The Paul Busse Garden Railway at Franklin Park Conservatory is Now on Display and it is Magical

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The Paul Busse Garden Railway at Franklin Park Conservatory is an outdoor model railroad that will delight children AND adults through January 2021!

On July 1, 2020, the newest exhibition at Franklin Park Conservatory opened to the public and it is MAGICAL! This exhibit makes its temporary home in the Grand Mallway outside Franklin Park Conservatory and is made up of 1,122 feet of track!

A train runs a long a track in the Paul Busse Garden Railway.

Paul Busse graduated from Ohio State University in 1972 and he first created a public garden railroad in 1982 for the Ohio State Fair! He started a business called Applied Imagination which creates garden railway displays all over the United States! He has since retired, but the company is run by his daughter and he remains involved in the work! 

The Garden Railway is made of all- natural plant materials and features 4 botanical themes: Fairytale Land, Wild West Town and an animal themed “Who Lives Here” and a European Travels section!

A whimsical hanging house made to look like an acorn.

 My kids especially enjoyed the animal houses. Each house was made with the theme of a different animal such as a zebra, turtle, giraffe and snake as pictured below! They are adorable!

houses on the model railway made with animal themes

Don’t miss the waterfalls, the magical lights inside the tree cove or the Thomas Trains scooting around the tracks! There is so much to see and so many details that are easy to miss!

A boy looking up in a Tree Cove

Each theme has its own section of the display and there is a sign listing what each building is and what to look for! It was fun to try to find all of the different displays!

A sign listing things for people to look for in the railway scenes

Enjoy some photos from our visit on July 1, but make sure to get your timed ticket to visit yourself this summer!

train on the track of the garden railway

Bridges from the Paul Busse Railway Garden crossing over the path overhead.

Two boys watching the train at the Garden Railway at Franklin Park Conservatory

boy watching the model train at the Garden Railway in Columbus, Ohio 

Some things to know before visiting Franklin Park Conservatory:

  • You need to reserved a timed ticket before visiting. The ticket designates your arrival time but you are free to stay as long as you want to.
  • Members are still asked to reserve their tickets online.
  • You must maintain a social distance of 6 feet between groups.
  • Face coverings are strongly requested unless you have a health issue or your child is under 2 years old.
  • The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden will be limited in capacity.
  • Restrooms are open.
  • Hours are available specifically for vulnerable populations on Thursdays at 9:00 AM.
  • No cash will be accepted within the Conservatory.

model train made of plant based materials

–>> Need more to do this summer? Try 5 Cool Outdoor Activities for Kids in the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks or one of these 25 Fun Outdoor Activities in Columbus for the Whole Family <<–

Exploring Columbus with Your Kids

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Paul Busse Garden Railway at Franklin Park Conservatory


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10 of Our Favorite Columbus Christmas Traditions

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These are 10 Holiday and Christmas events we make sure not to miss every year! If you’re looking to start some family-friendly Christmas traditions around Columbus, start here!

Every year I feel slightly overwhelmed by all of the Holiday events I really don’t want to miss. A few years ago, I sat down and wrote them out on a calendar. And THAT is pretty much where the idea for this blog began! 😉

Now we’ve come full circle and, though there are probably hundreds of holiday events going on around Columbus, today I am sharing 10 things my family loves doing at Christmastime in Columbus!

Here are 10 of our favorite family-friendly Christmas Events in Columbus!

1. Village Lights

Village Lights, German Village, Columbus, Ohio

Hands down, this is my favorite Columbus tradition of the entire year. Wow, did I really just say that? I did. I look forward to this probably more than anything else. I honestly don’t know how much my kids like it, but there are free cookies and hot chocolate, so I haven’t heard any complaints!

The streets of German Village are lit with luminaries and restaurants, shops, and even a few private homes along the route are open late with special deals, free goodies and live music! Designated parking areas and shuttles are available.

When: December 8, 2019, 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Where: throughout German Village

2. Wildlights

wild lights at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

You have to see Wildlights! The light shows are spectacular and the zoo becomes an (even more) magical place for about 6 weeks leading up to New Year’s Day! The first time we ever attempted to go to Wildlights, there was so much traffic that by the time we got there it was too late for my 1 yr old and we just drove right on by the entrance and back on home!

Weekends are very busy, so if you can, I suggest trying a week day evening and arriving before 5:00 PM! If you’re a member, you can also avoid the crowds by catching the Member Preview held in mid November.

When: November 16 , 2018 – January 6, 2019 (Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) (Wildlights begins at 5:00 PM)
Where: 4850 Powell Rd, Powell, OH 43065

Wildlights at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

3. Conservatory Aglow (Formerly Merry and Bright)

conservatory aglow at Franklin Park Conservatory, Columbus, Ohio

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 beautifully (that goes without saying)!

There are lights throughout inside and outside and it’s breathtaking! During this season, Franklin Park Conservatory is open until 9:00 PM. There will be special family-friendly activities happening all through the season!

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

New in 2019, decorations will expand into the Grand Mallway. This year there will be a Special Engagement Admission Rate for this event and members will receive half off these rates. See the link for details.

When: November 16, 2019 – January 5, 2020: 10:00 AM – 9:00 PM
Where: 1777 E. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43203

Rotating railroad at Franklin Park Conservatory

4. Bicentennial Park

christmas lights on the scioto mile, bicentennial park, columbus, Ohio

Throughout the holiday season, the Scioto Mile is awash in light – Christmas lights, that is! Taking place on Saturday, December 7, 2019, is WinterFest. it will include live performances and food trucks, as well as seasonal ales and cocktails. The park will be full of lights beginning November 21st!

When: November 21, 2019 through Early January 2020
Where: 233 S. Civic Center Dr., Columbus, OH 43215

Christmas lights at Bicentennial Park on the Scioto Mile

5. Columbus Commons and the Lazarus Windows

Christmas Lights at Columbus Commons

When you’re at Bicentennial Park, make plans to walk a few blocks to Columbus Commons where the park will be filled with holiday displays and lights! Just across the street (at the corner of High and Town) in the old Lazarus building, the windows will be filled with scenes from the 12 Days of Christmas! On December 7, 2019 there will be a free Santa’s Workshop at the Lazarus Building!

When: Late November through early January from dusk until to 11:00 PM
Where: 160 S. High St., Columbus, OH 43215

6. Huntington Holiday Train

Huntington Train at Main Library, Columbus, Ohio

Main Library is home to the Huntington Holiday Train and every year this amazing display is set up during the holiday season! The library typically begins set up of the train in mid November and it is usually up through New Years!

When: Mid November, 2019 – Early January, 2020
Where: 96 S. Grant Ave. Columbus, OH 43215

Holiday Train at Main Library in Columbus, Ohio

7. Holiday Train at Ohio History Center

holiday train at Ohio History Center

If you happen to have kids that like trains, there is a also holiday train set up at the Ohio History Center. Granted, it’s not quite as elaborate as the Huntington Train, but since we’re members at Ohio History Center, this one is still a no-brainer for me and two boys who love trains! We don’t miss it! F

or two weekends in December, Ohio Village will host Dickens of a Christmas where you can celebrate Christmas in the 19th century with Victorian crafts, snacks, caroling and more!

When: Late November – Early January
Where: 800 E. 17th. Ave., Columbus OH 43211

Holiday Train at Ohio History Center

8. Think Outside the Brick

Think Outside the Brick at Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio

This exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art isn’t necessarily holiday themed, but it is definitely a holiday tradition in Columbus! If you have kids on Christmas break, this would be a great reason to take them to the Art Museum!

The LEGO replica of Columbus is awesome and we love to visit at this time! There are usually blocks for free building in the Big Idea Gallery, too!

Admission is free on Sundays and on Thursday nights you “pay what you want” from 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM!

When: November 23, 2019 – January 17, 2020
Where: 480 E. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43215

Think Outside the Brick LEGO exhibit at Columbus Museum of Art

9. Easton

Christmas Tree at Easton Town Center

We always enjoy going to Easton at Christmastime – and not just to do our Christmas shopping! There is a life-sized nativity and a humongous Christmas tree (an all-new, 56 ft tree covered in 28, 680 RGB LED’s arrived in 2017!)!

There are carriage rides, live music performances and the lighting ceremony takes place on November 22, 2019 beginning at 6:30 PM and includes a parade, a fireworks show, a visit from Santa and more!

Nativity at Easton Town Center

When: beginning November 16, 2018
Where: 160 Easton Town Center, Columbus, OH 43219

10. State Auto Christmas Corner

State Auto Christmas Corner Nativity Display, Downtown Columbus, Ohio

Christmas Corner is something we love to do close to Christmas Eve! You can walk through a life-sized nativity following the Christmas story! The Tree Lighting Ceremony takes place on Tuesday, December 3, 2019 at 5:30 PM.

There are choirs scheduled on Friday and Saturday evenings through December 23rd and free hot chocolate (donations accepted!) will be available on those evenings!  There are ample parking lots designated for viewing this display!

wiseman at State Auto Christmas Corner in Downtown Columbus

When: Tuesday, December 3, 2019 through Christmas Day when baby Jesus is placed in the manger.
Where: 518 E Broad St., Columbus, OH 43215

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10 of Our Favorite Columbus Christmas Traditions

I hope that whatever you chose to do, you have a special season with your family!

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Top 10 Things to do with Kids in Columbus, Ohio

ICYMI: Top 10 Things to do with Your Kids in Columbus, Ohio

Need even more ideas? Try 100 Fun Things to do in Columbus, Ohio


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9 Things to Do with Your Kids This Fall in Columbus

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Fall is such a fun time in Central Ohio! Here are 9 things you can only do during the Fall in Columbus and Central Ohio!

What Are Some of the Best Things to do with Kids During the Fall in Columbus?

There are so many things that can only be done during the fall season and we love to take advantage of as many as we can! From pumpkin farms, to marching bands to model trains, here are 9 things we enjoy doing as a family during the fall!

1. Attend a Skull Session at St. John Arena

My kids love instruments and any kind of band, so we were excited, though a little nervous, about taking them to a Skull Session at OSU! It’s a great way to get caught up in the football spirit, even if you don’t have tickets to the game!

A Skull Session is basically a pep rally where the marching band plays, the players come out and the coach gives a little speech . . . it’s very high energy and really a lot of fun!

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I’d recommend either parking on West Campus (parking is $20!) and taking a shuttle or parking in a neighborhood along the Olentangy bike path and walking up the path to St. John Arena.

The Skull session happens 2 hours and 20 minutes before each game and lasts an hour. When it’s over, you can mull around amongst the tailgaters, pick up some free samples (1/4 of a Sugardale hot dog, anyone?) and enjoy the energy of game day.

We were nervous because we weren’t sure what would happen to our strollers when we got there! We were able to take our strollers (yes, we had two) into the arena, but we left them outside the gymnasium, along the outer wall. It was a risk, but no one decided to walk off with a stroller on game day. Phew! I don’t know where else you could put your stroller, as the seating in the gymnasium is very tight. It worked out for us and we were really glad we did it!

You can see the schedule of OSU games here! Friends recommended arriving 20-25 minutes early to get good seats, and I will pass that advice on to you. We got there around 9:20 AM for the 9:40 AM Skull Session and were able to get good seats facing the band.

2. Visit a Pumpkin Patch

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There are so many pumpkin patch options, it’s kind of amazing! Every weekend in October is filled with Fall Festivals – honestly, I had no idea before I started this blog how many there are! Make sure to visit my post, Central Ohio Pumpkin Patches and Fall Festivals for a complete list!

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We recently visited Jaquemin Farms on a Monday! This one is great, in my opinion, because it is open during the week and for only $2 kids ages 3-10 can play in the corn box and run through the straw maze! Kids 2 and under are free! During the weekends, they have bouncy houses and the price is a bit higher. So if you have preschoolers at home during the week, this is a great way to spend an inexpensive morning at a pumpkin patch! Other weekday options include Circle S Farms, evenings at Lehner’s Pumpkin Farm.

If you want the BIG pumpkin farm experience complete with kettle corn, a zip line, a huge pumpkin trampoline, mazes, corn bins, pedal carts and more, make sure to check out 15 Things to Do at Leeds Farm!

Another place we love to go is Smith’s Farm Market! The picture below is a few years old, but they always have a large selection of pumpkins and picturesque settings for fun pictures with pumpkins!

smith-farm-market

3. Go Apple Picking

I’ve shared about our visit to Orchard and Company, and Branstool Orchards, and here’s a list of more apple picking ideas from Columbus Moms Blog! It’s getting late in the season, but there are still apples to be picked at many farms and a lot of them have farm festival weekends as well! If you’re looking for some options during the week (as opposed to the weekend), a few farms are open on select Fridays: Lynd Fruit Farm, and Cherry Hawk Farm, to name a few.

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4. Attend Boo at the Zoo at Columbus Zoo

boo-at-the-zoo

Boo at the Zoo happens for THREE weekends in October this year! The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has added an additional weekend for 2019! The weekends in October are the 11-13th, 18th – 20th, and the 25th – 27th. Dress your kids (or yourself!) in costume and visit a lot of vendors in different areas of the zoo who want to fill your kid’s basket with candy! It’s also totally acceptable to take your baby in a cute pumpkin costume in a stroller and accept candy on his or her behalf! 😉

5. Take a Road Trip

I shared 6 Ohio Road Trips to Take This Fall here, one of them being the Fall Festival at The Farm at Walnut Creek. Even if you can’t make it for the festival, a drive to Amish Country will be beautiful when the leaves (finally!) start to change!

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More fun road trip ideas include:

Fall is my favorite time of year for a road trip!

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6. Visit a Metro Park

Once the leaves start to change, there are some great options for leaf viewing in our local Metro Parks! A great one is Battelle Darby! There are walking paths through the woods and also bison viewing! While you’re there, check out the living stream in the Nature Center!

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Inniswood Metro Park is also beautiful in the fall. Seriously, check out this picture I took during the fall (below)! It felt like a fairy tale! It was amazing!

7. Visit a City Park

Don’t underestimate your local city park for fall beauty. Here is a list of all the Columbus City ParksFranklin Park is particularly beautiful in the fall! Keep an eye out for the Harvest Parties at Columbus Rec Centers. You don’t have to go far to celebrate! 🙂

columbus parks

8. See Model Railroads at COSI

Mark your calendars for Model Railroad Days at COSI: November 20-24, 2019. My kids LOVE this special couple of days when several model railroad clubs take over a few galleries at COSI. There are a lot of model trains to see and also trains to play with! It only comes once a year, but it’s one of those things my oldest son always asks about!

model railroad days at COSI

9. Visit the Huntington Holiday Train at Main Library

This is something I consider a Christmas tradition for our family, but it does arrive before Thanksgiving, so technically, it’s a fall activity, right? 😉  In mid November, the train will be installed at the New Main Library! It’s really beautiful, and if you have train lovers, like I do, it’s something you have to see!

Huntington Train

What else would you add to the list of “can’t miss” fall activities in Columbus?

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9 things to do with your kids this fall in Columbus, Ohio


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