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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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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72 Things to Do Thanksgiving Week in Columbus

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Looking for things to do in Columbus around Thanksgiving? If you have family in town and/or a few days off of work and are looking for something to do, check out this list of 72 events and things to do around Thanksgiving in Columbus!

72 Things to do Thanksgiving Week in Columbus:

If there’s a chance you’ll need to walk off an extra piece of pie (or two) or get bickering family members out of the house….tuck this list away! And have a happy week of thankfulness! (As always, please double check the link for exact details, dates and times!) There will not be an additional What Should We Do This Weekend? post this week. This is the list! 🙂

holiday train and Wildlights at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Any Time:

1. Conservatory Aglow is happening at Franklin Park Conservatory! While you’re there, check out the Gingerbread Competition.

2. Wildlights is in full swing all weekend at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium!

3. Visit LEGOLAND Columbus Discovery Center at Easton Town Center. LEGOLAND is open 365 days a year. Thanksgiving Hours are 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM and the last admission is at 3:00 PM.

4. Get your kid’s photo with Santa at Easton Town Center

5. Christmas at the Castle, a Kingdom of Lights! at Landoll’s Mohican Castle features over 100,000 lights, a Christmas tree, holiday music and visits from Santa! This is a free event! This event happens every night starting Friday!

6. Drive through Butch Bando’s Fantasy of Lights any night through January 1st!

7. Visit the PNC Festival of Lights at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

8. Drop a letter in Santa’s Mailbox in Pickerington beginning Wednesday.

9. Check out the Thanksgiving Weekend special at Ten Pin Alley. It includes $3 laser tag missions, a family fun pack special, and more. They are open on Thanksgiving and have specials running the rest of the week!

10. For many people this is the week to get their Christmas Tree! You can Choose & Cut Christmas Trees at Young’s Jersey Dairy or pick another farm or tree lot from this list of Christmas Tree Farms in Columbus and Beyond!

11. Friday through Sunday you can take a Holiday Carriage Ride at Easton Town Center!

12. Sign up for a Family Gingerbread House Decorating class at Young Chefs Academy of Gahanna.

13, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is playing this Friday, Saturday and Sunday only at Ohio Theatre!

14. Clifton Mill Lights opens the day after Thanksgiving! Gates open at 5:00 every night and the display runs through New Year’s Eve!

15. See the amazing lanterns, watch cultural performances, shop and eat Chinese and traditional fair food at Dragon Lights Columbus at Ohio Expo Center from November 23-January 6, 2019. Nightly from 5:30 PM – 10:00 PM.

16. Ohio History Center is open from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM on Friday, Saturday and Sunday with special activities with a Space theme including building your own model parachute, special visitors, rockets and more!

17. Think Outside the Brick is now on display at Columbus Museum of Art! This LEGO set up shouldn’t be missed and would make a great weekend outing! Don’t forget the museum is free on Sundays!

18. Drive through the Fairfield County Festival of Lights. This light display goes on Thanksgiving through Christmas!

19. Winterfest opens at Kings Island on November 23 and operates select nights through December 31. . It includes ice skating, holiday characters, millions of lights, holiday shows, carolers, and the park will included 10 winter wonderlands to visit.


A big Thank You to Miss Em’s for sponsoring this post!

Miss Em’s is a local online boutique featuring great jewelry, scarves, teacher gifts, and accessories. All of their items are at a very reasonable price, and with this 40% off coupon prices will start at just $5! Between 11/21/18 and 11/26/18 What Should We Do Today? readers can get 40% off their entire order on MissEms.com by using the coupon code: TurkeyDay


Monday, November 19, 2018:

20. Story Time in the Park is happening at Deer Haven Park.

21. Participate in a Thanksgiving Art Project and Stuff the Turkey Game! at Olde Gahanna Sanctuary

Franklin Park Conservatory and Columbus Museum of Art

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

22. Have a Mommy & Me breakfast at Sunny Street Café (Polaris) it’s a Thanksgiving Gathering!

23. Have a Pajama Dance Party! at Bexley Public Library

Wednesday, November 21, 2018:

24. Sign your kids up for the Educational Day Camp at Horse-N-Round Fun. This camp takes place on Wednesday and Friday for ages 6 and up and will go over horse care and riding. Lunch will be provided. Register in advance for this one! There’s also a preschool version.

25. No school on Wednesday? Send your kids ages 5-12 to the School’s Out Program at Sunbury Urban Farm. The theme is Give Thanks. Register in advance.

26. Another option for the kids is the Day Before Thanksgiving Camp at Picassos where lots of Thanksgiving Crafts will be made! Register in advance.

27. Take the kids to SuperGames Winter Open Play! at 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM. Arrive early because the play space is first come, first served! Cost is $10 per child.

28. Do a Sweet Turkeys Craft at Franklin Park Conservatory This class involves a cookie craft and does require preregistration and admission to the Conservatory. Cost is $4/cookie.

29. If the adults need a little time to unwind before the big day, head over to the Thanksgiving Eve Beer Tasting at House Wine in Worthington!

30. Visit the 400 West Rich and Chromedge Studios for Welcome Wednesdays! from 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM to get a sneak peek at the work of their resident artists! There will be live demos, tours an more!

31. See everyone’s favorite puddle jumper in Peppa Pig Live! at Palace Theatre.

Ten Pin Alley and Trees at Franklin Park Conservatory

Thursday, November 22, 2018:

Lots of opportunities for exercise on Thanksgiving Day! Try out one of these:

35. Take a trip to Cleveland for Thanksgiving at the Zoo at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

36. Skate your heart out at the 99 Cents Thanksgiving Skate at Skate Zone 71

37. Have the Easiest Thanksgiving Meal ever at Bob Evans.

Friday, November 23, 2018:

Black Friday offers lots of shopping options such as:

  • 38. Ohio Made Market: Black Friday Edition at Grove City Brewing Company – the Black Friday Market features local makers with gift items for everyone on your list! Free parking and admission.
  • 39. Zassy’s Black Friday Shopping Event! – check out the newly renovated Zassy’s Tap Room and shop from over 30 vendors. There will be raffles, food and drink, and more! (No children after 8:00 PM.)
  • 40. The Holiday Market at Canal Market District takes place on Friday and will local vendors, food trucks, holiday treats, and more. Afterwards stick around for the lighting of the Licking County Courthouse!
  • 41. Black Friday at Ivory Barn – shop from Ohio vendors for holiday decor, gifts and more! This market goes on Friday, Saturday and Sunday!
  • Related: Tried and True Gift Ideas for Young Boys

42. At the Black Friday Open Gym at Gym Skills kids can get their energy out at this open gym time that includes lots of opportunities for jumping, swinging, balancing and more!

43. Head to Newark for Holiday Homecoming 2017 at The Works: Ohio Center for History, Art & Technology on Friday to learn about the heritage of the community! Design your own holiday card, build an ornament and more!

44. Drop your kids off at the Board Game Youth Camp at Creative Art Bar Hilliard and they can play games and do crafts including creating their own checker board set! Ages 7 and up. RSVP required.

45. Take a trip to Urbana for the Holiday Horse Parade, a lighted horse parade! Santa will arrive, there will be street carolers, a tree lighting ceremony and more!

46. Take the kids to SuperGames Winter Open Play! at 6:00 PM. Arrive early because the play space is first come, first served! Cost is $10 per child.

47. Drop the kids off at Creative Art Bar Hilliard for an evening of crafting, pizza and other activities while you go shopping or have a date night! RSVP required.

48. Glass Axis is hosting a School’s Out Open House from 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM where there will be glass art projects for kids of all ages! There will be free glassblowing demos and 3 art projects for kids to choose from based on age!

49. You can drop your kids off at Young Chefs Academy Gahanna for Kids Night Out! There will be hands on cooking workshops and Chef Wars!

Christmas Trees and Franklin Park Conservatory Train

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Small Business Saturday is a great way to shop local this year! Several special events are going on including:

60. Anyone ages 7 and up can take a Fall Bird Walk at Shale Hollow Park to watch for birds. Binoculars will be available.

61. At the Holiday Open House at Hoover Gardens & Gift Center on Saturday and Sunday, you can pick out your Christmas tree while you enjoy refreshments, a visit from The Grinch, hot cider and a festive atmosphere!

62. Play classic board games at Gallant Farm Park!

63. Game Days at HOMAGE Easton Town Center and HOMAGE Short North includes free donuts from Buckeye Donuts, coffee and special deals on Saturday mornings for each Buckeye game this season!

64. Work off that extra piece of pumpkin pie at Squats & Tots Saturday Classes! at piccadilly

65. Take your preschoolers to a Storytime at Grange Insurance Audubon Center.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

66. The Holiday Open House at Hoover Gardens & Gift Center includes hot apple cider, cookies and the Grinch! You can pick out a Christmas tree here, too!

67. Olde Worthington Holiday Open House is on Sunday from 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM and it includes an iceless ice skating rink, horse drawn carriage rides, live music and a visit from Santa! The evening ends with the tree lighting ceremony on the Village Green!

68. Head to Pizzuti Collection Family Day from 12:00 AM – 5:00 PM for free admission, art inspired activity books, crafts and family tours!

69. Have a fun experience with the whole family at Family Fun Day – Get $3 Off on Sunday Bookings at The Escape Room USA in Columbus!

70. For a $25 donation to Stop the Suffering you can have your picture taken with Santa at HTH Farm Market! Families and pets are welcome. There will also be a Bake Sale for $10 for a box of baked goods!

71. There’s another chance for Pet Pics with Santa at Polaris Fashion Place today from 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM on the lower level.

72. The Kids Christmas Party at Clay Street Ceramics will include painting ornaments, decorating cookies and working on Christmas crafts. There will be a special visit from Santa between 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM. $15/child.


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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!*

Christmas in Columbus

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