Event Spotlight: Chilly Open

Melissa Kossler Dutton
Inflatables are among the activities featured at the Children's Open portion of the annual Chilly Open.

Organizers of the 2019 Chilly Open hope to give attendees an opportunity to stave off the winter blahs at one of Central Ohio’s most popular attractions. The annual event offers families a chance to check out the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium during the off-season and raise money for local children’s charities.

“It is not a chili cook-off as you might think from the name,” said event chairwoman Susan Castro. “It is a warm and friendly party at the zoo in the ‘chilly’ season.”

The Chilly Open’s main attractions—children’s activities, live music and an auction—take place in heated buildings or tents. “It’s a great cure for the winter blues. Our guests get to enjoy all the entertainment and food we provide,” Castro said. “It’s a really fun winter party. The kids have a great time.”

Tickets also include admission to the zoo, said Castro, a member of the Rotary Club of Westerville Sunrise, which sponsors the event. “It’s a great time to check out the zoo,” she said. “Some of the animals are out. The polar bears are always out, and they’re so cool to see.”

Families can hang out in the Chilly Open’s main venue and sample food provided by restaurants, listen to local band The Debit play a variety of cover songs and bid on items at the silent and live auctions. Or they can separate and send the kids to the Children’s Open.

Held in the zoo’s activities pavilion, the Children’s Open features face painting, bounce houses, crafts, games and more. Parents can check kids in at the pavilion—after filling out paperwork and receiving a wristband—and leave them under volunteer supervision as they enjoy the rest of the Chilly Open.

The event serves as a fundraiser for local charities including The Buckeye Ranch, Children’s Hunger Alliance and Westerville Area Resource Ministry, Castro said. “It’s a chance to do good for the community. We’ve raised more than $3 million for local charities.”


Chilly Open

When: noon to 5 p.m. Feb. 2

Where: Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, 4850 W. Powell Road, Powell

Cost: $45 for adults, free for children ages 12 and younger

For more information: chillyopen.org