We had a very nice time at the Museum Center on our last day in Cincinnati. We decided to come here with our kids (ages 11 mos and 2.5 years) for a half day before driving back home to Milwaukee. We saw all 3 museums located inside the Center in approximately 3.5 hours, but we were definitely rushed (by time constraints to get back home and by a 2.5-year-old active little boy who won't stop for longer than 2 seconds to look at anything). :)
This would be a great place to get an annual pass or membership if you'll be coming to Cincinnati often because it's indoors, in case the weather is not cooperating, and it's so easy to just come for an hour or two and check out 1 or 2 of the museums (especially the Children's Museum if you have little ones).
Here are my lists of likes, dislikes and tips for the Museum Center:
1. The building itself is GORGEOUS! If you love architecture or history, you will love just admiring this building. The inside is HUGE! and again, gorgeous! My hubby and I are architecture buffs so we could have stared at this place all day and explored all the nooks and crannies ("Oh, look! There's where the train ticket windows used to be!"). I think the building is still an Amtrak station as well...
2. You can explore all 3 museums (Natural History, Cincinnati History, and Children's Museum) for one low price. If you're planning on visiting more than 1 of the museums, it's cheaper to get the pass for all three.
Highlight of Natural History Museum--the cave! This was a replica of an actual cave and weaves you up, down and all around in very dark, tight spaces like a real cave! It was very, very cool! It also has a handicapped/stroller walk that is not so extreme. Fair warning--my 2.5-year-old was a bit scared to do the "advanced route" but eventually agreed to go in. Also, be aware that some of the "tight" spots are very narrow and you have to walk sideways. They have poles at the entrance that give you an idea of how tight it is so you can see if you'd fit in between. :)
Highlight of the Cincinnati History Museum--trains, streetcar, and paddle steamboat. I have to admit out of all 3 museums, this was the one I was least excited about, but it ended up being worth it! My son loved watching all of the trains in the replica of the city as well as climbing aboard the streetcar and paddle steam boat.
Highlight of the Children's Museum--letting our 2.5-year-old run off some energy! Ha! I would say that this area is best suited for 2-7 year olds. Older kids would probably get bored. There is a younger kid area for under 4 years old where we took our 11-month-old daughter to play for a bit. Just like other children's museums there was the usual pretend play areas (grocery, house, cars, trucks) as well as blocks for building. The best parts were a ball area (my son's favorite spot) where you can throw balls and launch them into different tubes, etc., and a GIANT water table area. Beware, even though they provide waterproof aprons for the kiddos to wear, they (and you) will get wet.
3. You can bring your lunch/snacks and eat in the huge atrium. There are plenty of tables situated in this area that you can sit and eat. There is also a small deli and a Starbucks in the atrium in case you get hungry or need your caffeine fix.
4. There's parking in an adjacent lot for $6. And there's a free "shuttle" (think oversized golf cart) that will bring you to the front doors (as long as you don't have a stroller, bummer).
5. There are other things to see and do for an extra charge (like a theatre and changing exhibits. The changing exhibit that was going on while we were there was the Diana exhibit, which I would have liked to have seen, but it was not in the time constraint that we had).
1. Both the Natural History Museum and the Cincinnati History Museum (more so the Natural History museum) weave you around a predetermined route. So you can't just go to a particular spot, you have to follow the path. We've been to other museums (including our own in Milwaukee) where if you want to see just the dinos, you can go to the dino area and skip the rest of the stuff. I guess in saying that, it could be a good or bad thing. The good being that because we were from out of town, it was nice to be able to see the other things in the museum instead of only the dinosaurs as our 2.5-year-old would have preferred. The bad being that if the dinos are not at the beginning (which, by the way, they are not), your 2.5-year-old will ask incessantly when he will get to see them.
2. There is a pretty substantial hill to climb from the parking lot to the front doors. We've found that most of Cincinnati is covered in hills so we came to expect that by the end of our vacation, but just be aware of it. If you don't have a stroller with you, you can flag down the aforementioned "shuttle" to take you to the front doors.
3. Lastly, just be aware that the museum is located in a what I would consider to be a questionable neighborhood. My hubby and I are all for saving money when we can so we usually look for street parking for places like this instead of paying the parking fee, but we determined that it would be best to be closer to the museum and within a designated lot.
All in all, I'm not sure that we need to go back to the Museum Center now that we've been there, but if we happened to be in Cincy again and the weather was yuck, we might consider it if we needed something to do (especially the Children's Museum because my son definitely was not ready to leave that area).
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