A Family Visit to the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal

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My family and I recently traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio, USA (Earth) to visit family for the Thanksgiving Holiday. While there, we had the opportunity to explore the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal. It is actually three museums, plus additional attractions, all in one facility.

One of the attractions is the building itself. Union Terminal train station, completed in 1933, is a fantastic example of Art Deco architecture (and looks amazingly like Justice League Headquarters!) The restored half-dome interior is brilliantly painted and features a large mosaic depicting the history of the area. Architecture geeks, like myself, will want to bring their cameras.

In the early part of the 20th Century, Cincinnati had five railway stations, served by seven rail companies. These stations were inadequate for the growing needs of the city and would would frequently flood during seasonal rains. Union Terminal was created on higher ground, and consolidated all of Cincinnati passenger and freight service. It remained in use as a passenger station until 1972. (See the embedded video at the end of this post for more information on the history of this building.)

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The first museum we visited once inside the complex was the Museum of Natural History & Science. This museum was moved to Union Terminal from another location when the Museum Center opened in 1990. One of the highlights is a recreation of a Kentucky limestone cave, which includes 500 feet of tight, twisty passages, an underground waterfall and a flowing river. Another cave is located in the Ice Age section of the museum, where you can walk through a recreated glacier. There are also sections of this museum which explore the human body and teach kids about nature conservation.

The next part of our tour was the Cincinnati History Museum. My wife and I were worried that this would be the least interesting part of the tour for our tween-age children. We were wrong. The first section of this museum houses extensive scale models of the city from 1900 through the 1940′s, which have working model trains, inclines and streetcars. The next area is dedicated to Cincinnati during the World War II Era, and includes an actual 1940′s streetcar that you can walk through. The highlight of this museum, however, was a recreation of the Cincinnati Public Landing during the 1850′s. It has historic storefronts populated with costumed interpreters, and you can climb aboard a replica of side wheel steamboat with a model of the steam engine.

Hit the jump to see more attractions.

In between the Cincinnati History Museum and the Natural History & Science Museum, sits the Duke Energy
Children’s Museum
. According to the promotional literature, it has been consistently rated as one of the top ten children’s museums in the world, since its opening in 1998. Little Sprout’s Farm is geared toward children 4-years-old and younger, and Kid’s Town lets preschoolers explore adult occupations. The Woods area is a massive Play Place themed like a wilderness adventure, but unlike most kids play areas, adults are welcome to accompany their youngsters. The highly popular Energy Zone lets kids
(and their geeky parents) use simple machines to move colored balls to their destinations above. When the bell rings, the collected balls come showering down, and the process starts all over again.

The Cincinnati Museum Center also houses the Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX Theatre. OMNIMAX, for the uninitiated, is an IMAX format film which is projected upon planetarium-like domed screen. Those prone to motion sickness (like my poor wife) may wish to avoid this attraction… or at least pack some Dramamine.

Some of the other amenities of the Cincinnati Museum Center include a Pizza Hut Express and a Rookwood Ice Cream Parlor. There are also two gift shops, one for typical museum fare and another for collectors pieces and local items. Directions and admission prices are available on the Cincinnati Museum Center website. Be advised, there is a $5.00 fee for parking. If you have an entire day to visit, the best value is the All Museums Pass + OMNIMAX, which is $15 for adults, $14 for seniors (60+) and $10 for children (ages 3-12).

Have you visited the Cincinnati Museum Center? Please feel free to share your experiences in the Comments section below.

Photos are courtesy of the author’s trusty iPhone, once he discovered he left his camera at home. Stupid author!

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