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7 of the Most Festive Things You Can Do in Columbus This Holiday Season (2023)

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 holiday things to do in Columbus over Winter Break or if you’re in need of a healthy dose of festivity to get into the Holiday Spirit, here are 7 holiday and Christmas events around Columbus that are guaranteed to put you in a festive mood!

All info is being updated for the 2023 holiday season! Please continue to check back!

1. Conservatory Aglow at Franklin Park Conservatory

Lights at Franklin Park Conservatory, Conservatory Aglow, Columbus, Ohio
  • Dates: November 18, 2023 – January 7, 2024
  • Hours: 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM nightly, 5:00 PM – 10:00 PM on Fridays and Saturdays
  • Where: 1777 E. Broad St., Columbus, Oh 43203
  • Phone: 614-715-8000
Conservatory Aglow at Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio.

Franklin Park Conservatory does not disappoint when it comes to creating a festive atmosphere! Conservatory Aglow offers special holiday decorations, live performances and special evening hours at Franklin Park Conservatory.

Throughout the season live music and special events are scheduled and the Conservatory is decorated for the holidays. New in 2023, there will be a synthetic ice skating rink from December 1-14.

Also, make sure not to miss the gingerbread competition beginning in December and the Paul Busse Garden Railway!

Stockings hung at Franklin Park Conservatory, Columbus, Ohio

This year the show extends inside the Conservatory, and outside in the Children’s Garden and the Grand Mallway. Keep an eye out for a life-sized gingerbread house, ornament trees and the rainbow tunnel!

There is a special engagement rate for this event and members receive 50% off. Reserving tickets in advance is strongly recommended. Access Family Members and families participating in SNAP, EBT, WIC and Medicaid can qualify for $3 Special Engagement Rates.

Trees at Franklin Park Conservatory, Conservatory Aglow

2. Wildlights at Columbus Zoo

Trees at Wildlights at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
  • Dates: November 17, 2023 – January 7, 2024
  • Hours: 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM Sundays – Thursdays, 5:00 PM – 10:00 PM Fridays and Saturdays (Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day)
  • Where: 4850 Powell Rd., Powell, OH 43065
  • Phone: 614-645-3400
family 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! Each year there are more lights than ever and the season includes special visitors and performances. 

Walk through the zoo and enjoy millions of LED lights, animated light shows, Rudolph and Friends, Santa, a Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer 4-D theater short and much more!

Trees at Wildlights at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

This event is included in regular admission and free for members! 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

3. Butch Bando’s Fantasy of Lights

  • Dates: November 17, 2023 – January 1, 2024
  • Hours: Sunday – Thursday: 5:30 PM – 9:00 PM, Friday and Saturday: 5:30 PM – 10:00 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 300 LED brilliant light displays you can see in the comfort of your own car.

Tickets are sold per carload online or at the gate. Click this link for detailed pricing info. Expect longer wait times or traffic shut downs on the weekends and plan to visit during the week if possible!

You can also buy a season pass for $80 which is good for any time the show is open during the season. Season passes can only be purchased at the gate.

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

4. WonderLight’s Christmas

car driving through a lit tunnel at WonderLights Christmas in Ohio

“WonderLight’s Christmas”, a drive-through Christmas light show, is housed at Hartford Fairgrounds in Hartford, Ohio, about 33 miles from downtown Columbus.

This family-friendly event will feature a 2-mile car ride through more than a million LED lights, all synchronized to music! Giant Christmas trees, floating snowflakes, shooting stars, dancing candy canes, and (a favorite of children of all ages) three enchanting tunnels of light will illuminate the night!

cars in line at WonderLights Christmas in Ohio

Guests will be able to watch the lights dance around them to traditional and newer, rocking Christmas music from the warmth of their own vehicle.

snowflakes in a field at WonderLights Christmas in Ohio

This event happens rain or shine every evening, including holidays! Reservations are recommended. The cost of admission is $30 for a carload pass that covers up to 7 passengers. There is also pricing for vehicles carrying more than 7 passengers. Make sure to click the link above for all of the details!

5. The Nutcracker

Ohio Theatre, The Nutcracker, Columbus, Ohio
  • Dates: December 7-23, 2023
  • Hours: Performance times vary throughout the month.
  • Where: Ohio Theatre, 39 E. State St., Columbus, OH 43215
Ohio Theatre, The Nutcracker, Columbus, Ohio

We have enjoyed seeing The Nutcracker at The Ohio Theatre during many holiday seasons! It feels very festive to get dressed up and enjoy the elaborate decorations in the theatre.

Ohio Theatre, Columbus, Ohio, The Nutcracker

The ballet is approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes which includes a 20 minute intermission. As you can see below, one year we got to sit in the very front row and could see the orchestra. My kids loved that! They haven’t had an orchestra in recent years however!

Orchestra Pit at Ohio Theatre, The Nutcracker

6. State Auto Christmas Corner

  • Dates: Now through January 6, 2024
  • Hours: Nativity can be seen 24/7 and will be lit at night.
  • Where: front lawn of St. Joseph Cathedral, 212 E. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43215
  • More Info: Visit their Facebook Page for the most up to date info.

The Nativity at State Auto was recently donated to the Museum of Catholic Art and History and is now located at St. Joseph’s Cathedral at 212 E. Broad St. in downtown Columbus, OH.

Larger than life nativity scene in downtown Columbus, Ohio

The nativity will be lit nightly through January 6, 2023. There is parking lot behind the St. Joseph Cathedral. The link above will take you to their Facebook page so you can stay in the know about upcoming events!

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.

Boy looking at the nativity in downtown Columbus, Ohio!

My family does this each year as close to Christmas Eve as we can. On Christmas Eve, baby Jesus has been placed in the manger, but I’m not sure of the plans in 2023!

7. Holiday Lights in Downtown Columbus

Holiday lights at Columbus Commons in Columbus, Ohio.
  • Dates: November 17, 2023 – January 1, 2024
  • Hours: Dusk until dawn; Festive Fridays will take place each Friday in December from 5:00 – 9:00 PM.
  • Where: Columbus Commons, the Lazarus Building and the Scioto Mile
  • More Info: Columbus Commons Website
Christmas lights at Bicentennial Park in Columbus, Ohio.

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, head over to the Lazarus building to see the decorations in the windows and then head to Bicentennial Park* and the Scioto Mile to see the lights that deck the entire area from Bicentennial Park to Broad Street.

*Due to construction at Bicentennial Park, in 2023, the lights on the Scioto Mile will be lit along the Promenade from Rich Street to Broad Street until January 3, 2024.

Christmas lights at Columbus Commons

Every Friday in December, Columbus Commons will host Festive Fridays from 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM featuring free hot chocolate and carousel rides!

On Saturday, December 2 there will be a special Downtown Holi-day event featuring a free Santa Extravaganza, a holiday market, Winter Fest and the Discovery District Trolley Hop!

What are you favorite Columbus holiday traditions?

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