And now for the second batch of reviews for some of the great smaller museums found in Central Ohio!
And now for the second batch of reviews for some of the great smaller museums found in Central Ohio! The Ohio State University Orton Geological Museum If you've got a kid who's obsessed with fossils, rocks and/or minerals, this small museum is definitely worth a visit. Located on the south side of the OSU Oval, the museum is overseen by super-enthusiastic Dale Gnidovec and a rotating cast of college-aged earth-science buffs who will gladly discuss Precambrian and Carboniferous period lore with you. Gnidovec recommends that children ages 7 and up will get the most out of a visit. Touring the three-room suite takes about 40 minutes. You'll see several large replica fossils, mineral displays, meteorite chunks and small fossils from Ohio and around the world. Not to be missed is the black-light booth where you can check out fluorescent minerals. Their little store has all sorts of cool stuff, including fossilized shark teeth for 25 cents each and geodes for $3. The museum is handicapped accessible via an entrance in the south rear of the building. It's easiest to park in the Ohio Union South garage ($2 for the first two hours). 155 S. Oval Mall, Columbus 43210; 614-292-6896; geology.ohio-state.edu Cost: Free (but donations are welcomed) Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Mondays-Fridays and by appointment The Ohio Statehouse The challenge in visiting our state's capital building (at least for us) is deciding which free tour to take. There's the tour with a trained guide or a self-guided tour using one of four different media: a map/brochure available from the gift shop; an audio tour "wand" you borrow with a photo ID from the gift shop; a cell-phone tour where you call the phone numbers associated with sites inside and outside the Statehouse; or you can download 21 podcasts from iTunesU (each ranging from 34 seconds to 2:31 in length). Just to make things exciting, none of these tours hits all the same sites as the others or imparts exactly the same info even at the same site. Our favorite was the podcast tour simply because it had a scavenger-hunt quality. First, you need that tour map from the gift shop in order to find anything because the podcasts don't really tell you how to find anything. So serious sleuthing is involved, which may intrigue your surly tweens and teens. Another bonus: Wearing earbuds, you can walk into any room and keep listening to the podcast, even if there's a hearing or ceremony going on (and the people who work there don't bat an eyelash at visitors wandering through). 1 Capitol Square (southeast of Broad and High streets), Downtown; 614-752-9777 or 1-888-OHIO-123; ohiostatehouse.org Cost: Free Hours: 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, closed holidays. Free guided tours depart from the ground floor Map Room (enter from Third Street) and take place Monday-Friday on the hour from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 noon-3 p.m. Ohio Railway Museum The Ohio Railway Museum has been through some tough times, struggling to raise the money needed to maintain the very unusual collection at this Worthington site. But its hardworking volunteer staff devotes thousands of hours all year to do just that. There are no tour guides because, as one volunteer explained, they find it best to just let people climb aboard the train engines, street cars and passenger cars on site and ask the staff questions. The showcase piece of the collection is a 1910 steam locomotive engine: It's ginormous. Any child in the train-loving phase of his or her life will be amazed to see this thing. You'll also enjoy a ride on an interurban car, along the mile-long rail line the museum owns. During the Halloween season, the museum also stages non-scary events that are appropriate for young children. 990 Proprietors Rd., Worthington 43085; 614-885-7345; ohiorailwaymuseum.org Cost: $6 per person, free for children ages 3 and younger Hours: Sundays only 12 noon-4 p.m. The Santa Maria This replica of one of Christopher Columbus' three sailing ships may never leave port but it still offers a great opportunity for children to experience history. Visitors have the chance to explore the nooks and crannies of the ship, climb ladders and imagine what life would be like aboard the vessel. Guided tours last about 45 minutes and explore every part of the working ship. Tour guides explain the navigational tools the sailors used and demonstrate that games crew members played to pass the time.They also offer insights about a sailor's diet and what passed for toilet paper in 1492. The ship, touted as the world's most authentic representation of Columbus' flagship, was built in 1991 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the trans-Atlantic voyage. 25 Marconi Blvd., Columbus, 43215; 614-645-8760 or 614-645-0351; santamaria.org Cost: Adults, $4.50; senior citizens, $4; children (5 to 17), $3.50 Hours: Until Aug. 31 - 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, 12 noon-6 p.m. Saturdays and Sunday; Sept. 1 to Oct. 21 - 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, 12 noon-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays