The Go-To Guide: Family Entertainment

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent
The touring production of “The Little Mermaid”

For fans of live theater, dance and music, Central Ohio offers a fantastic array of choices for both adults and families alike.

We've compiled a roundup of some of the most popular arts organizations and venues that support family-friendly programming, as well as notable cinematic offerings.

From arthouse films to ballet, children's theater to opera and a lot of things in between, there's something for every family—and budget.

To suggest an addition to our list, send an email to

Abbey Theater of Dublin

5600 Post Road, Dublin; 614-410-4550;

Located inside the Dublin Community Recreation Center, the Abbey Theater of Dublin stages professional and community performances throughout the year. Tickets are inexpensive, and productions include plays, concerts, Toddler Theater, magicians and puppet shows. Tantrum Theater, a professional company affiliated with Ohio University, also performs here.


performs at a variety of venues; 614-229-4860;

BalletMet is a professional dance company with an affiliated student academy. Its December production of “The Nutcracker” is a popular holiday tradition that casts more than 100 Central Ohio children. Kids particularly love the annual “Dancing with the Nutcracker” event, which includes performance excerpts, photo ops and a chance to get up and dance along. The troupe also presents one or two other “story” ballets each year that typically are family-friendly. This season, “Dorothy and the Prince of Oz” is on tap May 4-6.


manages bookings and ticket sales at a variety of Central Ohio venues; 614-469-0939 for tickets;

The nonprofit Columbus Association for the Performing Arts presents professional performances at the Lincoln, Ohio, Palace and Southern theatres as well as the Riffe Center and other venues. CAPA's popularBroadway in Columbus Seriesstages national touring productions of shows on the Great White Way, many of which are Disney adaptations or otherwise family-friendly.

CATCO is Kids

performs at a variety of venues; 614-469-0939 for tickets;

Part of the Contemporary American Theater Company, CATCO is Kids (formerly the Phoenix Theatre for Children) stages children's theater productions throughout the year. CATCO also manages theColumbus Performing Arts Center (549 Franklin Ave. in the Discovery District) in partnership with the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department.

Columbus Children's Choir

performs at a variety of venues; 614-220-5555;

Columbus Children's Choir, which has singers in grades K-12, offers numerous performances throughout the year that are open to the public, including annual fall, winter and spring concerts. Once associated with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, the group became independent and nonprofit in 1996.

Columbus Children's Theatre

performs primarily at Park Street Theatre, 512 Park St. (Arena District); 614-224-6672;

Founded in 1963 as the Columbus Junior Theatre of the Arts, the nonprofit Columbus Children's Theatre provides performing-arts education and productions for preschoolers through teenagers. Shows range from literary and fairy-tale adaptations to musicals. CCT productions are notable for providing sensory-friendly performances of each show.

Columbus Symphony Orchestra

performs primarily at the Ohio Theatre, 39 E. State St. (Downtown); 614-228-8600;

The city's oldest professional orchestra was established in 1951. In addition to offering a classical lineup, each summer the Columbus Symphony Orchestra brings its popular Picnic with the Pops and family-oriented Popcorn Pops concert series to the Columbus Bicentennial Pavilion at John F. Wolfe Columbus Commons (160 S. High St. [Downtown]). The CSO also runs a first-rate Youth Orchestras program and presents a Concerts for Kids series.

Gateway Film Center

1550 N. High St. (OSU campus); 614-247-4433;

This nonprofit movie theater is located just south of Ohio State University's main campus. In addition to showing first-run and classic films, Gateway Film Center also hosts the popular Hoot: Films, Music & More series on the last Saturday of each month, where donating a canned good for charity merits free admission to kid-friendly short films, live music, crafts and more. There's also a Sensory Friendly Series as well as a summer From Book to Film series, where Columbus Metropolitan Library cardholders get in free to a full-length, kid-friendly movie.

Jazz Arts Group of Columbus

performs at a variety of venues; 614-294-5200;

A performing and education organization, Jazz Arts Group of Columbus is the oldest nonprofit jazz arts organization in the United States. JAG is home to the Columbus Jazz Orchestra and stages the popular PBJ & Jazz concerts for families. These performances are held free each summer in Topiary Park (480 E. Town St. [Discovery District]) and for a nominal cost at the Lincoln Theatre (769 E. Long St. [King-Lincoln District]) during other months.

The King Arts Complex

867 Mount Vernon Ave. (King-Lincoln District); 614-645-5464;

The King Arts Complex, which opened in 1987, hosts a variety of activities including performance arts, exhibitions and cultural and educational programming. The venue produces several jazz series, and dance, theater and film also are showcased. A Saturday Arts program is especially geared to children, and other youth programs are offered.

Lincoln Theatre

769 E. Long St. (King-Lincoln District); 614-384-5640 for tickets;

The historic Lincoln Theatre first opened in 1928. After being closed for decades, the venue was renovated and reopened in 2009. It has become a primary and secondary home to many performing arts organizations including CAPA, Columbus Children's Theatre, Jazz Arts Group of Columbus and Thiossane West African Dance Institute.

Peggy R. McConnell Arts Center of Worthington

777 Evening St., Worthington; 614-431-0329;

The Peggy R. McConnell Arts Center of Worthington is a community-based venue that highlights performing, digital and visual arts through exhibitions, performances and educational programs. Professional and local performers, including theMcConnell Arts Center Chamber Orchestra, appear in the Bronwynn Theatre.

Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts

100 W. Dublin Granville Road, New Albany; 614-469-0939 for tickets;

Another community-based performance venue, the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts opened in 2008. It features professional music and dance performances (including the New Albany Symphony Orchestra), high-profile lectures (such as the Jefferson Series presented by the New Albany Community Foundation) and productions by local arts and school groups.

Opera Columbus

performs primarily at the Southern Theatre, 21 E. Main St. (Downtown); 614-469-0939 for tickets;

Opera Columbus, founded in 1981, originally was affiliated with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. In addition to family-friendly productions throughout the year, this professional organization also provides music education with its traveling Opera Goes to School program.

ProMusica Chamber Orchestra

performs primarily at the Southern Theatre, 21 E. Main St. (Downtown); 614-464-0066;

A professional classical music organization, ProMusica Chamber Orchestra presents a lineup of ticketed concerts as well as free performances throughout the community, including at Columbus Metropolitan Library branches. Founded in 1978, it also offers educational outreach through programs such as Musicians in the Schools.

Shadowbox Live

503 S. Front St. (Brewery District); 614-416-7625;

Shadowbox Live is a nonprofit performance troupe best known for its adult sketch comedy shows. However, it also performs special matinees for Columbus City Schools students and provides a growing range of youth education programs through the Shadowbox Live Academy, whose offerings include Sunday-morning Play Café improvisation programs for ages 8-13 and STEM Rocks the 'Box and Summer Bootcamp for teens and young adults.

Six String Concerts Inc.

shows are staged primarily at the Columbus Performing Arts Center (549 Franklin Ave. [Discovery District]) and the King Arts Complex (867 Mount Vernon Ave. [King-Lincoln District]); 866-890-5451;

Six String Concerts Inc., founded in 1988, showcases acoustic performers, including national acts. The group typically stages eight to 10 shows annually between September and May. There are special ticket prices for students and youth, and the group occasionally offers shows that cater to families.

Wagnalls Community Theatre

150 E. Columbus St., Lithopolis; 614-837-4765;

This small theater is located in the Wagnalls Memorial, a historic facility that also houses a library and museum. Wagnalls Community Theatre programming includes local productions of family-friendly shows.

Wexner Center for the Arts

1871 N. High St. (OSU campus); 614-292-3535;

In addition to year-round live theater productions and film screenings from around the world (many of which are kid-friendly), the Wexner Center for the Arts hosts the annual Zoom: Family Film Festival the first weekend in December. The creatively curated series includes low prices and many activities, including crafts, the Cereal and Pajama Party and an Ice Cream Social.

On Campus

Several Central Ohio universities offer high-quality, low-cost music, dance and theater performances throughout the year that are suitable for families. For starters, try:

  • Capital University, known for its Conservatory of Music (
  • Ohio State University's Department of Theatre (
  • Ohio Wesleyan University's Department of Theatre & Dance (
  • Otterbein University's Department of Theatre & Dance (

Some alumni from these programs go on to become professional performers—including on Broadway and in Hollywood— so you might even catch a rising star.