Explore the Scioto Mile with Your Kids on the Smart Circuit

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Explore the Scioto Mile with your family by riding Smart Circuit, Ohio’s first self-driving shuttle! You can be a part of the start of a new era of mobility innovation in Central Ohio!

Thank you to Smart Columbus for sponsoring this post!

smart columbus experience center building

Spend a Day on the Scioto Mile with your Family By Riding the Smart Circuit:

Columbus is home to Ohio’s first self driving shuttle! Sound scary? I’ll admit I was a little bit nervous – especially just a few weeks after having been in a car accident – to take my 4 year old on a self-driving vehicle! But when I found out that all of the vehicles are manned by an attendant who can step in at any time, my fear subsided!

Turns out the majority of vehicle accidents are caused by user error! The hope is that one day, self driving vehicles, though they may sound scary to us now, will actually reduce accidents and save lives.

What is the Smart Circuit?

Columbus is home base to a project called Smart Circuit, a self-driving shuttle. It’s the first of its kind in Ohio and it’s short route is 1.5 miles, has 4 stops, and takes about 15 minutes to complete. The shuttle is free to ride and operates from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM every day.

riding the smart circuit columbus, ohio

campfire seating inside the smart circuit

Funded through October, the project has two major goals. One is to provide data and information to engineers, researchers and policymakers from Smart Columbus, DriveOhio and The Ohio State University as they decide how self-driving technology can be further used around Ohio. The second goal is to offer us, the general public, a hands-on experience with self-driving technology. Think of this as an educational project- for all of us!

How does the Smart Circuit work?

I’m not going to pretend to understand the technology that makes the Smart Circuit shuttle work. But I had lots of questions like  “how does it know where it’s going?” “How does it know when to stop?” and “How does it know when everyone has boarded the vehicle?” 

The shuttle uses sensors and intelligent software with a 360 degree view to help the vehicle know where it is, what direction to go and when to stop. If someone or something runs into the street, the shuttle can tell and knows to stop. And don’t worry, the attendant tells the shuttle when to pull away from each stop. It’s not going to start going before you’re safely in the vehicle! 

Is the Smart Circuit Safe for Kids?

You might also be wondering, as I did, about safety for children.

attendant in the smart circuit, columbus, ohio

The first thing that might set your mind at ease is that there is a vehicle attendant in each shuttle who can take control at any time. While I was riding, we encountered a truck parked in a space where the Smart Circuit was supposed to make a full u-turn but there wasn’t enough room. The attendant stepped in and made the turn. 

Secondly, the vehicle goes at a max speed of 25 miles per hour. There are 4 seats in the back that are in a “campfire” configuration.

mom and son riding the smart circuit

You will need to follow the same vehicle safety guidelines that you follow in your own car. Children under 4 are required to have a car seat on the Smart Circuit.  I would recommend doing this with children who need a booster seat or no seat at all for ease of transport!

Where can I get on the Smart Circuit?

smart circuit stop

The Smart Circuit has 4 stops: COSI, National Veterans Memorial and Museum, Bicentennial Park and Smart Columbus Experience Center. There is a sign at each stop letting you know where to wait for the shuttle. There are three shuttles on the route and your wait time in between shuttles is around 10 minutes. View the route here.

What is there to do on the Scioto Mile?

So now that we’ve got all of the technical questions out of the way, I’m hoping you’ve come to see the Smart Circuit Shuttle in the same way I did: as an experience. The Smart Circuit exists to help us learn about self-driving technology and to experience it ourselves. We are the first city in Ohio to have access to this kind of experience and it will certainly be a part of our children’s lives in the future!

Why not take this opportunity to be “a part of the start” and be one of the first people in our state to have this experience? I’m proposing you make a day of it!

boy running on the scioto mile

8 Family Friendly Things to do Around the Scioto Mile:

Here are 8 family-friendly things to do around the Scioto Mile that enable you to take your kids on the Smart Circuit as part of your transportation! Pick a few of these stops that make sense for your family and give it a try!

1. COSI

cosi

I recommend starting at COSI for your trip on the Smart Circuit! There is an underground parking garage where you can park and if you visit COSI you can have your parking validated. Parking is $5 for COSI members and $6 for the general public if you get your ticket stamped at the COSI box office. Otherwise parking is $6 for the first 3 hours and $2 for each additional hour up to $15. 

COSI (Center Of Science and Industry) offers fun and educational experiences for all ages! From the little kidspace for toddlers to all of the amazing regular science exhibits, rotating exhibits and the American Museum of Natural History Dinosaur Gallery there is truly something for everyone! 

2. Dorrian Green

dorrian green park outside cosi

Don’t have time for a full on visit to COSI? Check out the park and playground area just outside of COSI. There are several play structures and small fountains during the summer! Outside of COSI there are also a couple of dinosaur displays that can be seen without entering COSI.

3. Smart Columbus Experience Center

inside the smart columbus experience center

The Smart Columbus Experience Center is open for you to stop in and learn about the future of transportation! There are touch screens with games that can be played (also look for these around the Short North!) and vehicles to explore. If you are interested in purchasing an electric vehicle you can also come to The Smart Columbus Experience Center to test drive vehicles in a no-pressure situation! 

Smart Columbus Experience Center

4. Bicentennial Park

bicentennial park in Columbus Ohio with holiday lights

Bicentennial Park is a great hang out space for families! During the summer, kids can play in the fountains and during the holiday season, the park is decked out with lights! Taking the Smart Circuit around its route is a great way to see the holiday lights all throughout the Scioto Mile! 

5. Veterans Memorial and Museum

We have yet to visit the newly opened Veterans Memorial and Museum, but this would be a great stop for older kids and adult family members. I’ve got it on good report that you should allow a couple of hours to visit the museum (and maybe NOT tack it on to a visit to COSI!) 😉 

6. Cultural Arts Center

Cultural Arts Center in Columbus, Ohio

Stop by the Cultural Arts Center to visit one of the art galleries. Admission is free. Adults can take classes here or join in one of the Conversations and Coffee talks!

7. The Promenade

promenade on the scioto mile

The Scioto Mile encompasses 175 acres of parkland and includes bikeways, walking paths and 9 parks! The Promenade on the Scioto Mile is a walkway along the river that offers stunning views of downtown and swings and benches for relaxing.

swing on the Scioto Mile promenade

8. Columbus Commons 

Columbus Commons at night

Just a short walk from Bicentennial Park, Columbus Commons is another great spot to view holiday lights or to play in the summer! Columbus Commons is home to many free events during the spring through fall and is a large green space to let your kids run out all that energy no matter what time of year!


After visiting the Smart Columbus Experience Center and taking a ride on the shuttle, my interest is piqued! I’m curious to see how transportation will change in my kids’ life time. 

What about you? Will you take your kids on the Smart Circuit this year?

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scioto mile promenade

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Top 10 Things to do with Kids in Columbus, Ohio

ICYMI: Top 10 Things to do with Kids in Columbus, Ohio


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4 Amazing New Exhibits for Columbus Kids!

4 Amazing New Exhibits for Kids in Columbus

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Something new is always popping up for kids to do in Columbus! It’s one of the amazing things about Columbus – we never lack for something to do! It’s at least a part time job keeping up with it – I can testify to that personally! 😉

Two of these exhibits are permanent and two are temporary, so mark your calendars so you don’t miss these fun, family-friendly exhibits!

1. American Museum of Natural History Dinosaur Gallery

The new Dinosaur Gallery at COSI is a permanent exhibit that is included with admission or membership! If you have dinosaur lovers, they will be enraptured! The exhibit includes a full-size cast of Tyrannosaurs Rex, dinosaur bones, a model of an Oviraptor nest kids can actually climb on, dinosaur prints and many, many more educational displays, interactive exhibits and models! COSI is open every day, May through August, and Wednesday through Sunday beginning late September through April.

2. The Wonder Room at Columbus Museum of Art

In late October, Columbus Museum of Art unveiled a newly remodeled Wonder Room! The room was created to feel like kids are entering a large “blanket fort” in which to play and imagine! Like the previous design, there are several stations with hands-on activities for kids, but the new theme leans towards textiles, fabrics and tactile experiences. There’s felt, fashion design and weaving. You can also create spiders out of craft materials, draw, and hide out under the stars. Visiting this exhibit is included in your admission or membership to CMA.

  

3. Wizard of Oz Educational Exhibit at Easton Town Center

This temporary collaboration between Easton and Miami Children’s Museum, presented by Warner Bros. is the first licensed traveling exhibit based on the movie The Wizard of Oz. It will be housed on the 2nd floor of the Easton Station Building until March 25, 2018. Kids can create a tornado in Dorothy’s house, make their own scarecrow, see scenes from the movie, pick vegetables on the farm, try out optical illusions, climb through the the castle of the Wicked Witch of the West and take part in daily scheduled activities and crafts! Space inside the exhibit is limited so anticipate a short wait in line to get in. There are no flying monkeys or wicked witch, in case you’re concerned about scaring the kids, but there is a Wizard who lights up with a glowing red fire. This is a free exhibit!

 4. Think Outside the Brick at Columbus Museum of Art

While you’re visiting the Wonder Room at Columbus Museum of Art, be sure to check out Think Outside the Brick, a temporary, but annual, collaboration with Ohio LEGO User’s Group! This exhibit, entirely made of LEGOs includes a large display of the city of Columbus, as well as other scenes like pirates, zombies, airplanes, a park and more! On the wall of the room there is a list of items for kids to search for within the scene! Also on the first floor, check out the area for kids to make their own creations out of white LEGOs to display on shelves against a black wall. This exhibit is included with admission or membership and will be on display through March 2, 2018! The Columbus Museum of Art is free on Sundays!


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ICYMI: Top 10 Things to do with Kids in Columbus Ohio

4 Amazing New Exhibits for Columbus Kids! Don't miss these amazing exhibits in Columbus Ohio! Some are temporary!

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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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These are the top 10 things to do with kids in Columbus Ohio!

Columbus has so much to offer families! It’s a great place to live, work, play and visit! Every day it seems I run across something new going on or a special event to check out! My family moved here over 10 years ago and we have fallen in love! (Make sure to follow us on Instagram for every day ideas of things to do in Columbus, Ohio with your kids!)

If you’re new to Columbus, planning a trip to Columbus or a new parent in Columbus, these are the top 10, can’t miss family-friendly things to do in this amazing city! 

The Top 10 Things to do with Kids in Columbus, Ohio:

1. Center of Science and Industry

COSI Science Center, Columbus, Ohio

COSI Science Center

One of the top science museums in the country, the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) has something for kids (and adults) of all ages! There are 2 full floors of hands-on science exhibits with different themes from Oceans to Gadgets to Energy, a cafe, a little kidspace that’s perfect for the 6 and under crowd, a permanent American Museum of Natural History Dinosaur Gallery and seasonal, traveling exhibits.

Dorrian Green in Downtown Columbus

Dorrian Green

Within the museum is a cafe serving coffee, wine and snacks, a restaurant serving full meals and a great gift shop! Parking is available in the underground garage or at nearby meters. Outside COSI is Dorian Green, a great park and playground area where the kids can run around and you can eat a picnic lunch!

Oceans Exhibit at COSI in Columbus Ohio

Oceans Exhibit at COSI

2. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

young boy at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Another gem in Columbus is the Zoo and Aquarium! Highlights include the Heart of Africa, the Polar Frontier and the new Shores Play Park! The Zoo is open every day of the year except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Don’t miss the special shows, programs for kids and holiday events like Boo at the Zoo and Wildlights! During the summer you can combine your visit with water play at Zoombezi Bay (additional tickets required)!

shores play park at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Shores Play Park at Columbus Zoo

Within the zoo are several snack shops and a food court. You can also bring in your own food – but no glass bottles or straws! Check the website for their bag policy to make sure your bag fits the size specifications. Coolers and food storage bags can be stored at your own risk in a pavilion just outside of the zoo entrance. 

Lions in the Heart of Africa at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Heart of Africa at Columbus Zoo

3. Columbus Metropolitan Library, Main Library and Topiary Park

entrance to the Children's Department at Columbus Metropolitan Library

Children’s Department at Columbus Metropolitan Library, Main Library

The Main Library in downtown Columbus was remodeled in 2016 and offers a large children’s area, reading rooms, a coffee shop and cafe, gift shop with unique items, and outdoor patio and access to the internet. 

art in the atrium of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, Main Library

Main Library, Columbus Metropolitan Libray

It’s worth stopping here even if just to check out the unique Topiary Park just East of the library. There is access to the park from the library. The park is a sculptural interpretation of Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grand Jatte. There are 54 people made of plants and bushes as well as boats, dogs and other animals, standing up to 12 feet tall! Read more about Topiary Park in 3 of the Most Unique Parks in Columbus Ohio.

 

Topiary Park in Columbus, Ohio

4. Columbus Commons

carousel at Columbus Commons in Columbus, Ohio

Columbus Commons

Looking for a green space in the middle of the city to put your feet up and let the kids run around? Look no further than Columbus Commons. Not only is there a huge green space for kids to run around in, during the warmer months there is access to art supplies and books on most days and a carousel!

Kid playing at Commons for Kids, Columbus, Ohio

Commons for Kids at Columbus Commons

There are two permanent cafes in the park, Tortilla – Mexican street food and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams – some of the best ice cream in Columbus! Throughout the season the park hosts many events, concerts and festivals including Commons for Kids on Friday mornings during the summer.

Easy and convenient parking is available in the Columbus Commons Garage at 55 E. Rich St.

Downtown Columbus Ohio

Columbus Commons

5. Columbus Museum of Art

kids building with blocks at Columbus Museum of Art

Columbus Museum of Art

Believe it or not, there is a lot for kids to do at the Columbus Museum of Art! Check out the Wonder Room, a space completely dedicated to kids where they can explore various textiles and activities to inspire the artist inside. Throughout the museum there are rotating activities for kids to make connections to the art on the walls.

Wonder Room at Columbus Museum of Art

Wonder Room at Columbus Museum of Art

Each year the museum is home to Think Outside the Brick, a huge LEGO display and opportunities for free building. Look for opportunities to take a Family Adventures Tour or drop in on a Young Child Studio. Bonus: the museum is FREE on Sundays!

6. Inniswood Metro Gardens

Inniswood Metro Park in Columbus, Ohio

Inniswood Metro Gardens

Many of the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks offer amazing play and learning opportunities for kids, indoors and outdoors, but Inniswood Metro Gardens is especially magical for children. The park includes a Sister’s Garden with places for kids to play, look for frogs and hide in the Secret Garden.

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Kids can walk amongst the trees on suspension bridges and climb into a treehouse. The park also offers programs for children throughout the year. Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks offers programs throughout the year for preschoolers, families and adults at this park!

Inniswood Metro Park in Columbus, Ohio

Inniswood Metro Gardens

7. Franklin Park Conservatory

boy looking at fish at Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio

Franklin Park Conservatory

Franklin Park Conservatory offers the opportunity to step into another climate, be it the desert or the rain forest! Amazing botanical displays are a guarantee and exhibits rotate throughout the seasons. In the spring Blooms & Butterflies opens and your family can watch newly emerged butterflies be released into the habitat.

play area at Franklin Park Conservatory for kids in columbus ohio

Children’s Play Area at Franklin Park Conservatory

There is a small children’s play area, preschool programs and family friendly activities throughout the week and on Saturdays. The conservatory itself has indoor and outdoor components and new in 2018, they have added an amazing Children’s Garden which is included in admission and offers a full experience in itself! The public grounds around the Conservatory are beautiful in themselves and also include a playground!

Children's Garden at Franklin Park ConservatoryChildren’s Garden at Franklin Park Conservatory

8. Scioto Audubon Metro Park

boys playing in sandbox at scioto audubon metro park in columbus ohio

Sandbox and Chalk Board Area at Scioto Audubon Metro Park

The only Metro Park in downtown Columbus is the Scioto Audubon Metro Park. Within it is the Grange Insurance Audubon Center. The best views of downtown Columbus can be seen from the Center and inside there is a children’s play area, live animals on display and lots of opportunities for bird watching!

Indoor play area at scioto audubon metro park nature center in columbus ohio

Indoor Play Area at Scioto Audubon Metro Park

Walk through the park, over the boardwalk to the climbing wall and playground area for extra exercise! Outside the Audubon Center there is a sand box for kids to play in, a chalk board and overlook decks to spot wildlife!

View of Downtown Columbus from Scioto Audubon

Scioto Audubon

9. Ohio History Center

Ohio History Center in Columbus, Ohio

Ohio History Center

The Ohio History Center is the hub of the Ohio History Connection, which includes 58 historic sites around Ohio. The Ohio History Center features exhibits highlighting the history of Ohio including a life in the 1950’s, pioneer Ohio, Ohio animals, including a large Mastodon on display, a children’s play area, vehicles and airplanes on display and much more.

Ohio Village at Ohio History Center in Columbus, Ohio

Ohio Village Muffins Base Ball Players

During the summer months, Ohio Village, an outdoor village that recreates life in the 1800’s is open for exploring and special events including Storybook Village and 1880’s style Base Ball games! The special events at Ohio Village are lots of fun but if you happen to visit on a weekday when the Village is less crowded, there is something pretty magical about stepping back in time and exploring the 1800’s at a relaxed pace!

Ohio History Center in Columbus, Ohio

Ohio History Center

10. Easton Town Center

train at Easton Town Center, Columbus, Ohio

Easton Town Center

Easton Town Center is your one stop destination for shopping, eating, playing and more! This open air mall offers just about any store you can imagine, fountains for splashing, a model train and kid-friendly stores like Build-A-Bear, American Girl, The LEGO Store plus the amazing LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Columbus!

fountains at Easton Town Center

Splash Pad at Easton Town Center

When it comes to dining, Easton offers tons of stand-alone restaurants to choose from as well as a food court. If you’re looking for some kid-friendly dining options check out: 5 Tasty Kid-Friendly Restaurants at Easton Town Center for the scoop!

kid playing at LEGOLAND Discovery Center Columbus

LEGOLAND Discovery Center at Easton Town Center

Ready for more? Check out Off the Beaten Path: 15 Unique Things to do in Columbus Ohio!

Need even more ideas? Try 100 Fun Things to do in Columbus, Ohio


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Top 10 Things to do with Kids in Columbus, Ohio


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