When we did our See the USA from A to Z series, we never thought it would be so difficult to come up with a destination for each letter of the alphabet. Thankfully Dr. Jessie Voigts of Wandering Educators came to the rescue with Xenia, Ohio. This Midwest destination might be overlooked, but I think you’ll be impressed by the family friendly things to do in Xenia Ohio. I certainly am!
The small town of Xenia, Ohio, located just west of Dayton, is often just a stopping point for people driving somewhere else. But there are several fun things to see and do in town. Xenia is full of history – Helen Hooven Santmeyer wrote and set her book, …And Ladies of the Club, here. The homeland of the Shawnee tribe of Native Americans, the town was founded by settlers in 1803, and a name was picked democratically – xenia means hospitality, in Greek. And this town lives up to its name – people are very friendly.
Xenia is also known for the 1974 F5 tornado, one of the worst in the state’s history. My husband, who grew up in Xenia, remembers people coming together to help each other (and hiding under a desk at Central State University during the tornado). Later impactful tornadoes included a F2 in 1989 and a F4 in 2000.
Family Friendly Things to Do in Xenia Ohio
When you visit Xenia, focus on local history and the outdoors. It’s a great place for kids to run and play. Nearby, you’ll find John Bryan State Park and the Glen Helen Nature Reserve in Yellow Springs; Indian Mound Reserve in Cedarville; Oakes Quarry Park, one of three locations in Ohio where you can see glacial grooves (littered with fossils!). There’s also the extraordinary National Museum of the US Air Force, the National Aviation Hall of Fame, and the SunWatch Indian Village/Archaeological Park in Dayton; and the National Afro-American Museum & Cultural Center in Wilberforce, all worth visiting.
There are festivals in Xenia year-round. Check the city calendar, so you can be present during a joyful small-town celebration. Also make time to visit the beautiful Greene County library – the children’s room is incredible, and there are often free children’s events to attend. It’s the first stop I make, when in town.
1. Get moving on Xenia’s many bike paths
Whether you’re walking or biking, Xenia has more bike paths than I have ever seen in a town. The 62 miles of multi-use trail are wide and well-kept. Xenia is the Bicycle Capital of the Midwest, is one of America’s 10 Fittest Cities for Women, and a Top 10 Trail Town and is in the Trail Town USA Hall of Fame.
Trails include the Ohio to Erie Trail, the Creekside Trail, the Little Miami Scenic Trail, the Xenia-Jamestown Connector Trail, and the Wright Brothers-Huffman Prairie Bikeway – connecting Xenia to Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, and other towns via bike trails. This is the largest paved travel hub in Ohio.
Xenia is a railroad town. You can explore this history at Xenia Station, where the bike paths all start. Xenia Station is a replica of the 1880s brick railroad station, located on the site of the old B&O Railroad freight yards. Inside, you’ll find a local railroad history museum, bike rentals, and more.
There’s a great deal of railroad history to be learned here, run by the Greene County Historical Society. Also explore the red restored B&O steel-sided caboose, located by the playground, by appointment or open during special events.
3. Playgrounds galore
Our favorite playground is located at Xenia Station, and there’s a large railroad themed playground, as well as a new splashpad. At the playground, kids can partake in climbing, pretend play, and more. It’s fantastic – a perfect complement to local history.
4. More history
The Greene County Historical Society has several other buildings worth visiting, including the Galloway Log House, where you can see how pioneers lived. Built in 1798 by James Galloway Sr., it’s a two-story log home with glass windows. The Shawnee warrior Tecumseh was a frequent visitor, while learning English from Galloway’s daughter. Galloway was a companion of Daniel Boone, and was the first treasurer of Greene County.
Right next door is a Victorian town house (Xenia has many old beautiful houses, especially on King Street, next to the Victorian town house). Built in the 1870s, it’s a showcase of the prosperity that Xenia enjoyed in the Victorian era.
Also on the museum complex is the Brantley Carriage House, which is a replica of a local carriage house. There are exhibits showing local history, including farming, blacksmithing, a dairy, a general store, the Underground Railroad, and more.
5. Sara Lee Arnovitz Nature Preserve
This 42 acre nature preserve features a boardwalk through a marsh, and is a perfect place for bird watching. The wetlands boardwalk runs next to the burbling Old Town Creek, so if your kids want to splash in the summer and look for frogs, this is the place to do so, while learning about a wetlands ecosystem first-hand. You can bike here via the Little Miami Scenic Trail, or drive.
*All photo credits in this article are give to Jessie Voigts unless otherwise noted.
About the author: Jessie is the publisher of Wandering Educators, a travel library for people curious about the world, and Journey to Scotland, a travel site for her favorite place in the world. She founded the Family Travel Bloggers Association, and directs the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program. She’s published seven books about travel and intercultural learning, with more on the way. You can usually find her family by water — anywhere in the world.