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When you’re visiting COSI, there are some things you’ll definitely want to know before you go.

As we climbed the steps leading into the COSI Museum in Columbus, Ohio, my kids started asking questions.

“What is this place again?”

“It’s the Center of Science and Industry. Like a big science museum for kids.”

Groaning ensued.

(Yes, from the same kids that I homeschool and remind regularly that science isn’t some stuffy thing in a textbook.)

“Well, there’s a ton of stuff to play with here. I think you’ll actually enjoy it.”

…then we stayed until they closed the place down.

So yeah, I think visiting COSI was a hit with our family.

That said, there are definitely a few things I wish I had known before we went.

These are things I tried to google before our visit to COSI and couldn’t find a good answer to, so I figured I’d be the one to pass the information along to you.

10 Things You Should Know Before Visiting COSI

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If you’re looking for a fun science museum day trip with the kids, COSI is a good choice. Here’s why we loved it, but also some things I wish I had known before we went.

Where To Park

COSI does not have its own official parking.

But there is a parking garage along the side of COSI that is a short walk to the museum.

Bring your ticket in for validation and you’ll pay $10 for the whole day of parking rather than the $6 per hour the garage normally charges.

Bring Your Own Food

Ok, so I did know that we could bring our own food in, and that you could rent a locker.

But I had no idea how big the locker was, and didn’t know how far I’d have to hike with enough food and drinks for the 6 of us who went.

(My two oldest are now grown and don’t go on all of our adventures any more. sob!)

We were able to park under COSI, so the hike with bags wasn’t long at all.

And the locker was plenty big enough! I could have fit a small cooler, and even coats (had we gone in the winter).

Here are some things you could pack in an easy lunch if you’re looking for ideas.

Lockers cost $1 to lock, so you’ll want to bring at least 8 quarters (for getting your lunch out and putting it back).

There is a machine to give you change for $1 and $5 dollar bills.

Considering that drinks were $2.50 each (and food much more than that), I was happy to pay my $2 to eat my own food.

Next to the lockers is a fun set of stairs (I won’t spoil the surprise there) that lead to a room where you can sit at a table to enjoy your lunch.

Riding the Highwire Unicycle

Yep, there is a fun unicycle that dangles out from the second floor that kids and adults under 250 lbs can ride for free!

If you’re brave enough to try it, you’ll want to know that open shoes (including crocs) are not allowed.

So wear or bring some gym shoes.

They do have some shoes you can borrow if your foot is the right size. I don’t know what sizes are available at any given time.

The Planetarium

My kids had never been to a planetarium before, so we made sure to hit that spot this time.

I love that it was free, and that there were several showings during the day.

You’ll want to know that some of the show was behind your back, so be ready to look around when you don’t know what the guy is talking about.

Also, find your seat 10 minutes before the show starts. Even on a very light traffic day when visiting COSI (we went on a Tuesday and the crowds were not at all bad), the planetarium did get crowded.

Maybe tell the kids to poke you at the end of the show in case you fall asleep. It’s fascinating to watch…but also very soothing and comfy, so if you’re a tired mom you may catch a wink or two.

The Ocean

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This was a fun exhibit, full of different ways to play with water.

That, of course, means you’ll probably get a little wet here.

You won’t need a change of clothes, unless you do something you really shouldn’t be doing.

No one else in my family complained, but I found this exhibit to be chilly. (And we went in August!) If you get cold, you may want a light jacket for this one.

Some Things Are Broken

We were a little disappointed while visiting COSI to find things that were missing pieces or didn’t work right.

This wasn’t bad enough that we wouldn’t go again. But it was definitely noticeable.

My kids got a kick out of playing checkers with the two checkers and a board they had. But we are a family of smart alecks. 😉

So you may want to be prepared to shuffle kids along to a different area, or get a little creative when you find cases like this.

The Life Exhibit

You’ll find this exhibit on the third floor, and it’s one you’ll want to do a little research on before you enter.

Apparently there are real human remains in this exhibit (among other things) that you may not want to expose your children to.

There is a sign on the wall outside the entrance to remind you.

You Can’t Do It All In One Day

We got there a little after COSI opened and stayed until it closed, but we only saw part of the exhibits.

There is just too much to see!

So really think about what things you want to see the most before you go. It’s easy to get distracted while you’re there and end up missing out on something you really wanted to do.

Find out which exhibits are there for a limited time to help you make good decisions.

My favorite exhibit is Progress. When you walk in, it’s like stepping back in time!

The kids enjoyed picking up a car in the Big Science Park, playing at the Ocean, the many hallway exhibits, Nature’s Superheroes (a limited time exhibit about animals who can survive crazy environments), and my 4 year old could have spent hours in the Little Kidspace.

I had to promise we’d come back soon, because we didn’t get to see the Dinosaurs, Gadgets, or any of the live shows they wanted to watch at all.

I know we could easily spend another entire day seeing things we didn’t get to experience this time.

Getting Tickets or A Pass

One important note: whether you get tickets or have a pass, you must reserve your visit date before you go.

We have a large family, so the pass is pretty much always worth it for us.

As of this writing, COSI is a member of the ASTC Travel Passport Program. So if you buy a pass from them (or if you have a pass to a different museum), you can get free or discounted tickets for other participating museums.

Here’s where you can find a list of participating museums.

Since we have a pass for the Cincinnati Museum Center, and our address falls within the lines COSI has drawn, we were able to get in for free.

Check here to see if your pass is reciprocal with COSI. (General admission, then reciprocal tickets options.)

If you buy tickets, it might help to know that teachers (including homeschool teachers) can get in for free.

Special Exhibits

This time, we paid extra to see the limited time King Tutankhamen exhibit.

Tickets cost $15 per person. There’s no discount for teachers on these exhibits.

They gave us each a wand that acted as a personal speaker for the videos and exhibit.

Everything in the exhibit was a reproduction, not the original. It was still fascinating to see.

Our younger kids were bored by the end of the walk through, but the teenagers and my husband and I found it very interesting.

Visiting COSI is a fun family experience, for sure.

If you are in a position to get a family pass and can make the trip more than once, I highly recommend it!

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