Free and Inexpensive Christmas Activities in Columbus, Ohio


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 from November 22, 2023, until January 7, 2024.

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

State Auto’s Christmas Corner: A life-sized Nativity scene has been donated! Starting in 2023, it will now be displayed at St. Joseph’s Cathedral. Be sure to read the article for updates, here!

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 and search for the hidden elf. At each location, you will receive a small treat for finding the elf. Begins December 4, 2023 until December 23, 2023.

Finding the elves all around Dublin!

Easton Photos with Santa: The first 5 x 7 is only $10. Reserve your spot in the 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 17, 2023 through January 1, 2024 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 1; Friday, December 8; Friday, December 15, and December 22, 2023.

Scioto Mile Lights/Bicentennial Park: Beginning November 23, 2023 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 5-19, 2023 at the Museum Gallery in the Ohio Statehouse.

Weekend Events

Oakland Nurseries: Each location has different events on Saturdays and Sundays from November 25, 2023- December 10, 2023. Come to see Santa too!

Calendar of Daily Events

November 17, 2023

Easton Tree Lighting: 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. | Festivities will begin at 6 PM around the Center and continue throughout the evening with live music, fun for the family, costumed-characters and more bringing holiday cheer! No matter where you are, take your eyes to the sky at 7 PM and watch as over two-million lights simultaneously illuminate Easton for the season!

Tree Lighting at Tanger Outlets: 6:00 p.m.- 8:00 p.m. | It’s time to “Deck the Halls” at their Holiday Tree Lighting & Santa’s Arrival Celebration in the Center Courtyard! Make your list and check it twice because Santa Claus is coming to town. Warm up with a cup of hot cocoa from the cocoa bar, enjoy holiday treats, free face painting, carolers and decorate a holiday ornament! Santa will arrive at approximately 6:15 PM.

November 18, 2023

Conservatory Aglow at Franklin Park Conservatory: 5:00 p.m.- 9:00 p.m.| Opening night of the Conservatory Aglow! 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 19, 2023

New Albany Tree Lighting: 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. | Free family fun includes pictures with Santa, horse and carriage rides, live entertainment, holiday bounce houses, skating snowflakes, stilt-walker, juggler, Frozen characters, face painters, and balloon twisters. Santa arrives at 3 pm! Enjoy live entertainment on the big stage, an apple cider workshop, an ice sculpting demonstration, balloon twisters, face painters, caricature artists, photo stations, and horse-drawn carriage rides until dusk. New this year is Santa’s Live Reindeer Corral!

November 26, 2023

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 at 5:30 p.m. – FREE

November 27, 2023

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.

November 30, 2023

Dublin Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony: 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. | The City of Dublin will mark the official start of the 2023 holiday season by hosting its annual Tree Lighting Thursday, November 30 . This free event will be held at Coffman Park this year. FREE.

Capital University Christmas Festival: See website for times | November 30 through December 3, 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.

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.

December 1, 2023

Olde Pickerington Village Holiday: 5:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. | Typically free family-friendly event featuring lighting the City tree at the Gazebo at 7:00pm. Horse-drawn wagon rides, circulating hop-on/hop-off trolley, ice carving demonstrations, children’s games and activities, cookie decorating for kids, strolling carolers, live reindeer, complimentary popcorn and hot chocolate, shopping, live nativity, and more. 2023 info coming soon!

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: 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. in Uptown Westerville | Visit the holiday tree at Westerville City Hall (21 S. State St.) and expect to encounter carolers, costumed characters, live music, a performance by the talented dancers at Generations Performing Arts Center, special lighting displays and more throughout the night. New this year is a Parade of Lights featuring City vehicles and entertainment decked out in dazzling lights. The parade will step off at 6:30 p.m. from the Home Street parking lot and will travel South to Walnut Street. The big man in red will light the tree (7 p.m.) with a touch of holiday magic at City Hall!

Delaware Tree Lighting and Santa House: 6:00 p.m. | Horse-drawn carriage ride, Santa House, carolers and tree lighting ceremony at 7:00 p.m. – FREE. Events continue on additional December dates!

Grove City Christmas Celebration:7:00 p.m. | The Grove City community is invited to celebrate Christmas in Grove City. The Grove City Christmas Parade is at 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 2 and the tree lighting follows promptly after the parade. Visit the Heart of Grove City website to register to participate in the parade.

December 2, 2023

Grove City Christmas Celebration: 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. | Don’t miss a day filled to the brim with holiday spirit during the Grove City Shop the Heart of Grove City Mistletoe Market 5 to 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 1, and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 2 in Town Center Park, 3359 Park St. Find unique, creative, one-of-a-kind gift items, decorations, artwork and delicious treats to enjoy or share with others while strolling through the festive market.

Deck the Stalls: 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. at Stockhands for Healing | Must register for time slot-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 visit with Santa: 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 (register) 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! December 1-3. 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! 

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: 12:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. | Join the people of Powell on Sat., Dec. 2 for Holidays in Powell, the official kickoff to the holiday season, at Village Green Park! Register to take your picture with Santa throughout the afternoon in the Powell Municipal Building’s East Room. (Resident registration begins Fri., Nov. 10 at The official tree-lighting ceremony takes place at 6 p.m., featuring Santa, Mayor Dan Swartwout, and the Powell Community Band.

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.

Holiday Hop: 4:00 p.m. – 10:00 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.

December 3, 2023

Holiday Wonderland Market: 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. upstairs at Understory | Find 40+ local makers and artists, carolers and a drag Santa. A mobile bar will be setup to order drinks while you shop.

Santa in the Park: 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. | Grab the family and visit Keystone Park next to REBoL for a chance to take a free photo with Santa Claus. While there, enjoy live music by KaTanya Brewer and drop off your letter at one of the North Pole mailboxes located throughout Bridge Park.

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.

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 5, 2023

Grandview Holiday Tree Lighting: 3:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. | Enjoy carol singing by the Grandview Heights High School singers and refreshments and annual tree lighting. Many festivities begin at 3:00 such as iceless ice skating. – FREE.

December 6, 2023

Worthington Illuminating Shopping: 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 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 8, 2023

Worthington Holiday Party: 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at The Worthington Community Center | Visit the Community Center for games, crafts, music, and ice carving demonstration, reindeer, and the big guy from the North Pole. Bring your camera for pictures! For more information, see the last page of the activity brochure!

December 9, 2023

Jingle Mingle: 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. at The Shops on Lane Avenue | This free event includes: Festive Music, Santa & Singing Elves, Hot Chocolate Bar, Craft Station, Story Time with the Upper Arlington Library at 12:30 PM, Cookie Decorating, Lightbulb Scavenger Hunt, Giant Snow Globe, and Plenty of Shopping! Books for children and adults are being collected for the Ronald McDonald House.

December 10, 2023

Santa in the Caboose: 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. | Tentative date! 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.

December 16, 2023

Holiday Market + Santa in the Park: 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. | From 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. a Holiday Market will be taking place in Bridge Park at North Market. There will be a dj to set the holiday mood and 30+ vendors. At Keystone Park, Santa will be available from 12:00 – 3:00 p.m. to take a free picture and drop off a letter to him.

There are many other Breakfast with Santa options that are affordable as well!

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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