Columbus Parent | The Go-To Guide: Family-Friendly Holiday Happenings Around Columbus

From million-light displays to seasonal shows and celebrations, you’ll find plenty of cheer to go around.

Jim Fischer
Columbus Parent
A model train display at Easton Town Center during the holidays

The holidays are here, and Central Ohio is again at its most festive.

But with dozens of annual happenings, both longstanding traditions and new events, it’s hard to decide what to see and do. We’ve compiled some of the top family-friendly events around town to help you sort through the choices.

The list is organized chronologically in two categories: short-run and one-day shows, followed by ongoing events such as light displays that continue into January.

Dec. 1

FREE! Ohio Statehouse Holiday Festival and Tree Lighting, Live entertainment, mascots, historical characters and, of course, Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus will be on hand for this annual celebration. 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Ohio Statehouse, 1 Capitol Square, Columbus.

Dec. 1-2

“Cirque Dreams Holidaze,” Performers and cirque artists from around the world will entertain attendees while accompanied by live holiday music in this family-friendly event. Tickets start at $33. 7:30 p.m. Palace Theatre, 34 W. Broad St., Columbus.

Dec. 2

FREE! Whitehall Winter Wonderland, The city’s annual tree lighting celebration is a festive kick-off to the season. Activities include an appearance by Santa Claus, train rides, a chance to write a letter to Santa, and holiday arts and crafts. 6 to 8 p.m. The Kelley Green, 105 Norton Park Drive, Whitehall,

Dec. 2-4

Columbus Symphony Holiday Pops, The festive Columbus Symphony Orchestra tradition includes holiday favorites and singalongs performed by the CSO, the Columbus Children’s Choir and guest artist Tony DeSare. Tickets start at $25. 8 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Ohio Theatre, 39 E. State St., Columbus.

Dec. 2-4

FREE! Main Street Delaware’s Home for the Holidays Weekend, Take a horse-drawn carriage ride, meet Santa Claus, go on a scavenger hunt and enjoy the lights and sights of Main Street. The annual Christmas parade will take place Dec. 4. Check website for activity times. Downtown Delaware.

Dec. 2-3, 10-11

“The Nutcracker,” This beautiful production of the classic ballet features more than 220 youth and professional dancers from the New Albany Children’s Ballet Theatre. Tickets start at $38.50. Times vary. McCoy Center for the Arts, 100 W. Dublin-Granville Road, New Albany.

Dec. 3

FREE! Santa Extravaganza at the Lazarus Building, Children can meet Santa and participate in activities such as face painting, crafts and LEGO building. Live music, balloon artists and holiday characters also will be on hand. Secret Santa shopping is available for a fee. 50 W. Town St., Columbus.

Dec. 3

FREE! Discovery District Holiday Trolley Hop, Hop on a trolley and participate in children’s activities while making stops at cultural institutions and stores in Columbus’ Discovery District neighborhood. Noon to 4 p.m. Start the hop at Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Main branch, 96 S. Grant Ave., or the Columbus Museum of Art, 480 E. Broad St.

Dec. 3

FREE! Short North Holiday Hop, Get in the holiday spirit courtesy of the Short North Arts District, which adds special performances and other activities to its monthly Gallery Hop. 4 to 10 p.m. North High Street from Nationwide Boulevard to Seventh Avenue.

Dec. 3

FREE! WinterFest, This Columbus Recreation and Parks Department event returns for the fifth year with live music, all-ages activities, food trucks and beer from local breweries. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Bicentennial Park, Downtown Columbus.

Dec. 4

“The Hip-Hop Nutcracker,” It’s the 10th anniversary of this contemporary holiday production, which finds the traditional music and story of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece fused with hip-hop dance. The cast includes an electric violinist, a dozen dancers, a DJ and hip-hop legend Kurtis Blow, who opens the show. Tickets start at $34. 7 p.m. Palace Theatre, 34 W. Broad St., Columbus.

Dec. 4

FREE! Village Lights, This annual event provides a good opportunity to walk the streets of German Village, shop at local businesses, enjoy live music, get a photo with Santa and shop the “StrietzelMarkt.” 5 to 9 p.m. Streets of German Village.

Dickens of a Christmas

Dec. 3-18

Dickens of a Christmas, The Ohio History Connection will present its annual Dickens of a Christmas event again this year. Celebrate the season Victorian era-style, as costumed historical interpreters and Dickens characters share traditions with visitors, who can participate in traditional crafts, dancing, cooking and more. Tickets are $18 for adults, $14 for children ages 4-12 and free for ages 3 and younger. Advance purchase is required. 5:30 to 9 p.m. Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. Ohio Village, 800 E. 17th Ave., Columbus.

Dec. 8-24

“The Nutcracker,” From a performing arts perspective, BalletMet’s “The Nutcracker” is the most beloved holiday tradition in Columbus. The production deftly balances high ballet tradition with contemporary moods and storytelling, making it truly timeless. Tickets start at $38.70. Times vary. Ohio Theatre, 39 E. State St., Columbus.

Dec 10-23

“The Happy Elf,” Columbus Children’s Theatre presents this Harry Connick Jr.-penned musical, a jazzy tale about Eubie, “the happiest elf at the North Pole,” who aims to spread Christmas cheer to the denizens of Bluesville. Tickets start at $19. Times vary. Lincoln Theatre, 769 E. Long St., Columbus.

Dec. 13-18

“ELF The Musical,” The cinematic story of Buddy, the elf-who’s-not-an-elf, has been adapted for the stage by a group of Tony Award nominees. Miss it and risk being called a cotton-headed ninny-muggins. Tickets start at $31. Times vary. Palace Theatre, 34 W. Broad St., Columbus.

Dec. 17

Santa & the Symphony, The New Albany Symphony Orchestra will stage a sensory-friendly holiday concert geared to guests on the autism spectrum, young families and those with dementia/Alzheimer’s. Tickets are $9. 11:30 a.m. McCoy Center for the Arts, 100 W. Dublin-Granville Road, New Albany.

Dec. 18

Holiday Spectacular, The New Albany Symphony Orchestra will join the New Albany Symphony Chorus for a concert full of holiday favorites. Tickets start at $20. 3 p.m. McCoy Center for the Arts, 100 W. Dublin-Granville Road, New Albany.


Through Dec. 18

“Uptown Scrooge,” This theatrical experience returns to the streets of Westerville this season, utilizing innovative storytelling, improvisation, music and audience interaction to share the story of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Guided through Uptown Westerville by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, audience members go on Scrooge’s journey, experiencing the wonder of his holiday adventure. Five tours take place daily on Saturdays and Sundays. The cost is $30 for adults, $15 for children and students. Uptown Westerville.

Through Dec. 23

Gifts of the Craftsmen, The Ohio Craft Museum’s annual holiday sale features almost 200 artists from across the U.S. Shop for puppets, jewelry, pottery, ornaments and more. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays (until 8 p.m. Thursdays) and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. Ohio Craft Museum, 1665 W. Fifth Ave., Columbus.

Through Jan. 1

Butch Bando’s Fantasy of Lights, This popular annual drive-thru event has been a Central Ohio fixture since 1999, when it was known as the Alum Creek Fantasy of Lights. $22.37 to $32.87 per car. Online ticketing is available. 5:30 to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 5:30 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The nearby Santa House, operated by Cross Creek Camping Resort, has free Santa visits and photos for a fee. Alum Creek State Park Campgrounds, 3311 S. Old State Road, Delaware.

Through Jan. 1

FREE! Holiday Lights at Columbus Commons, More than 400,000 LED lights will set John F. Wolfe Columbus Commons aglow. Stop by on Festive Fridays (5:30 to 9 p.m. Dec. 2, 9 and 16) for live music, free hot chocolate and carousel rides. Dusk to 11 p.m. daily. Columbus Commons, 160 S. High St., Columbus.

Through Jan. 1

Magic of Lights, A new drive-thru holiday display promises visitors a “magical route” with more than 1 million lights. Magic of Lights has shows in multiple other U.S. cities and Canada. Admission starts at $20 per vehicle. 5:30 to 10 p.m. daily. Historic Crew Stadium, 1 Black and Gold Blvd., Columbus.

Through Jan. 1

Wildlights, The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s annual family tradition includes millions of LED lights, visits with Santa Claus, camel rides, holiday train and carousel rides, animated light shows and more. Live music by local groups has been added to the schedule this year. 5 to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 5 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Display and some activities are included with standard admission. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, 4850 Powell Road, Powell.

Through Jan. 2

FREE! Holiday Lights on the Scioto Mile, This is a cheerful way to enjoy the Downtown Columbus riverfront, illuminated by more than 250,000 lights stretching from Bicentennial Park to Broad Street. The display is presented by the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department. Dusk to dawn nightly. Bicentennial Park, 233 Civic Center Drive, Columbus.

Through Jan. 3

FREE! State Auto Christmas Corner, A life-size, lighted nativity has stood outside the Columbus insurance company’s headquarters at holiday time since 1931. This year’s display kicks off Dec. 1 with a lighting ceremony, and live music is scheduled on certain days throughout the season. Hours are 6 to 8 a.m. and 5 to 11:30 p.m. daily, until 12:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays; 3 p.m. Christmas Eve until 8 a.m. Christmas Day. State Auto Insurance Companies, 518 E. Broad St., Columbus.

Through Jan. 8

Conservatory Aglow and Holiday Blooms, Conservatory Aglow is a nighttime experience that sets the mood for the holiday season, featuring poinsettia displays, themed light exhibits and live music. New this year are candlelight pathways through the interior biomes. Admission includes both indoor and outdoor areas. Special engagement rates apply. 5 to 9 p.m. Holiday Blooms features seasonal décor, visitor-favorite poinsettia trees and themed vignettes. It is included with admission and takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, 1777 E. Broad St., Columbus.

Through Jan. 8

FREE! Huntington Holiday Train, This fanciful, 600-square-foot display, with more than 280 feet of track and miniature buildings modeled after actual structures in Germany, will greet visitors at the main branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library. This marks the 30th year for this attraction. The train can be viewed during library hours. Main Library, 96 S. Grant Ave., Columbus.

Through Early January

FREE! Easton Holiday Lights, Shoppers can stay in the spirit of the season with the help of 2 million lights in all manner of shapes and configurations, as well as a model train and several holiday trees. Carriage rides are available for a fee. Easton, 160 Easton Town Center, Columbus.

This story is from the Columbus Parent section in the December 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.