Central Ohio is home to some great, family-friendly museums like COSI, the Columbus Museum of Art and the Ohio History Center. But we're also home to some pretty nifty smaller museums - the kind you probably have driven past and thought, "I wonder if that would be worth a visit?" Well, wonder no more. We checked out several and here is our first batch of reviews!
Central Ohio is home to some great, family-friendly museums like COSI, the Columbus Museum of Art and the Ohio History Center. But we're also home to some pretty nifty smaller museums - the kind you probably have driven past and thought, "I wonder if that would be worth a visit?" Well, wonder no more. We checked out several and here is our first batch of reviews! Central Ohio Fire Museum & Learning Center The focus of this museum in a century-old firehouse is fire safety, but it's the front part that will excite the kids most. That's where a variety of vintage fire engines (hand-drawn, horse-drawn and motorized) can be seen but, more importantly, there's a play area where fire gear can be donned, a brass pole slid down and real fire-engine equipment played in. In the back are some fairly vivid life-size dioramas that educate visitors about fire hazards and damage, and the importance of planning escape routes out of a burning building. Some of them might be too vivid for young children, but the tour guides are quick to modify a presentation and shield children from anything too graphic. 260 N. Fourth St., Columbus 43215; 614-464-4099; centralohiofiremuseum.com Cost: $6 adults, $5 seniors, $4 children; special group rates also available Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, closed Sundays and Mondays; the last tour starts at 3 p.m.; group tours available by appointment; a tour takes approximately 45-60 minutes Tips: Parking in the brick-paved alley on the south side of the firehouse is free and accommodates about 15 cars; if no spots are available (but there usually are), there is a self-pay parking lot next door (for $3.50). The Doll Museum at the Old Rectory You don't have to be a collector or a child to appreciate the fine collection of 19th and 20th century dolls at the museum. The variety and quality of dolls and the detailed dollhouses makes this a fun visit for all ages. The collection, which includes everything from dolls with fancy hair and clothing to homemade dolls to rare male dolls, shows how the popular toy can be seen as a work of art. Portrait dolls depicting famous historical and fictional characters are another unique element of the collection. The museum even has a doll carved out of a wishbone. We advise that you call ahead to make sure the museum will be open, even during posted hours. During our attempts to visit for this review, it sometimes wasn't. 50 W. New England Ave., Worthington, 43085; 614-885-1247; worthingtonhistory.org/Buildings_and_Places/Doll_Museum/doll_museum.html Cost: $1.50 for a self-guided tour; special group tours are available for Girls Scouts and other organizations Hours: 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays-Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays Mid-Ohio Historical (Doll and Toy) Museum Not long after its 1964 opening, museum founder Henrietta Pfeifer realized she needed to add the parenthetical "doll and toy" to the place's title because dolls and toys are indeed what it's all about. The building's seven rooms, not counting its front lobby, store and doll-hospital area, are packed to the rafters with dolls, train sets and toys - but mostly with dolls. It's awe-inspiring, if not a little overwhelming. The all-volunteer staff has created a scavenger-hunt checklist to help visitors make sense of what they're seeing. Children who are old enough to have an interest in history will probably get the most out of a visit, as well as respect the strict no-touching rules. You could easily spend 1-2 hours in here, depending on a child's age. 700 Winchester Pike, Canal Winchester 43110; 614-837-5573; dollmuseumohio.org Cost: $3 per person (under 6 free, but the museum is probably not appropriate for very young children) Hours: 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, April to December (reopens April 4 this year) Motts Military Museum This museum presents a wonderful opportunity to bring history to life for kids. If museum founder Warren Motts happens to be there during your visit, all the better. His enthusiasm for the museum pieces and his knowledge of how and when they were used makes for an unforgettable experience. Many of the exhibits are from Motts' personal collection. He's a Civil War buff who has amassed an amazing amount of artifacts. After he moved his museum from his home to its current location in Groveport, veterans from across the nation started giving him their personal items and families offered him pieces from their ancestors. The museum has uniforms, I.D. tags and weapons from many of the wars fought by U.S. soldiers. It's a great place to do research for school projects. Be sure to visit the outdoor area behind the museum. The space houses the collection of military vehicles and gives kids a chance to run off some energy. 5075 S. Hamilton Road, Groveport, 43125; 614-836-1500; mottsmilitarymuseum.org Cost: $5 for adults; $3 for students and $4 for seniors for self-guided tours Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday