The Commons playground in Columbus is open

I told you before that I always knew I would be an adventurous father. That I imagined myself taking the wife and children on huge epic journeys to faraway places. But these days, fantastic trips are quite rare. The typical adventure for us involves a trip to the YMCA. (I finally committed to burn off all that weight of sympathy I gained over four pregnancies).

But what happens when you find something between the epic and the mundane? The place where the fairly common becomes uncommon. The place that makes your kids think you’ve done something great and far away, but you know it’s only an hour from Columbus, Indiana. That’s what we’re here to talk about today my friends, the perfect corner for a day trip for parents.

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

The Commons Playground in Columbus
The Commons Playground in Columbus

At the very least, you’ve seen a shot of The Commons’ massive indoor playscape. Well since my wife recently homeschooled (we’re still very normal people I swear) we decided to take the Indy’s Child mission and head south to an excursion to see for ourselves. Between the two locations, which are conveniently located across from each other, basically every part of the child’s program is covered. Physical education, science, reading, history, math, and home economics are all here.


Since the drive to Columbus is about an hour or two, 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 quickly lends itself to kids singing “C is for Cookie” in a similar turn to “Song That Doesn’t End”. What I’m saying is, if that stuff bothers you, maybe don’t teach your kids to read. The free play area includes a massive climbing structure, slides, tunnels and other fun obstacles. My son and I made it a game, racing to get through the structures as quickly as possible. Unsurprisingly, he beat me. I got stuck in a tunnel… See resolution above.

  At Zaharako's   At Zaharako's
After making several trips up the giant climbing structure, we crossed the street to At Zaharako’s where we enjoyed a great lunch with an amazing old world vibe straight out of 1900, sodas and all. There’s an amazing story to this, which I won’t spoil for you now. But I’ll let you know there’s an amazing orchestration machine from the 1870s that the kids loved. While the wind-up music box was LOUD, it also gave the whole thing a fancy feel. Kind of like eating lunch at the fair, but without the carnies and massive amounts of smoking in public. An added benefit was that the volume made me less anxious when my son started talking about butts because I knew no one could hear.

Communal room
After lunch we headed to the Kid’s Commons where the children took lessons in Japanese culture, plant biology, robotics, nutrition, sports, rock climbing, a laser harp, BUBBLES, d a pet hedgehog and of course plumbing! It’s true folks, if you didn’t know this before, you know it now: the Kid’s Commons has a GIANT toilet slide. You climb into the bowl and slip into the sewers of a maisonette. My wife has a particular pet peeve about children who have unrealistic ambitions for their future careers. “There are only so many quarterbacks in the NFL,” she said. We therefore had the pleasure of introducing our children to the vast world of plumbing trades.

Children's commons

In total, the day lasted about 6 hours, including travel time, and we were home for dinner. If you’re looking to save some money pack a lunch and eat it in the commons which are ugly with tables and chairs right next to the food court. I hope you and your kids enjoy it and have some extra Zaharakos nuggets for me!


MORE INFORMATION: All three locations mentioned are located in downtown Columbus at 300 Washington Street.

Columbus Commons hours of operation are:
Monday to Thursday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday & Saturday, 7 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Sunday, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

Free entry. Call (812) 376-2681 or visit their website for more details.

The Kids Commons opening hours are as follows:
Monday: Closed (open some Mondays during school holidays)
Tuesday – Saturday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday: 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Closed New Years Day, Easter, July 4, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

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

Harold B. McConnell