A family makes a craft at Dickens of a Christmas at Ohio Village in Columbus (photo courtesy of Ohio History Connection)
Travel | Cities

Holiday Season Fun in Columbus

From beloved attractions and food finds to shopping destinations and outdoor fun, here are ideas for making new memories with your family and friends in our capital city this season.

Holidays Attractions

For the first three weekends in December, Ohio Village comes to life with Victorian holiday celebrations. During Dickens of a Christmas (Sat 5:30–9 p.m. and Sun. 1–5 p.m.), visitors can stroll the historic village, enjoy warm beverages, observe artisans at work and interact with characters like Scrooge, Marley, the Ghost of Christmas Present and even Dickens himself. 

“We try to make things as immersive as possible,” says Andrew Hall, manager of Ohio Village programs. “The general purpose of Dickens of a Christmas is to show visitors the cultural roots we have in our own holiday celebrations today. In the early 19th century, holidays were viewed as times for solitude. Dickens and other icons of his time showed people that there are other ways to celebrate. We can come together as a community. We can be joyous. It doesn’t have to be quiet.”

The Columbus Zoo & Aquarium’s Wildlights (nightly Nov. 17–Jan. 7) features millions of LED lights. Attendees can see the animals, enjoy the animated musical light shows, spy reindeer, say hello to Santa and warm up with hot cocoa.

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens comes alive in the evenings with Conservatory Aglow (Nov. 18–Jan. 7), a walkable show with light installations and music. Horticultural experts also craft Victorian-era vignettes paired with poinsettia displays in the Dorothy M. Davis Showhouse. Those who want to experience both holiday light shows can download the Holiday Lights Pass. The digital pass, accessible right from your phone, offers discounted admission to Wildlights and Conservatory Aglow.

The Ohio Theatre is also at the center of many family traditions with its holiday-season performances. BalletMet’s “The Nutcracker” (Dec. 7–23) has been a capital-city favorite for nearly 50 years. A new locally produced version of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” takes the Ohio Theatre stage this season as well (Nov. 24–26).

People doing keg curling on the ice rink at Columbus’ Land-Grant Brewing Co. (photo courtesy of Land-Grant Brewing Co.)
Food & Drink

Like all good Midwestern cities, Columbus knows how to make the most of patios year-round. Several favorite restaurants, bars and breweries offer reservable, heated igloos on their patios. Vaso, the rooftop eatery at the AC Hotel in Dublin’s Bridge Park, was one of the first in the area to feature the heated domes that make for a cozy time with family and friends. A visit to Vaso can serve as the start of holiday adventures throughout Bridge Park and Historic Dublin, which offer a variety of shops and attractions. 

Land-Grant Brewing Co. in Columbus’ Franklinton neighborhood transforms its beer garden into a winter wonderland with firepits, heated igloos and keg curling on an ice rink. Brewery president Adam Benner says they brewery will host shorter four- or five-week leagues prior to the holidays, with longer ones later in the winter. This season, Land-Grant is debuting Gravity Experience Park one block over, filling the lot with another bar, stage, firepits and more.

“We will have some curling over there and ice bumper cars,” Benner says. “They’re battery powered and the ride time is about 15 minutes.”

For a grown-up night out during the colder months, book reservations for chef’s-counter seats at Hiraeth in the Short North Arts District. Led by James Beard nominee chef BJ Lieberman, Hiraeth is built around a 10-foot hearth to grill, sear and smoke a variety of delicious dishes. Also check out Cameron Mitchell’s Cento in German Village, which serves hearty Italian dishes like risotto, fresh pastas and saltimbocca as well as great wine to go with them. 

People taking  a photo at Village Lights in German Village in Columbus (photo courtesy of Experience Columbus)
Shopping Trips

Columbus offers a variety of shopping experiences that are especially fun during the holidays. The Short North Arts District comes alive during the season as visitors pop into boutiques and galleries, bars and restaurants. Gallery Hop lands the first Saturday of every month, and the Dec. 2 edition, dubbed Holiday Hop, is especially festive. Carolers, hot chocolate and ice sculpting and other performers provide a welcoming backdrop as visitors to the district shop for clothing, jewelry, artwork and other gifts.

Village Lights is a favorite event of the holiday season in historic German Village. On Dec. 3, thousands of luminarias line the brick streets throughout the neighborhood. In front of the German Village Meeting Haus, the Striezelmarkt features local food, drink and craft vendors.

“It’s the way we like to kickstart the holiday season,” says Sean Kessler, executive director of the German Village Society. “You can see lights and festivities, visit your favorite shops and restaurants, be down there when everybody’s coming together.”

In addition to the night market, Santa makes an appearance in Schiller Park and the Maennerchor and Damenchor perform at St. Mary Catholic Church. (The Garten Club hosts a tree lighting in Frank Fetch Park on Dec. 1.)

Thousands of lights illuminate Easton Town Center during the holidays. Crowds gather to catch the tree lighting, and shoppers can visit their favorite stores and restaurants in the expansive shopping center while visiting Santa, watching the model trains and enjoying festive music.

People hiking in the snow at Prairie Oaks Metro Park in West Jefferson (photo by Melissa Turpening)
Outdoor Fun 

A variety of parks and outdoor arenas in central Ohio offer outdoor skating rinks throughout the colder months. Dublin Ice Rink at Riverside Crossing is set amongst picturesque views of the Scioto River and The Dublin Link pedestrian bridge. The 3,200-square-foot rink is open late November through early March and features complimentary skate rentals and heated restrooms.

Dublin opens a skating rink at Coffman Park when temperatures allow for it. In between time on the ice, visitors can warm up at the fireplaces in the pavilion. The Obetz Ice Rink in Lancaster Park is another popular outdoor skating spot. Admission is free for Obetz residents, and only $5 for guests. Weather permitting, Blendon Woods and Battelle Darby Creek Metro Parks feature skating as well. Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks also hosts a series of winter hikes and lighted evening strolls.

“We do a fair number of opt-outside events on the Friday after Thanksgiving,” says Jill Snyder, visitor engagement manager for Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks. “We encourage people to go outside, take a hike, work off the Thanksgiving dinner.”

For more information about these attractions and events as well as others, visit experiencecolumbus.com