Free and Inexpensive Christmas Activities in Columbus, Ohio

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free and inexpensive

Let’s be honest: Christmas comes with a lot of expenses each year. Luckily Columbus is full of budget-friendly activities for the holidays! Save money this holiday season and check out these affordable and free Christmas activities! 

Daily Free Christmas Activities

Huntington Holiday Train at the Main Library: The beloved Huntington Holiday Train will be back on display at the Main Library this year. Check the library website for operating hours. It will be on display November 20, 2019 until January 2, 2019. This year there will be a Holiday Open House to launch the train on November 20, 2019.  

Easton Town Center Trolley: (Wednesday- Saturday: 1:00-8:00 p.m., Sunday: 1:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.) Take a fun trolley ride around the beautifully decorated Easton Town Center grounds to take in the sights and sounds of the season. Rides are free, but tips are welcome to benefit charity.

State Auto’s Christmas Corner: A life-sized Nativity scene can be found at State Auto Headquarters. The display is lighted daily from December 3, 2019 through January 2, 2020. On weekends through December 23, 2019, local choirs will offer free performances on Friday and Saturday evenings. 

Visiting the State Auto Corner is a great tradition!

Santa Mailboxes: Write a letter to Santa and drop it off at one of Santa’s mailboxes around town.

Santa's mailboxes12 Elves of Dublin Scavenger Hunt: Pick up a scavenger card at one of the 12 participating businesses in Historic Dublin (same as Irish Fairy Door)  and search for the hidden elf.  At each location, you will receive a small treat for finding the elf.  More information will be available the week of Thanksgiving. 

Finding the elves all around Dublin!

Easton Photos with Santa: The first 5 x 7 is only $5.  Reserve your spot in the virtual line by checking in with one of Santa’s Helpers. Click here to see a list of Photos with Santa locations in Columbus.

WildLights is free with a Columbus Zoo Membership. Click here to see a full list of Holiday Light Displays

Christmas Light Finder: Type your zip code into this website and it will show you the houses with amazing displays near you. It’s fun to grab some hot chocolate, bundle into the car and cruise around looking at lights.

Columbus Commons Lights: Enjoy the festive lights at Columbus Commons from November 22 through January 5, 2019 from dusk until 11 pm. To sweeten the deal, Fridays in December will be a little extra festive, with free hot chocolate and carousel rides. Plus, you’ll hear the music of the season with musicians roaming around the park. You can find that extra bit of holiday cheer on these dates: Friday, December 6; Friday, December 13; and Friday, December 20, 2019. 

Scioto Mile Lights/Bicentennial Park: Beginning November 21, The Scioto Mile will also be decked out for the holidays. Take in the stunning view of the Scioto River sparkling with more than 250,000 lights. From Bicentennial Park in the south all the way up to Broad Street, our riverfront will be heralding the holiday season.

Reoccurring Weekday Events

Ohio Statehouse Holiday Choir Performances: Enjoy lunchtime concerts from 12:00-1:00 pm on weekdays from December 6-20, 2019 at the Museum Gallery in the Ohio Statehouse.

Weekend Events

Oakland Nurseries: Each location has different events on Saturdays and Sundays from November 30, 2019- December 15, 2019. Come to see Santa too! 

Calendar of Daily Events

November 15, 2019 

Tree Lighting at Tanger Outlets: 6:30 p.m.- 8:30 p.m. | Here comes Santa Claus! Welcome Santa and help usher in the holiday shopping season at their Third Annual Christmas Tree Lighting! Santa and Mrs. Claus will help light the tree and will be available for photos and visits with the children. Remember to bring your own camera! They’ll have music, hot cocoa, a new ornament & cookie decorating station for the kiddos and a holiday face painter! – FREE

November 16, 2019 

Conservatory Aglow at Franklin Park Conservatory: 5:00 p.m.- 9:00 p.m.| Opening night of the Conservatory Aglow! Discounted rate for members. Conservatory Aglow returns for the biggest and brightest holiday show in the history of the Conservatory, extending beyond the building and into The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden as well as the Grand Mallway.

So much to see inside and outside at the Conservatory Aglow!

November 20, 2019 

Main Library Holiday Train and Open House: 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Celebrate the season as they launch the Huntington Holiday Train and light up Topiary Park! Join them for hands-on activities, live music and meet a very Special Guest during Main Library’s Holiday Open House. Also, enjoy drinks and cookies while visiting live reindeer in Topiary Park! All indoor and outdoor activities are free and so is parking in Main Library’s garage. Bring the whole family!

Checking out the train and participating in the scavenger hunt too!

November 22, 2019

Easton Tree Lighting: 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. | Celebrate the simple and unexpected joys of Christmas with entertainment that will involve, engage and surprise. Watch children’s eyes sparkle as Santa arrives, along with a special guest, to illuminate Easton’s 56 foot digital Christmas tree and a breathtaking display of lights! Cap the evening’s festivities with photos with Santa, along with extra surprises along the way. – FREE

November 24, 2019

New Albany Tree Lighting; 2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. | Enjoy the delightful sounds of the season while you participate in crafting activities and sample holiday treats such as cocoa, hot apple cider, donuts and cookies that you decorate with your own special touch. A horse and carriage ride and candy cane striped stilt-walker will surely inspire your holiday spirit along with our entertainment line-up that is sure to please!- FREE

November 30, 2019 

Kids Christmas at the Market: 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. at Lynd’s Fruit Farm | Christmas at the Market invites your child to meet Santa and visit the workshop for a small take-home craft. Woody & Lou’s Smokin’ Mac will be on the porch with their delicious BBQ and Tater Bombs. As usual, they will have a variety of items for sale in the Christmas shop as well as a selection of fresh cider, apples, jams & jellies, Amish baked goods & more! – FREE

December 1, 2019

Holiday Open House and Tree Lighting in Worthington: 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. in Old Worthington | Bring the family to enjoy the sights and sounds of the holiday season, including an iceless ice rink, horse-drawn carriage rides, live music and a visit from Santa. Local retailers will be offering special promotions. And, plan to stay into the evening for the annual Christmas tree lighting on Worthington’s Village Green. – FREE

Clintonville HolidayVille: 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. | Jolly trolleys take riders to Clintonville area businesses for free and discounted goodies. The fun continues at Mozarts, the event headquarters, with hot cocoa, cookies, activities and visit from Santa himself – FREE.

Holiday Hop in Hilliard and Tree Lighting: 4:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. | Musical selections will be performed by children, visit from Santa, ice sculpting demonstrations, balloon artist, reindeer, wagon rides and hot chocolate. Tree Lighting will be at 6:15 p.m – FREE.

December 2, 2019

Christmas Open House at John and Annie Glenn in New Concord: 5:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. | Step into the living room of John Glenn’s boyhood home and experience Christmas in 1962, the year he orbited Earth. You’re invited to come and see what Christmas was like for a typical American family in 1962. John Glenn’s Lionel train will be running around the tree for all to enjoy and museum volunteers will be serving hot chocolate and cookies on the porch- FREE.

Marysville Uptown Christmas Walk & Tree Lighting Ceremony: 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. | Come by and see Santa, a few of his reindeer, listen to music, make crafts and watch the tree lighting – FREE.

December 3, 2019 

Kid X Santa Stories with Disney: 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. | Enjoy your favorite holiday stories with the Disney team! Storytime will take place at The Disney Store located on the Upper Level by JCPenney.

Grandview Holiday Tree Lighting: 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. | Enjoy carol singing by the Grandview Heights High School singers and refreshments and annual tree lighting – FREE.

Hanby Christmas Open House in Westerville- 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. | The smell of hot cider, the sound of Christmas music, the twinkle of light–all add up to holiday memories. Visit the decorated home of the composer who gave us “Up on the Housetop.” Continuous music in the parlor. Hot cider and cookies will be served. Also on December 7, 2019. 

December 4, 2019

Worthington Illuminating Shopping: 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. | Stroll the streets of historic Old Worthington and experience live music, luminaries lining the streets and special sales from the retailers that stay open late – FREE.

December 5, 2019

Dublin Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony: 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. | At this event, there will be live reindeer, complimentary hot chocolate and donuts, opportunities for pictures with Christmas characters and prizes for children. At 6:30 p.m., Santa makes his appearance – FREE.

Night in Bethlehem: 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. | Experience a Night in Bethlehem at Westerville Christian Church and have a hands-on family experience. Pre-Registration is encouraged- FREE. This event will also take place on December 6, 2019. 

Capital University Christmas Festival: See website for times | December 5 through 8, the Capital University Conservatory of Music will present its annual Christmas Festival, featuring the Chapel Choir, Choral Union, Women’s Chorus, The Chordsmen, Philomel and a variety of instrumentalists. This long-standing holiday tradition enjoyed by the university, its friends from far and wide and the greater Columbus community.

December 6, 2019

Olde Pickerington Village Holiday: 5:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. | Strolling carolers, cookie decorating, storytelling, crafts, horse-drawn carriage rides, indoor holiday gift market, hop on/off the trolley, gingerbread house contest, visit with Santa, lighting of the pantry lights and lighting of Pickerington’s Christmas Tree. The shops, restaurants, and Historical Museum are also open- FREE.

Night in Bethlehem: 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. | Experience a Night in Bethlehem at Westerville Christian Church and have a hands-on family experience. Pre-Registration is encouraged- FREE. This event will also take place on December 5, 2019. 

Ohio Statehouse Holiday Festival and Tree Lighting: 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. | Visit with Santa and other historical characters and modern dignitaries at the annual holiday Statehouse event. You’ll also find model trains, carolers and refreshments- FREE.

Upper Arlington Tree Lighting and Winter Festival: 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. | Activities include the lighting of the Holiday tree, holiday music and caroling by the high school choir, live reindeer, carriage rides, bonfire with s’mores, giveaways, and coffee and hot chocolate – FREE. 

Westerville Tree Lighting: 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. in Uptown Westerville | This year’s tree lighting is full of new and exciting activities and events including crafts, cookies, games, music and more. A visit with Santa and other photo opportunities will be available. You don’t want to miss it!

Delaware Tree Lighting and Santa House: 7:00 p.m.  | Horse-drawn carriage ride, Santa House, carolers and tree lighting ceremony at 7:00 p.m. – FREE. Events continue on December 7 and 8, 2019. 

December 7, 2019

Holiday Market at North Market: 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at The North Market | Join North Market (and Santa Claus) for their Holiday Market! Get into the spirit with vendors selling holiday cheer and sweets, as well as gifts for all loved ones!

Kids Workshops at Home Depot: 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. | Make a countdown to Christmas keepsake! Fun for parents and kiddos! FREE.

Grove City Christmas Celebration: 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. | This family-friendly festival will feature live music, Santa visits, ice sculpting, reindeer, traditional carols, a parade (7 p.m.), and the official Grove City tree lighting- FREE.

Santa Visit at the Grandview Heights Public Library: 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. | Bring your camera and take a picture of your little ones with Santa while they discuss their holiday wishes. Children can also make a holiday craft and visit with Rosie the Comfort Dog from Atonement Lutheran Church. TICKETS ARE REQUIRED for this event. Tickets are free but must be picked up from the Youth Services Desk- FREE.

Deck the Stalls: 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. at Stockhands for Healing | Face painting, Christmas bulb decorating, photos with Santa ($5 donation and free for military families), pony rides ($3 donation or 2 for $5), refreshments and more. Stockhands Horses For Healing- (3788 Olentangy River Rd, Delaware, Ohio 43015)

Delaware Holiday Open House: Main Street Delaware’s annual Holiday Open House features specials and free community events for all! Come downtown and enjoy their local shops, see Santa and much more. Stores will be open their regular business hours all day. There is also a Dash for Dancer event from 11-1 to look for Santa’s reindeer! FREE.

Free Crafts for Kids: 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. at Lakeshore Learning | Kids can make festive winter garland at Lakeshore (2148 Polaris Parkway, Columbus, OH 43240)- FREE.

Lazarus Santa’s Workshop: 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. | Mr. Claus himself will be making a comeback at the very place many Columbus residents affectionately recall making seasonal expeditions to see him. Carousel rides over at the Columbus Commons will all be FREE! 

Discovery District Holiday Trolley Hop: 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. | Ride the complimentary trolley through the popular Discovery District as it stops for shopping, crafts, tours, and activities – FREE.

Downtown Lancaster Winterfest: 12:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. | Free carriage rides, photos with Santa at the Santa House, kids crafts in the businesses, elf scavenger hunt, holiday music, and much more! The downtown tree lighting is at 5 p.m.

Holiday Hop: 12:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. | Stroll the streets in the Short North and look at the decorated window displays, watch street performers, shop at the businesses that stay open later- FREE.

Dublin Holly Days: 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. | Visit Historic Dublin for a day full of fun. Celebrate the holiday with Carolers strolling the streets, delicious holiday treats, pictures with Santa and so much more! – FREE.

Granville Candlelight Walking Tour: 1:00 p.m.- 9:00 p.m. | The day will feature numerous holiday activities, events, and performances to enjoy. 

Holidays in Powell: 2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. | Powell will turn into the “North Powell” where guests can visit with Mr. and Mrs. Claus, take a ride on a horse-drawn carriage, and enjoy storytime and crafts in the Municipal Building. Stroll the streets of Powell for various activities offered by the businesses from 2:00-5:30 p.m. The event concludes with the tree lighting ceremony at 6:00 p.m. – FREE.

A Holiday Evening on the Farm: 3:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. at Gallant Farm. Experience the holiday spirit of the 1930s and roast chestnuts, listen to live music and make holiday decorations – FREE.

Sunbury Christmas on the Square: 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. | Watch a lighted parade at 5:30 p.m., participate in festivities such as craft making, visit with Mr. and Mrs. Claus and much more! – FREE.

Plain City Christmas Under the Clock: 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. | Tree Lighting Ceremony with entertainment at 5:00 p.m. After the tree lighting, activities include craft vendors, wagon rides to photos with Santa at Yoder’s True Value, live music, ice sculpting, drawings, and prizes – FREE. 

Reynoldsburg Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony and Parde: 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Sing carols, drink hot chocolate and watch the tree lighting ceremony at the Reynoldsburg City Hall – FREE.

Santa Arrives at the Township: 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. | See Dublin’s first fire truck, a 1937 REO Speedwagon, take a picture with Santa, enjoy a treat and make a craft. 6200 Eiterman Road, Dublin OH. -FREE (but monetary donations are being accepted as well as new, unwrapped toys to benefit the Firefighters for Kids Toy Drive)

December 8, 2019

Kids Christmas at the Market: 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. at Lynd’s Fruit Farm | Christmas at the Market invites your child to meet Santa and visit the workshop for a small take-home craft. Smokin’ Out BBQ will be out on the porch selling food. As usual, they will have a variety of items for sale in the Christmas shop as well as a selection of fresh cider, apples, jams & jellies, Amish baked goods & more!

Westerville’s Lions Club Children’s Christmas Parade– The Westerville Lions Club is proud to bring this long-standing tradition to the community! The Westerville Children’s Christmas parade will step off from State St. and Electric Ave. once the last walkers have made the half-way turn in the Rudolph Run/Walk 5K (approximately 2:20 p.m.).

Santa in the Caboose: 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. | Enter the red caboose to interact and take photos with Santa in his suit from the 1800s. The Historical Village will also be open with live music, art projects, refreshments and more. Location: Hilliard Ohio Historical Society – FREE.

German Village Lights: 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. | Follow luminaries from shops, restaurants and businesses that have stayed open late with discounts and holiday treats. There are surprises on each corner including live music, carolers and carriage rides – FREE.

December 12, 2019

An Evening at the North Pole: 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at The Westerville Community Center | Santa’s elves will serve a light meal with a special dessert and beverages. Santa will share great stories from the North Pole! Holiday crafts and a sing-a-long will get everyone in the holiday spirit!

December 13, 2019

Worthington Family Frolic: 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at The Worthington Community Center | Carnival games, visit with Santa, arts and crafts, ice sculptures and live entertainment! 

An Evening at the North Pole: 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at The Westerville Community Center | Santa’s elves will serve a light meal with a special dessert and beverages. Santa will share great stories from the North Pole! Holiday crafts and a sing-a-long will get everyone in the holiday spirit!

December 14, 2019

Breakfast with Santa at Rusty Bucket: Reservations start at 8:30 a.m. | Call to make a reservation. Breakfast is $6 per person, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Toys for Tots. Guests are also encouraged to donate new or gently used coats which will be given to the Salvation Army.

Breakfast with Santa in Worthington: $6 for pancakes and breakfast with Santa! This is a non-swimming event but it will take place at Worthington Pools. 3 times slots from 8:00 – 8:45 a.m., 9:00- 9:45 a.m., and 10:00 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. 

Free Crafts for Kids: From 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. | Kids can make a free Pop Into the Holidays Party Cracker at Lakeshore (2148 Polaris Parkway, Columbus, OH 43240)

Christmas in Ash Cave: 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. | Bundle up and head to Ash Cave in Hocking Hills for an outdoor adventure- FREE.

December 15, 2019

Annual Golden Spike Open House at The Depot: 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. | Tour the train cars decorated for the season, take a ride on the Scioto Railway through the decorated light display, enjoy light refreshments, work on a craft and watch a holiday movie. Admission is a coat for the needy (hats, gloves and scarves are welcome) or 1 unwrapped gift per person for the benefit of Firefighters For Kids Toy Drive and TriVillage Chamber Coat Drive. This is the tentative date for 2019, please check their website for updates! 

December 20, 2019

KidX Club Cookies with Santa: 4:30 p.m.- 6:00 p.m. at Polaris Fashion Place | Decorate your own cookie Cheryl’s cookie! – FREE. 

6th Annual Ice Sculpture Tour: Beginning at 5 pm on Friday night and continuing all weekend (weather permitting) illuminated ice sculptures are set up on display outside of Uptown Westerville Merchants- FREE.

December 27, 2019

Celebrate with the Critters: 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. | Meet animals, make crafts, and make bird feeders at the Ohio Wildlife Center. $5 a person.

December 31, 2019

Noon Year’s Eve at Goldfish Swim School: 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. | You won’t want to miss out on this family-friendly event to ring in the New Year. You can expect lots of swim time (get those wintertime wiggles out!), a special appearance by The Little Mermaid, crafts, tasty treats and drinks, and a countdown to noon complete with ball and balloon drop. Check our website for when tickets go on sale! 

Do you know of any other free and inexpensive Christmas activities that we missed? Comment below with additional ideas!

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Maureen Ingham
Maureen Ingham has enjoyed living in the great city of Columbus for nearly 13 years! Originally from Canton, Ohio, Maureen attended Ohio University and will always be a bobcat at heart! After completing her education degree in Athens, she made her way to The Ohio State University to obtain a Masters degree in Special Education. She fell in love with Columbus then and convinced her now husband to join her in this awesome city! She taught 5th grade for 6 years, before deciding to stay home to raise two beautiful girls. Their family has recently moved to Worthington with their two girls and are excited to plant their roots here! Their first daughter, Maeve is 6 and her sister, Reese will soon be 5 years old. They welcomed a son, Miles in March 2020. Maureen has been with The Columbus Moms Blog since the beginning and now enjoys working on editing and events for the blog. She also works as a Postpartum Doula with her sister at a company called Together Wee Grow. They provide night nursing services, as well as daytime support to local families and babies in Columbus. It is a wonderful job to work along her sister and help families with their precious little ones in a vulnerable time period. In between the night shifts, sweeping up crumbs, exploring Columbus, and getting kids to where they need to be, Maureen enjoys working out, trying new recipes and restaurants, traveling, spending time with family, being crafty and trying to help others whenever she can! Maureen has many Columbus favorites. Her go-to restaurant is Third and Hollywood, she enjoys a sweet treat at Sassafrass Bakery or Fox in the Snow, a slice of pizza at Dewey's Pizza and a warm cup of joe at Highline Coffee. A perfect Saturday involves an outdoor activity with her family and trying a new restaurant when they can! She is excited to be a part of an excellent team here at Columbus Moms blog and hopes to be able to inspire mothers that small acts of kindness go a long way in raising their kids and the city they live in!

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