The birthplace of flight isn’t some sandy beach at Kitty Hawk, N.C. It’s a bicycle shop in Dayton, where those brothers Orville and Wilbur crafted their first flying machines.

These days, the city of Dayton pays tribute to its lofty aviation heritage with all sorts of jet-set destinations, sky-high surprises and aerial adventures, all marketed collectively as the “Aviation Trail.” We’re not talking any fly-by-night attractions here. The jewel in the crown is the No. 1 free tourist attraction in Ohio, the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Visited by some 1.2 million tourists annually, it’s just one portion of your flight plan to Dayton.

From replicas of historic bi-planes to airplane hangars loaded with memorabilia, aviation buffs can find it all here (senior admission prices are for those ages 60 and over unless otherwise noted):

Aviation Trail Visitor Center/Wright Cycle Co.
22 South Williams Street
(937) 225-7705
Many visitors begin their tour of the “Birthplace of Aviation” at the Wright Cycle Company, now the National Park Service’s Aviation Trail Visitor Center and Wright/Dunbar Interpretive Center. Some 45 sites are marked on a driving tour that begins here and includes such destinations as the National Aviation Hall of Fame and Carillon Historical Park. The center focuses on the achievements of the Wrights as well as literary great Paul Laurence Dunbar. The cycle company is where Wilbur and Orville spent much of their time considering the mechanics of powered flight. Today, bicycles and machinery of the era are on display. Open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is free.

Carillon Historical Park

2001 South Patterson Blvd.
(937) 293–2841
You can’t miss the giant Deeds Carillon (that’s a bell tower), which is Ohio’s largest. But the park is also home to a replica of the Wright Brothers’ Bicycle Shop and a plane the brothers built in 1905—two years after the Kitty Hawk flight. Also on display is an interesting collection of historical exhibits, including an old lock that was part of the original Miami & Erie Canal, the Newcom Tavern (Dayton’s oldest building), a one-room schoolhouse, a grist mill, and a covered bridge. The park is open 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. A carillon concert takes place on Sunday afternoon. Admission is $7 for seniors, $8 for adults, $5 for grandchildren ages 3 through 17.

Huffman Prairie Flying Field

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Gate 16A
(937) 425-0008
The Wrights made hundreds of test flights at the 84-acre Huffman Prairie Flying Field. Huffman is also where more than a hundred pilots, including some of the country’s first military flyers, trained at the Wright School of Aviation. It’s here where the first commercial air-freight flight took off in 1910 (bound for Columbus). Displays include replicas of the brothers‚ 1905 hangar and launching catapult as well as the Wright Memorial, a 17-foot-high pink granite obelisk. The Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center includes exhibits that focus on the achievements of the brothers. Open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (until 6:30 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day). Admission is free.

National Museum of the United States Air Force

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Area B
(937) 255–3284
The National Museum of the United States Air Force (formerly the U.S. Air Force Museum) is the largest aviation museum in the world, holding more than 200 aircraft, missiles, and more. Displays include early models built by the Wright brothers and such famous World War I craft as the Sopwith Camel along with B-29 Superfortresses from World War II, including the plane that dropped an A-bomb on Nagasaki in 1945. Other aircraft of special interest include a German V-2 rocket that fell short of Britain and into the North Sea, a German Junker, and presidential airplanes including the Air Force One that took JFK on his fateful trip to Dallas. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Free.
Vectren Dayton Air Show
Dayton Int'l. Airport,
Interstate 75 at exit 63
(937) 898–5901
The Dayton Air Show, scheduled for July 19-20, will feature flights by a USAF F-22 Raptor, stunt bi-planes, the Starfighters Jet Demonstration Team, a U.S. Navy F-18 Super Hornet, sky-diving teams, and more. Started in 1975, the show has fast become one of the most important aviation events in the world, attracting more than 250,000 visitors a year. Daring stunts and displays of state-of-the-art aircraft make this a must-see for anyone even remotely interested in flight. Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, July 19-20. Admission each day is $16 seniors, $19 adults, $16 youths (ages 6 to 11, free for 5 and under).