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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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Franklin Park Conservatory’s Children’s Garden is Unlike Anything Else in Columbus

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The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden at Franklin Park Conservatory will be one of the top family-friendly attractions in Columbus!

Today Mayson and I got a sneak peek of the new Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden at Franklin Park Conservatory! There is nothing else like this in the city! I walked away from the tour in awe!

The Children’s Garden is going to be a full-fledged attraction in itself, but it comes at no additional cost to visitors of the Franklin Park Conservatory! Access to the Children’s Garden is included with admission or membership and can only be entered through the Conservatory. On Community Days, the first Sunday of each month, residents of Franklin County and the City of Columbus can enter the Conservatory for free with your valid ID from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM!

A special thanks to Franklin Park Conservatory and CEO, Bruce Harkey for giving us this special tour!

Here are some of the many highlights:

A kids only entrance made of willows!

The Sunshine Celebration Arch, featuring stained glass rainbows!

The Rainbow Welcome Terrace is where you  can orient yourself and peruse the map to decide where to go first!

Larger than life topiaries throughout the park!

Misting Boulders – kids can run around in the mist, which will also create rainbows in the air!

The Flower Kaleidoscope!

Take the road less travelled!

Explore the Sensory Garden full of instruments to play!

Give or watch a puppet show!

This playhouse is made of bamboo and straw bales  wrapped in mud and clay and is the largest natural children’s playhouse in the world!

The Sunrise Lawn for rolling and running and the Boulder Scramble for rock climbing!

The Fairy Garden.

The Whispering Wall – whisper at one end and your partner can hear on the other end of this curved bench!

The Reading Garden – grab a book and enjoy this peaceful area!

The Word Garden – make your own inspirational sentences!

In an area called, My Ohio Woods, This Sandstone Bluff is modeled after Hocking Hills! Water will cascade down the bluff and will fill this creek area for children to explore! (yes, they will get wet!)

The Wetland Explore includes a boardwalk and Floating Path. In this rain garden area, water will rise and fall with the rain. The area also includes a Pollywog Pool where kids can watch for tadpoles!

The Green Man!

This Floating Frame will be a spot for floating art! Drop in floating objects to create a moving piece of artwork within a stone frame!

A gardening and cooking area!

A Nature Play Zone that includes a Stump Jump, Sand Box and Web Climb!

An amazing Canopy Walk that gives you a bird’s eye view of the entire garden!

The Hammock Lounge, which is 12 feet off the ground, may look scary, but it can literally hold 7 elephants!

A Cork Tree Rope Walk – swaying bridges that allow you to walk through the heights.

Cardinal Corner – a life sized bird’s nest!

The Children’s Garden also has a Learning Pavilion where events will be held. In this building there are also family restrooms and hand washing stations.

The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden opens to the public on Saturday, May 19, 2018. There will be a brief ceremony at 9:30 AM. However, members can RSVP for a preview on May 18, by clicking here!

Know Before You Go:

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
1777 E. Broad Street Columbus, OH 43203
Phone: 614-715-8000
Open Daily: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

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10 Life Hacks for Columbus Parents

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Parent life is hard, amirite?! Here are 10 ways to save money, make life a little easier and enjoy Columbus!

1. Columbus Member Advantage Program

Through the Columbus Member Advantage program, you can show your membership card from one of the participating partners to buy one admission and get the second one free – up to two free admissions per visit. Columbus Member Advantage partners include:

  • Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
  • COSI
  • Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
  • Ohio History Center & Ohio Village
  • Wexner Center for the Arts

2. Free Child Care at Eagle’s Nest

Grocery shopping is the new Friday night date, have you noticed? In addition to great in-store dinner options and wine tastings, you can take advantage of the Eagle’s Nest Child Care at four Giant Eagle Market District locations around Columbus. This is a free child care service for kids ages 3-9 for up to 2 hours. (And yes, you have to remain in the store! 😉 )

3. Half Price Pizza from Papa John’s

When the Columbus Blue Jackets score two goals (win or lose) Papa John’s locations in Central Ohio offer 50% off large pizzas with the code JACKETS50 the very next day! With the awesome season the Blue Jackets are having, that means a lot of cheap pizza! Everybody wins! See their schedule here.

4. Free Magazine Downloads

Children’s (and adult’s) digital magazines are available from Columbus Metropolitan Library and can be checked out on your device and kept FOREVER! See the link here for the titles that are available! You can also check out adult coloring books!

5. Free Rides on the CBUS

If you’d like to take your kids to the Short North, Downtown or German Village but aren’t sure about how far they can walk, take the CBUS! The CBUS is a FREE circulating bus with a route that circles from the Short North, through Downtown to German Village and the Brewery District and back again. Riding the bus is fun in itself for a lot of kids! Click here for the route map.

6. Mom’s Valet at Chic-fil-A

If the thought of taking the kids into a restaurant by yourself, waiting in line to order and carrying your food to your seat seems like an impossible feat, head through the Drive Thru at Chic-fil-A at Sawmill, place your order and tell them you’re coming inside. They’ll have your order ready and at a table for you by the time you park and get inside!

7. Mini-Me Weekends at Level 1 Arcade

Level 1 Arcade welcomes kids every Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 PM – 6:00 PM. All ages are welcome to play arcade games and skeeball for free with the purchase of a beverage (kids’ beverages available)! Children must be accompanied by an adult.

8. Franklin County Days at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

On Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Franklin County residents receive half price admission to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. You need to show a valid ID or utility bill to prove your residency and receive the discount. See the details here.

9. Charitable Play at Recreations Outlet

If we still have a few more weeks of Winter ahead of us, you may want to take your energetic preschoolers to Recreation’s Outlet to get out all that excess energy! Regular price for indoor play is normally $6 or $8 per child for up to two hours, depending on the day. If you take advantage of Charitable Play hours (Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 AM – 11:00 AM) not only can your kids can play for a donation of only $2/child, but also 50% of the proceeds on those days are donated to charity!

10. Dolly Parton Imagination Library

Kids 5 and under in certain zip codes in Franklin County are eligible to receive one free book a month through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program. Easterseals of Central and Southeast Ohio are partnering to administer the program here in Central Ohio. You can get an application at local libraries or check your eligibility and enroll online. Check the link for all the details!

**What are you favorite Columbus Life Hacks? I’d love to hear them! Click here to tell me your favorites!**

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*Please be aware,  information is gathered from multiple community sources.  Times, dates and locations are subject to change. There may be a fee to participate in a featured activity.  Please call ahead or check links to confirm activities.  Enjoy what you do today!*


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