When you are looking for something new and different for your homeschooling family, drive just three short hours and experience some of what Columbus, Ohio has to offer. I was recently invited to participate in the “Experience Columbus” event for bloggers and I was very surprised at how many family-friendly things there are to do – and educational to boot!
How about learning about the African Rainforest while zip lining or on horseback? In Columbus you can learn about the human body and about the many plant species that grow across the globe. Columbus offers many learning opportunities for homeschooling families. There are many hotels in the downtown hotels ranging from luxury to budget. There’s a hotel and an experience for everyone.
The downtown area of Columbus is rich with history, boasting over 140 historical sites including the Old Governor’s Mansion and the Statehouse. With plenty of park space and the riverfront, downtown Columbus is a great place to explore on foot. Particularly touching, the Ohio Veterans Plaza features two limestone walls inscribed with the letters written home by veterans from different wars. As you are planning your trip, be sure to visit Columbus History for FREE teacher lesson plans.
The Center of Science and Industry (COSI)
Located in downtown Columbus, COSI offers a wide array of things to do. Many of the activities are interactive too such as driving a Mars Rover, learn about the human body or pick up a car at the Big Science Park. Standard admission is $18 for adults, $13 for kids and under 2 is free. COSI also offers camps during summer break. Camps range from one day to multi days for kids in grades K-12. Many camps are broken down into grade levels such as K-1st graders. Homeschool workshops are available as well. Annual memberships are perfect if you plan on visiting several times a year.
Franklin Park is located about two miles east of downtown Columbus. It encompasses 88 acres and offers outdoor gardens; art sculptures and a one-mile trail around the park. You can partake in classes in for cooking, gardening, fine arts and wellness as well as interactive hands-on program for kids of all ages. You’ll also see some of the finest art displays of light artist James Turrell and Dale Chihulys glass artwork throughout the conservatory.
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is broken down into seven regions. This makes it easier for children to learn where the animals originate from and more about their habitat. The seven regions are Asia Quest, North America, Polar Frontier, African Forest, Australia, Islands Southeast Asia and Shores. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has many endangered species such as the Siberian Tiger and Bald Eagle. There are many areas where you can get up close and personal with the animals such as the Walk About where you can get pretty close to the kangaroos.
Many of the areas feature hands on attractions such as the Habit Hollow, which teaches children the importance of recycling. There is also an area where your more adventurous children can go on rides such as the train, pony ride, carousel and roller coaster. There are many lessons that can be covered at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
Admission prices for ages 2-9 is $9.99; ages 10-59 is $14.99; and ages 60 and older is $10.99. If you visit during January or February you will receive 50% off your admission price. They also offer a two-park combo ticket, which is good for both the Zoo and the Zoombezi Bay Water Park, which is $43.99 for ages 10 and up and $31.99 for ages 2-9 and under 2 is free. These rates are as of summer 2013 and are subject to change.
The Columbus Museum of Art is not one of those art galleries where children have to keep their hands put. Over 200,000 people of all ages pass through the gates and leave the building smiling usually with a new masterpiece in hand. Instead there are many hands on activities for children of all ages. There is an area for everyone ages three and up to play with color, play games and create art together. Have fun in the Wonder room and Big Idea Gallery. Teach your children about the exhibits and then see them in person. Their collection features art from the American Early Modernism, Ancient America, Folk Art, Nineteenth Century, and Photographic Art. Many other periods are also represented.
An admission to the museum is $12 for adults; $8 for seniors; $5 for children ages 6-17; ages 6 and under is free. (Budget Tip: Admission is FREE on Sundays!)
The Zoombezi Bay Waterpark has 17 waterslides to choose from and their high tech Big Boa Falls is one of only six in the United States with a zero gravity hill and enclosed tunnel. If your kids are older relax in the adults only lazy river. There is a wave pool and a four and one-half story tree house called Barracuda Bay with over 100 different attractions inside and out. Katoomba Lagoon is another water playground with 12 play areas for the kids. There are several raft slides holding one to six people. The cycle, which holds four people, reaches speeds of 20 miles per hour.
Admission to the waterpark is $32.99 for ages 10 and up; $24.99 for ages 2-9 and seniors; and under 2 is free. Two park tickets are available that are for admission for both the waterpark and the zoo.
Visit over 9,000 acres and 25 species of animals at The Wilds. Here you have many options on how you see and experience the park. You can see the Wilds via zip line, horseback, bike, fishing expedition, bus, or open-air vehicle.
The Wild Zip Line Safari is for children ages 10 and up as well as adults who weigh at least 70 pounds. This safari is backed by Jack Hanna, and is perfect for all nature, adventure and animal lovers.
The Horseback Adventure is great for animal lovers, and lasts one hour.
The admission price at The Wilds is $20 for bus ride; $30 per person for the open air safari vehicle; horseback safari $30; Zip Line is $85 per person; and the sunrise safari is $75 per person.
Where to Stay and Where to Play
During our trip, our family was treated to two nights at the Hilton at Easton Town Center. This nicely-appointed hotel features a restaurant, coffee shop, plenty of lobby space and an indoor pool. One of the best features, though, is it’s proximity to Easton Town Center. Just footsteps from the door of the Hilton, Easton Town Center boasts restaurants (including the Cheesecake Factory – yum!) and shopping for every budget & taste, as well as a movie theater. Families with small children will enjoy the combined indoor and outdoor spaces with bocci courts, water fountains and plenty of places to stop and rest. Of particular interest to families with girls is the newly opened American Girl store!
There really is so much for families to do and see in the Columbus area. It is about a three hours drive but it is certainly worth the trip. The educational opportunities are endless and you will always have something to do. Whether you are looking for an outside or inside activity, Columbus is the place to go.
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