit Carillon Historical Park and learn about the history of Dayton.
- Try Graeter’s Ice Cream.
- Find our favorite Indian restaurant.
- Go to a food truck rally.
- Visit the Air Force Museum – and the new 4th hangar!
- Go to a Cincinnati Bengals game – neither of us have ever seen pro football before.
- See the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
- Hippie-watch in Yellow Springs! And check out all of the awesome shops and restaurants and all that while you’re at it.
- See Brandywine Falls.
- Find our favorite Thai restaurant.
- Go to the Ohio Renaissance Festival. Jousting, nerdy people galore, beer, & turkey legs – need I say more?
- Visit the Ohio State Reformatory – Shawshank Redemption was filmed here.
- Go to Bill’s Donuts – they’re open 24 hrs a day!
- Be artsy at the Dayton Art Institute.
- Go to Lake Erie and do something watery.
- Visit all of the Five Rivers MetroParks.
- Find our favorite Chinese restaurant – PF Chang’s doesn’t count!
- Go to a Columbus Blue Jackets game.
- Camp overnight in John Bryan State Park.
- Take a trip to Chicago! Included in this is eating at Nando’s, Ben’s all-time favorite restaurant, of course.
- Hipster-watching in Columbus’ Short North – aka, go visit coffee shops.
- Go see the Loveland Castle – did you know there’s a castle in Ohio??
- Run in a race related to the Air Force Marathon – but not the actual marathon, because we’re not kidding ourselves.
- Find our favorite Mexican restaurant.
- Eat at Melt in Columbus, because grilled cheese, duh.
- Hear the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in concert.
- Visit the basket building – buildings shaped like picnic baskets? Yes.
- Check out at least 5 random festivals, like the Sauerkraut Festival – festivals are a big thing around here.
- Visit Hawthorn Hill, Orville Wright’s mansion, which is in our neighborhood!
- Go to Jungle Jim’s – an international grocery store with over 50,000 products from 70 countries.
- See the Great Serpent Mound.
- Visit the Dayton International Peace Museum.
- Take a train ride on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.
- See the Ohio Caverns. Echooooooo!
- View the largest collection of signs in the US at the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati.
- Visit The North Market in Columbus.
- Try Esther Price chocolates – they’re made in Dayton!
- Go see the Cincinnati Ballet, #fancy.
- Visit a local brewery.
- Take a tour of the Patterson Homestead.
- Camp in every state that touches Ohio!
So there you have it! 50-ish things that we want to do, places we want to go, and experiences we want to have for the 4 or so years we have left in Dayton. This list may change, and we’ve already done some of them, but it’ll be fun to see how many we can check off as time goes by!