3 Places I Love to Take My Kids in Columbus: Aaron Sheldon

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Each month I will be featuring a local parent who will tell us about three places they love to take their kids in Columbus!

Thanks to Aaron for sharing 3 of his favorites with us this month!

1. COSI

I guess it’s a no brainer that one of a wandering astronaut’s favorite places in Columbus is COSI. We have had a membership since Astronaut Harrison was two, and we still visit frequently. We have always enjoyed COSI for its permanent exhibits and fantastic kid’s play area. We love going there even more now that the planetarium shows and access to the American Museum of Natural History Dinosaur Gallery are included in the cost of the annual family pass.

Another thing to love? Discount programs for veterans and families who participate in WIC, Ohio Directions or Ohio Medicaid through their Family Access membership ($49 per family!).


2. Cover to Cover Books

Having an amazing children’s bookstore like Cover To Cover was great when it was in Clintonville. When owner Melia Wolf moved it to the Mallway in Upper Arlington (5 minutes from my house) it became downright dangerous to my wallet. Melia and her staff are fantastic. They have introduced Astronaut Harrison to several new book series that he adores and they are always up for a game of chess.

They also offer frequent story times and visits from notable children’s book authors. If you have the chance you have to attend their Firefighter story time with the UA Fire Department. After story time (and fire safety tips) everyone goes across the street to the UA Fire Station for a chance to see the firefighting gear and trucks.


3. Legoland Discovery Center Columbus

Our new favorite place in Columbus is Legoland Discovery Center Columbus (LDC) at Easton Town Center. LDC has so many great activities with something of interest for kids of all ages (including us parents). Astronaut Harrison’s favorites are the 4D Cinema, LEGO Racers test tracks, the rides, and the multi-level playland.

My favorites are the Creative Workshops that offers a different build session every month, the MINILAND version of Columbus (and parts of Cleveland and Cincinnati), and the coffee shop (which serves Starbucks). The first Thursday of every month they have Adult Fan of LEGO Night with a host of activities and giveaways – no kids allowed. November was Casino night and I won big!

Astronaut Harrison and I have been there many times, and we’ve put together a few tips on how to get the most out of your visit (including how to save big on admission) on our blog at: Astronaut Harrison Explores the New LEGOLAND Discovery Center at Easton.


Astronaut Harrison is a 1st grader who loves to explore his everyday world. His Dad, Aaron Sheldon, when not documenting adventures for their Instagram account @smallstepsaregiantleaps, is a Social Media consultant for area non-profits and a real estate photographer.

As a special for What Should We Do Today Columbus readers, you can pick up a copy of their book “Small Steps Are Giant Leaps” for 50% off the cover price at: https://mpex.com/small-steps-are-giant-leaps.html

Use code Leaps50 at checkout to get the discount!


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Top 10 Things to do with Kids in Columbus, Ohio

Top 10 Things to do with Kids in Columbus, Ohio


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The 5 Best Membership Gifts for Columbus Kids

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Memberships are the gifts that literally keep on giving – for at least one whole year! 😉 These family memberships to these amazing Columbus institutions have been life savers for my family!

This post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure.

Giving the gift of “experience” has become popular over the past decade or so. Kids pile up toys until you can’t see a clean spot on the bedroom floor! (Or is that just my house?) Giving your family or a family you love the gift of one of these Columbus Memberships is one of the best ways to give a gift of experience because they can be used up to 365 times throughout the entire year – and they don’t take up any space on the floor!

I’ll be honest though, in the moment, my kids wouldn’t be too thrilled to receive a plastic card with a bow on top! Over time, they would understand the gift of membership, for sure, but I’ve also included a small gift idea that would go with the theme of each membership in case you want a little something for the kid in your life to open on the spot!

5 Columbus Membership Gifts that give the gift of experience all year round:


1. Ohio History Connection

Ohio History Center MastodonA membership to Ohio History Connection is one of the most affordable memberships in Ohio! If you live in Columbus or Central Ohio, you’ll have year round access to Ohio History Center and Ohio Village and their many events, but you also get access to over 50 historical sites all around the state of Ohio!

There are lots of activities for kids inside the museum including a play area, mounted animals, a 1950’s house to explore, 2 cabin areas where kids can play with historical tools and household items. (Read about our visit to Ohio History Center!) During the summer, Ohio Village is a fun place to explore with your family. The village is based in the late 1800’s and you can visit shops and businesses to meet the residents and learn about their way of life.

Cost for membership: Household memberships are just $65 and apply to 2 adults and all children 18 and under. For an additional $20 you can upgrade to the Plus membership and you can bring 2 additional guests any time you visit!

If your kids are 5 and under, consider getting an Individual membership for $45. Kids 5 and under are free and with the Individual membership, you can bring an additional guest at any time.

Discounts available: Discounts are available for adults over 60, active educators, active duty military or local history organization, Ohio Farm Bureau members, and to households who relieve WIC or have an Ohio Direction Card.

Perks: Throughout the year, several fun events are held at Ohio Village (an outdoor historical village included with your admission to Ohio History Center) such as Storybook Village, All Hallow’s Eve, vintage base ball games and more! Discounts are also available to members in the gift shop!

Fun gift idea to accompany the membership: Columbus and the State of Ohio: Cool Stuff Every Kid Should Know – learn all the cool facts about Ohio, including about Ohio Village Muffins base ball!


2. Franklin Park Conservatory

Franklin Park Conservatory's Children's Garden

A year or so ago, I would have recommended this membership with a little bit of reservation. Franklin Park Conservatory is amazing, no doubt, but when it comes to kids, there was just a small part of the museum where they could really be hands on. My kids loved all parts of the museum, especially the butterflies, so we’ve always had a membership. HOWEVER, with the opening of the Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden, a membership to Franklin Park Conservatory is a MUST HAVE for Central Ohio families!

The Conservatory offers activities for families on most weekends, special holiday events, special exhibits and the ever popular annual Blooms and Butterflies exhibit where you can walk amongst hundreds of butterflies! The Children’s Garden, opened in 2018, is an amazing outdoor garden with several different themed areas for kids to explore. The garden is open year round and there are special story times and events throughout the year. It’s an entire exhibit in itself!

Cost for membership: The Family membership is $125 and includes two adults and all children 18 and under. Add an additional $50 to be able to bring 2 additional guests each visit.

Discounts available: a 10% discount off of memberships is given to full time educators and active or retired military personnel. An Access Family Membership is available at a significant discount ($30) for families in eligible programs such as CareSource, Ohio Directions Card, Medicaid, WIC or Molina.

Perks: Members get a 10% discount in the cafe and gift shop! Your membership card will get you free admission to over 300 gardens throughout North America and the Cayman Islands!

Fun gift idea to accompany the membership: Butterfly Garden – kids can watch their own caterpillars become butterflies just like at Franklin Park Conservatory!


3. Center of Science and Industry (COSI)

little kidspace at COSI

COSI is a must have membership for Columbus families! COSI has something for every age and even adults are sure to have fun! Even if you have littler kids (5 and under), a membership to COSI just to play in little kidspace once a week beats the cost of any other indoor play area in town!

Toddlers and babies will start out in little kidspace, a huge play area that includes an art studio, water tables, ride on vehicles, slides and climbing and so many opportunities for imaginative play! As they grow, they will progress to the other areas of the museum including tinkering with robots, exploring the ocean, learning about their bodies and visiting the permanent dinosaur exhibit!

Cost for membership: Family memberships at COSI range from $119 – $329/year depending on how much you would like to add on! The Basic Family membership is $149 and is a great starter membership! If you’d like to regularly attend Planetarium shows or bring an add on guest, consider upgrading to the Premium Family membership! Purchase a Gift Membership here!

Discounts available: A $10 discount on memberships is given for active, reserve and retired military. There is also a discounted membership for Teacher Families and Single Adult Families. The Family Access membership is available for $49 for families participating in WIC, Ohio Directions Card or Ohio Medicaid.

Perks: Members get access to special events, early entrance to new exhibits and discounts in the gift shop and cafe! Members also get discounted parking and free or discounted admission to over 350 participating science centers.

Fun gift idea to accompany the membership: My First Mind Blowing Science Kit – get kids interested in science through hands on experiments! A perfect way to continue the learning at home!


4. LEGOLAND Discovery Center Columbus

LEGOLAND Discovery Center Columbus

LEGO lovers will be in heaven at the newest Columbus attraction! Housed in Easton Station at Easton Town Center, LEGOLAND Discovery Center Columbus offers 10+ LEGO building areas, 2 rides, a 4D movie theater and a cafe! If your kids love playing with LEGO bricks, you will get tons of use out of this membership!

An Annual Pass to LEGOLAND Columbus is one of the pricier memberships listed here, but if you live in town and think you will visit more than 3 times, it’s well worth it! An Annual Pass also gets you a discount in the huge LEGO store connected to the attraction, which will also be worth it if you’re buying any LEGO sets for your kids as gifts throughout the year!

Cost for membership: The cost of an Annual Pass is $60.00 per person when you buy 3 or more passes. Keep in mind kids 2 and under are free and you must be accompanied by a child to visit LEGOLAND Discovery Center Columbus.

Discounts available: no additional discounts are available at this time on Annual Passes.

Perks: LEGOLAND is open 365 days a year! Members get express entry, 20% off food and drinks in the Coffee Shop & Cafe and 10% off select items in the LEGO Store attached to the attraction.

Fun gift idea to accompany the membership:  Pick out a LEGO set to accompany these passes, maybe something holiday themed like LEGO Duple Town Santa’s Winter Holiday


5. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Polar Bear and Baby at Columbus Zoo

A membership to Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is another must-have for Columbus kids! For one thing, having a membership to the Columbus Zoo takes away the pressure to see it all in one trip! The Zoo is so big, seeing it in one day can be literally exhausting. But if you have a membership, you can visit areas at your leisure, truly enjoying them with no pressure to “get your money’s worth”.

Another major bonus is that members get to park for free! Parking is $10 a pop, so this is no small savings as you visit throughout the year! The Zoo has some great programs for kids like Zoo Camps and Little Explorers Base Camp and great seasonal events like Boo at the Zoo and Wildlights that are included in your membership.

Cost for membership: Family Memberships begin at $114 (if you’re buying online) and continue up to $144.99/person if you’d like to include membership to Zoombezi Bay! The Family Plus membership is available for $144.00 (online) which allows you to bring two guests when you visit. Prices increase if you are not a Franklin County resident.

Discounts available: Discounts are given to Franklin County residents on admission and memberships!

Perks: Membership includes FREE parking (a $10 value each time you visit), Members Only events, a discount at the Zoo Gift Shop, priority registration for programs and free or reduced admission to more than 100 AZA accredited zoos.

Fun gift idea to accompany the membership: 54 Piece Jungle Animals Set – get psyched about visiting the Heart of Africa at Columbus Zoo by playing with giraffes and lions ahead of time!


A Note About The Columbus Member Advantage:

If you buy one of these memberships listed above (except LEGOLAND), you will be eligible for the Columbus Member Advantage program!
Buy One, Get One Free admission is available through the Columbus Member Advantage program at the following participating locations. Show your membership card from any one of these participating museums and institutions to receive BOGO free tickets:
•Columbus Museum of Art
•Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
•COSI
•Ohio History Center & Ohio Village
•Wexner Center for the Arts
•Franklin Park Conservatory
The fine print: “Receive up to two free general admissions of equal or lesser value per visit when purchasing two regular-priced general admission tickets. Tickets must be purchased from the admissions area of the facility you are visiting. Cannot be combined with other discounts or offers. Not valid on prior purchases. No rain checks or refunds. Some restrictions may apply. Offer expires December 31, 2018 unless otherwise noted.” (This is usually repeated each calendar year.)

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5 Best Membership Gifts for Columbus Kids

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ICYMI: 10 of Our Favorite Columbus Christmas Traditions

 


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3 Places I Love to Take My Kids in Columbus: Erin Wanke

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Each month I will be featuring a local parent who will tell us about three places they love to take their kids in Columbus!

Thanks to Erin for sharing 3 of her favorites with us this month!

1. Pigeon Roost Farm

We love all the fun farms in central Ohio that open their doors to families during one of the best times of the year in the Midwest! One of our favorites, Pigeon Roost is a family farm in Hebron Ohio that features a “Great Pumpkin Fun Center” each fall (Sept 15 – Oct 31). We started going when our oldest was 3 and have been back almost every year since.

When you enter, you’ll see their huge pumpkin patch and concession stands, and the ticket booth for your passes to the family fun area. They’ve got plenty to keep you entertained on a beautiful weekend day: slides, a corn maze, an enchanted forest with obstacle course, a tire play arena, straw barn, pumpkin express train, and lots more. It’s probably best for ages 7ish and younger, but they do have something for everyone – after all, who doesn’t love an adult size corn maze and kettle corn?! (I may or may not have officially gotten lost in that maze once or twice. #truth.)


2. Columbus Children’s Theater

For a kid-friendly cultural experience, The Columbus Children’s Theater has a continual line-up of family focused performances, including sensory friendly offerings. We’ve seen Mr. Scrooge there twice, once as a family and once with friends, and even got to meet some of the actors afterwards (as you can see in the picture of my daughter and friends!).

The small space makes for an intimate venue, and their performances are geared towards a range of ages depending on the specific show. Some upcoming shows include Dracula, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Pete the Cat, and Peter Pan. They also offer acting classes which our kids haven’t done but I can see my middle daughter loving that. Bonus: The theater is located conveniently close to North Market, which makes it easy to stop by before or after for lunch, dinner, or a snack (our favorites are Little Eater and Destination Donuts!)


3. Acre

The Upper Arlington/Grandview location of Acre is a favorite lunch stop, both for convenience and for their healthy kid’s menu offerings. They have smoothies, kid sized versions of their bowls, veggie quesadillas, and grilled chicken skewers with dipping sauce and broccoli. As for me, I love their black bean hummus and their Thai bowl with tofu.

If you haven’t tried the Impossible Burger, a meatless burger that’s somewhat new on the market, Acre features two different varieties of it on their menu (a classic cheeseburger or a vegan umami burger with mushrooms, miso mayo, and house kimchee).


Erin Wanke spent 8 years working in clinical research before leaving to become certified as a Health Coach through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. She now runs a health coaching business, authors a vegetarian food and wellness blog (Feed Me Greens) and provides recipe development and food photography services.

She is receiving her Vegan Nutrition Certification from the Vegetarian Health Institute and specializes in helping others move towards plant-based eating. Erin lives in Columbus, OH with her husband and three young children/sous chefs/mess makers. You can find more information on her website at www.feedmegreens.com, or follow her on Instagram (@feed_me_greens)!


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ICYMI: Central Ohio Pumpkin Patches and Fall Festivals


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