A trip to COSI (the museum also known as the Center of Science and Industry) is often a day-long adventure for families (though we’ve heard quite a few play groups have regular meet-ups in the Little Kidspace area).
COSI offers enough activities (300+, to be more precise) to fill several days’ visits, so it helps to plan ahead and get the most out of your experience.
Little known fact: COSI’s parking lots do not belong to COSI. They are city-owned lots. On busy days (for which there is no published schedule), the lot managers will pre-collect the $5 parking fee (as you drive in). Otherwise, you pay as you leave. COSI members can get a 20 percent discount on parking by showing their COSI membership card.
There are metered parking spots on the streets around COSI, but they do not yet accept credit cards.
Many are the times we’ve arrived at COSI to find a line snaking through the front lobby, packed with people waiting to buy their admission tickets. The good news is this line does tend to move quickly and COSI staffers do an admirable job of answering questions, handing out maps and daily schedules and even entertaining you while you wait. (Pick up the “Exploration Guide for Young Children” brochure for tips on making exhibits more understandable to little ones.)
BUT if you want to avoid the long line, you can either purchase an annual membership or buy your admission tickets online. However, you must buy those online tickets BEFORE midnight of the day you visit. They are not available to purchase on the day of your visit.
If you have vouchers or passes for entry, go to the Will Call window (it has the blue sign).
AT YOUR SERVICE
We had no idea how helpful Guest Services at COSI can be (it’s the desk just to the left as you enter the building). Here is a list of stuff you can borrow and/or keep:
*Strollers (no charge, you just leave a photo ID in exchange), wheelchairs, motorized scooters (a $5 donation is suggested; you don’t have to prove you’re handicapped to use one, but the staff does ask people to be reasonable about it).
*Diapers and wipes, feminine hygiene products, safety pins, first-aid supplies, stepping stools, ear plugs
*Replacement clothes: the staff keeps a bin in its back office where a large assortment of (mostly children’s) clothing is available to replace outfits that have become soaked or soiled for any reason. Their inventory comes from their Lost and Found findings and all the clothes have been cleaned.
It’s an eye-catcher — the highwire unicycle suspended over the front lobby. A few fun facts about it:
*To ride it, you have to wear closed-toe shoes (no Crocs either) and you need at least a 36-inch inseam, which staffers say translates to being about 4-feet-6-inches tall: “It’s really about how long your legs are,” explained Laura Richardson, COSI’s manager of guest and safety services.
*You will not fall off it or die out there, but if you get out and panic/freeze/stop moving (and Richardson said this happens a few times each day), the staff has a huge yellow hook behind the Guest Services desk to pull you in. “Honestly, it’s usually the skinny, tall girls who get stuck the most,” Richardson said. “You cycle back in against an incline and that’s when they panic and get stuck.”
TAKE A LOAD OFF
*There is no coat-check service, but large lockers are available (to rent for two quarters each). They are located on the mezzanine level.
*Breastfeeding is welcome anywhere in COSI, but there is also a quiet room off of the Little Kidspace area where mothers might prefer to nurse.
*Not only is there a stash of replacement clothes in Little Kidspace, but there is also a vending machine where you can purchase diapers, wipes and other items PLUS a clothes dryer (the water play area can get a little splashy).
*Food is available for purchase at the Atomic Café, but COSI has also always been a very brown-bag friendly destination. There’s a group lunchroom on the mezzanine floor and an eating space in Little Kidspace. When the weather warms, an outside picnic is fun. Just be on the lookout for goose poop down by the Scioto riverfront!
*“Hallway Elements”: After COSI moved from its original home on East Broad Street to its current riverfront location in 1999, they encountered criticism for how big and sparse the new space seemed. Beginning a few years ago, COSI began adding “hallway elements” — mini-exhibits, art displays and interactive stations. The result is a busier and cozier atmosphere.
*”Lost Child Wristbands”: The orange plastic wristbands you can obtain at either the Guest Services desk or in Little Kidspace. You write a contact phone number on the wristband, then attach it around your child’s wrist. Staffers say the two top spots for kids getting separated from adults are in the front lobby (while getting admission tickets) and the Ocean exhibit on the first floor.
*“Plop Zone”: COSI-speak for elements that are designed specifically to engage infants (like the small, floor-level mirrors in Little Kidspace). Grownups can “plop down” with their little ones at each of them.
*The Black Hole Entrance to the Space exhibit on the first floor: It’s a tunnel, about 10 feet long, with rotating walls and black lights and if you linger too long, you might find yourself feeling ill. Richardson said adults tend to feel the ill effects more than kids do. The Guest Services desk monitors the tunnel via video cameras.
*The Gadgets area can be very loud with a lot of banging and thumping, so children who are sensitive to noise might not like this one. Some (well-labeled) stations in the area also have strobe lighting, as does the show on the Gadgets Stage (which also includes explosions).
*The Life exhibits do feature some content that might not be appropriate for everyone (mostly videos about birth control and surgery). They are all labeled before you could get to them and they are purposely placed in the rear of the exhibit area.
*“Adventure! in the Valley of the Unknown”: This is an extremely popular area of COSI for which there is an additional “upcharge” ($3 for non-members, $2 for members). How popular is this clue-hunting, problem-solving exhibit? It has its own Facebook fan page (called “The Explorers Society: Fans of COSI’s Adventure! Exhibit”) where fans ask questions and trade helpful hints.
Photos by Alysia Burton