Central Ohio Offers Family-Friendly Arts Entertainment

Brooke Preston
The cast of “Mary Poppins Jr.” performs at a dress rehearsal of the Columbus Children's Theatre production.

Central Ohio is an arts haven for patrons of all ages. From visits by entertainment's biggest names to hometown performances, the stage lights shine bright in and around Columbus.

We've put together a guide showcasing the area's most popular organizations and venues dedicated to the arts that also offer family-friendly programming. From puppets to plays to prima ballerinas, we've included something for every taste, age and budget.

To suggest an addition to our list, send an email to contact@columbusparent.com.

Abbey Theater of Dublin

5600 Post Road, Dublin; 614-410-4550;dublinohiousa.gov/abbey-theater

Staging professional and community performances year-round, the Abbey Theater of Dublin—located inside the Dublin Community Recreation Center— provides affordable access to a range of family-friendly fare, including plays, concerts, Toddler Theater, magicians and puppet shows. Tantrum Theater (a professional company affiliated with Ohio University) also performs here.


Performs at various venues; 614-229-4860;balletmet.org

BalletMet may be best known by local families for its annual December production of “The Nutcracker,” which has become one of the city's most popular holiday traditions; more than 100 Central Ohio children dance alongside members of the professional company. The annual “Dancing with the Nutcracker” family event includes performance excerpts, photo ops and a dance-along. The troupe presents one or two other “story” ballets each year, and these often are family-friendly. BalletMet also boasts a student academy and offers youth camps, classes and in-school programs.


Manages bookings and ticket sales for various Central Ohio venues; 614-469-0939 for tickets;capa.com

The nonprofit Columbus Association for the Performing Arts presents high-quality professional performances across arts disciplines at the Lincoln, Ohio, Palace and Southern theatres, as well as the Riffe Center and other smaller venues. This includes frequent programming for children and families, such as a production of Disney's “Aladdin,” which will stop at the Ohio Theatre in October and November as part of the popularBroadway in Columbus Series.The partnership brings national touring productions of top shows and musicals, many of which are family-friendly.

CATCO is Kids

Performs at various venues; 614-469-0939 for tickets; catco.org

As the youth arm of the Contemporary American Theater Company, CATCO is Kids (formerly the Phoenix Theatre for Children) stages professional-quality 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 various venues; 614-220-5555;columbuschildrenschoir.org

Columbus Children's Choir provides students in grades K-12, from first-time singers to elite performers, with opportunities to build skills and sing in a number of ensembles. Performances (including fall, winter and spring concerts) are family-friendly and open to the public.

Columbus Children's Theatre

Performs primarily at Park Street Theatre, 512 Park St. (Arena District), Columbus; 614-224-6672;columbuschildrenstheatre.org

The nonprofit Columbus Children's Theatre, which was founded in 1963 as the Columbus Junior Theatre of the Arts, provides performing-arts education and productions for preschoolers through teenagers. Shows range from literary and fairy-tale adaptations to musicals. Notably, CCT offers sensory-friendly performances of every show it produces.

Columbus Symphony Orchestra

Performs primarily at the Ohio Theatre, 39 E. State St. (Downtown), Columbus; 614-469-0939 for tickets;columbussymphony.com

Established in 1951, the city's oldest professional orchestra offers a classical-centric lineup with occasional forays and fusions with other genres and artists. Family-friendly options include the popular summer traditions Picnic with the Pops and Popcorn Pops at John F. Wolfe Columbus Commons (160 S. High St. [Downtown]), as well as a Concerts for Kids series. The organization also offers a first-rate Youth Orchestras program.

Gateway Film Center

1550 N. High St. (Ohio State University campus), Columbus; 614-247-4433;gatewayfilmcenter.org

Near the southern edge of Ohio State University's main campus, the nonprofit Gateway Film Center shows first-run and classic films. The popular Hoot: Films, Music & More series offers free admission in exchange for donated canned goods for charity; the events feature kid-friendly short films, music, crafts and activities on the last Saturday of each month. GFC also offers a Sensory Friendly Series with adjusted lighting and sound, as well as a summer From Book to Film series, where Columbus Metropolitan Library cardholders get free admission to a full-length popular children's film.

Jazz Arts Group of Columbus

Performs at various venues; 614-294-5200;jazzartsgroup.org

Jazz Arts Group of Columbus is the oldest nonprofit jazz arts organization in the United States. JAG, a performing and education organization, is home to the Columbus Jazz Orchestra. The popular PBJ & Jazz concerts for families are held each summer in Topiary Park (480 E. Town St. [Discovery District]) for free, 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), Columbus; 614-645-5464;kingartscomplex.com

The King Arts Complex has hosted a variety of activities including performance arts, exhibitions and cultural and educational programming since 1987. The venue produces several jazz series, alongside dance, theater and film offerings. The Saturday Arts program and the complex's youth programs are particularly geared toward children.

Lincoln Theatre

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

Since the Lincoln Theatre was restored and re-opened in 2009, it has hosted a number of local 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;mcconnellarts.org

The Peggy R. McConnell Arts Center of Worthington brings top-quality performing, digital and visual arts to this northern suburb, 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;mccoycenter.org

Since the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts opened in 2008, it has hosted professional music and dance organizations (including the New Albany Symphony Orchestra), and high-profile lectures (such as the Jefferson Series presented by the New Albany Community Foundation) as well as productions by community and school groups. The New Albany Symphony offers family-friendly shows (such as “Sleeping Beauty,” coming in March) as well as a special sensory-friendly series.

Opera Columbus

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

Opera Columbus offers a number of family-friendly productions throughout the year as well as robust music education offerings for students with its traveling Opera Goes to School program. The organization, which was founded in 1981 and originally was affiliated with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, also offers free reserved tickets to middle and high school students for mainstage production dress rehearsals.

ProMusica Chamber Orchestra

Performs primarily at the Southern Theatre, 21 E. Main St. (Downtown), Columbus; 614-464-0066;promusicacolumbus.org

ProMusica Chamber Orchestra is a long-established professional organization dedicated to chamber music. Founded in 1978, it presents ticketed concerts throughout the year, as well as free performances throughout Central Ohio, including at Columbus Metropolitan Library branches. It offers educational outreach through programs including Musicians in the Schools.

Shadowbox Live

503 S. Front St. (Brewery District), Columbus; 614-416-7625;shadowboxlive.org

While Shadowbox Live is best known for its adult sketch comedy shows, the nonprofit performs special matinees for Columbus City Schools students and provides a growing range of youth education programs through the Shadowbox Live Academy. The academy's Sunday-morning Play Café improvisation program teaches improv basics in an age-appropriate environment to ages 8-13, and STEM Rocks the 'Box and Summer Bootcamps provide further training for teens and young adults.

Six String Concerts Inc.

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

Six String Concerts Inc. showcases local and nationally acclaimed acoustic performers. Typically, eight to 10 shows are staged annually in a season that spans September to May. Special student and youth ticket prices are offered; the organization, founded in 1988, occasionally offers dedicated family programs.

Wagnalls Community Theatre

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

This small community theater southeast of Columbus is located in the Wagnalls Memorial, a historic facility which also houses a library and museum. Local productions of family-friendly shows are commonly featured.

Wexner Center for the Arts

1871 N. High St. (Ohio State University campus), Columbus; 614-292-3535;wexarts.org

Many of the year-round live theater productions and film screenings the Wexner Center for the Arts hosts from around the world are kid-friendly. In addition, the Wex hosts the annual Zoom: Family Film Festival in early December. The creatively curated, affordable series includes crafts, the Cereal and Pajama Party, an Ice Cream Social and other activities.

On Campus

Central Ohio universities offer high-quality, low-cost music, dance and theater performances throughout the year that are suitable for families. Catch a rising star at: