Ride a high-wire unicycle. Assemble a gaggle of gadgets. Explore the depth of the ocean or the outer reaches of space. At COSI, in Columbus, there are enough activities to fill a weekend.
Families searching for an overnight cure to winter blues should take the three-hour drive to the state capital. Across the Scioto River from downtown, the Center of Science and Industry's huge 2-year-old expanded facility can educate and entertain generations for hours. The new museum is a quantum leap better than the original that operated on Broad Street.
Renovation: One look at the outer structure of the renovated facility and you know you are in for a state of the art adventure.
Internationally renowned architect Arata Isozaki transformed the former Central High School into a modern learning environment. Bring comfortable walking shoes to explore the huge center.
Visitors should block out at least four hours to wander through the interactive theme exhibits, watch demonstration shows, peer up at the planetarium and spin around the outdoor Big Science Park. Allow more time to enjoy one of the big screen movies on the Extreme Screen.
Last Sunday, visitors walked through exhibits and shows with less than five-minute waits in line. The most popular exhibit seemed to be the glide across a 17-foot-high wire on a unicycle located in the atrium of the museum. It's not as dangerous as it looks -- riders are strapped in, and the unicycle is kept on track with a counterbalance.
Get a guide: With so much to explore, it's often hard to figure out which exhibit is most age appropriate. A guest guide and map provided by the museum anticipates the dilemma and divides exhibits by age categories.
Preschool children will love Little Kidspace, specifically built for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. The tikes can splash in water, create a puppet show, build a house or pretend to be a doctor or nurse in a clinic.
Children under 10 can dive into the undersea lab exhibit in Ocean. They can manipulate plumbing parts, become submerged in a submarine or try to interpret sonar.
Three-dimensional presentations await Space explorers. Visitors can learn about a manned space program and unmanned robots. Even a space simulator allows aspiring astronauts to experience life inside a space shuttle chamber.
It's hard not to smile at the large plastic brains with assorted appendages that fly around the Gadget area. Visitors are given timed tickets to create their own inventions using gears, pulleys, lasers and mirrors. Live shows are held on the Gadget Stage across the hallway. Other shows include Chemistry Live, The Ocean Above Weather Exhibit, Life Stage Spirit Show and Mind Show and Galaxy Theater.
On an unseasonably warm January day, families gathered in the Outdoor Science Park to see the personal effects of centrifugal force in the Centripetal GeneRotor. Other ambitious visitors used muscle and pulleys to lift a 1967 Mercury Comet.
The Extreme Screen Theater shows films on the seven-story screen. "Lost Worlds: Life in the Balance" will run through May 24.
For scientists who need to refuel, the Atomicafe serves pizza, hot entrees, sandwiches, soups and salads. There was a large selection of healthy options in addition to the usual burgers and fries kid's fare.