Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, OH

This post is from my first guest blogger of the new year!! She is an adorable girl who gives me awesome pointers on running.  Cate is currently a SAHM who was laid off from corporate America two years ago. She used to work project plans – and now spends her days building forts, managing play-doh and legos, and reading countless books with her kids. She never watches TV and dreams of ways she can reorganize and streamline to create more open space in her world. Her husband fears that one day she will sell him on craigslist. If her knees cooperate, she is hoping to run the Cbus half marathon this spring, her first since her pre-kid days. Cate resides in Worthington with her two children and fab husband. She also blogs over at iCate.

**Please also see Cate’s post about Cleveland Museum of Natural History and get more ideas for a weekday trip or make a family weekend out of visiting both!**

What to do, what to do? It’s winter. In Ohio. It’s really cold. I’ve got to put my thinking cap on…

We are COSI members here in Columbus, and there are a few museums in Cleveland where admission is actually free for COSI members. It’s referred to as reciprocal admission and there is a full cross-country listing on the COSI website here under member benefits. I love free, and last week we decided to check out two museums with my mom for her birthday!

Our first stop was the Great Lakes Science Center located along Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland, just east of the Cleveland Browns’ stadium. From our home on the north side of Columbus, it took approximately two hours to get there – with only one potty break. There are two parking options for the GLSC: an underground, connected, secure parking garage and meters on the street out front. Given the snow and cold temps, we opted to park underground. With museum validation, the garage cost $6. This visit parking underground was especially nice since we left our bulky jackets in the car and only carried our necessities inside.

The GLSC has a fabulous kids area for children 7 & under on the top floor, which they refer to as the polymer funhouse. This is a gated off, socks only, play area. My kids love it! The entire room is full of interactive toys and spaces. Their favorite area is the ball pit shaped like a pirate ship with a conveyor belt system that raises the balls into a clamshell bucket attached to the ceiling. They love the process of turning the wheel to fill up the bucket, and then pulling the lever to release the balls back into the pit, showering any kid silly enough to stand underneath.

In the summertime, the GLSC has an outdoor kids area called port polymer, which is on the deck outside of the funhouse area, overlooking Lake Erie. Although we’ve never been there in the summer when it was open, it looks like tons of water fun!

On the same floor as the polymer funhouse, there are at least another 30-40 interactive science exhibits, most of which are appropriate for ages 4 and up. My older child enjoyed this area but a majority of the exhibits were too advanced (and too tall) for my 2y.

Back on the main floor, there were several larger exhibits, which were targeted to older kids and adults, however my kids enjoyed them a bit as well. Also, the museum has it’s own OMNIMAX theatre and a museum store on the main level opposite the admission desk. Finally, there is very yummy looking (and smelling) cafe on the ground floor just as you enter from the parking garage. A sandwich will run you $9 – but you are welcome to use the cafe for dining even if you brown bag it.

Although we did not opt to use our stroller, the GLSC is extremely stroller friendly for families with a choice of easily accessible elevators or escalators throughout the museum. My main beef with COSI in Columbus is how spread out the space is and it’s almost impossible to expect two children under 5 to walk the entire time. At the GLSC, the museum and exhibits are much more compact, and it’s relatively easy to maneuver the space without a stroller since the kids don’t have as far to walk. Don’t get me wrong – a stroller is nice since it gives you a place to store food and other belongings, but you could easily get away without one here if your kids are a little older (mine are 4y & 2y).

We spent two hours at the GLSC and could easily have stayed another hour. However, the kids were getting hungry for lunch so we opted to transition to our next stop and eat in the car.

Great Lakes Science Center

601 Erieside Avenue

Cleveland, OH 44114

(216) 694-2000

Some helpful tips to make the most of your trip:

  • Take change and cash for parking/meters, as well as credit cards for any other needs.
  • Remember your COSI membership card and driver’s license for free reciprocal admission privileges.
  • If you attempt this in one day, make sure to have plenty of car snacks & drinks, as well as a plan for meals. The museum cafes have lunch hours only, and are not open for dinner. However, there are plenty of stops along i-71 heading back to Cbus where you could stop and grab a bite.
  • Some of the exhibits at the GLSC have water and kids may drench themselves. Be smart. Pack a change of clothes for everyone!
  • During winter months, check the Browns schedule as this may impact traffic flow getting in and out of the GLSC parking garage (and don’t forget to take your ticket inside for validation!).

About cBus Mom

cBus Mom offers suggestions and reviews of kid-friendly activities in Central Ohio. I am a Columbus, Ohio mom and I like to get out and explore with my kids.

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