The BEST Christmas Activities in Columbus (Part One)

Tis the season for all things Christmas related.  Hot chocolate, lights, Christmas carols, traditions, local Columbus events and spending time with family are the things I look forward to the most. Here’s a list of the BEST Christmas Activities in Columbus (Part One).  Be sure to click on the various links below to take you directly to the business webpage for more details.  This post contains affiliate links. I post lots of fun happenings in Columbus and educational ideas on Local Busy Bee’s Facebook, Instagram , Twitter and Pinterest so follow along if you want to stay in the know!

For even more events click on Best of Columbus Christmas Activities ROUND 2 and a list organized day by day: Holiday Events in Columbus December 14 – December 21, 2015.

Columbus, Ohio

Polar Express

Train Rides:

Wear pajamas and hop aboard these trains for a magical ride.  All of the train rides require are outside of Columbus and often sell out so buy your tickets early.

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 11.24.12 AM

Polar Express Movie Showing

  • COSI (December 11-13) Watch the movie on the huge screen.  Enjoy hot chocolate, cookies and games before the movie.  Tickets are $8 for members and $10 for non-members.
  • Dublin Rec Center (December 15 & 16 6:0-8:30 pm) Movie shown in the Abbey Theater.  Must purchase advance tickets.  Wear pajamas!


Christmas Lights

Fantasy of Lights: Alum Creek– Drive through light show and Santa House (November 20, 2015 – January 3, 2016)

  • The Lights and Santa House are at two different locations but are a 30 second drive from each other.
  • Price is $15 per car (more for motor homes, limos, buses and large vans)

Holiday Lights at the Columbus Commons (Nov 24-Jan 4 from dusk until 11 pm) Over 300,000 lights decorate the park.  Walk across the street to the Lazarus Building to see the window displays.  After December 4th check out the lights at The Scioto Mile.

Easton Town Center has beautiful lights decorating the grounds.  There are carriage rides (fee), $5 Santa photos and live musical groups offering free entertainment.  Link to musical schedule- click HERE.

The Legendary Lights of Clifton Mills – 3.5 million Christmas lights illuminate the mill, gorge, trees, river and bridges. (Starts the day after Thanksgiving and runs nightly through December 31).

  • Nominated for USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice 2014 Travel Award contest and featured in magazines.
  • Miniature village, Santa Claus museum and synchronized light show.
  • Located near Dayton (about an hour or so away from Columbus)

The Christmas Ranch (in Morrow, Ohio – north of Cincinnati) 1 million lights set to synchronized music (Opens November 27-December 31, 2015)

  • Besides the lights you’ll find a bakery, 6 shops, pictures with Santa, train & wagon rides (be sure to check the website for dates and times of these.)
  • Has been seen on HGTV, Good Morning America, Extreme Home Makeover, Country Living, Ohio magazine and more!

Tree Lighting Ceremonies

  • Easton (November 20th at 6:30 pm) Watch Santa arrive and see the 50 ft tree illuminated.
  • Cheryl’s Cookies (November 22nd at the Westerville location only) Santa arrives at 2 pm and light the tree at 5:30 pm)
  • Gahanna Holiday Lights Celebration (November 22 from 3:00 – 7:30 pm) Horse drawn carriage rides, live reindeer, crafts, carolers and other activities.
  • Tree Illumination Ceremony in Worthington (November 29 at 5:30 pm) Visit the shops in Old Worthington from noon to 5 pm for an open house.  Santa and carolers will make an appearance at the Illumination Ceremony.
  • The Ohio State House (December 1 from 5:30-7:30 pm)
  • Dublin (Thursday, December 3) 6 pm dance and musical performances, 6:25 countdown to tree lighting, 7-8 pm Meet and Greet with Santa at the Dublin library
  • Hilliard (Thursday, December 3) Visit by Santa, ice sculpture carving, elementary choir singing, reindeer, face painting, balloon guy and hot chocolate.
  • Grand Illuminations at Scioto Mile (December 4)
  • Christmas Under the Clock in Plain City (December 5th 5:00-8:00 pm) Tree lightening ceremony begins at 5:00 pm, then pictures with Santa, live music, wagon rides and craft vendors.
  • Holidays in Powell (December 5 12:00 – 5:30 pm) Indoor and Outdoor Events such as meeting Mr. and Mrs. Claus, crafts, trolley rides.  Tree Lighting ceremony at 5:30 pm.

Zoo Lights

Wildights at the Zoo (November 20, 2015 – January 3, 2016)

  • Wildlights activitivies begin at 5:00 pm and end at 9:00 pm Sundays-Thursday and go until 10:00 pm on Friday and Saturday nights.

Breakfast with Santa

Advanced tickets needed to be purchased.

  • Franklin Park Conservatory (Saturday, December 5 and 12) * reservations are required
  • Pickerington Senior Center (December 5: 8 am- 12:00 pm) $6 a person and 2 and under free
  • California Pizza Kitchen- Polaris (December 5th at 9 am but doors open at 8:30 am) *Make advanced reservations in person
  • Story time and Breakfast with Santa at Tuttle Mall (December 5: 8 am – 10:30 am in the food court) RSVP required.  Crafts, songs, story, breakfast and pictures with Santa.  The event is free for Kidgits members (membership costs $5 a year) so this is a nice affordable option!
  • OHS Breakfast with Santa (Sunday, December 6 from 9:00 – 11:30 am) Santa, pictures, coloring, practice slap shot with hockey team, cookie decorating and brekfast
  • Columbus Zoo (December 8, 10, 12, 13)
  • Dublin Scioto High School (December 12 from 8:30 am -11 am) $7 for children and includes breakfast, craft and picture with Santa.  $5 for adults (breakfast only)
  • Holiday Character Breakfast in Gahanna (December 12th: 4 ticketed times between 8:30-11:30 am) Breakfast with holiday characters, performance by Columbus Children’s Theatre, face painting, crafts and storytelling.
  • Breakfast with Santa at Rusty Bucket (December 12th) Breakfast will be served at 8:45 am for $5 a person.  A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Toys for Tots.
  • Pancakes with Santa at The Club at Corazon (December 12 from 9-11 am) Pancakes, sausage and fruit salad.  $5 for members until 12/10, $7 non-members and price at the door, $3 for kids under 8.  Call 614-504-5250 to register.
  • American Girl Welcomes Santa (December 13 & 20 from 9:00-10:30 am) Enjoy a meal and photos with Santa.  Tickets are $20 each.

Many organizations haven’t published their days and times yet so I will be updating this as I find events.  If you know of a confirmed event please comment with the information below.  🙂

Photos with Santa

  • Easton, Tuttle (11/6-12/24 except Thanksgiving), Polaris (11/16 -12/24) * you can make a reservation for Santa at Polaris if you purchase a photo package.  Click the link for more info. Shops at Worthington (11/27-12/24)
  • Sam’s Club in Hilliard (12/3-12/30)
  • Oakland Nursery (on Saturdays and Sundays until December 20 from noon to 3:30 pm) FREE! Santa will be available for photos that you take on your camera.  Each location has different activities going on.
  • Cableas (December 13 from 11 am -2pm) Free photos in front of the fireplace by the main entrance.


Musical Events

Holiday Pops performed by Columbus Symphony Orchestra (Dec 4th-6th)

Dwight Lenox Holiday Show at Abbey Theater in Dublin (Sunday, December 6 at 3 pm)  Jazz singer, Dwight Lenox sings holiday favorites such as Let it Snow and The Christmas Song.

Dav Koz and Friends Christmas Tour 2015 at Palace Theater (December 9 at 8:00 pm)

Trans-Siberian Orchestra at Schottenstein Center (December 26 at 3:00 pm & 8:00 pm)

Theater Events

How the Grinch Stole Christmas at Ohio Theater (November 24-29)

Mr. Scrooge by Columbus Children’s Theatre (November 27- December 20) 60 minute show, recommended for ages 4 and older.

A Christmas Carol at Palace Theater (November 27-29)

Living Christmas Trees at Grace Polaris Church (December 4-6 & December 10-13) 100 singers, 40 piece orchestra, live animals, cast of hundreds and special effects.  Geared for ages 6 and up.

Scrooge by Shadowbox Live (Saturdays and Sundays November 29- December 27)

Miracle on 34th Street at Westerville South High School (December 11-13) Tickets are $10 each

Franklin Park Conservatory Events

Merry and Bright (November 21, 2015 – January 3, 2016) Hundreds of poinsettias, live entertainment on select evenings and many special events (listed below).

  • Some of the events are included with admission and some require an additional fee.
  • Family Fun Holiday Poinsettas (November 21 11 am – 2 pm)
  • Sweet Turkeys (Wednesday, November 25 11 am- 2 pm)
  • Gingerbread Friday (Friday, November 27 11 am – 4 pm) * while supplies last
  • Family Fun: Gingerbread Men (Saturday, November 28 11 am – 2 pm)
  • Breakfast with Santa (Saturday, December 5 and 12) * reservations are required
  • Holiday Gift Making (Saturday, December 5 & 12)
  • Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen (Saturday, December 19 & Sunday December 20 11 am – 2 pm)
  • Honey Hills Farm Petting Zoo (Monday, December 21)
  • The Artic Express Magic Show (Tuesday, December 22)

 Other Events

  • State Auto Christmas Display and Nativity Scene (runs through New Year’s day and begins at 5:30 pm)  Life Sized Nativity Scene can be found at State Auto Headquarters.  Through Christmas local choirs will offer free performances on weekends.
  • Home for the Holidays at The Funny Bone (2 pm show on December 13th and other showtimes until Dec. 23rd) This show looks very entertaining for the WHOLE family.  Enjoy holiday songs, dances and comedy sketches.  Not to be missed is Santa Claus playing the guitar and a tap dance to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
  • Visit with Santa at the Herb Center in Gahanna (December 5, 12, 19 from 9am-1pm) Meet Santa, jot a note at the letter writing center, make a photo frame and some crafts.  $5 per craft or 3 for $12 (photos with Santa are free when taken with your own camera)
  • Snowflake Castle at Everal Barn in Westerville (December 7-12) *Tickets are selling out quickly! $5 includes making your own wooden toy with elves, picture and meet Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
  • Santa is Coming to Town at Washington Township (December 9 from 6:00-8:00 pm) Meet Mr. and Mrs. Claus, see the first Dublin fire truck, a 1937 REO Speedwagon and eat cookies.  Free of charge but accepting new and unwrapped toys or a monetary donation to benefit the Firefighters for Kids toy drive.
  • Dickens of a Christmas at Ohio Village (December 11, 12, 18, 19 from 6:00-9:00 pm and December 20 noon to 5 pm)
  • Discovery District Holiday Trolley Hop (December 12 from 1-5 pm) FREE Ride the complimentary trolley through the Discovery District as it stops for shopping, crafts, tours and activities.  Stops: Topiary Park, Kelton House, Bosco Center, Columbus Museum of Art, Thurber House, Hills Market Downtown, State Auto Nativity Display and more!  While in the area, you can head over to see the Huntington Train from 1-4 pm at the Huntington Bank at 17 S. High Street. (This is the train that is normally on display at the Main Library.) *Support Faith Mission and Manna Cafe by donating socks and/or gloves into the designated drop off locations.
  • Santa in the Caboose at Hilliard Historical Society (December 13 from 3:00-6:00 pm) FREE Experience what it was like to live in the past.  Take photos with Santa in his suit from the 1800’s while in a caboose, listen to music, enjoy the complimentary refreshments, coloring activities and more.
  • Retro Movies on the Big Screen at Movie Tavern (Mill Run) Tuesday and Wednesday nights at 7:30 pm * confirm movie schedule and information

As always, confirm any events directly with the business or organization as events may change or be canceled.

Gift Ideas: 10 Monthly Subscriptions Perfect For Kids 

List of Upcoming Events

Can you even believe how many awesome events are happening in Central, Ohio this holiday season? There are so many events I couldn’t squeeze it all into one post. Stay tuned for Part 2 of Christmas Events in Columbus coming soon. 

Amy - Post Signature


  1. Tara Bebinger says

    Great post with one of the most inclusive lists of holiday joy. You put a lot of time and thought into this. Many thanks!

    • localbusybees says

      Tara- I’m so glad to hear you’ve found this list useful. I’m just in awe of how many amazing events are happening in Columbus this holiday season. I know I’ll be coming back to this list often to fill up our social calendar. 🙂

    • localbusybees says

      Jessica- thanks so much for reminding me of this event. I’ve heard it is fantastic but have never been. I’m hoping to make it to many of these events with Christmas lights.

  2. Hannah says

    Delaware’s Main Street Org. is having a community tree lighting at 6:00 PM for their First Friday celebration on Dec 4. More information will be available closer to the date, but Santa typically makes an appearance!

    • Hannah says

      there are free carriage rides that night and a free santa house from 6-9.
      they both continue through dec. 19 on weekends. the santa house will be fridays 6-8 and saturdays 1-3 (lemme double check that) and the carriage rides will be fridays from 6-8


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *