So you had enough fun on my Valentine’s Day tour of Dayton that you’re ready to go back? Well that’s good, because while you hit some of the highlights, you missed all the real local hangouts.
I know it’s wicked cold out, but that shouldn’t deter you from spending a whole day downtown — parking is so plentiful on weekends (and weekdays after 6 p.m.!) that you’ll rarely have to walk more than a block to your destination. Last time I checked, the trek from the Outer Mongolia sections of The Dayton Mall’s parking lot clocks in at about a quarter mile.
You’ll have to wake up earlier this time, because your day starts with the most kick-ass workout you can get at the grittiest, most hard core gym you’ll ever experience. It’s Drake’s Downtown Gym, where walk-ins are always welcome for beginner boxing classes. The Saturday class starts at 9 a.m., and it’s not for the faint of heart. Show up 15 minutes early so you can get a quick tutorial on basic boxing combinations, and rent gloves and wraps. Rental will run you $2, class costs $10.
After 90 minutes, you’ll understand a new definition of sweaty. The gym doesn’t have showers — hey, quit your griping, a yearago it didn’t have heat, and yours truly trained there for three bitterly cold winter months for Knockout 2014 — so if you’re close enough to home, clean yourself up and come back downtown. If you live in the suburbs, we’ll forgive you this time if you’re willing to have an adventure. The Downtown YMCA will provide a free guest pass to first-time visitors if you mention this article and MostMetro.com. It’s just down the street from Drake’s, and also offers plenty of parking just outside the door. So drop in, hear about their awesome membership special they’ve got going on ($25 a month for young adults ages 18-27 say WHAT?), and shower off.
Next up is a delicious brunch from Olive, an urban dive. If you blink you might miss this tiny diner in a converted burger joint that still bears the name of its predecessor — Wympee — on the building. Don’t miss a chance to try Jeni’s Ice Cream from Columbus, if you can resist the other dessert options on the menu.
Now you’re going to stray off the beaten path. You’re headed to the Packard Museum, and unless you got married there, you’ve probably never heard of it, but it’s an antique car lover’s dream. It’s open 1 p.m to 5 p.m. on Saturdays, and admission is $6.
After touring the museum, check out one of Dayton’s newest shops, Confetti Card & Party. You’ll probably suddenly remember your best friend or relative’s birthday that you were going to forget as you’re searching for an excuse to buy one of the clever, adorable or heart-melting greeting cards sold there.
Head to the east side of downtown to Mendelson’s Liquidation Outlet, the “first place to look for every last thing.” Unless you’re looking to outfit a new casino or build a supercomputer from scrap parts, your best bet for finding anything useful is the first floor. But it’s worth feigning an interest in old F-16 electronic parts to get a ride in the giant, creaky freight elevator up to the fourth floor, or higher, to see the view. Mendelson’s commands an excellent view of downtown’s high rises on its western side, as it overlooks Patterson Boulevard and beyond. While you’re up there, blur your eyes and try to see past the aisles and aisles of crates of miscellaneous electronics, to the bones of the building. Imagine what future a solidly built, charmingly industrial building like that could have as hip residential lofts, with a pulsing music club on the first floor playing dubstep. Don’t worry, the walls and floors of this building are so thick you’d never hear a beat drop from the next floor up.
Take a second to think about what parts of downtown could be reimagined, and what spaces are missing from the mix. Mendelson’s is just one of many awesome future opportunities. In fact, the building next door, formerly known as the Delco building, was just purchased for residential and retail conversion!
All this imagining has probably worked up an appetite by now, and I bet you’re hungry for the city’s best sweet potato fries at Lucky’s Taproom in the Oregon District. Head to Fifth Street, and sample the best of the local and regional brews from Lucky’s ever-rotating taps. Stop in at Fifth Street Wine & Deli and pick up a bottle of wine or a six pack of beer, because the show you’re about to attend — a comedy show at Black Box Improv Theater — is BYOB. You can also do the same at the newly opened Barrel House, which is a stone’s throw from the theater.
Black Box Improv Theater seeks to inspire, motivate and entertain guests with a hilarious show that’s made up on the spot. Founder Justin Howard studied improv in Chicago and decided to bring the format back to Dayton. He’s making a splash in town, and warming up a corner of Third Street with his weekly Thursday, Friday and Saturday night shows. The Saturday show starts at 8 p.m.
For a final drink, walk over — I know it’s negative 4, but it’s 0.2 miles away, so tough it out — to Dayton’s largest production brewery, Warped Wing Brewing Co., on Wyandot Street and sip a beer while taking in the sights and sounds of the bubbling cathedral of steel that works tirelessly to keep Daytonians buzzed with quality beer.