DIY Dayton field trips the whole family will love

Virtual learning doesn’t have to mean staring for hours on end at a computer screen. History, science and art can come alive for students and parents, alike, with a family field trip.

Granted the big yellow school bus won’t roll up in front of your house, but the opportunities for active learning are abundant in the region.

Here are ideas on places to visit for your own self-guided field trip.


History comes alive at Carillon Historical Park. Where else can you see the original Wright Flyer III, climb aboard a train, visit a fully-operational 1930s print shop and experience life as an early-American settler? Not to mention enjoy a milkshake and take a ride on the one-of-a-kind hand-carved Carousel of Dayton Innovation.

“There’s a lot for all ages, something for everyone to enjoy,” said Haylie Schlater Dayton History marketing associate. “And we have the largest collection of Wright Brothers artifacts anywhere.”

Carillon Historical Park celebrates Dayton’s rich heritage of creativity and innovation with more than 30 historic structures and 3 million artifacts on 65 acres. It’s not an exaggeration to say that inventions rooted in the Miami Valley have changed the world. Guests can get a firsthand look at some of those inventions and gain a greater understanding of the impact Daytonians have had by watching an engaging 4-D animatronic presentation.

Visitors can enjoy a self-paced, self-guided tour — spending as much time as they like at each of the exhibits. Costumed interpreters provide an immersive historical experience. Round out the day with a refreshing soda fountain favorite from Culp’s Café.

“And there is a lot of open-air areas for kids to run and explore,” Schlatter said.

Admission is $12 for adults and $8 for visitors 3-17 years old. Children under 3 and Dayton History members are free. For more information, visit

Visitors to SunWatch Indian Village/Archaeological Park take a trip back in time 800 years. SunWatch Indian Village — which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and became a National Historic Landmark in 1990 — is an educational center for archaeology and Native American culture, offering exploration indoors and outside.

Start the experience with an introductory film in the indoor theater and then view artifacts and learn about the history of the village and its inhabitants in the Interpretive Center. Explore the reconstructed structures — located in the exact locations of the original buildings — as well as the native garden and prairie.

Admission is $7 for adults and $6 for students 6-17 years old. Children under 6 and Dayton Society of Natural History members are free. For more information, visit

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

While the historical farm buildings are currently closed due to COVID, Carriage Hill MetroPark still offers a unique peek at the agricultural heritage of the Miami Valley. With fields of heirloom crops and resident heritage breeds of draft horses, sheep, hogs and chickens, visitors are immediately immersed in 1880s farm life.

Want to continue the experience at home? Five Rivers MetroParks offers a variety of take-home program kits, including a 9-patch quilt kit. In the 19th century, one of the first sewing projects a youngster might undertake was sewing a 9-patch quilt block. The kit includes all the materials needed to sew a simple quilt block. For more information on the take-home kits, visit

Science and nature

An engaging field trip can be as close as your own backyard or community park.

Five Rivers MetroParks has developed a series of Virtual Field Trip topics and accompanying teacher/parent resources. It’s all available free online at by searching virtual field trips.

Geology and fossils? Check. Habitat exploration and ecology? Check. Gardening, homesteading and sustainability? Check.

“We’re working to give local families and teachers the resources that are the best fit for the area,” said Joshua York, Five Rivers MetroParks naturalist and education coordinator. “And it’s also a fun way to bond as a family and enjoy quality time together.”

Hiking in the park or splashing in the stream is a lot of fun but it can also be a learning experience with the MetroParks take-home program kits. The Conservation Kids Discover Kit includes a variety of tools including a net, magnifying glass and flashlight as well as access to online resources and videos. The “Guess Who, Butterfly or Moth?” kit includes a temporary enclosure and helpful field guides. From pressed flowers to fishing, there are a variety of kits, offered at little and, sometimes, no cost.

“The kits inspire kids and their families to make backyard connections and they include great resources,” York said.

For more information, visit

While some areas remain closed, there is still plenty to discover at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery.

From the starry skies in the Planetarium to the adorable fan-favorite otters in the Discovery Zoo, there’s tons of fun for kids and parents alike. The popular Boonshoft Water Table is also back up and running for some safe, clean water fun.

While the museum has long been known for its hand-on fun, a new Kids' Place exhibit focuses on feet. Hands-Off Interactives – Use your Feet, includes a series of balance beams, a large floor maze, and jumping circles. The new hands-free exhibit has plenty of space for safe social distancing.

To ensure safety, all interactive elements are being cleaned once an hour and extra hand sanitizing stations have been installed throughout the museum.

Admission is $14.50 for adults and $11.50 for children 3-17 years old. Children under 3 and Dayton Society of Natural History members are free.

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell


The Dayton Art Institute is striving to make art accessible and fun during these challenging times with both in-person and at-home options.

From Tiny Thursdays…at Home! for the little ones to ARTventures…at Home, a multigenerational program, to virtual drawing classes for adults, creating art can be done from the comfort of home.

“Our programs were definitely in-person, so we had to pivot, rather quickly, to be able to provide lots of digital resources,” said Casey Goldman, Dayton Art Institute lead museum educator.

The DAI website is now packed with projects for young art aficionados as well as engaging opportunities and information for artists of all ages but that doesn’t mean there aren’t in-person art options. The museum has re-opened with reduced hours and capacity but an abundance of amazing artwork to enjoy.

The Dayton Art Institute recently introduced the What is a Masterpiece? interactive self-guided tour of the permanent collection. Using a cell phone, visitors scan QR codes to learn about the 50 stunning works of art in the museum’s permanent collection.

“What is really neat is that there is a ton of information, but it’s broken down into bite-size pieces so guests can self-direct their experience,” Goldman said.

There is Behind the Scenes, Tools & Techniques and Kids Content as well as a Talk Back section to inspire conversation about the various pieces.

Admission is $15 for adults and $5 for youth ages 7-17 and college students with a school ID. Children under 6 and museum members are free. For information, visit



Art and exercise blend seamlessly on the New Discoveries Walking Mural Tour in Middletown. The new self-guided, self-paced family-friendly walking tour includes 14 unique pieces of public art all located in the heart of historic downtown Middletown.

“Art is one of the attractions that is really a pillar of the city,” said Mary Huttlinger, executive director of the Middletown Visitors Bureau. “All of the murals have a story to tell.”

The Shetter Carnival Mural depicts a photo taken in 1914 of the A.B. Shetter Carnival Sale on North Broad Street and the Miami-Erie Canal Mural depicts life along the canal which followed the path of what is now Verity Parkway.

Start your art adventure by visiting to access the interactive tour guide. Follow along on your smart device, in Google maps, and learn about the art and the artists at each of the mural stops.

While quality family time can make for a fun day, a trip to Grandpa Joe’s Candy Shop will ensure the day ends with a smile.

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