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 are our 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 are our 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. 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. The newest wing of the museum opened on May 23, 2015 and mostly focuses on the Vietnam War era. 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: $10 for adults; $5 for students; $8 for active military and veterans; $8 for seniors for self-guided tours Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday 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 ($5.50 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: $8 - Adults, $7 - Seniors (65 and over) & Military (with ID), $6 - Children age 4 and above, FREE - Children age 3 and under Hours: Sundays only 12 noon-4 p.m. The Santa Maria The replica of one of Christopher Columbus' three sailing ships is closed due to ongoing renovations along the Scioto Mile. No date is set for its reopening.