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Ohio History Center

Ohio History Center has been a go-to destination for our family! With special events, interactive displays and Ohio Village, kids will have fun while learning about the history of Ohio!

I’d say it was probably October of last year that I started to panic about winter approaching.  I had survived my first winter with two kids – one of them a napping infant – and being, for the most part, stuck at home was rough!  But as my youngest began nearing the transition to one nap a day, and winter was rapidly approaching, panic began to set in. What would we do when all the outdoor options were no longer so inviting?

Main Floor of Ohio History Center

I remember in one week’s time buying memberships to the Franklin Park Conservatory, the Ohio History Center and the Columbus Museum of Art. I figured with my COSI pass, Zoo pass and library card, I should have an indoor option for pretty much every day of the week if need be! Phew!

At that point, I had only been to the Ohio History Center one time and that was for Storybook Village, when all the PBS Kids characters make an appearance at Ohio Village. The museum itself seemed pretty fun, but on the first visit, it turned out that I missed a lot of things!

Ohio Village Muffins Base Ball Players

The thing about the Ohio History Center is that there are many nooks and crannies (I suppose they call them Galleries) that are easy to overlook. In this post, I want to highlight the specific areas your kids might enjoy so that you don’t miss out on all there is to do and see.

First of all, you should know what a good deal an individual membership is if you have kids under 5. I wrote about that here. Secondly, now that it’s winter (kind of) you may be interested using the lockers that are on your left, immediately after the gift shop.

The first time I tried to use the locker I had trouble, and the ladies who were using the lockers when I was there today had trouble with them as well. So, just for you, I paid special attention to how to operate the lockers! Haha! Open the locker. Put in your belongings. Put the quarter into the lock on the INSIDE of the locker door. Close the door. Turn the key hard to the left, then pull the key out. Keep the key with you. The best part is, you get your quarter back when you retrieve your stuff. If you don’t have a quarter, they also have hangers.

Exploring Ohio History Center with Kids:

Okay, now on to the exciting stuff. First off, it’s hard to miss the giant mastodon when you enter from the lobby.

the Mastadon in the Ohio History Center

Considering the fact that there’s a large sign saying “It’s NOT a dinosaur!” I cringe every time my 4 year old loudly yells, “there’s the dinosaur!!” – which is every time. Do I correct him? I’d say it’s 50/50 at this point. No dinosaurs have ever been found in Ohio . . . a fact I learned at the Ohio History Center!

Nature of Ohio

To your left upon entering is an area called Nature of Ohio. I definitely missed this whole area on my very first visit. There is an area for kids to explore animal foot prints, read books and play in and around the tree in the middle.

Kids Area with a tree in the middle.

Surrounding this “Discovery Park” are many “stuffed” animals. Large ones! This is a lot of fun for my kids!

Stuffed and mounted bear in the Nature of Ohio area

several stuffed and mounted animals on display behind glass

more mounted animals on display

The Lustron House

I would have to say that my kids’ favorite part of the museum is the Lustron house, a prefabricated house completely set up inside the museum. Lustron houses were popular after World War II, but were only made for a few years (according to the tour guide there today). Walking into this house is like stepping back into the 50’s. Everything in the house is authentic and set up for you to use, touch and discover. My kids love the bedrooms and the kitchen.

the Lustron House on display

boy putting a record on a record player inside the Lustron house at Ohio History Center

While looking at this record player in the “boy’s room” of the house, Jaden said, “Should we pop in a different CD?”

A few more scenes from the 50’s:

kitchen table set in the Lustron House

Living Room in the Lustron House

boy in the kitchen of the Lustron House

There’s also a backyard component to the house where you can hula hoop, play horseshoe and jump rope. Also you can sit on these fantastic lawn chairs like you did at Grandma and Grandpa’s when you were 6.

outdoor backyard area of the Lustron House

The Early Ohio Room – Gallery 1

Now let’s move on to houses of a different time period all together…the log cabin days…another favorite “play area” for my kids. This is the “Early Ohio Room” and it is located in Gallery 1. Lots of opportunity for free play and pretend here. And there’s a bench for tired parents.

boys playing in the Early Ohio Area at Ohio History Connection

boy playing in the log cabin area at Ohio History Center

A funny thing happens to me at this museum. When I’m in the Lustron house, I think to myself, “wow, I’m really thankful for the technology we have today and that I don’t have to wash my clothes on this:”

washing machine inside the Lustron House

But then I get to the Early Ohio House and I look inside the log cabin replica and I feel wistful for simpler times, wishing I could just pop myself into that log cabin and live a more simple life. I imagine daily life without media and cell phones, doing things with my hands, baking my bread, weaving baskets, etc. I know, it makes no sense. Still though, happens every time.

log cabin replica at Ohio History Center

Second Floor Exhibits

I try not to get other people’s children in my pictures for privacy reasons, but today we were literally the only kids here. I’ve been here on days when there are school field trips, but today we nearly had the place to ourselves. We packed a lunch and ate in the seating area on the second floor. There is a grand set of steps (and also an elevator). My boys enjoy looking at the cars and planes on display on the second floor.

hanging airplane on the top floor

boys eating a packed lunch

There is a vending area upstairs….if you like ordering a turkey sandwich out of a vending machine, knock yourself out, but I prefer to pack our lunch. If you’re looking for speciality snack items, you may have better luck in the gift shop, which actually has an impressive collection of unique, Ohio-produced items including food and candy. I did notice for the first time today that the vending machine sells bottled Starbucks Frappucinos. Duly noted.

I have to say this one thing. If your kids happen to be terrified of public restrooms, be aware that the toilets make a really loud flushing noise – or more so a really loud squeal at the end of the flush that has caused major breakdowns in my children…more than once. They both actually break down at the mention that we might have to go into the bathroom – which for me, usually always has to happen. So if you hear two children screaming and crying from inside the restroom and one mother screaming and crying back, it’s probably me. I will be avoiding eye contact upon exit…

Also, be sure not to miss the two-headed calf on the way out!

a two-headed calf on display at Ohio History Center

I’d love to hear what your kids love about the Ohio History Center!

Know before you go:

Hours: Wednesday – Saturday, 10AM-5PM, Sunday, 12PM – 5PM

Address: 800 E. 17th Ave, Columbus, OH 43211

Phone: 1-800-686-6124

General Admission: Adults: $10, Ages 6-12: $5, Ages 5 and under: Free
Discounts are available with military ID, college ID, and AAA card.

Parking: Ample parking in front of the museum.

Also: Large area for eating on the second floor, outside food is allowed, museum is stroller and wheelchair friendly, Ohio Village (the outdoor component) is closed during the winter months.

Looking for more ideas: Try Over 100 Fun Things to do in Columbus, Ohio! You may also want to read about Historical Villages to Visit in Ohio!

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