Budget-friendly winter blah beaters

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Fun knows no season. Sure, cold weather puts the kibosh on picnics in the park and lazy days by the pool, but that doesn't mean the family has to hibernate until the first signs of spring.

If no snow is in sight, why not take a road trip to an out-of-town museum? Or try a turn on the snow hills when the flakes fly. Whether you prefer indoor or outdoor winter fun, Columbus Parent Magazine offers 20 events and activities that are sure to beat the winter blahs without breaking your budget.

Whether it's Halloween, Christmas or Valentine's Day, chocolate is always in season. Take the kids to see where it all starts with a free tour of the Anthony Thomas Candy Company every Tuesday and Thursday. www.anthony-thomas.com/Tour.html.

Now through January 11 explore Objects of Wonder from The Ohio State University at the Columbus Museum of Art. During the exhibit, the university opens up its attic treasures, including fun things such as costumes, cartoons and artistic pieces. www.columbusmuseum.org.

For an interesting and educational way to spend Veterans Day on November 11, take the family to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton. Or visit during one of the museum's monthly family days and enjoy various hands-on activities, such as kite building. http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/.

"Short and Sweet: Two Centuries of American Childhood" will be showcased through November at the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland. Children can get a close-up look at toys, clothing and depictions of youth from 1740-1960. www.wrhs.org.

Do you have a little lady in training? If so, spend the afternoon sipping in style during a Kelton House Victorian Tea. Upcoming events include Harvest, Christmas and Valentine Teas. www.keltonhouse.com.

Take the kids around the world during the Columbus International Festival November 8 and 9. Events include a parade of nations, a health fair and continuous entertainment featuring more than 75 cultures. www.myspace.com/columbusinternationalfest.

November 21 through the end of the year, COSI cooks up the Science of the Season featuring a holiday light show and "reindeer-powered" generator. Don't miss the last Friday of each month when COSI stays open late with reduced-price admission for Family Friday Nights. www.cosi.org.

Enjoy one of the season's family events at The Works in Newark, such as Season of Lights on November 28 or No Nog Days, December 26-28. The science center has a variety of interactive activities for children, including the Science of Art lab. www.attheworks.org.

During various weekends in December, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati hosts a Holiday Jubilee, featuring a variety of local and regional choirs. An exhibit on Abraham Lincoln runs through mid January. www.freedomcenter.org.

Teach the children a little Ohio history with a free guided tour of the state house, offered daily through December. Or enjoy a free holiday concert in the crypt, weekdays December 1-19 starting at noon. www.ohiochannel.org.

Learn about Ohio's prehistoric people while enjoying the winter solstice during Light Up the Serpent at Serpent Mound in Peebles on December 21. More than 1,000 luminaries will light the ancient effigy mound. www.ohsweb.ohiohistory.org.

Spend your holiday break getting back to nature with an overnight stay at Hocking Hills State Park. Cottage rentals feature all the amenities of home, including gas-burning fireplaces. www.dnr.state.oh.us/.

Young children love books and castles. Treat them to a taste of both at the Wagnalls Memorial Library in Lithopolis. It may not be a real castle, but the grand tudor gothic building will leave your little bookworms speechless. www.wagnallslibrary.org/.

Not every New Year's Eve party is family-friendly, but First Night Columbus brings in the New Year with family fun. The downtown event features live performances, children's activities, storytelling, magic and much more. www.firstnightcolumbus.com.

Step out of the house for Metro Parks' annual winter hike series kick off on January 3 at Blacklick Woods. Take 12 hikes, ranging from one to four miles, which are offered through the end of February at various Metro Parks. www.metroparks.net.

Celebrate our 19th president and Presidents Day with a trip to the Rutherford B. Hayes Memorial Center in Fremont. The center consists of the Hayes Home and the Hayes Museum. www.rbhayes.org.

Warm up by the "campfire," eat s'mores and listen to ghost stories at the Ohio Historical Center's Family Camp on January 30-31, for families with children age 6 and older. www.ohiohistory.org.

Spend the day sledding, ice skating or cross country skiing at nearby Delaware State Park. You can even take the kids ice fishing. www.dnr.state.oh.us/.

Go on an inexpensive road trip to the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. The first Thursday of each month is Target Free Family Night. The museum features 11 permanent exhibits and several traveling and special exhibits, including LEGO Castle Adventures beginning January 31. www.childrensmuseum.org.

Gather your sweethearts for the annual Valentine's Hike at Ash Cave in beautiful Hocking Hills on February 14. The paved trail with level terrain is great for all ages. www.dnr.state.oh.us/.

And one more for good measure:

Take the kids on an underground tour of Ohio Caverns, Ohio's largest cave, located in West Liberty. When it's cold outside, the site's 54 degree year-round temperature feels pretty good. www.ohiocaverns.com.

Amber Stephens is a Columbus-area freelance writer and editor. Author of the book, Kissing in Columbus, she is also the mother of two young children.