COSI – Columbus, OH

In April 2023, we visited COSI – the Center of Science and Industry in Columbus. It has been listed as one of the best science museums in the United States by USA Today, Travelers Worldwide, Trip Advisor, and Attractions of America.

We’ve been to several of the museums on those lists: Exploratorium in San Francisco, Museum of Science in Boston, Field Museum in Chicago, and California Science Center in LA, and do agree that COSI is in that league. Their dinosaur exhibit was the best we’ve ever seen, with much more up-to-date info than we’ve seen elsewhere.

We started our day watching a “rat basketball” game on the main stage, which was actually really engaging!

From there, we watched the Foucault pendulum, then headed up to check out the optical illusions and the Space exhibit. It was a fine, engaging space exhibit, but in retrospect, we wish we’d spent less time there because there were more unique experiences later and an amazing dinosaur exhibit that we should have left more time for.

We saw the Planetarium show Passport to the Universe by Tom Hanks. It wasn’t the best planetarium show we’ve seen – just a tour of the solar system, galaxy, etc. without any real narrative thread or specific idea it was focusing on. But still, it’s always nice to see a planetarium show.

In the Life exhibit, they had some great hands-on test-yourself exhibits, like how much will your heart rate change if you do this activity, how hard can you press, and how far can you stretch. (Sorry it’s a bad picture of that!) They had a wall of interesting x-rays, videos of surgeries, an exhibit about death and how people who are facing their death are thinking / feeling about that. On the way in to the exhibit there was a sign saying something about the fact that some of the items in there might not be suitable for some guests, and that there were human remains included. Inside, they had these sculptures showing the birth process, and these fetuses (collected in 1964 from mothers who had died while pregnant), and an exhibit about testicular self-examination, and preserved cross-sections of a human cadaver, so I could see that some parents would not be comfortable with that. But it did not feel inappropriate for me at all.

In one hallway, they had a “think like an archaeologist” exhibit on ancient Egypt that was excellent. Visitors could build a pyramid from wood blocks, assemble pot shards, decode hieroglyphics, figuring out which “mud seal” matched each container, and think about what possessions would be in modern tombs if we still followed Egyptian burial practices. Great way of making the learning memorable.

Then we went to Progress, which shows a street in 1898 and again in 1962. It was a nice immersive way of displaying historic artifacts/lifestyles with some good interaction (hoops to roll in 1898 and hula hoops in 1962, telegraphing morse code or pretending to film a news report. My husband and I were born shortly after 1962 and noticed that some of the items in that display seemed more 40s/50’s than 60s, but that was explained by a sign saying “quality new and used” items.

A quick break for the electricity show downstairs, which was quite well done. Plus a snack. There was a coffee shop and a full restaurant in the museum, plus a dipping dots cart, so lots of options for re-fueling as the day went on.

Then, we skimmed past Energy Explorers. And headed into Gadgets which had a wind tube, a green screen activity, a pulley chair, a ball wall, a bridge building activity and more. Lots of hands-on engineering play.

Then off to Oceans, which was an immersive walk through a tunnel, then a submarine they could climb into, then a water play area with a Poseidon theme, water cannons, a pipe building activity and more. The most unique approach we’ve seen to water play!

At this point, we’d been at the museum for about 4 hours. We had 20 minutes till they closed and only one area left to see – the dinosaur exhibit. And as soon as we went there, we realized that’s where we should have started the day! This was American Museum of Natural History Dinosaur Gallery at COSI which opened in 2017 (learn more). It is a large exhibit, with lots to see and all reflecting current understandings in the field of paleontology. I wish we’d had an hour or two just for this exhibit.

COSI also hosts temporary touring exhibits. When we were there, it was Tutankamun’s Tomb and Treasures, and Nature’s Superheroes was scheduled to start soon.

All in all, we had an excellent day at COSI and would recommend it to anyone who loves science museums.

And if you love science museums, check out my Destinations posts where I write about lots of science museums, children’s museums and air and space museums around the U.S. In this region, check out Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, Air Zoo in Portage, MI, the Cincinnati Museum Center, and the Michigan Science Center in Detroit.



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