COSI (The Center of Science and Industry) in Columbus, Ohio, has been voted America’s #1 Science Museum for 4 years in a row! It’s hands down one of the best places to take your kids in Central Ohio!
This post was sponsored by Ohio, The Heart of it All. and COSI.
I grew up about 90 miles from Columbus and my parents brought us to visit COSI at least once a year! It was always an exciting trip! I have good memories of visiting the original location of COSI when it was downtown and having lunch at the original Wendy’s just across the street!
Since moving to Columbus, COSI has always been a big part of our lives! My kids just never grow tired of visiting this incredible science museum!
This guide to visiting COSI will give you a glimpse of what to expect, how to plan your time and answers to some frequently asked questions!
Classic COSI Exhibits
COSI is home to more than 10 much loved, classic exhibits that remain on display permanently.
When we moved to Columbus over 10 years ago, I looked forward to bringing my own kids to COSI just like my parents did! When my oldest was one, we got our first COSI membership! little kidspace was a life saver for me as a parent!
As my toddlers turned into preschoolers, they gravitated to the exhibits Ocean and Progress. And now as elementary aged kids, they’ve discovered Gadgets and the driving simulator in Energy Explorers! Even my husband pointed out on our most recent trip to COSI that our boys have found new things to enjoy at all of their ages and stages!
If you grew up going to COSI like I did, make sure to take a peek into the History of COSI exhibit and take a ride in the mine shaft that was relocated from the old COSI!
Kids who are interested in cars and driving will be intrigued by the Meet the Innovators exhibit on the first floor! My kids always love driving the four wheeler simulator!
Energy Explorers helps kids understand the impact of their choices in regards to energy sources, disposable products and transportation options. My kids also enjoy the driving simulator here! (Are you sensing a theme? LOL)
Don’t miss the Space Exhibit on the Mezzanine Level! The Mezzanine is also home to the Planetarium and it’s where you can ride the High Wire Unicycle!
Younger kids will love seeing their favorite PBS characters and creating their own TV show in the WOSU exhibit on the second floor and those fascinated by the human body will find lots to learn in the Life exhibit! My kids got a big kick out of the keyboard that plays body noises! Kids love anything that makes fart noises, am I right?!
My Kids’ Favorite COSI Exhibits
I want to highlight a couple of the classic COSI exhibits that our family has loved over the years!
A membership to COSI just to visit little kidspace once a week more than paid for itself when my kids were toddlers! It’s one of the best indoor play areas for young kids in all of Columbus!
This area is for kids 1st grade and under only and you need to be checked in and out by an employee, which adds an extra level of safety for young kids. My youngest son is just about to age out of little kidspace and that is bittersweet. BUT the great thing about COSI is that there is something for all ages!
American Museum of Natural History Dinosaur Gallery
The Dinosaur Gallery is a permanent exhibit at COSI and it has been such a welcome addition since my youngest son is a huge dinosaur fan! We ALWAYS visit the Dinosaur Gallery to see the dinosaur models, climb in the Oviraptor nest and interact with the hands-on exhibits! The Dinosaur Gallery is included in your admission to COSI!
Ocean has become one of my kids’ favorite exhibits! Caution: kids can get wet! Probably not wet enough to need a full change of clothes, but that probably depends on the kid! This exhibit harnesses the power of water and kids can learn about waves, erosion and laminar flow in lots of hands-on ways!
Progress has always been a favorite exhibit! The Progress exhibit shows how technology has changed communities over time. My kids particularly love playing in the 50’s diner and using a (gasp!) pay phone!
I once joked that I measured my children’s growth by how scared they were of the moving DJ in the Progress exhibit! It took a couple of years for them to be fully convinced that he is not a real man sitting in the DJ booth!
Outdoor Features at COSI
While you could literally spend all day inside COSI, don’t miss what COSI has to offer on the outside as well!
Big Science Park
You can enter the Big Science Park by exiting the doors across from Ocean on the first floor. Outside there are hands-on exhibits like the Whisper Dishes and a pulley that allows you to lift a car! What? It’s true!
Dinosaur Sculpture Gallery
If you have a dinosaur lover in the family like I do, make sure you check out the Dinosaur Sculpture Garden in front of COSI, to the right of the main entrance.
To the left of the main entrance you will find a Rain Garden and some picnic tables! There’s a nice space for kids to explore and you could eat a packed lunch or snack!
Dorrian Green is a public park outside of COSI managed by Columbus Recreation and Parks. It is a really cool park! There’s a unique playground for kids, fountains to splash in and lots of tables! I also love the large porch swings lining the walkway! Definitely allow some time to play in the park when you visit!
Limited Engagement Exhibits at COSI in 2023
TUTANKHAMUN – His Tomb and his Treasures
TUTANKHAMUN – His Tomb and his Treasures is a really incredible exhibit that will be at COSI through September 4, 2023. Your visit to this limited engagement exhibit begins with a short movie about how King Tut’s tomb and treasures were discovered. Then you are guided into the experience with an audio guide and headset.
The objects on display are exact replicas of those that were found by Howard Carter in 1922. (The real objects are too delicate and precious to be toured around the world!)
There are over 1000 exhibits included and they are truly a sight to see! There is an additional admission fee to see this exhibit and you’ll want to reserve your ticket in advance online.
Shows at COSI
Beyond the classic and temporary exhibits, visitors can enjoy special shows at the National Geographic Giant Screen Theater or the Planetarium! Live shows like Rat Basketball take place in the Atrium and there are always employees in the hallways with science experiments and other hands-on activities!
Food and Drink at COSI
You don’t even have to worry about leaving COSI to get a decent lunch! COSI offers two options for meals, snacks and drinks!
The Atomic Cafe on the first floor offers a pretty wide range of menu options for kids and adults! The food is really good! There is a large seating area including outdoor options. If you’re planning to spend an entire day at COSI, I think you’ll be happy with the options for meals at the Atomic Cafe!
If what you need is a snack or a caffeine pick-me-up, stop in to Molecules, the cafe also located on the first floor. They serve gourmet coffee drinks, baked goods, popcorn and even craft brews!
What You Need to Know about Visiting COSI in Columbus, Ohio:
How much are tickets to COSI?
General admission tickets are $25 for ages 13 and up. Kids ages 2-12 are $20. Kids under age 2 are free! Advance tickets are required for entry. Make sure to get your ticket online before visiting!
Does COSI offer any discounted tickets?
COSI special discounts on admission including:
- Ages 60+: $23
- Adult Military: $23
- Youth Military: $18
- Teachers: free! (applies to the individual certified teacher with ID)
- Participating members of the ACM (Association of Children’s Museums) Reciprocal Network receive 50% off general admission for up to six people.
- As a member of Museums for All Columbus, COSI will offer $3 per tickets for up to eight visitors for those who have proof of participation in WIC, Ohio Directions or Ohio Medicaid.
- Columbus Member Advantage entitles members of participating institutions discounted general admission ($3 off) to COSI for up to four people.
How much is a membership to COSI?
I am a huge believer in the value of a membership to COSI, especially if you live within an hour of the museum!
A Basic Family membership is $181.25 which, for a family of 4+, will pay for itself in two visits! I can not overstate how nice it is to be able to visit COSI at any time and focus your time on just a couple of exhibits at a time.
In addition to admission, membership also includes special member only previews of new exhibits plus a 10% discount in the gift shop and cafés.
How long should I plan to spend at COSI?
If you are hoping to see all of the exhibits at COSI, I would plan to spend at least 4 hours at COSI! If you want to see a movie or a show at the Planetarium, I would include additional time for that, plus time for a meal in the Atomic Cafe!
If you’re local, one of the great things about having a membership to COSI is that you can visit as often as you like without the pressure of having to see all of the exhibits in one visit!
Where can you park at COSI?
Discounted parking for both the garage under Dorrian Green park and the garage on Starling Street is $10 per car if you bring your ticket into COSI for a discounted validation stamp. There are several other parking garages within walking distance of COSI.
When is the best time to visit COSI?
From personal experience I can tell you that the best time to visit COSI is on a weekday. I know that’s not always possible for families but a weekday offers smaller crowds, therefore more opportunities to be able to interact with popular exhibits! On the weekends, Sundays will be slightly less busy than Saturdays.
COSI also offers COSI After Dark, a 21+ event for adults that allows you to explore COSI kid-free after hours! This would be a great date idea in Columbus that would allow you to take advantage of a smaller crowd!
More Tips for Visiting COSI:
Here are a few tips that might make your visit to COSI a little smoother!
If you have kids who might need a little extra support, check out a Sensory Bag at the Guest Services Desk. For no extra cost, these bags include noise cancelling headphones, visual schedules, bubbles and fidget toys.
Family members who need to take a break in a quiet space can access the Calm Room located behind the Guest Services desk.
Lockers are available for public use for $1. This is super handy if you don’t want to carry around a bag or a winter coat! We’ve taken advantage of this option quite often! The lockers only take quarters and change is available at the Guest Services Desk.
Another service I’ve taken advantage of many times is the Nursing Room which is located on Level 2 in little kidspace!
Yes, you can take strollers into COSI. COSI is very stroller (and wheelchair) friendly. Every level is accessible by elevator. Strollers, wheelchairs and electric scooters are available for rental at the Guest Services Desk.
If you’ve got a budding scientist in the family, the perfect gift can be found at Science 2 Go, COSI’s super cool gift shop! Many unique gifts and souvenirs can be found here!
I hope this guide helps you make the most of your visit to COSI! Chances are your kids will be like my youngest son who even after spending 4+ hours at COSI said “I don’t wanna leave!” as I tried to coax him out the door! Don’t forget to get that membership so you can promise a return trip very soon! 😉
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