Christmas Staycation: 50 Things to do Over Winter Break in Columbus

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If you’ve got kids off school or family in town and you’re enjoying a Columbus staycation over Winter Break, you’re probably going to need to get out of the house! I’ve got some ideas for you! 

Note: there will be no regular What Should We Do This Weekend? post for December 28-30, 2018. This will substitute for that post!

Here is a list of family-friendly winter break ideas for your Columbus Christmas Staycation:

Activities You Can Do Anytime over Winter Break:

1. See the Huntington Train at Columbus Library, Main Library! This model railroad is a holiday classic! Stop in and see it before it’s gone on January 2!

huntington train at Main Library, Columbus, Ohio

2. See Conservatory Aglow at Franklin Park Conservatory – visit the Conservatory while it’s decked out for the season! Enjoy special performances and activities and this year the event extends into the Children’s Garden!

outdoor lights at Franklin Park Conservatory, Columbus, Ohio

3. Visit the Think Outside the Brick display at Columbus Museum of Art – this LEGO exhibit will be on display until February 22, 2018! There’s an amazing model to see and a section where kids can build with LEGOs themselves!

Think Outside the Brick Exhibit at Columbus Museum of Art

4. Join Ohio History Center for their extended hours during Winter Break! The museum will be open daily: Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018 – Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019 from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. On Friday, January 4th they will be open until 9:00 PM with a showing of Bedknobs and Broomsticks at 7:00 PM.

5. Walk through Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo – Wildlights is included in your admission (or membership) to the Zoo and features special activities, amazing lights, light shows, Rudolph and friends in Asia Quest, Santa’s Holiday Home in the Battelle Ice Bear Outpost, Jingle Ball light display and much more!

Trees at Wildlights at Columbus Zoo

6. Drive through Butch Bando’s Fantasy of Lights at Alum Creek Campground – families can enjoy a 3 mile drive through holiday light show with over 140 LED light displays! $30/car on the weekends, $20 Monday through Thursday. This display will be open through January 1!

drive thru at Butch Bando's Fantasy of Lights

 7. Walk through an amazing display of Chinese lanterns and holiday light sculptures at Dragon Lights Columbus. Special cultural performances, food and shopping will also be available. Save money by purchasing your tickets online. 

Dragon sculpture at Dragon Lights Columbus

8. Visit COSI for their extended Winter Break Hours! COSI will have extended hours from December 26-30th and January 1-5. They will be open from 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM. On Friday, December 28th, COSI will stay open until 9:00 PM for Family Friday Night and admission will be reduced.

boy outside COSI

9. Ride the Smart Circuit to view the holiday lights around The Scioto Mile! Take this 1.5 mile loop on a self-driving shuttle for the warmest way to see the lights on the Scioto Mile and Bicentennial Park!

Holiday lights on the Scioto Mile

10. Take your kids to LEGOLAND Discovery Center Columbus for lots of LEGO fun including Holiday Bricktacular during the weekends in December or visit during the week for fewer crowds! LEGOLAND Discovery Center Columbus is open 365 days a year!

boy playing at LEGOLAND Discovery Center Columbus

11. Visit State Auto’s Christmas Corner to see a life sized nativity and listen to live choir music! There is hot chocolate available for a donation and on Christmas Eve, Baby Jesus will be placed in the manger at 3:00 PM.

Life Sized Nativity at State Auto Christmas Corner

12. Go on a Winter Break Scavenger Hunt at Blendon Woods Metro Park. From 12/22/18 – 1/2/19 from 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM kids can stop by the Nature Center to search for hidden creatures!

13. Participate in the Winter Reading Challenge at Columbus Library – join CML’s Winter Reading Challenge to earn a book kids can keep and a pair of ear buds. Kids get a pencil and book mark just for signing up!

14. APPS Program Winter Break – Columbus Recreation and Parks is offering free programs for kids and young adults ages 14-23 with sports tournaments, cooking classes, free pizza and more! December 26 – January 5, 2019

One Time Events Happening Over Winter Break:

December 26: Celebrate with the Critters at Ohio Wildlife Center – celebrate with the resident Animal Ambassadors, make and take winter crafts and make bird feeders for wild birds! $5/person. Children under 5 are free. 

December 27 & 28: Winter Warm Up Days at the Grange Insurance Audubon Center – from 10:00 – 5:00 PM enjoy crafts, games, stories, movies and songs by the fire. No registration required.

Indoor play area at the Audubon Center

December 28: Super Games Open Play – come in for free play at SuperGames! $10/child.

December 28: Family Friday Night at COSI – admission is reduced from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM!

December 28: KidX: Frozen Fun at Polaris Fashion Place – visit with your favorite movie characters at the Santa Set at Polaris Fashion Place!

December 29: The Big Explore – on December 29th, The Columbus Foundation celebrates it’s 75th anniversary by offering free admission to Columbus Museum of Art, COSI, Franklin Park Conservatory, National Veterans Memorial and Museum, Ohio History Center and Wexner Center for the Arts! Rides on COTA will be free and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams will be offering $.75 scoops! 

two scoops of ice cream at Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream

December 29: LEGO Design Challenge Day at Columbus Museum of Art – compete in creative challenges using LEGO bricks between 1:00 PM and 4:00 PM! Included in admission to the museum (which happens to be free that day thanks to The Big Explore!)

December 29: HOOT Family Film Series at Gateway Film Center – enjoy family friendly short films and live music from The Shazzbots! This is a free event with a donation of a non perishable food item for the Open Shelter.

HOOT Family Film Series

December 30: Pizzuti Collection Family Day – Family Day offers free admission and will include a mini chair building workshop, story time and a family centered tour! 

December 30: – Harlem Globetrotters at The Schottenstein Center – see the Harlem Globetrotters in action! There are two game times on Sunday!

January 2: Winter Wonderland Carnival Skate at Skate Zone 71 – in addition to roller skating, this event features a bounce house, face painting, balloon twisting and more!

January 3: $2.00 Roller Skating! at Skate Zone 71 – enjoy $2 admission at all 3 skating sessions!

Winter Break Camp Options:

Click each link for dates and availability.

Winter Camps at Code Ninja Hilliard

Winter Brain Camp at Learning Rx

Winter Break Camp at We Rock the Spectrum

Mary Poppins Returns Camp with Paulette’s Princesses

Winter Break Camp at Vertical Adventures

Mini Art Camps at Art with Anna

Winter Break Youth DIY Camp at AR Workshop Pickerington

Family Friendly New Years Events in Columbus:

Family Fun: New Years Open House Party at Sharon Woods Metro Park – this party takes place on December 30th and includes activities for kids ages 3-8 such as games, activities and crafts! There will be a countdown for a ball drop on every hour!

Countdown to Noon Year’s Eve at KSM Sports and Fitness Indoor Facility – there will be a countdown to Noon Year’s Eve, coffee, snacks, pictures with the Snow Queen, sports, nerf wars and more!

New Year’s Eve at Ten Pin Alley – Ten Pin Alley will be family friendly all day and evening with bowling, $3 laser tag missions, arcade games and the restaurant! Walk in or call ahead to reserve a package!

bowling at Ten Pin Alley

Happy “Noon” Year Celebration! at We Rock the Spectrum – Columbus – celebrate “Noon” Year with crafts, snacks and a balloon drop during open play time! No registration required.

Noon Years’ Eve! at Sycamore Plaza Library – this event includes a noontime balloon drop, crafts, games and “mocktail” toast! 

Noon Year’s Eve at Marysville Public Library – this celebration includes crafts and a countdown to noon!

NYE Kids Countdown! at Skate Zone 71 – this event takes place from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM and will include an early countdown to 2019! $12 per person includes admission, skate rental, unlimited cheese pizza and drink.

First Night Columbus at COSI – this huge New Year’s Eve event includes live music appropriate for all ages, a magician, creation stations, special movies, holiday lights, a story time, an animal show, fireworks and more! Tickets are $10 before 12/30 and $15 the day of the event. 

New Years Eve Family Skate Celebration at Skate Zone 71 – ring in 2019 on skates with unlimited cheese pizza and drink, noisemakers and a countdown!

New Year’s Day Hike at Deer Haven Park – celebrate the New Year with a healthy hike through the woods and prairies and enjoy a hot drink and cookies by the fire place afterwards!

Visit COSI on New Year’s Day – COSI will be open on New Year’s Day from 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM!

Ohio Road Trip Ideas for Winter Break:

PNC Festival of Lights at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden – enjoy a “Wild Wonderland” at the Cincinnati Zoo through December 31. This includes 3 million LED lights, a black-light puppet show, a ride on the BB&T Toyland Express and more!

Christmas at the Castle in Loudonville – see the castle decorated with over 100,000 lights and listen to holiday music! Kids eat free at the Copper Mug Bar and Grille with the purchase of an adult entree. Through January 6.

Holiday Celebration at EnterTRAINment Junction – the holidays at EnterTRAINment junction include visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus, a Winter Wonderland and Elf Workshop. Santa does not appear after Christmas but special activities continue until January 2.

Train Track at EnterTRAINment Junction

Christmas at Kingwood – visit Kingwood Gardens to see the Tree Walk, a special Greenhouse display, live music and an outdoor Trail of Lights! Through December 30.

Christmas Lights at Clifton Mills – the Legendary Lights of Clifton Mill are on display each evening through New Years Eve and feature over 4 million lights including a 100 foot “waterfall” of lights! There is also a Santa Claus Museum, a toy collection, a synchronized light show and more! Children 6 and under are free. 

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*Please be aware,  information is gathered from multiple community sources.  Times, dates and locations are subject to change. There may be a fee to participate in a featured activity.  Please call ahead or check links to confirm activities.  Enjoy what you do today!*

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7 of the Most Festive Things You Can Do in Columbus This Holiday Season

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We’re never at a loss for things to do around here and the Holiday events in Columbus do not disappoint!

If you’re looking for a few ideas to fill Winter Break or if you’re in need of a healthy dose of festivity to get into the Christmas spirit, here are 7 holiday events around Columbus that are guaranteed to put you in a festive mood!

Here are 7 of the Most Festive Holiday Events in Columbus Ohio:

1. Dragon Lights Chinese Lantern Festival

Chinese Lantern Festival, Columbus, Ohio

Dragon Chinese Lantern Festival, Columbus, Ohio

Dates: November 23, 2018 – January 6, 2019 (Closed Mondays)
Hours: 5:30 PM – 10:00 PM
Where: Ohio Expo Center & State Fair Grounds – 717 E. 17th Ave., Columbus, OH 43211
Phone: 888-484-2698

Dragon Chinese Lantern Festival, Columbus, Ohio

Bundle up and walk through some incredible light sculptures, enjoy cultural performances and eat Chinese and traditional fair food. The light displays are really something to see! There are traditional Chinese sculptures and also American Christmas sights like Santa and Mrs. Claus. I was invited to the VIP night and I attended with my 3 year old. I couldn’t talk him into sitting for the performances, but I have heard they are very good!

Cost: Adults $19, Children 5-16 $14, Kids under 5 are free. Discounts with Military ID and for those over 65. Family 4 pack is $55. Save $2-$5 by buying online. Purchase tickets before November 23rd for a $3 discount using the code “ZAONIAO” (early bird in Chinese Pinyin).

Dragon Chinese Lantern Festival, Columbus, Ohio


2. Conservatory Aglow at Franklin Park Conservatory

Lights at Franklin Park Conservatory, Conservatory Aglow, Columbus, Ohio

Dates: November 17, 2018 – January 2, 2019
Hours: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM in November, 10:00 AM – 9:00 PM in December, until 5:00 PM in January
Where: 1777 E. Broad St., Columbus, Oh 43203
Phone: 614-715-8000

Rotating Railroad at Franklin Park Conservatory, Conservatory Aglow

Stockings hung at Franklin Park Conservatory, Columbus, Ohio

Franklin Park Conservatory does not disappoint when it comes to creating a festive atmosphere! Conservatory Aglow offers special holiday decorations, performances and evening hours at Franklin Park Conservatory. Throughout the season live music and special events are scheduled and the Conservatory is decorated for the holidays. From December 1-31 (except for the 24th and 25th) they are open until 9:00 PM.

There will be special family-friendly activities happening all through the season such as Cookies with Santa, live musical performances, a magic show, and more! Also, make sure not to miss the gingerbread competition and rotating railroad! This year the celebration even extends to the Children’s Garden!

Trees at Franklin Park Conservatory, Conservatory Aglow


3. Wildlights at Columbus Zoo

Trees at Wildlights at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

family at Wildlights at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Dates: November 16, 2018 – January 6, 2019
Hours: 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM Sundays – Thursdays, 5:00 PM – 10:00 PM Fridays and Saturdays (Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day)
Where: 4850 Powell Rd., Powell, OH 43065
Phone: 614-645-3400

Trees at Wildlights at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

In my opinion, Wildlights gets better every year! This is one of our favorite holiday events in Columbus! This year there are more lights than ever and the season includes special visitors and performances. This year make sure to make it to the Polar Frontier for the LED tree and Santa! Do it for me! It changed locations and we didn’t make it to that end and I missed the tree last year! The tree is a definite highlight!

If there is any way you can do this on a weeknight, I highly recommend doing so, as traffic on the weekends can be a nightmare!

Wildlights at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, tree


4. The Nutcracker

Ohio Theatre, The Nutcracker, Columbus, Ohio

Ohio Theatre, The Nutcracker, Columbus, Ohio

Dates: December 7-23, 2018
Hours: Performances happening Wednesday through Sunday
Where: Ohio Theatre, 39 E. State St., Columbus, Oh 43215
Tickets: See ticket info here.

Ohio Theatre, Columbus, Ohio, The Nutcracker

It’s hard to find a more beautiful spot than Ohio Theatre and when it’s decked out for the holidays? Amazing! Seeing The Nutcracker at Ohio Theatre was incredible last year (disclaimer, I was given free tickets for helping promote the event – and our seats were AMAZING!) My boys were mesmerized through the whole thing and were still talking about it a week later! It is so full of the Christmas spirit, it’s hard not to leave happy! I dare you!

Orchestra Pit at Ohio Theatre, The Nutcracker


5. State Auto Christmas Corner

Nativity scene, Bethlehem, State Auto, Columbus, Ohio  Nativity Scene, 3 wisemen, State Auto, Columbus, Ohio

Dates: December 4, 2018 – January 2, 2019
Hours: 6:00 AM – 8:00 AM, 5:30 AM – 11:30 PM and until 12:30 AM on Fridays and Saturdays
Where: 518 E. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43215
More Info: Visit their Facebook Page for more info.

Nativity Scene, Mary and Joseph, at State Auto, Columbus, Ohio

Take a walk through this downtown nativity for a life-sized retelling of the story of Mary and Joseph’s trek to Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus. Official Lighting is Tuesday December 4 including a performance by the Columbus Children’s Choir. On Friday and Saturday nights beginning at 6:00 PM, choirs will perform and hot chocolate will be available!

My family does this each year as close to Christmas Eve as we can. On Christmas Eve, baby Jesus is placed in the manger at their Christmas Eve ceremony taking place at 3:00 PM.

Nativity Scene at State Auto, Columbus, Ohio


6. Holiday Lights in Downtown Columbus

Christmas lights at Columbus Commons

Christmas lights at Columbus Commons

Dates: November 21, 2018 through early January 2019
Hours: Dusk until 11:00 PM
Where: Columbus Commons, the Lazarus Building and the Scioto Mile
More Info: CDDC Website

Christmas lights at Columbus Commons

A good plan to see the lights downtown is to park in the Columbus Commons parking garage, walk around Columbus Commons for holiday lights and decorations, then head over to the Lazarus building to see the decorations in the windows and the huge tree in the Galleria, then head to Bicentennial Park and the Scioto Mile to see the lights that deck the entire area from Bicentennial Park to Broad Street.

Winterfest takes place this year at Bicentennial Park on Saturday, December 1, 2018.

Christmas lights at Columbus Commons


7. Butch Bando’s Fantasy of Lights

Dates: November 16, 2018 – January 1, 2019
Hours: Sunday-Thursday 5:30 PM – 9:30 PM, Friday and Saturday 5:30 PM – 10:30 PM
Where: Alum Creek State Park Campgrounds, 3311 South Old State Rd., Delaware, OH 43015

Butch Bando’s Fantasy of Lights is an annual holiday 3 mile drive thru light show, with over 140 LED brilliant light displays you can see in the comfort of your own car.

The Fantasy of Lights benefits many local charities such as Recreation Unlimited, A Kid Again, Autism Speaks, among others, and honors current and former military through specialized evenings.


What are you favorite Columbus holiday traditions?

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7 Festive Things to Do in Columbus Ohio


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ICYMI: 10 of Our Favorite Columbus Christmas Traditions


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6 Easy Tips for a Stress Free Thanksgiving Featuring the Bob Evans Farmhouse Feast

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Make this Thanksgiving the easiest Thanksgiving ever by taking a few short cuts along the way! With the help of the Bob Evans Farmhouse Feast, this Thanksgiving can be stress free and enjoyable!

Thank you to Bob Evans Restaurants for sponsoring this post.

Hosting Thanksgiving dinner is no small task! If you are the one providing a full meal for 10 or more people, it can become overwhelming to figure out just exactly how much food you need, how long it will take to prepare and how to keep it all hot by the time your guests arrive!

Bob Evans Farmhouse Feast

Bob Evans Restaurants recently released the findings of a survey they conducted about Thanksgiving Dinner. Those who have hosted a Thanksgiving dinner reported that they spend 7 hours shopping, cooking and cleaning up during the holiday but only 1.5 hours actually sitting and eating at the table. Two thirds of the survey respondents reported that the idea of hosting a thanksgiving meal “causes me to feel stressed or overwhelmed”.

The Bob Evans Farmhouse Feast Can Help You Have A Stress Free Thanksgiving: 

When Bob Evans Restaurants reached out to partner with me to host a “Stress Free Thanksgiving,” I had only previously hosted Thanksgiving once! I wasn’t exactly sure how stressed I was going to feel when the day arrived. I arranged to pick up the heat and serve meal at 4:30 PM on a Saturday evening and by 6:30 PM my guests were sitting down to a full Thanksgiving spread!

picking up Farmhouse Feast at Bob Evans

Bob Evans Farmhouse Feast in Box

Thanks to the pre-cooked Farmhouse Feast I spent a total of just 1.5 hours of active cooking time. And the bulk of that time was spent standing around talking to our friends as the food baked in the oven!

Everyone at the table raved about the food. The food was delicious! It tasted homemade – maybe even better, to be honest. I have never made stuffing that didn’t come from a box and my own mashed potatoes have never tasted that good! And even though I like to cook, I don’t think I could have matched the taste in my own kitchen!

Friends and Family at Thanksgiving meal

My guests guessed that the meal cost $200-$300 and were amazed to find out the largest Farmhouse Feast only costs $114.99 here in Columbus! The average Thanksgiving meal costs $20-$30/per person so my guests weren’t that far off. We all considered the price of the Farmhouse Feast to be quite the deal, especially if you add in the time saved in preparation. The Farmhouse Feast for 4 starts at just $49.99!

Here are my tips for hosting a Stress Free Thanksgiving featuring the Bob Evans Farmhouse Feast:

1. Set out your serving dishes in advance

Table Set for Thanksgiving Meal

When you bring home your Farmhouse Feast, you will be transferring most of it from the containers it comes in to containers that can be baked in the oven or microwaved. Think ahead before picking up the food to how many dishes you will need and have them ready to go when you get home with the food instead of spending your precious cooking time looking for the appropriate dishes.

2. Read the instructions carefully

Bob Evans Farmhouse Feast Instructions

Your Farmhouse Feast will come with a set of instructions and allergen information. The instructions were very easy to follow and I would check things off as I went. Start with the items that take the longest to cook: the turkey and the ham. Everything is cooked at the same temperature (325 degrees) so I used a the timer on the stove and the timer on my phone to keep track of the cook time of the various side dishes.

3. Employ a combination of oven, stovetop and microwave

thanksgiving turkey from Bob Evans

By using a combination of cooking methods, you can cook more things at once. I had the turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and stuffing in the oven all at the same time while cooking the corn and green beans on the stove top. At Bob Evans’ recommendation, I used the microwave for the gravy, mac and cheese and rolls.

3. Use a mix of disposable tableware items

Thanksgiving food on table

Of course you don’t have to use disposable items, but when it comes to cleaning up, you can spend more time with your family and less time standing over the sink if you substitute even a few disposable items! Consider doing disposable dessert plates and coffee cups or disposable cups for the kids. Adding in a few disposable items will save time and space in your dishwasher.

4. Provide table top entertainment for the kids

thanksgiving place mat

Let’s face it, kids don’t usually stick around the dinner table for as long as the adults. You can increase the time spent with family by using some table top entertainment for the kids. I recommend a coloring sheet placemat and crayons! Or have a game table or craft table in the same room where kids can be entertained nearby when they’ve finished eating.

kids coloring

5. Decorate with reusable decor

letter board that says Happy Thanksgiving

Another way to keep costs and stress levels low is to use multi season decor. Don’t spend a ton of time and money shopping for the perfect Thanksgiving decor. Instead, use things that can be reused no matter what the holiday such as a letter board, string lights and candles. A letter board is perfect because it can be customized for every holiday!

Are you ready to create your own Stress Free Thanksgiving? You can place orders for the Thanksgiving Farmhouse Feast at Bob Evans Restaurants by calling, ordering online or in restaurant at any Bob Evans location now through Thanksgiving. Click here for all the details on the Farmhouse Feast.

Thanksgiving food on a plate

Not up for any of this? Bob Evans Restaurants will be open until 8:00 PM on Thanksgiving Day and offer delicious, holiday-inspired entrees. You can have the full Thanksgiving meal in the restaurant without any of the cooking or the clean up! Find the closest Bob Evans Restaurant.

Thanksgiving Food


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ICYMI: 72 Things to Do Thanksgiving Weekend in Columbus

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