Center of Science and Industry makes learning a blast


I joined a line of teenagers to test my fear of heights at the Center of Science and Industry in downtown Columbus. I approached my turn on the high-wire unicycle as my family looked on with encouragement.

After being strapped in, I pedaled backward and surveyed the atrium 17 feet below. Curious onlookers stopped in their tracks.

“OK, now pat your head with one hand and rub your belly with the other,” joked the ride attendant, after I’d traveled to the end of the 84-foot line.

COSI has been encouraging people to put themselves in unique situations in the name of science and fun for 50 years. Innovative attractions geared to spark children’s interest in the physical and natural world have garnered the science center attention and accolades. Parents Magazine named COSI the No. 1 science center in the United States.

My family can attest to having too much fun, all in the name of science. There are hundreds of interactive exhibits to explore in the 320,000 square-foot former Central High School, COSI’s home since 1999.

We buckled ourselves to zero-gravity seats at an exhibit called Space. We played an organ that duplicates the odd sounds our bodies make at an exhibit called Life, which explores human beings from birth to death. I lifted my own body weight in a pulley chair at an exhibit called Gadgets.

We also learned a thing or two.

My husband, Mike, learned that Sherlock Holmes was a masterful observer as he put his skills to the test while solving crimes at a new exhibit called The International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes. Mike and daughter Rosie collected evidence and recorded their findings in a notebook. My son, Max, and I assembled a broken three-dimensional puzzle of a human head and squirted fake blood on a windshield.

I learned that bananas aren’t the most eco-friendly fruits in the bunch at an exhibit called Energy Explorers, which focuses on how energy powers the world around us—from the products we buy to the transportation we take. Bananas, it turns out, require a boatload of fuel to travel from tropical lands to the United States, giving them a gigantic carbon footprint.

Max learned what it’s like to enter a real-life yellow submarine at an exhibit called Ocean. Rosie held onto a pair of handles and listened to the rhythm of her heartbeat on a drum.

There are still many things I haven’t done at COSI. I have yet to feel the hair-raising experience of an electrostatic charge, take a turn at being a weather reporter in front of a green screen, or stand in a wind tunnel and endure a 78-mile gust.

These are reasons why we must return soon.

For more information about COSI, visit www.cosi.org.

Experience Columbus is offering a “Roar and Explore Adventure Getaway” package for $411. It includes a two-night stay at a Drury Hotel, four tickets to COSI, four tickets to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, and four tickets to Zoombezi Bay. Learn more at www.columbusfamilyfun.com.

Which creatures will thrill you at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium?


My two children and I join a gathering crowd at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. We press our noses against a wall of glass to view trout swimming in a massive tank. The sun’s rays glisten through the rippling water.

“Let’s go,” says my 4-year-old son, Max. “This is boring.”

Just then a white creature sticks its pointy nose into the water’s surface. We see the animal’s face from below and gasp with excitement. The giant female polar bear dives in, heading toward the bottom of the tank in search of a snack. In a moment she spirals back up and stands atop a glass ceiling to eat her treat in the fresh air. We’re now under her, admiring the mammoth feet of one of the world’s largest predators.

“Oh my gosh,” exclaims Max. “This is awesome!”

  • Gorillas
  • Stingrays
  • Tigers
Gorillas1 Stingrays2 Tigers3
slider jquery by WOWSlider.com v5.4m

Close encounters with animals we’d flee in the wild are among my family’s favorite experiences at the 87-year-old zoo, ranked No. 1 in the United States by USA Travel Guide.

Under the watch of Director Emeritus Jack Hanna, the zoo has created clever habitats that permit visitors to intimately observe animals such as African lions, Siberian tigers and Alaskan grizzly bears. Expect to see gorillas, sharks and pythons, and even hand-feed leaves to giraffes from a raised platform.

During an early spring visit, I load the kids into their wagon and set off on an adventure. Max and his 6-year-old sister, Rosie, pretend they’re on a bus, heading to faraway places in Asia, Africa and Australia, with stops at exotic playgrounds along the way.

We begin in the North America region, where we marvel at the dexterity of grizzly bears as they delicately use their giant claws to eat treats. Next stop is the Polar Playground, where Max and Rosie work off some energy while bounding from atop an igloo to inside a safari truck to down a twisty slide.

We head to Asia Quest and settle in near the tigers. The observation window is adjacent to their watering hole, and one tiger gazes into our eyes as it passes by for a drink.

After an ice-cream break, we zip past the lions and Conservation Lake, toward an area called Shores. There, we visit the zoo’s 85,000-gallon aquarium, a popular hangout for parents with young children.

I catch my breath as my children admire a constant stream of colorful fish, including one they call “Long Nose.”

“Let’s pretend we’re sea turtles,” says Rosie as she pretends to swim alongside the tank.

Later, at Manatee Coast and Expedition Congo, we observe even bigger creatures munching on lettuce—first, several chubby manatees, then some beefy gorillas.

We culminate our adventure aboard the most endearing of zoo features—the antique carousel, which boasts a band organ and 52 original horses and chariots. I gladly pony up $1 per child for a spin.

As we head toward the exit, Max contemplates the illustrated zoo map.

“I want to ride the slide,” he says.

He’s looking at Dolphin Dash at the neighboring Zoombezi Bay water park. I tell Max he’ll have to wait until the weather warms up.

“Next time we come to the zoo, we’re wearing our swimsuits,” he says.

For more information about the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, visit www.colszoo.org.

Experience Columbus is offering a “Roar and Explore Adventure Getaway” package for $411. It includes a two-night stay at a Drury Hotel, four tickets to COSI, four tickets to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, and four tickets to Zoombezi Bay. Learn more at www.columbusfamilyfun.com.