The 2016 Holiday Guide | Columbus | Experiences


*You can download a FREE Printable of this entire list here.  I will be adding to this list as more event details become available so check back often! :) 

City Festivals and Tree Lighting Ceremonies

Ohio Statehouse Tree Lighting - Thursday, December 1 from 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm you can enjoy a holiday festival at the Ohio Statehouse complete with their annual tree lighting as well as carolers, model trains, refreshments, and much more.  We love this event,  it has turned into a family tradition for us. Hope to see you there!

Easton Tree Lighting - On November 18th at 6:30 join Easton Town Center as they kick off the holiday season.  

Hilliard Tree Lighting - December 1st from 5-7:30 you can enjoy some extra holiday cheer at Hilliard’s Station Park.  Appearance from Matt the Balloon Guy, hot chocolate, face painting, and so much more.  

Gahanna Holiday Lights Celebration - November 20th from 2-7.  Enjoy exhibits, food, lights, and more as they count down to the annual lighting of the Gahanna community tree.  

Dublin Tree Lighting Ceremony & Festival - November 1 from 5-7 on W. Bride Street, enjoy live reindeer, complimentary donuts and hot chocolate and see Santa as they light up the tree.  

Holidays in Powell - Saturday, December 3rd from 2-5:30 head to downtown Powell as it turns into the North Pole for the day. The day is filled with so much fun including story times, visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus, horse drawn carriages and more.  The evening will end when Santa, Mrs. Claus, and Mayor Bennehoof illuminate the city’s Christmas tree.

Worthington Tree Illumination - November 27 at 5:30 pm on Southeast Village Green. Santa will be by to light the tree.

Upper Arlington Winter Festival and Tree Lighting - December 2 from 6 pm - 8:30 pm. Fun activities all night including, live reindeer, ice sculpting demonstrations, visits with Santa, bonfire with s’mores and so much more. Located at Mallway Park.  


Light Displays


Merry and Bright at the Franklin Park Conservatory - Enjoy a beautiful light display, a gingerbread competition, and a Paul Busse model garden railroad.  
NOVEMBER 19, 2016–JANUARY 1, 2017, 10AM–5PM
OPEN UNTIL 9PM ON NOVEMBER 23, 25, 26, 30 AND DECEMBER 7, 14–23, 26–31

The Wildlights at The Columbus Zoo - One of the most popular events in Central Ohio returns this year on November 18th and stays until January 1,2017.  Hours are 5-9 Sundays - Thursdays and 5-10 Fridays and Saturdays.  Enjoy a beautiful light display, Holiday Skate Rink, Lil’ Tots Tubing Hill, Santaland Zoo, Christmas Character Show, and so much more!


Fantasy of Lights - Stay warm and cozy in your car with your family as you drive through this light show.  Starting November 18, 2016 - January 1, 2017 - Sunday - Thursday 5:30 pm-9:30 pm and $20 per car, Fridays and Saturdays 5:30 pm-10:30 pm $20 per car.  Visit Santa’s house on your route, and enjoy complimentary hot chocolate and cookies.  Please note: credit cards make the lines longer so please take cash, also if you have an RV or larger vehicle please check their website for pricing.  


Columbus Commons - This light display is sure to be a hit for everyone in your family, with more than 320,000 LED lights displayed in the park, a beautiful Christmas tree, and lots of space for your little ones to run around. This is a favorite in our home and a Christmas day tradition for us.  You can see the lights starting November 28, 2016 until January 2, 2017.  


Grand Illumination at The Scioto Mile - December 2nd from 5 pm - 7pm head down to the Scioto Mile for the Grand Illumination. Special appearances by Santa, and activities provided by The Columbus Blue Jackets, Bob Evans, and more.  Can’t make it on the 2nd? Don’t worry - the lights will be up until January 8, 2017.


Theater Events


BalletMet presents the Nutcracker at The Ohio Theatre this year from December 9 -December 24 with a wide variety of show times.  Visit their site  to find show times and purchase tickets.

Dance with the Nutcracker on November 13- reserve your FREE spot now. Presented by BalletMet

Cinderella comes to the Ohio Theatre from November 22-27. Make sure to grab your tickets soon.  What a perfect Thanksgiving weekend treat.

Enjoy, A Seussified Christmas Carol, by Catco Is Kids on December 2-4 & 9-11.  

Skate with Cinderella at The Chiller in Dublin on November 12 from 2-3

Have a date night and head to the Beethoven Marathon with the Columbus Symphony November 11-12 head to dinner near by - maybe Milestone 229 or De-Novo


Letters to Santa

Drop off letters to Santa to Santa’s mailbox located at Hilliard Station Park.  Include a self addressed and stamped envelope. December 1-16

Celebrate Believe Day with Macy’s at Easton Town Center.  Friday December 9 at noon. Write a letter to Santa and they will donate $1 for every letter to Make-A-Wish. They will have a whole store full of fun events for all ages.


Photos with Santa

Photos with Santa at Easton,starting November 18-December 24. Your first 5x7 is free and BONUS! you can use your own camera!

Photos with Santa at Polaris Mall starting November 13 complete with a parade to kick off his arrival.   

Photos with Santa at Tuttle Crossing - starting November 11 until December 24.  You can reserve an appointment with Santa to skip the long lines here


Special Dining Experiences 

Dine with Santa at our wonderful Columbus Zoo for Breakfast or Lunch on December 3 and 4. Tickets are on sale now.

Gahanna Character Breakfast on December 10 buy your tickets now. They sell out fast!

Breakfast with Santa at Franklin Park Conservatory on December 3 and 10, reserve your spot here. The Children can also make gifts on these dates as well from 11-2 for $2 per gift.

Breakfast with Santa in Upper Arlington courtesy of the Parks and Rec program.  December 2 from 9 am - 2 pm. Located at Amelita Mirolo Barn.


Special Experiences

Get in the holiday spirit by visiting some homes in the Tartan Field area of Dublin, fully decorated for Christmas! December 3 from 10-4. Buy tickets here.

Discovery District Holiday Trolley Hop is sure to be a great time. Follow the event here to stay up to date with more information.

PB & Jazz is always a fun event - this winter you can enjoy this fun event inside the Lincoln Theatre on November 12 (9-noon), and December 17, and January 14 from 9:30-12:30. Tickets are $5 per person at the door, max $20 per family. Each child gets a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, juice, and cookie

Grab some hot chocolate and walk around Easton as a family looking at the lights, taking a carriage ride, and some holiday shopping

On December 17th from 11-2 your kiddos can decorate cookies with Mrs. Claus at Franklin Park Conservatory.  There will even be a special appearance from Santa and 2 of his reindeer. Free with admission

Head to COSI for the Model Railroad display from November 16-20

Take a ride with Santa thanks to the Hocking Hills Scenic Railroad. It runs on the weekends starting on November 18.

Visit Dickens of a Christmas at Ohio Village on December 9,10,16 & 17 from 5-9 and December 11-18 from noon to 5 pm.  

Enjoy a good laugh and a fun night with the Harlem Globetrotters on December 29, tickets are very affordable and it can also be a great Christmas gift for the family.  

Shop from your favorite local businesses at any of the three Made Local Marketplaces. Starting on December 3 in Delaware! Find more information here.

Cheer on our local hockey team at Nationwide Arena (Go Blue Jackets)

Ice Skating at The Chiller

Visit the holiday train at the main library

Enjoy some delicious treats at the Ronald McDonald House Bake Sale on November 18- there will be Chili and other lunch items provided by the Madison Township Fire Dept. Pre Order your pumpkin rolls now.