A Day in Columbus: Making Sense of the Commons

I’ve told you before that I always knew I’d be an adventurous dad. That I’ve imagined myself taking the wife and kids on huge, epic journeys to far off places. But these days fantastic trips are pretty uncommon. The typical adventure for us involves a trip to the YMCA. (I finally committed to burn off all that sympathy weight I gained over four pregnancies).


But what happens when you find something in between the epic and the mundane? The place where the fairly common becomes uncommon. The place that makes your kids believe you’ve done something fantastic and far away, but you know is only an hour away in Columbus, Indiana. That’s what we’re here to talk about today my friends, the parenting day-trip sweet spot.

If you live in Indy, you’ve probably heard about The Columbus Commons and Kids Commons Children’s Museum.

At the very least you’ve seen a picture of The Commons’ massive indoor playscape. Well since my wife recently switched over to homeschooling (we are still very normal people, I swear), we decided to take the assignment from Indy’s Child and head down south for a field trip to see for ourselves. Between the two spots, which are conveniently located across the street from one another, every part of the kid’s curriculum is basically covered. P.E., science, reading, history, math and home economics are all here.

Since the drive to Columbus is about a hour or two away, we decided to start at the free playground to stretch our legs. With easy street parking right next to the building, the kids immediately jumped out of the van and knew where to go. The place is littered with the letter C. It’s a neat vibe for the area but it quickly lends itself to children sing “C is for Cookie” in a round similar to the “Song That Doesn’t End”. What I am saying is that if that sort of thing annoys you, maybe don’t teach your kids to read. The free play area has a massive climbing structure, slides, tunnels, and other fun obstacles.  My son and I made a game of it, racing to get through the structures the fastest.  Unsurprisingly, he beat me. I got stuck in a tunnel… See resolution above.

After completing several trips up the giant climb structure, we made our way across the street to Zaharako’s where we enjoyed a nice lunch with an amazing old time-y vibe straight out of 1900, soda jerks and all. There is an amazing history to it, which I won’t ruin for you now.  But I will let you know there is an amazing 1870’s orchestration machine that the kids loved. While the wind up music box thing was LOUD, it also gave the whole thing the feeling of whimsy. Sort of like eating lunch at the fair, only without the carnies and mass amounts of public smoking. An added bonus was the the volume made me less anxious when my son started talking about butts because I knew no one could hear.

After lunch we headed to the Kid’s Commons where the kids got lessons in Japanese culture, plant biology, robotics, nutrition, sports, rock climbing, a laser harp, BUBBLES, a pet hedgehog and of course plumbing!  That’s right folks, if you didn’t know it before, you know now: the Kid’s Commons has a GIANT toilet slide.  You climb into the bowl and slide down into the sewer of a pretend house.  My wife has a particular pet peeve about children having too unrealistic of ambitions about their future careers.  “There are only so many NFL quarterbacks,” she says.  So, we were pleased to introduce our children to the wide world of plumbing based vocations

All told the day took about 6 hours including travel time and we were home for dinner.  If you are looking to save money, pack a lunch and eat it in the Commons which is lousy with tables and chairs as its right next to the food court. I hope you and your kids enjoy it and get some extra sprinkles at Zaharakos for me!

MORE INFO: All three places mentioned are located in downtown Columbus at 300 Washington Street.

Hours for the Columbus Commons are:
Monday – Thursday, 7 am – 9 pm
Friday & Saturday, 7 am – 10 pm
Sunday, 10 am – 8 pm
Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

Admission is free. Call (812) 376-2681 or visit their website for more details.

Hours for the Kids Commons are:
Monday: Closed (open select Mondays during school breaks)
Tuesday – Saturday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sunday: 1:00 – 5:00 pm
Closed New Year’s, Easter, July 4, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Admission varies (They do rely heavily on donations if you’re feeling generous). Call (812) 378-3046 or visit their website for more details.





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