Parents and young son holding hands and walking at Easton Town Center (photo courtesy of Experience Columbus)
Travel | Cities

Ways to Celebrate the Holidays in Columbus

Our capital city offers a full slate of attractions and experiences. When it comes to spending time with family and friends this season, these destinations are a good place to start.

Shopping at Easton

Kick off the holiday season at one of Ohio’s top shopping, dining and entertainment destinations. Located 10 miles from the heart of Columbus, Easton Town Center offers not only an indoor and outdoor shopping experience, but it also hosts fun events to get you into the holiday spirit throughout the season.

Gather with friends and family on Nov. 18 for Easton’s Grand Illumination from 6 to 9 p.m. Every light is simultaneously illuminated at 7 p.m., including the 50-foot holiday tree. (Following the Grand Illumination, the tree puts on a light show synchronized to music.)

“There’s a store for everyone here,” says Meredith Leighton, senior manager of brand experience at Easton. “Plus, the magic of the lights and trees makes it a great spot for the holidays.”

Take a romantic Cinderella-style carriage ride to view the lights or swing by the Central Park Fountain and its 30-foot tree that shines each evening. Meet up with family and friends at one of the on-site restaurants and bars, including Pins Mechanical Co. (an adult “barcade”), or grab a group of pals and hop on a pedal wagon to enjoy fresh air and a winter beverage. Food options range from family favorites like The Cheesecake Factory to dining experiences such as Mitchell’s Ocean Club, which serves seafood, steaks and great cocktails.  

Woman walking with shopping bag outside Columbus’ Ladybird (photo courtesy of Experience Columbus)
Short North Arts District 

Plan your visit to Columbus’ Short North Arts District during its biggest gallery hop of the year. The Short North Holiday Hop, an all-day event on Dec. 3, hosts live music, performance art, visual art and more.

“Art galleries and other businesses feature new exhibitions and local art through open houses,” says Betsy Pandora, executive director of the Short North Alliance. “People get to mill around to different galleries to get accustomed to the neighborhood. It’s a great way to welcome people who are new to the community.”

The district is home to art galleries, locally owned shops and great restaurants. Businesses participating in the Short North Holiday Hop include District Art & Apparel, which features original artwork, prints and startup apparel and fashion brands; and Sean Christopher Gallery Ohio, which features works by emerging Ohio artists.

After strolling with friends and family, check out some of the Short North’s great spots for food, from breakfast to bars and nightlife. Visit Native Cold Pressed, which serves cold-pressed juice; make a reservation at The Guild House, a fine dining restaurant featuring locally grown ingredients; or grab a margarita and upscale Mexican fare at El Segundo. 

Illuminated tree displays in the middle of the water during Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo (photo courtesy of Experience Columbus)
Classic Attractions

Join the city of Columbus at the Ohio Statehouse Dec. 1 for the annual Holiday Festival and Tree Lighting. The tree lighting commences at 5:30 p.m. in the atrium and is immediately followed by a celebration in which attendees can visit activity tables, get their photo taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus and enjoy the merriment of the holidays at the historic Ohio Statehouse.

Grab a complimentary cookie and visit various rooms at the Statehouse to view live acts, including dance performances coordinated by OhioDance, music groups and more. Begin working on your holiday shopping list with a stop at the Statehouse museum shop to find Ohio-centric gift ideas. 

Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo hosts a dazzling light display each year. Beginning at 5 p.m. every day from Nov. 18 to Jan. 1, millions of lights strung throughout the zoo are illuminated for a stunning show. Lights are synchronized to holiday tunes, and the variety of displays include the 42-foot Sparkling Spruce and Conservation Lake.

“Make sure to stop and see the reindeer exhibit. They were the first animal that started the zoo 95 years ago,” says Jeff Glorioso, director of events and promotions at the zoo. 

After taking in the lights and animal exhibits, be sure to visit the S’mores Experience, where you can huddle around and roast your own s’more. 

Server holding cream puffs at Columbus’ Schmidt’s Sausage Haus (photo courtesy of Experience Columbus)
German Village Neighborhood

For those looking for a taste of history, good gifts and great food, a visit to the city’s German Village neighborhood is in order. Schmidt’s Sausage Haus has been part of the community since 1886, growing from a former butcher and horse’s stable to one of the city’s favorite landmark eateries, offering traditional German cuisine such as bratwurst and schnitzel and delicious desserts.

One of Schmidt’s signature items is its jumbo cream puff, a pastry filled with whipped filling that weighs in at half a pound. The November special flavor, pumpkin, has a pumpkin-flavored whipped filling, a dollop of whipped cream and a candy pumpkin garnish. December brings the pfeffernusse, inspired by a traditional German cookie with flavors of nutmeg, molasses and cinnamon and covered in powdered sugar.

The Book Loft of German Village is another neighborhood favorite. This 32-room bookstore is the perfect place to get lost in the excitement of holiday shopping. Find a gift for everyone in the family with thousands of books of all genres, as well as fun gifts such as literary-themed ornaments, novelty socks and the largest collection of jigsaw puzzles in the Midwest.

Plan your visit around German Village’s event of the season, Village Lights. The annual celebration happens the first Sunday in December (Dec. 4 this year) from 5 to 9 p.m. The entire neighborhood participates with extended business hours and specials. Follow the luminarias to view the lights and bask in the magic of live musicians.

“People meander down the brick streets listening to live music,” says Rachel Lewellen, communications and engagement coordinator for the German Village Society. “It’s a walking-only event ... like a Christmas market outside with tents and plenty to do.”  

When You Go:

Easton Town Center 
160 Easton Town Center, Columbus 43219

German Village

Ohio Statehouse
1 Capital Square, Columbus 43215

Short North Arts District

Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo 
4850 W. Powell Rd., Powell 43065