The Best Free Holiday Events in Downtown Columbus


Other than a trip to the Nutcracker and the Columbus Children’s Theater, people often overlook the downtown area as a fun place to spend the holiday season. However, there really are lots of exciting and FREE events for families all December long. Come and explore the heart of Columbus while you get into the holiday spirit this year! Here’s a list of some of the best.

Huntington Holiday Train (Main Library, Downtown Columbus)

November 27-December 29

This beautiful 600 square-foot display of a German town has miniature buildings handcrafted from pinecones, leaves, bark, seeds, moss and fungus. It features five miniature trains, a working waterfall and a 6-foot handcrafted cathedral. The moving trains will keep little ones mesmerized. Likewise, older visitors will be in awe of the ornate craftsmanship and structural accuracy of the display. It is free for all to enjoy during regular library hours.



Frank Fetch Park Holiday Tree Lighting (Frank Fetch Park, German Village)

December 1, 2017, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Be there while the village counts down to the lighting of the evergreen during this intimate holiday festival. Enjoy seasonal treats and sip on hot cups of cocoa. Join historically dressed carolers in singing classic seasonal tunes. Who knows, Santa may stop by to check on whether you are being naughty or nice!

More information: Frank Fetch Park Holiday Tree Lighting


Winterfest (Bicentennial Park, The Scioto Mile)

December 2, 2017, 11:00 am – 4:00 pm

This event is new and replaces the Grand Illumination from previous years. Visitors will be able to enjoy thousands of holiday lights decorating the Scioto Mile. The organizers are still in the planning stages, and more details will be released on social media in the coming weeks. The big party will include live music and food trucks. Additionally, there will be fun activities for children. The city is again teaming up with the Empty Bowls Project to benefit the Mid-Ohio Food Bank. While you are in the area, don’t miss the stunning holiday lights at the Columbus Commons, and the window displays in the old Lazarus building.

More information: Winterfest


Village Lights (German Village)

December 3, 2017, 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm

If you enjoy celebrating the holidays with thousands of your closest friends, this is the event for your family. Come and delight in the village’s historical homes and buildings dressed up for the holidays! Wander through the streets and shops while enjoying hot chocolate and other treats offered by many of the village’s businesses throughout the evening. Stop by Schiller Park to see the Umbrella Girl Fountain wearing her traditional red winter cloak. There are lots of surprises for little ones including visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus, carolers as well as other live music. Don’t forget to stop and get your picture taken with Katzinger’s famous St. Pickle!

More information: Village Lights



Ohio Statehouse Holiday Festival and Tree Lighting (The Ohio Statehouse)

December 7, 2017, 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm

Come see the Ohio Statehouse dressed up in its holiday finest. Highlighting the event is the lighting of the beautiful holiday tree. The celebration includes holiday treats and crafts for the children. Meet local public servants and community mascots. Moreover, Santa will be joining in the fun as well as other historical figures.

More information: Ohio Statehouse Holiday Festival and Tree Lighting 


Discovery Holiday District Trolley Hop (Locations throughout the Discovery District)

December 9, 2017, 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Hop on and off any of the complimentary trolleys stopping at all your favorite Discovery District spots. This event includes activities everyone in the family will enjoy. There will be live performances, crafts, visits from Santa and tours of many iconic Columbus buildings. Don’t miss stops include, The Hills Market, Kelton House, Thurber House, Columbus Metropolitan Library, Columbus Museum of Art, and State Auto’s nativity display. This year the organizers will be taking donations of socks, gloves and baby sleepers to support both Faith Mission and the Center for Healthy Families.

More information: 2017 Holiday Trolley Hop

Christmas Trolley
                         Discovery District Holiday Hop


Village Singers Holiday Matinee (German Village Meeting Haus, German Village)

December 10, 2017, 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm

Families of all ages and size are welcomed into the village to enjoy this neighborhood-based choir. The singers practice all year in preparation for the annual holiday performance. 

More information: Village Singers Holiday Matinee