If you’re currently in a relationship, it’s hard to ignore that Valentine’s Day is on a Saturday this year, even if you’re personally not a huge fan of the over-commercialization of ‘love’ that comes with it.
Start off with coffee (or a chai tea latte if you’ve never quite understood the appeal of drinking something that tastes like burnt toast) at Ghostlight, the coziest neighborhood cafe you’ve ever seen. The walls feature rotating art exhibits from local artists and photographers, and owner Shane Anderson is a huge proponent of living local in Dayton. The spot is so popular on weekends that it can be hard to find a seat, but you can usually squeeze in by the bay windows if the tables are all taken, and the couches in the study are extremely comfy.
Don’t fall asleep though, you’ve got a full day ahead. Head to Lily’s Bistro in the Oregon District for brunch, where you’ll enjoy fantastic omelettes and beignets, a New Orleans classic that’s hard to find anywhere else in Dayton. Brunch wouldn’t be complete without mimosas, and owner Emily Mendenhall has got your back.
Hold your partners’ hand — gay or straight, you won’t get judgment here, in one of the most gay-friendly small cities in the country — as you wander through the Oregon District shops. Maybe buy each other a book at Bonnett’s Book Store, or a record at Omega Music. Be sure to say hi to Butters, the resident goat at Eclectic Essential and Cora, the friendly dog at Clash.
Walk down Clay Street to the Urban Krag, a former church converted into a rock climbing gym. The small climbing community in Dayton includes the owner and brewer at Toxic Brew Co., and you’ll find the group very welcoming if you become a regular climber. If you’re both novices, sign up for a belay class and they’ll get you started with renting shoes and a harness and learning the basics of climbing safety. As the light streams through the stained glass windows onto the colorful climbing holds, you and your partner are sure to reach new levels of trust as you try out the many routes and face any fears you may have. And if you’re not comfortable with heights, the gym includes a bouldering section with several beginner routes.
You can clean up in the bathrooms if needed before heading to your next destination: The Neon Movies. Catch an afternoon matinee showing of an independent film that’s sure to provoke lively conversation at dinner. You can also enjoy a beer or glass of wine during the show, and perhaps pick up an old movie poster for $5.
My favorite dinner spot is Wheat Penny, and not just because it’s gay owned and operated. The gourmet pizza restaurant embraces vegetables and treats them with the utmost respect. You’ll notice a cauliflower T-bone on the menu, and I’ll let you visit the restaurant to learn what that entails. The pizza is the main attraction here, along with the infamous eggplant fries that made a huge splash when the restaurant first opened. The house-made sodas are also not to be missed, whether in virgin form or as part of a house cocktail.
After dinner, catch a comedy show at Wiley’s, tucked away in the northernmost spot in the Oregon District. The club recently came under new ownership, and they’ve been working to spruce it up and add variety to the drinks and food menu.
Finally, to close out your day, head to Club Masque for the best DJ and dancing in town. The $7 cover might sound steep, but the drag show downstairs is not to be missed, and the upstairs dance floor with fog machines and a laser show will bring you and your partner close as you bump and grind in time with the beat.