17 holiday events in Columbus that are fun for the whole family

·8 min read

Editor's note: In the lead-up to the holidays, The Dispatch's entertainment team is rolling out lists of things to do around Columbus to celebrate the season, including concerts, movies, shows, family events and more. For regular suggestions for fun in Columbus, sign up for our Life in the 614 email newsletter.

No matter what corner of Greater Columbus you're exploring, you'll be able to meet Santa and dazzle your eyes with holiday lights.

Check out longtime favorites such as the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Ohio Village and the Ohio Statehouse. Or head out to community celebrations such as those in Pickerington, Westerville, Canal Winchester, Grove City or Dublin. And if you're seeking a quieter experience, take a stroll through the illuminated trees at the Dawes Arboretum.

Things to do for Christmas in Columbus: Where to see the best holiday lights displays

When you get chilly, head inside. You can listen to Christmas stories and sample plum pudding at the Kelton House, get a glimpse of 19th-century life and eat some Christmas cookies at the home of the author of “Up on the House Top” at the Hanby House, and marvel at “A Magical Cirque Christmas.”

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Events are in chronological order:

Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has been dazzling visitors for years.
Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has been dazzling visitors for years.

Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo

COLUMBUS ZOO AND AQUARIUM, 4850 POWELL ROAD, DELAWARE COUNTY

Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo: Wildlights boasts 3 million lights, Santa, camel rides, music and festive atmosphere

Details: Gaze at the zoo's thousands of seasonal lights, roast a giant marshmallow and watch the light display synchronized to holiday music in and around Conservation Lake. Be sure to make reservations online if you'd like to visit with Santa at the Ice Bear Outpost.

Times: 5 to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 5 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; zoo is closed Nov. 15, evening of Dec. 24, and Dec. 25

Admission: free to $21.99, or free to $16.99 for Franklin County residents; free for members; some attractions have an extra fee

Parking: $10

COVID policy: masks highly encouraged when indoors

Contact: 614-645-3400, columbuszoo.org

Visitors walk through the 100-foot long tunnel of lights during a previous year's Conservatory Aglow at Franklin Park Conservatory.
Visitors walk through the 100-foot long tunnel of lights during a previous year's Conservatory Aglow at Franklin Park Conservatory.

Conservatory Aglow

FRANKLIN PARK CONSERVATORY AND BOTANICAL GARDENS, 1777 E. BROAD ST.

Conservatory Aglow: Holiday cheer is in full bloom at Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Details: Colored lights twinkle in the Grand Mallway, Children's Garden and Topiary Garden. Guests are also welcome inside to warm up and check out the Holiday Blooms display and the gingerbread house competition.

Times: 5 to 9 p.m. through Jan. 9; conservatory is closed Nov. 25, Dec. 24 and Dec. 25

Admission: free to $22, or free to $11 for members; reservations highly recommended

COVID policy: masks required indoors

Contact: 614-715-8000, fpconservatory.org

Santa Claus will be on hand at Ohio Village to help celebrate the season.
Santa Claus will be on hand at Ohio Village to help celebrate the season.

Dickens of a Christmas

OHIO VILLAGE, INTERSTATE 71 AND EAST 17TH AVENUE

Holiday history: Hanukkah and Christmas traditions explored at Ohio Village

Details: Celebrate the season with the "residents" of the Ohio Village as you enjoy music, dance and other activities. Be on the lookout for Scrooge, Jacob Marley and other characters from Charles Dickens' “A Christmas Carol.”

Times: 5:30 to 9 p.m. Saturdays through Dec. 18, and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 19

Admission: free to $16, or free to $11 for members; timed pre-registration is required

COVID policy: masks required indoors

Contact: 614-297-2300, www.ohiohistory.org

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Tree lighting ceremony in Worthington

SOUTHEAST VILLAGE GREEN, WORTHINGTON

Details: Start the season off right with the lighting of a holiday tree

Time: 5:30 to 6 p.m. Nov. 28

Admission: free

Contact: 614-436-2743, worthington.org

Christmas corner at State Auto

STATE AUTO, 518 E. BROAD ST.

Details: The traditional life-sized Nativity display returns this year. Check the website for times of choir performances on Fridays and Saturdays.

Time: 5:30 p.m. Dec. 1 marks the lighting ceremony, accompanied by the Columbus Children's Choir. The display will be lit until Jan. 3, from 6 to 8 a.m. daily, 5 to 11:30 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays and from 3 p.m. Dec. 24 to 8 a.m. Dec. 25.

Admission: free

COVID policy: masks required

Contact: www.stateauto.com/christmas

Holiday festival and tree lighting

OHIO STATEHOUSE ATRIUM, 1 CAPITOL SQUARE, DOWNTOWN

Details: Meet Santa, historic characters and contemporary dignitaries as you celebrate the beginning of the season with the traditional lighting of the tree.

Time: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 2

Admission: free

COVID policy: masks required

Contact: www.ohiostatehouse.org/calendar

A Literary Christmas at the Kelton House

KELTON HOUSE, 586 E. TOWN ST.

Details: Listen to costumed docents read seasonal selections from Charles Dickens, O. Henry and Dr. Seuss, and then indulge in some plum pudding and wassail.

Time: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Dec. 2

Admission: $14; timed pre-registration is highly recommended

COVID policy: masks required

Contact: 614-464-2022, keltonhouse.com

There are many activities planned for the Holiday Gathering in Pickerington.
There are many activities planned for the Holiday Gathering in Pickerington.

Holiday gathering in Pickingerton

COLUMBUS STREET IN PICKERINGTON

Details: Catch a ride on a trolley or a horse-drawn carriage, chat with Santa, pet a live reindeer, watch an ice-carving demonstration, observe the lighting of the village tree, and enjoy some free popcorn and hot chocolate.

Time: 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 3

Admission: free

Contact: www.pickeringtonvillage.com

Santa will arrive via fire truck in Canal Winchester.
Santa will arrive via fire truck in Canal Winchester.

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Christmas in the Village in Canal Winchester

DOWNTOWN CANAL WINCHESTER

Details: Visit with Santa, take a hayride, munch some popcorn, peruse the entries in a gingerbread house contest and check out some ice sculptures. On Dec. 3, Santa will be arriving via fire truck; on Dec. 4, he will make a grand entrance as part of the Holiday Lights Parade.

Times: 6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 3 and 4

Admission: free

Contact: 614-834-9915, www.canalwinchesterohio.gov

Winter Wonder Walks
Winter Wonder Walks

Winter Wonder Walks at Dawes Arboretum

THE DAWES ARBOREtUM, 7770 JACKSONTOWN ROAD, NEWARK

Details: Enjoy a leisurely one-mile stroll down the Parkwoods Trail, where the trees will be strung with lights, during the 4th annual celebration of nature in winter.

Times: 6 to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays from Dec. 3 to 18

Admission: free to $10, or free for members; timed pre-registration is required

Contact: 740-323-2355, dawesarb.org

A Night of Holiday Fun in Westerville

21 S. STATE ST., WESTERVILLE

Details: Keep your eyes peeled for Santa, who will be handing out souvenirs, as you stroll the streets of uptown Westerville, enjoying the performances of carolers and dancers and interacting with costumed characters while taking a peek at the newly lighted holiday tree.

Time: 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 3

Admission: free

Contact: www.westerville.org/holidaysinuptown

Grove City Christmas parade and tree lighting

PARK STREET AND BROADWAY IN GROVE CITY

Details: Cheer on the participants in the Christmas Parade, which will be followed by the city's tree lighting.

Time: 7 to 8:30 p.m. Dec. 3

Admission: free

Contact: www.grovecityohio.gov

Holly Days in Dublin

HISTORIC DUBLIN

Details: Depending on what day you check out historic Dublin, you might run into Disney characters, Dr. Seuss creations or Santa and his helpers. Don't miss the chance to search for the 12 elves of Dublin.

Times: 3 to 5 p.m. Dec. 4, 11 and 18

Admission: free

Contact: historicdublin.org

Christmas on the Square

TOWN SQUARE, DOWNTOWN SUNBURY

Details: A lighted Christmas parade will lead the way to a tree lighting ceremony. Follow up with a visit with Santa, or enter a doughnut-eating contest. Watch woodcarving or ice-sculpting, take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage or just relax and enjoy the holiday music.

Time: 4 to 8 p.m. Dec. 4

Admission: free

Contact: 740-965-2860, business.sunburybigwalnutchamber.com

Luminarias will light the streets of German Village.
Luminarias will light the streets of German Village.

Village Lights

GERMAN VILLAGE

Details: Luminarias will light the streets of German Village, where businesses will be open late and musicians will be performing. Stroll over to the Actors' Theatre space in Schiller Park for a chance to chat with Santa and his elves.

Time: 5 to 9 p.m. Dec. 5

Admission: free

Contact: 614-221-8888, germanvillage.com

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Christmas open house at Hanby House

HISTORIC HANBY HOUSE, 160 W. MAIN ST., WESTERVILLE

Details: Tour the festively decorated 1850s home of the Hanby family, including Ben Hanby, who wrote “Up on the House Top.” Listen to live music and enjoy refreshments typical of the period.

Times: 7 to 9 p.m. Dec. 7 and 9, noon to 4 p.m. Dec. 11

Admission: free, donations welcomed

COVID policy: masks required

Contact: 614-891-6289, westervillehistory.org

Rachel Salzman performs in Magical Cirque Christmas
Rachel Salzman performs in Magical Cirque Christmas

Magical Cirque Christmas

PALACE THEATRE, 34 W. BROAD ST.

Details: Magician Lucy Darling serves as emcee for a night of circus acts performed to the backing of live holiday music.

Time: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10

Admission: $40.75 to $72.25

COVID policy: masks plus proof of vaccination or negative test

Contact: 614-469-0939, www.capa.com

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: 17 things to do with kids for Christmas break in Columbus

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