Around Town: Cincinnati History Museum

By: Karen Musclow

I realize you are all aware of our wonderful Museum Center at Union Terminal. The Children’s Museum is fantastic and can provide hours of entertainment. But have you and your charges checked into the other two museums located at Union Terminal? Today, I’m going to talk about the Cincinnati History Museum.

When I first decided to take the boys (6, 4, and infant) to this museum, I fully expected to be leading a quick tour through it amidst cries of “this is boring” and “can we go to the ball area now?” I was pleasantly surprised to find this was not the case at all! The Cincinnati History Museum provides various interactive areas for young children to explore along with providing opportunities for you to introduce the children to basic local history.

As you walk in, you see an antique car right in front. What a great chance to make children aware that cars have changed! To the left is the Cincinnati in Motion display, which is basically a working (lights, trains, and streetcars) miniature of Cincinnati from the 1940’s, I believe. I point out areas that the boys are familiar with (riverfront, zoo, museum), talking about how they used to look. Hidden in the corner is an area with train tables. You can get toy trains to play with at the information desk by handing over your driver’s license.

The next thing we usually visit is the old trolley car. Though the boys mostly enjoy running through it, I had them sit down and look at the scenes displayed outside the window. We talked about how this very trolley car used to be ridden by people in downtown Cincinnati (and how it wasn’t that long ago). Further underground (down the ramps), we usually speed through the first displays, though an older child might have more interest in learning of the Native Americans and colonial Cincinnati. But then we reach the canal display and spend quite a time playing with there, loading and unloading barges and passing them through the locks. This is a bit high up though and the littlest ones can’t reach. I had a great time explaining how locks worked and now T (4) wants to see a real lock in action. (Anyone know of any local? I don’t think there are anymore).

Down the next ramp is a model of a boat that would then be turned into a cabin after arriving at one’s destination. Dress-up clothes are provided and even the little one had a blast moving items from the boat to the cabin and back again. As we pass over examples of road surfaces, we talk about the difficulties with each (mostly walking!). Then we arrive at the Public Landing and the steamboat provides the chance to learn about steam engines and how boats were used on the Ohio River. For older children, there’s also the print shop and apothecary.

Though there’s a bit more (another steam engine and some cars), at this point, the boys are done and ready to move on to one of the other museums (or lunch!). I’m thankful that the History Museum exists and provides some hands-on learning opportunities for little ones. Have fun exploring history!

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