Takeout and limited business hours have been the status quo this summer in the Oregon District, but this weekend, the district is symbolically reopening its doors to a new kind of Fifth Street experience.
On weekends in September and October, beginning at 3 p.m. this Friday, Fifth Street will be closed to vehicle traffic and transformed into a pedestrian promenade starting at 5 p.m. until about 10 p.m. Sundays. The street will reopen to vehicles Monday morning by 7 a.m.
The pilot program has been named “Out on 5th” and is meant to help businesses whose indoor seating capacity has been limited because of coronavirus-related social distancing requirements. Businesses will have expanded outdoor seating, there will be pop-up sidewalk sales, musical entertainment and other special activities.
Coinciding with “Out on 5th,” this weekend will also kick off Dayton’s first Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area, or DORA, located in the Oregon District, where people are allowed to consume alcohol on the streets that are purchased at participating businesses.
It’s been some time since the Oregon District has been able to be its best self, so here is a reminder of how to make the most of a day or night in Dayton’s premier entertainment destination.
Arrive hungry, and thirsty
The hardest part of a day spent in the district will likely be deciding where and what to eat. Fifth Street is lined with one-of-a-kind local restaurants that have something to satisfy any foodie mood. A handful of additional Oregon District eateries, like Wheat Penny, can also be found in the surrounding neighborhood, just off Fifth Street.
Depending on how early someone wants to start their day in the district, breakfast or brunch is a must to fuel the rest of the day’s adventure. Whether ordering a protein-packed omelet from 416 Diner, or tempting Beignets inspired by Cafe du Monde from Lily’s Bistro, a follow-up Bloody Mary from Blind Bob’s is practically a must.
It might be a challenge to save room for lunch, but please, give it your best shot. Almost every district restaurant has a special lunch menu with creative sandwiches and entrees that will give you more fuel to keep the fun going.
By the time dinner rolls around, Fifth Street is your oyster. Feeling something more upscale? Roost Modern Italian has a sleek, romantic ambiance that leaves its guests feeling pampered after their bellies are thoroughly wined and dined.
Craving a lighter fare after a day of indulging? Thai 9 has a soup menu to brag about. The Chicken Coconut Milk Soup is like a sweet, warm dream in a bowl.
Though patios have long been a strong suit in the district, more seating than ever will be available outside on weekends, and some additional public tables will also be set up throughout the new pedestrian mall. Weekends truly are an opportunity to dine in the district in a whole new way.
Remember, people will be allowed outside on Fifth St. every day, from noon to 10 p.m. only. Signage will be in
stalled indicating what businesses are participating in the DORA program.
Take breaks for entertainment
It’s true the coronavirus pandemic has changed how music can be enjoyed in public spaces, but the new pedestrian plaza will make some smaller performances possible.
When spending a day in the district, even during a pandemic, there is no telling what pop-up entertainment you will encounter. Plan to spend as much leisure time as the heart desires just sitting-back and grooving to a guitar soloist, or marveling at a hula-hoop master doing their thing.
Don’t forget the shopping list
When strolling in and out of the district’s boutiques and shops, it’ll become clear that you will be leaving with knick-knacks and treasures you didn’t even know you needed until now.
Starting at one end of Fifth Street, working all the way to the other end, then crossing the street to trail back to the beginning is a good way to tackle district shopping to ensure you don’t miss out on a hidden gem. Newcomers are especially encouraged to keep their eyes up for storefront signs overhead, as some boutiques could be accidentally skipped.
Visitors will be pleasantly surprised by the variety of goodies available — a Brown Butter Beauty mask from Puff Apothecary, a lovely air plant from Luna Gifts and Botanicals, a once-forgotten favorite book from Bonnett’s Book store or a new record from Omega Music. After the year it’s been, treat yourself.
Pop into The Neon
After a summer’s day of walking the bricks in the district, sitting down to a big-screened movie in the air conditioner, beer in hand, feels pretty excellent.
The Neon movie theater reopened its doors at the end of June, with new social-distance friendly protocols. A rotating schedule of current screenings is always available on neonmovies.com.
Always important to remember, The Neon has a bar complete with local beers and cocktails.
Credit: Photo: Amelia Robinson
Credit: Photo: Amelia Robinson
The shopping, food, drinks and people you’ll encounter are some of the best reasons to make a trip to the Oregon District whenever possible. Though if on an especially tight budget, a full day on Fifth Street is still possible without ever opening the wallet.
Colorful murals, wall-art at every turn and music echoing onto the street from bar and restaurant windows -- there is so much to soak-in. The historical homes just behind Fifth Street are also beautiful and worth a stroll through the neighborhood.
A couple hours or an entire day spent in the district is like a smorgasbord sampling of what Dayton is all about.