Motorcycles have long played a crucial role in the American mythos. The vroom of a twin-cylinder engine conjures images of Evel Knievel soaring through the sky on a daredevil jump or James Dean perched astride his 1955 Triumph Trophy, clad in a black leather jacket and brimming with smoldering angst. Even those who haven't felt their hands on the throttle can appreciate the motorcycle as an all-American icon of freedom, rebellion, and individuality.
The Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum celebrates this iconography with exhibits that pay tribute to every aspect of motorcycling history. The museum's permanent collection is chock-full of memorabilia and ephemera from the early days of motorcycling, such as a Roper Steamer from 1894 and a turbo-powered penny-farthing from the same era. Visitors can also tour the Hall of Fame itself, a main-floor exhibition that celebrates the heroes of the racetrack and blacktop.
The headquarters of the nonprofit Ohio Historical Society, the Ohio Historical Center abounds with exhibits and activities that showcase the state's diverse social, natural, and archeological history. Built in 1970, the museum's towering Brutalist edifice is a piece of history itself, lauded as "bold" and "imaginative” by the American Institute of Architects. Inside, a 15,000-square-foot gallery explores pivotal moments in the Buckeye State’s past, examining everything from Ohio’s role in the Civil War to Boomer Esiason’s stint as Secretary of State. A natural-history exhibit regales guests with interactive displays of animals, plants, and geography. In addition to its permanent exhibits, the center hosts an ever-changing selection of featured exhibits and special events.
Outside the museum sits Ohio Village, a re-creation of a Civil War–era town. Costumed villagers bustle about the square, performing chores and activities of the era, such as churning butter and checking wooden PalmPilots. The town's 15 buildings showcase the height of 19th-century architecture and include a Gothic-revival church, a large town hall, and an open market. The village is also the home of the renowned Ohio Village Muffins, who regularly compete in games of baseball played by 19th-century rules.
Called "a thrill of a lifetime" by GolfOhio.com, the 24,000-square-foot Jack Nicklaus Museum gives visitors an educated look at the history of golf while focusing on one of the sport's most well-known icons. Peruse the museum's Legends of Golf gallery, where links-lovers can discover the sport's Scottish roots and trace the evolution of essential equipment, from wooden clubs to titanium drivers. The mementos found within the Major Championships galleries tell the story of Nicklaus and his 18 major professional titles, including six Masters trophies, five PGA Championships, and four U.S. Open wins. Follow the legend's lifelong golf journey in the Decades of Nicklaus gallery, where each 10-year segment of Nicklaus' life—from his boyhood days in the '40s to his modern-day stardom—is embodied through a collection of memorable artifacts, including clubs, trophies, scorecards, and more.
Easy as A-B-C, the artists behind Life in Letters craft custom photographic gifts available both in their shop and online. Over the years, they've amassed a vast collection of black-and-white photos of common objects and sights that resemble letters—such as arches, golf balls, fences, and palm trees—which they assemble into meaningful words, such as love, laugh, family, and nihilism. Once customers have chosen their word and selected each letter, they can have their piece matted and framed to suit their own decor or that of a loved one. The photographers also share their skills with aspiring shutterbugs during regular introductory photography classes.
On October 5, 1905, years of invention and failure culminated into history as Wilbur Wright took to the sky in a craft that soared through the air for 24 miles. More than a century later, just a few miles from the field over which it first flew, the 1905 Wright Flyer III—now designated a National Historic Landmark—spreads its wings at Carillon Historical Park, inspiring visitors with its tale of innovation, persistence, and progress, and the aptly named "Wilbur Wright: A Life of Consequence" exhibit. Nearby, the park's Heritage Center features the year-round Carousel of Dayton Innovation, which contains 31 figures, a 38-foot hand-painted mural illustrating the turn of events in the Wright Brothers flying exhibits, and rides for $1.
As impressive as they are, the airplane and carousel are only a few of Carillon Historical Park’s myriad attractions. Named for the 151-foot-tall Deeds Carillon, whose 57 bells have been pealing since 1942, the campus spreads across 65 acres. Just south of downtown, 30 historical buildings, including the 28,000 sq.ft. Heritage Center of Dayton Manufacturing and Entrepreneurship, draw visitors into Dayton’s past and share in the park's devotion to history, heritage, and progress. Early settlement structures such as the Newcom Tavern—the oldest building still standing in Dayton—sit alongside other original buildings such as an 1815-era stone cottage. The park also includes replica buildings, such as the Deeds Barn and the Wright Cycle Shop, which recreate the birthplaces of the automobile self-starter and the airplane.
The park’s transportation theme continues with an 1835 B&O steam locomotive and an interactive 1/8 scale railroad available to ride on select days for an extra fee and whose train cars carry passengers more effectively than 1/8 scale feet would. Nearby, the first Chevy S-10 truck minted by GM’s Moraine Plant in 1988 mingles with a fleet of vintage and classic autos. After admiring their hulls, visitors can swing by Culp’s Café—named and modeled after the eatery where widow and mother of six Charlotte Gilbert Culp served pies in the '30s and '40s—and order burgers or soda-fountain creations off a '40s-style menu. Before leaving, guests can peruse Wright brothers paraphernalia and items from the park’s 1930s letterpress printing shop at the museum store or sign up for educational programming that teaches lost arts such as candle dipping and butter churning.
When residents from 45 states and seven countries visit your museum in a year, you know you’ve got something special. At the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center, that special something is a trio of museums. The Kathleen Savage Browning Miniatures Collection houses 1/12-scale reproductions of homes, people, and artwork. This is where the prince saw handcrafted miniature mansions and apartments throughout history. Meanwhile, the Genealogical & Historical Research Library displays books and documents from the past 300 years and the Regional History Museum brings the city’s story to life through colorful dioramas and more than 4,000 artifacts, such as 19th-century wedding gowns, swords from the Civil War, and prehistoric Native American items.