You Need these 7 Columbus Memberships to Survive Winter!

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A few years ago, facing my first winter as a SAHM with two kids, the panic started to set in around September. I bought a membership to everything I could think of (because some of these are really good deals!) and planned to have somewhere to go for every day of the week during the winter. Yes, I panicked, but it was worth it!

The cost of membership to most of these places more than pays for itself in usually 2 visits. After that your visits are “free” So every day it feels like you are getting to do something really fun for “free”. All year, special events are “free”. (Though I don’t necessarily suggest you buy all of these memberships in one month or you’ll find yourself spending a good chunk of change all in one month every year at renewal time. cough cough. (who would do that?) 😉 ). We do put $20/month into an envelope for our “memberships” – it doesn’t quite cover the costs to what I’ve listed here – but let’s just say it helps when renewal time comes around!

I can tell you this, I’m headed into my second winter with two kids and I have renewed every one of these memberships! 😉

1. Columbus Museum of Art

If you have children that are 5 and under, you should absolutely have a Friend membership to CMA. Cost is $60 for the year. This membership is for one person, but kids 5 and under are free! Plus you get admission for one additional adult per visit. (Regular adult admission is $14). If your kids are over 5, then the Household Membership is only $15 more. (Regular admission for children over 5 is $5/visit.)

The Museum has the Wonder Room, which is a great area for kids to create. It’s not exactly a toddler play area, so that is the one downside to taking kids that are 5 and under, but as they get closer to 5, they will get more and more out of the Wonder Room. Once a year, the museum has Think Outside the Brick, an LEGO display and exhibit! We usually see this at least twice, so we are getting our money’s worth right there! The museum offers Family Adventure Tours, Open Studio for all ages to drop in and your membership is also good for special exhibits.


2. Ohio History Center

Membership to Ohio History Center is about as affordable as you can get! This is another case where children 5 and under are free, so if your kids are young, you only need an Individual Membership which is $35. The Individual Membership also allows you to bring one unnamed adult per visit. Regular admission to OHC is $10/person, $5 for children over 5. You can also get $5 off your membership if you have AAA or are an active education (among others)! The family membership, if your children are over 5, is just $55.

Ohio History Center has a lot to offer kids. There are several educational play areas. Click this link above for my previous post about Ohio History Center and all there is for kids to do there! If you have a membership, it includes admission to Storybook Village, which is a fun day each summer when your children’s favorite story book characters come to life at Ohio Village. It also includes admission to Ohio Village Muffins vintage base ball games. (yes, it is base ball (2 words!)) as well as admission to 50 other sites and museums around the state!

In my mind, there are very few cons to this membership! If I had to think of one, it is that they are not open on Mondays and Tuesdays. This has tripped me up a few times! Whoops!


3. COSI

If you only have very young children or are new to Columbus, you might not know that COSI has a huge play space for kids age 6 and under! little kidspace is a great place for you to take babies, toddlers and preschoolers during the winter. (Major con this winter only is that the parking lot is under construction so you will have a bit of a cold walk to get inside! I’ve heard there is a shuttle running to and from the parking lot, but I haven’t been since it got really cold!)

The COSI membership is a bit pricier than the others I’ve mentioned so far (basic family is $119), but honestly, you can’t beat the price when it comes to an indoor play area for toddlers and preschoolers. (Obviously, COSI has a lot to offer older kids as well, but for now I am thinking of those of us who are passing winter days with kids who are not old enough to be in school yet!)

Regular admission ranges from $15 – $20/person, so a family could potentially spend the cost of a membership in one visit! Plus, your admission to COSI gets you discounts on parking, movie tickets, admission to special Members Only events and special events like Farm Days, Big Machines, Model Train Weekend and more!


4. Franklin Park Conservatory

The Conservatory is a great place to go in the winter! Even though plants and flowers might make you think of summer, I actually prefer going there in the Winter! Perhaps that is because we went there on a really hot day last summer, not thinking what it might feel like to walk through a greenhouse when it was already 100 degrees outside! Eek! A basic family membership is $90. (Regular admission is $14/adult and $7/child. Children 2 and under are free.) If it will be mainly one parent who just wants to get out of the house with a baby 2 and under, you could easily make use of the Individual Membership for $45!

The Conservatory can be slightly nerve wracking with toddlers if you’re managing more than one kid by yourself, but for the most part it is pretty kid friendly. (Speaking as someone whose child knocked over a glass vase filled with water there recently . . . ) One really great part about the membership is that it includes the special events going on at the Conservatory.

There is something for families most weekends and there is a Little Adventurers program for kids ages 3-5 on Thursdays! There is usually (depending on the exhibits going on at the time) a little children’s play area on the first floor, a model train and ongoing children’s activities. Not to mention, when it gets warm, the grounds are beautiful!


5. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

How is this one going to help you survive winter, you ask? Because you are going to get to take advantage of those unseasonably warm days that randomly pop up – I actually “strongly dislike” going to the zoo during the summer: too hot! (gosh I’m hard to please!) For me, the best times of the year to go to the zoo are spring and fall.

Membership gets you into Boo at the Zoo in October and Wildlights at the holidays. It’s also good for other special zoo events, preschool classes, and free parking! Maybe this one won’t help you survive the cold, dreary days but it’s still a must have, IMHO. 😉 If you’re really brave, there are quite a few indoor areas at the Zoo, once you get to the grounds from the parking lot!


6. Columbus Recreation and Parks Department

Ahh….I don’t take enough advantage of the Recreation and Parks program in Columbus, but we have done baby swimming lessons at Columbus Aquatic Center and a couple of Mommy and Me preschool art classes. The cost of a Leisure Card to use the facilities is $1 (and it’s good for 3 years!).

During the winter, Open Swim at the Columbus Aquatic Center is $1/person. It is REALLY hard to beat that cost! The classes and programs vary by location but they include art classes, gymnastics, yoga, pottery, soccer, basketball and more! Plus classes for adults! Check out the online schedule of programs here.


7. Your Local Library

Yes, I am technically counting this as a membership! 😉 And it is free! I think most parents figure out pretty fast that the library is the place to go for free indoor entertainment for kids! All of the libraries in the area have some form of story hour, baby lap time, regular activities and the like!

Your membership, in the form of a library card, also allows you to check out books and magazines to make sure your kids have something new to read on a regular basis! Many of the Columbus Metropolitan Library locations have Ready for Kindergarten areas where young children can play and explore. I’m all for getting out and trying new libraries (this is mainly to keep me entertained!) 🙂 Here and here are four that are fun libraries for reading AND playing!


If you have these memberships and you use them wisely, there is always an affordable and fun indoor option if you need to get out of the house! (And if you don’t want to spend a dime, there’s always my list of 20 FREE Indoor Play Areas in Columbus!) Let me know in the comments if there are any other memberships that help you survive winter in Columbus!

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ICYMI: Indoor Programs for Toddlers and Preschoolers in Columbus: Winter 2017


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MEGA Train List for Central Ohio and Beyond

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My kids love trains! I have been to *almost* every place on this list! When Jaden was 3, he could have gone to Barnes and Noble every single day to play with Thomas. This list isn’t so much for your kids as it is for you! Of course your kids will love these places, but this list is to keep YOU from going insane from doing the same thing every day! 😉 A good number of these things are special events that are only available for a short time! So check the list and mark your calendars because many of those are coming up this month! You, too, can be a really useful engine! 😉

1. Paul Busse Model Garden Railway at Franklin Park Conservatory, downtown Columbus

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The train in the picture below is up nearly year round, but the one above makes a special appearance during the holidays! Check the link for info on Merry and Bright!

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2. Grandview Library, Grandview Heights

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One great library with a train table!

3. Huntington Holiday Train at Columbus Metropolitan Library, downtown Columbus

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The Huntington Holiday Train arrives in mid-November and the Main Library hosts an Open House on November 30th, which will include hot chocolate and cookies, crafts and the lighting of Topiary Park! For even more trains, keep an eye on the Hilliard and Gahanna branches which will offer Polar Express programs this year!

4. Ohio Railway Museum, Worthington

The museum has been working on repairing the tracks so no train rides are available as of today, but they hope to be up and running for the holidays!

5. The Train Station, Clintonville

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Model trains are for sale here and they also have a small play area for kids!

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6. Moody Street Trains, Clintonville

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Model trains are for sale here and there is a train table for playing. On Saturday, December 3, 2016, they will host the 2nd Annual National Lionel Train Day which will feature prizes, face painting and a visit from Santa!

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7. Model Railroad Days at COSI, downtown Columbus

Model Railroad Days are November 16-20, 2016 this year and large model train sets are available for viewing and there are also trains to play with! During the weekend you can watch the movie Rocky Mountain Express in the theater. At Christmastime, The Polar Express is shown as well! (p.s. there is also a train to play with in the little kidspace at COSI!)

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8. Barnes and Noble, various locations

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Barnes and Noble offers the hope that your children will play with trains while you quietly sip coffee and read a magazine.

9. Hilliard Branch, Columbus Metropolitan Library, Hilliard

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The Hilliard Branch is a fun library for kids and has a Chuggington train table.

10. Von Maur, Polaris Fashion Place

In the children’s section of the store, there is a train that runs along the wall and a train table for playing!

11. Easton Express Railway, Easton Town Center

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This outdoor train track is always decorated for whatever season it happens to be and is a big hit with the kids!

12. BrickUniverse, Columbus Convention Center

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There are lots of working LEGO trains at this once-a-year LEGO Expo!

13. Delaware County Model Railroaders’ Open Houses, Delaware

Model railroads are set up on these special open-house dates!

14. Great Train Show at Ohio Expo Center

This expo is coming January 14-15, 2017 and includes model railroads, train dealers, hands-on exhibits and more!

15. Inniswood Metro Gardens, Westerville

We stumbled upon this train track behind the offices at Inniswood. I couldn’t find any info on if/when it is used, but if you know, please leave a comment below!

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16. Holiday Train Display at Ohio History Center

This special train is on exhibit during the holiday season! It will be on display November 28, 2016 – January 4, 2017.

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There are other trains on the grounds of the Ohio History Center year round, including one inside the building that can be sat in, and the one seen below that sits outside.

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17. Schiller Park in German Village

This is a great park with a train that can be played on!

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18. Alum Creek Park North, Westerville

This park is affectionately known as “the train park” – and aptly so!

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19. Henceroth Park, Grove City

This park offers lots of vehicles to play on including a jeep, boat and this wooden train!

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20. North America Train Ride at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

For $1 per person, you can ride a train around the North American exhibit at the zoo!

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21. Christmas Time Open House at Central Ohio Model Railroad Club

For 4 weekends in December, the club puts on an open house featuring giant model railroad layouts, an interactive Thomas the Tank Engine display and more! Admission is free!

22. Open Garden Tour by the members of Columbus Garden Railway Society

On the second Sunday in September, members of the Columbus Garden Railway Society open their houses (gardens!) for a tour of their own Garden Railroads!

BEYOND COLUMBUS . . .

23. Little Buckeye Children’s Museum, Mansfield

One of the larger exhibits at the Little Buckeye Museum is the model train display and nearby train tables for playing!

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24. Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum, Bellevue

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There are tons of trains on display here, may of which you can climb aboard! This museum has indoor and outdoor components and the gift shop has a train table for playing!

25. Northwest Ohio Railroad Preservation, Inc., Findlay

This organization offers train rides and holiday events (including the North Pole Express), a museum, gift shop and model train displays!

26. The Buckeye Express Diner, Bellville

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Eat dinner in an OSU-themed train car! There is a train playground outside too!

27. Dennison Railroad Depot Museum, Dennison

This museum has a railroad car just for kids, model trains and a scavenger hunt just for kids!

 28. Lodi Station Outlets, Lodi

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This outlet mall is built with a train theme! You can purchase tickets to take a train ride around the property!

29. EnterTAINment Junction, West Chester

This venue offers displays, a museum, seasonal rides and a funhouse!

30. Day Out with Thomas, various locations

These special days only happen a few times a year at Ohio locations and include a 25-minute train ride, kids activities, live music and more!

31. Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, Northeast Ohio

The trains here run mainly on the weekends and there are several events scheduled throughout the year, including a Christmas Tree Adventure!

32. Hocking Valley Scenic Railway, Nelsonville

This railway offers special trips throughout the year including a Santa Train on December 18, 2016. Tickets are limited.

33. LM & M Railroad, Lebanon, Lebanon

This historic railroad offers special events including the Day out with Thomas and North Pole Express!

34. Train-O-Rama, Marblehead

One of Ohio’s largest multi-gauge model railroad displays open to the public! Trains are for sale in the gift shop as well!

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ICYMI: 5 Moms of Nationwide Share their Favorite Places to take their Kids in Columbus


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What Should We Do This Weekend? October 7-9, 2016

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Various Fall Festivals are going on during the weekends throughout the whole month of October!. Check out my post from last weekend to see what farms are hosting them!

1. Skidsteer Rodeo at Franklin Equipment

When: Friday, October 7, 2016
Time: 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM
Location: 4141 Hamilton Square Blvd., Groveport, OH 43125
Phone: 844-401-RENT

Come watch a competition between construction vehicles (and their drivers)!  The initial rounds go on all day and the finals begin at 6:30 PM. There is live music, free food and a mechanical bull from 3:00 – 7:00 PM.

2. Fall Festival at The Farm at Walnut Creek

When: Friday, Saturday and Monday, October 7, 8 & 10
Time: Opens at 8:30 AM, last ride at 6:00 PM
Location: 4147 County Road 114, Sugarcreek, OH 44681
Phone: 330-893-4200

Even though it’s a bit of a drive, I’m sharing this one because I’ve told you about The Farm at Walnut Creek before, so if you’ve thought of visiting, this event might be fun! This weekend (and next!) in addition to the horse drawn wagon rides, there will be special activities like a corn box, sheep shearing, basket weaving, horseshoeing, a pumpkin slingshot and more!

3. Fall Foliage on the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway

When: Friday – Sunday, October 7-9, 2016
Time: 1:00 on Fridays, 12:00 and 2:30 on Saturdays and Sundays
Location: 33 West Canal St., Nelsonville, OH 45764
Phone: 740-249-1452

For the month of  October, the Railway adds Friday trips to their weekend scenic tours! The round trip ride is about 2 hours.

4. Columbus Italian Festival

When: Friday – Sunday, October 7-9, 2016
Time: Friday: 5:00 PM – 11:00 PM, Saturday: 12:00 PM – 11:00 PM, Sunday: 12:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Location: 720 Hamlet St., Columbus, OH 43215
Phone: 614-294-8259

This celebration of Italian heritage features live performances, food, kiddie rides, a parade and even a bocce ball tournament!

5. Pumpkinpalooza at Emswiler Farms

When: Saturday, October 8, 2016
Time: 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Location: 13329 Morse Rd., SW, Pataskala, OH 43062
Phone: 614-355-5432

This festival is presented by TWIG of Nationwide Children’s Hospital and benefits Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit at Nationwide Children’s. The festival includes hayrides, live entertainment, bounce houses, face painting, a pumpkin patch, the Shazzbots, crafts, food and more!  Tickets are are $13 for adults and $10 for kids, but you can buy them online (see link) in advance through THURSDAY, October 6th for $10 and $7. Children under 2 are free.

6. Touch a Tractor at Buehler’s Fresh Foods

When: Saturday, October 8, 2016
Time: 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Location: various locations

Another road trip idea for this weekend is at Buehler’s Fresh Foods. The closest store is in Ashland, OH. Touch a tractor, enjoy free samples from Hartzler’s Family Dairy and Gerber’s Amish Farm Chicken, participate in activities for the kids and buy Ruggles ice cream for $1 a scoop!

7. Too Much Stuff Sale at Big Fun Columbus

When: Saturday, October 8, 2016
Time: 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM
Location: 672 N. High St., Columbus, OH 43215
Phone: 614-228-8697

Big Fun says, “we have too much stuff, help us make room” and everything is 25% off if you say the secret word: “Fun”! I wrote about taking your kids to Big Fun for Columbus Moms Blog here!

8. Royals Project Fall Festival at Amazing Grace Christian Church

When: Saturday, October 8, 2016
Time: 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Location: 2255 Quail Creek Blvd, Grove City, OH 43123

Princesses, Princes, Superheroes and more will be in attendance at this fall festival which also features crafts, games, face painting, and more! There will also be a fire truck and fire fighters on site from 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM! Donations of unused toys will also be accepted for the Royals Project!

9. Fall Festival at Oakland Nurseries

When: Saturday & Sunday, October 8 & 9, 2016
Time: 12:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Location: various locations locally

Each location of Oakland Nurseries is having it’s own set of events, check the link for information specific to each store! The Columbus location will feature hay rides, pumpkin painting, pig racing, a kid-friendly haunted forest, concessions and live music!

10. Farm Festival at Miller’s Country Gardens

When: Sunday, October 9, 2016
Time: 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Location: 2488 St. Rt. 37 West, Delaware, OH 43015
Phone: 740-363-5021

This fall festival features hayrides, pumpkin picking, a corn maze, barrel rides, a kids’ play area, face painting, straw tunnel and food by Sock Hop Soda Shop! Admission is free but some activities have a charge.

11. Fall Fest at Fancyburg Park

When: Sunday, October 9, 2016
Time: 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Location: 3375 Kioka Avenue, Upper Arlington, OH 43221

This fall festival includes hay rides, a corn box , pumpkin carving, making apple cider, a petting zoo and more! Admission is free but some activities require $1 tokens.

12. Family Fun with the Columbus Zoo at Franklin Park Conservatory

When: Sunday, October 9, 2016
Time: 2:00 PM
Location: 1777 E Broad St Columbus, OH 43203
Phone: 614-715-8000

Different animals are featured in this family program at the Conservatory on the 2nd Sunday of each month!

13. Peppa Pig Live at Palace Theatre

When: Sunday, October 9, 2016
Time: 5:00 PM
Location: 34 W. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43215

See Peppa Live! What else is there to say? 😉

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ICYMI: Exploring Dayton with Kids: National Museum of the U.S. Air Force and the Oregon District

*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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