Family Entertainment

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent
CATCO is Kids staged Elephant and Piggie earlier in 2016.

Central Ohio offers abundant options for family-friendly entertainment, including live performances such as theater, music and dance.

Here are some of our favorite offerings. If you have an organization we should consider adding, send an email to

Abbey Theater of Dublin (5600 Post Road, Dublin 43017; 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, magicians and puppet shows-many of them targeted to families.

BalletMet (performs at a variety of venues; 614-229-4860; BalletMet is a professional dance company with an affiliated student academy. Its production of The Nutcracker is a popular holiday tradition each December 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 such as Sleeping Beauty and Peter Pan, which typically are very kid-friendly.

CAPA (manages bookings and ticket sales at a variety of venues in central Ohio; 614-469-0939 for tickets; Originally known as the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts, CAPA is a nonprofit organization that presents professional performing arts at the Lincoln, Ohio, Palace and Southern theatres as well as the Riffe Center and other venues. Its popular Broadway in Columbus Series stages national touring productions of shows on the Great White Way, many of which are Disney adaptations or otherwise very family-friendly.

CATCO is Kids (performs at a variety of venues; 614-469-0939 for tickets; Formerly known as the Phoenix Theatre for Children, CATCO is Kids is part of the Contemporary American Theater Company (CATCO) and produces children's theater shows throughout the year. CATCO also manages the Columbus Performing Arts Center (549 Franklin Ave. [Discovery District], Columbus 43215) 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 members in grades K-12, offers numerous performances throughout the year that are open to the public, including annual fall and winter 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], Columbus 43215; 614-224-6672; Begun in 1963 as the Columbus Junior Theatre of the Arts, this nonprofit organization continues to provide performing-arts education and productions for preschoolers through teenagers. Shows range from literary and fairy-tale adaptations to musicals, many of which offer sensory-friendly performances and Grand Sundae events for grandparents.

Columbus Symphony Orchestra (performs primarily at the Ohio Theatre, 39 E. State St. [Downtown], Columbus 43215; 614-228-8600; Columbus's oldest professional orchestra was established in 1951. Each summer, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra brings its popular Picnic with the Pops and Popcorn Pops concert series to the Columbus Bicentennial Pavilion at Columbus Commons (160 S. High St. [Downtown], Columbus 43215). The CSO also runs an excellent Youth Orchestras program and presents Concerts for Kids in the Riffe Center's Davidson Theatre (77 S. High St. [Downtown], Columbus 43215).

Gateway Film Center (1550 N. High St. [OSU campus], Columbus 43201; 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 Family Film Series the last Saturday of the month, where donating a canned good for charity merits free admission to kid-friendly short films, musical entertainment, crafts and more. The From Book to Film series offers free admission to a full-length, kid-friendly movie to patrons who show a library card.Parking is available in the adjacent 11th Avenue garage with the purchase of a $2 voucher inside the GFC.

Jazz Arts Group of Columbus (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 produces the popular PBJ & Jazz concerts for families. These performances are held free each summer in Topiary Park (480 E. Town St. [Discovery District], Columbus 43215) and for a nominal cost at the Lincoln Theatre (769 E. Long St. [King-Lincoln District], Columbus 43203) during the non-summer months.

Lincoln Theatre (769 E. Long St. [King-Lincoln District], Columbus 43203; 614-384-5640; 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 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 43085; 614-431-0329; As its name suggests, the Peggy R. McConnell Arts Center of Worthington is a community-based venue. It highlights performing, digital and visual arts through exhibitions, performances and educational programs. Professional and local performers, including the McConnell Arts Center Chamber Orchestra, appear in the Bronwynn Theatre.

Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts (100 W. Dublin Granville Road, New Albany 43054; 614-245-4701 or 614-469-0939 for ticket sales; Another community-based performance venue, the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts opened in 2008. It features professional music and dance performances (such as the New Albany Symphony Orchestra) as well as high-profile lectures (including the Jefferson Series from 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], Columbus 43215; 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], Columbus 43215; 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, particularly at Columbus Metropolitan Library branches. It also offers educational outreach through programs such as Musicians in the Schools.

Shadowbox Live (503 S. Front St. [Brewery District], Columbus 43215; 614-416-7625; Shadowbox Live is a nonprofit performance troupe perhaps best known for its adult shows. However, it also provides a growing range of youth education programs, including its Sunday-morning Play Café improvisation programs for ages 6-14 and its Shadowbox Academy 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], Columbus; Six String Concerts Inc., founded in 1998, focuses on showcasing acoustic performers, including some 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 43136; 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), Columbus 43210; 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 the Cereal and Pajama Party and an Ice Cream Social.

Other Options

Several central Ohio universities offer high-quality, low-cost performances of music, dance and theater 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.