The dreary days of winter are here – and this winter is even more glum due to the (temporary) closure of Cincinnati’s beloved Duke Energy Children’s Museum. What’s a Dayton Parent to do on a glum winter afternoon? Head up 1-71 for a little day-trip adventure to COSI, that’s what.
An easy 90-minute drive away, COSI is a world-class children’s museum that’s as fun for adults as it is for kids, and a great way to break up the winter doldrums.
Here’s a first-timer’s guide to COSI:
When to visit
Be sure to check out COSI’s hours of operation; until March, the museum is often closed on Mondays and/or Tuesdays. COSI opens at 10 am each day (with a few exceptions), and I recommend getting there right at 10 – if not a little early. The lobby is open before 10, and it’s great to purchase/validate tickets and use the restroom before the gates open to all the exhibits. You’ll want to hit the ground running! Going early also allows for lots of time to explore before and after lunch, and maybe you’ll luck out with a car nap from the kids on the return trip!
If you haven’t been to COSI recently, you might be thrown by the parking situation. There’s a new lot under the entire facility, making it convenient to park in any weather conditions. The lot charges $6/day. If you’re feeling lucky, check out the side streets across from COSI; when we went, there was ample street parking available, and we pre-paid for 4 hours at just 40 cents/hour! (And if you go on a Sunday, the street parking is free!)
What to visit
Where to begin… COSI is set up similarly to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, with the exhibits stacked on several floors. COSI is smaller, though, and, in my opinion, more manageable for families. While there are tons of exhibits that are worth a visit, there are a few “must-visit” exhibits, in my opinion:
The newly opened Dinosaur Gallery
This exhibit is awesome, period. Highlights include a 6-foot-long mechanical T. rex model that walks in place; an 8-foot tall Titanosaur femur; a huge, threehorned Triceratops cast; and a 100-year-old piece of fossilized amber preserving an ancient feather. Your kids will absolutely love it.
Perfect for kids 6 and under, the little KidSpace features tons of different areas designed to spark your kids’ curiosity. Construction-obsessed kids will love the kid-sized trucks and emergency machines; there’s a play house in the middle that’s perfect for climbing; the red barn will appeal to horse-loving littles; and the water play area is always a hit with kids, regardless of age. (Bring an extra set of clothes for your younger kids!) If you have an older kid (second grade and up), they can be in this space, too – there’s a supervised art area that will easily entertain older kids while younger siblings play.
Despite loving everything about the KidSpace, this hallway exhibit was definitely my kids’ favorite. Kids can climb aboard a space capsule, explore a replica of a space station (and even sit on a space toilet!), test their Mars-roving skills and watch NASA TV. This was a huge hit.
Well-worth it extras
We sprung for a locker – for just $1/day, you can stash everything in a very generously sized locker. It made exploring so much easier not having to worry about coats, hats, packed lunches and my purse.
While your COSI general admission ticket covers most exhibits, there are a few exceptions: the Planetarium is a few dollars extra, and definitely worth it. COSI’s Planetarium is the largest in Ohio, and offers an unparalleled experience of our universe. Definitely something for elementary-aged kids and up!
Finally – the Motion Simulator. COSI’s Motion Simulator uses wide screen, HD imagery, surround sound, and motion to take you around the world, into the sky and even out into space! It’s located right across from the Ocean exhibit, and I heard nothing but rave reviews from the kids who participated. (It’s a few dollars/kid, but included in a Do-It-All ticket).
COSI is a world-class children’s museum that’s just a drive away, and a fun change-of-pace from the normal routine! Kids can explore space, go back in time with dinosaurs, be a construction worker or firefighter and let their imaginations run wild at COSI – so what are you waiting for?
COSI is located at 333 W Broad St., Columbus, OH 43215. For admission, hours of operation and exhibit information, visit the website here.