There’s so much to do in Columbus when the weather is nice, but the winter months seem to take forever, with a range of temps from cold to colder. There’s still so much to do in the winter in Columbus, and plenty of it is free and cheap.
There’s always plenty to do over the weekend, and each week we give you a whole list of fun with our Free and Cheap Events this Weekend in Columbus.
Snow much fun during Winter in Columbus!
Got snow? Check out the best sledding hills in Columbus for some snowy fun.
Ice skating is great exercise! There are several options for Indoor and Outdoor Ice Skating in Columbus.
Hike at any of the Columbus Metro Parks or Delaware Preservation Parks – they are totally different in the winter season, and beautiful and peaceful in a special way. See even more options for fun with Columbus Metro Parks this winter!
Here are some other fun hikes for the winter!
Alley Park: This park in Lancaster has more than 350 acres to get lost in and the covered bridges look gorgeous covered in the winter snow.
Clear Creek Metro Park: Clear Creek in Rockbridge is Ohio’s largest nature preserve, and with nine trails you’re bound to come across many of the 2,200 plant and animal species that call this preserve home. Insider Tip: Check out the Creekside Meadow trail for the best views.
Chestnut Ridge: Chestnut Ridge is the first ridge in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Carroll, Ohio, and is great for bird watching. Bundle up and enjoy the scenic walk around the lake.
Indian Run Falls: Only about 20 minutes from Columbus, find beautiful icicles and frozen waterfalls on this easy, family-friendly hike.
Hayden Run Falls: Hit a frozen waterfall double feature and check out Hayden Run Falls in Dublin. Fun fact – I got engaged at Hayden Run Falls one January in front of the frozen waterfall.
Skiing, Boarding, and Tubing can be a little expensive, but there are specials that can make it more affordable. Hitting the slopes locally will always save you money, as you won’t need overnight accommodations.
- Snow Trails Tubing, Skiing and Snowboarding in Central Ohio
- Snow Fun: Skiing, Snowboarding, and Tubing at Mad River Mountain
Kids have a snow day? There are plenty of options for snow day fun!
Get Healthy! during Winter in Columbus
What comes after winter? Spring…and then Summer! Winter is the best time to get in shape, because – well…there’s less to do in the winter, and just enough time before bathing suit and shorts season comes around to make a difference in your confidence. Plus, it’s always better to be a little healthier than before, so work on creating great habits before it’s time for Easter candy!
Free Fitness around Columbus in the Winter There are plenty of FREE indoor and outdoor options to help you get fit – no gym membership required! Note: we are working on updating this list as several indoor and group options are not available.
Metro Parks Annual Winter Hike Series Don’t let a little cold weather keep you inside.
Go swimming no matter the weather at these indoor community center pools. Some feature hot tubs, lazy rivers, and other fun features that are just for kids! Moving around in the water for an hour or so is great for anyone – no need to swim laps! Note: hot tubs and slides may be closed at all facilities.
- Dublin Community Recreation Center ($5-$15 for daily admission) 5600 Post Road, Dublin. Lazy river, hot tub, waterslides, and more. Check link for leisure pool hours.
- Worthington Community Center ($6-$8, free under 3) 345 E. Wilson Bridge Rd., Worthington, OH 43085, Ph: (614) 436-2743. Lazy river and vortex and larger slides. Check link for leisure pool hours. Family swim reservations must be made to use the pool on a leisurely basis.
- Westerville Community Center ($4.50-$7.50) Westerville Community Center also has a climbing wall (fees required), and a great, free indoor playground for kids off of the lobby. 350 N. Cleveland Ave., Westerville, OH 43082, Phone: (614) 901-6500. Pool features shallow area, lazy river, fountains, slides, and more. Check link for leisure pool hours.
- Columbus Aquatic Center ($1) 1160 Hunter Ave. Columbus, OH 43201 (614) 645-3129 Must also get a $1 leisure card; good for 3 years. Hours: See schedule here. Pre-registration required to reserve a 90 minute slot.
Roller Skating: It’s so much fun that it won’t feel like exercise! Go with a few friends, or take your family! There are sessions appropriate for various ages at each of the rinks.
- Skate America in Grove City: Great pricing and plenty of discounts through the year
- Skate Zone 71 near Morse Rd: Tons of skate parties with character visits. Little kids skate is on Saturday mornings. There are also discounted days, young teen nights, and adult nights.
- United Skates of America on Refugee Rd: Lots of family skate and discount days.
Go Shopping or Explore a Neighborhood
Indoor Farmer’s Markets are a great play to wander, find some local goodies, and listen to music or check out other entertainment. Pick up something healthy while you’re there!
Shop a Vintage Market or Barn Sale and discover a “new” old find!
Check out this revitalized neighborhood during Franklinton Fridays on the 2nd Friday of each month
Check out the Book Loft in German Village! It has 32 different rooms; you’ll love getting lost together while you explore.
Go on an adventure! We have a whole list of Fun and Tasty Adventure Trails. Some of are adults-only, and feature beer, wine, cocktails, and coffee. There are several kid-friendly adventure trails that you can explore, including food adventures like the Butler County Donut Trail, Ice Cream Trail, Buckeye Trail, Columbus Taco Trail, and other options such as the Dublin Fairy Trail, and more.
Attractions for Winter in Columbus
- MLK Free Admission to Columbus Zoo on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
- Free Admission to Columbus Zoo on President’s Day
- All about Columbus Zoo Tickets, Discounts, and Free Days
- Columbus Zoo Half Price Winter Admission through February 2021
Columbus Museum of Art offers free admission on Sunday and $5 Thursdays from 5-9 pm.
Warm up with the stunning Conservatory Aglow and Holiday Blooms, plus the Paul Busse Garden Railway through January 10 at Franklin Park Conservatory, and explore the other amazing exhibits. Community Days at the Conservatory are on the first Sunday of each month. The Conservatory will be free for residents of Franklin County and the City of Columbus during regular operating hours of 10am to 5pm. Proof of residence and/or valid ID are required. Community Days aim to make the gardens more accessible to all.
LEGOLAND Discovery Center: Visit on the weekend, or come during the week on select days for Play & Party events! Safety precautions are in place, such as reduced capacity, frequent cleaning, personal bags of LEGO bricks to build with, and more. Advanced registration HIGHLY recommended, as capacity is very limited. It’s all the LEGO fun you’re used to, but even safer!
Find a few other places to explore on the cheap with Discounted and Free Museum Days in Columbus
Date Ideas and other Adult Fun during Winter in Columbus
Dine out safely – and privately – outside at these amazing outdoor pop-up (heated) dining igloos, pods, and more! This is a date to impress!
Whether you want to go out with a group of friends, or have a date night with your love, we have some ideas that’ll keep things fun through the winter. We have a list of fun nights out in Columbus that are great for outings with families, coworkers, or friends.
Need a date idea that’s better than just dinner and a movie? Check out our list of 50+ Best free and cheap dates in Columbus.
Happy Hours are the ultimate cheap restaurant experience! Dine early on tasty appetizers, have a drink or two, and head home to catch a movie on the couch! This happy hour list around Columbus is constantly being added to, and you can try a new place each week!
Columbus Ale Trail: Travel the Ale Trail through Central Ohio and find a new favorite craft beer.
Coffee shops make GREAT dates! Warm beverages, sweets, and cozy seating makes for a perfect cheap date! Complete the Columbus Coffee Trail by having a date at each place, and earn prizes!
Take a short drive east of Columbus to the Licking County Wine Trail. Visit the 6 wineries and collect a stamp from each winery, bring your book to the Explore Licking County office to claim wine trail t-shirt (while supplies last). As a bonus, you’ll pass through the charming towns of Granville, Johnstown, revitalized downtown of Newark, and picturesque country outside of Heath.
Want to drive a little further? These food and adventures trails in Ohio will keep you busy and give you lots of time to talk on your drives.
The North Market is an amazing place to spend a day or evening exploring. There are so many great food options, you can grab a drink at The Barrel and Bottle. Pick a few food items from various merchants and share in the upstairs seating area or on one of the patios. Visit the downtown Columbus location OR the new Dublin Bridge Park location!
Family Fun for Winter in Columbus
With sicknesses and cold/snowy weather, it’s easy to feel like you’ve been trapped in the house for way too long. If the kids are healthy and the roads are safe, get out of the house while you can!
Indoor Play Places in Columbus Sometimes is just too cold, or too snowy, or too rainy, and you just need to get the kids (and yourself) out of the house. Note: this list has not been updated to include all changes due to COVID, but links are provided so you are able to check for details.
Tour the Butler County Donut Trail at your leisure and earn a tshirt if you complete all of the stops – attempt it in a day (start early!) or head out over a period of weekends or months.
Need something sweet? Go on the Ohio Buckeye Candy Trail. Enjoy Ohio’s state candy – the buckeye! It’s peanut butter chocolate perfection. You’re going to have to drive a bit further to catch all 31 (!) stops on this trail that stretches throughout the entire state, but isn’t it worth it?! Who makes the best buckeye? Who cares?! Enjoy them all! There are enough stops near Columbus to do a mini tour.
The Irish Fairy Doors of Dublin Trail: Pick up your Trail Guide at the Irish Fairy Garden in the Dublin Visitor & Information Center (9 South High Street) and follow the path on your trail guide through Historic Dublin to 8 different businesses to find tiny magical fairy doors. Find the name of each resident fairy, fill in your passport and return your completed passport to the Visitor’s Center for a FREE Fairy Doors of Dublin t-shirt.
Taking the family to the movies can be expensive! But it’s a little cheaper with Cinemark Theatres Tuesday Discount Days (or matinees)
It doesn’t have to be expensive to dine out as a family! Kids Eat Free each day of the week at various restaurants (verify details before you go, as promotions can change)
Go bowling! There are plenty of options, but here are a few nice suggestions for families. Check for coupons on the website – sometimes there are family packages that can save you money!
- Star Lanes Polaris, 8655 Lyra Drive, Columbus
- Rule (3), 650 Windmiller Dr., Pickerington
- Columbus Square Bowling Palace, 5707 Forest Hills Blvd., Columbus
- AMF Sawmill Lanes, 4825 Sawmill Road, Columbus
- Gahanna Bowling and Family Fun Center, 215 W. Johnstown, Gahanna
- Ten Pin Alley, 5499 Ten Pin Alley, Hilliard
Need something to do today?? Check out list to see what’s going on today in Columbus – or our whole calendar!
Make sure you don’t miss any upcoming deals by subscribing to Columbus on the Cheap’s daily emails (just one a day), and following us on Facebook and Twitter.
Want us to highlight your business or event or give it a prime spot at the top of this list? Email me about sponsoring this popular post: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Options not currently available for 2020/2021
Pay-What-You-Can Cooking Classes with Local Matters can help you step up your game in the kitchen so you can make home-cooked meals and avoid the fast food and convenience food.
These fun and unique yoga classes will distract you from the fact that it’s a great workout!
Workout your brain by taking advantage of Free Apple Workshops to learn to work your devices better. Whether you need to learn a new device from scratch, or you want to learn some cool tricks, they have a variety of offerings.
It’s no secret that Columbus is FULL of amazing local businesses, restaurants, shopping, attractions, and makers, and the Made in CBUS Trail is a great way to experience some of the best! Pick up a passport at any of the locations, and purchase something at four or more of the locations to get your passport stamped. Redeem your passport at an Experience Columbus Visitor Center for a free Made in CBUS T-Shirt!
Short North Gallery Hop celebrates art, local shops, good food, and great people watching on the 1st Saturday of each month!
Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State has exhibits and programming that comic book and cartoon fans will love. It’s always free!
Wexner Center for the Arts offers FREE admission for exhibitions for everyone on Thursdays from 4 -8 p.m., as well as on the first Sunday of every month.
See if any shows are available at The Ohio State University Planetarium. The schedule for upcoming shows is usually released the week prior.
Bank of America customers get a Free Museum Pass on the first weekend of each month for COSI and other museums around Ohio and the U.S.
Play like a kid at LEGOLAND Discovery Center at Easton! Once a month, they host monthly Adult Nights where the grown-ups have the run of the place! Adult guests can enjoy all aspects of the 36,000 sq. ft indoor attraction, including the two rides, 4D Cinema and MINILAND, plus a cash bar! (typically the 1st Thursday of the month).
COSI offers a once a month option for grownup fun! COSI After Dark give you the run of the place with themed-activities – and NO KIDS! Less than $20 to get in, and it’ll fill your evening with child-like fun! (typically the 2nd Thursday of the month).
Wine Tastings are a great and inexpensive way to spend an hour or two with friends or a date.
- Wyandotte Winery hosts Happy Hour Hump Day on Wednesdays and Fabulous Fridays to celebrate the weekend!
- Find new favorite wines or beer varieties at the Hill’s Market 10 for $10 Wine Tastings on the first Saturday evening of the month.
- Explore Whole Foods while you enjoy 5 after 5 Wine Tastings with wine (or beer) samples and small plates. Pick up something from the prepared food section and head home early for an evening cuddling on the couch.
- Meza Wine Shop in Westerville hosts inexpensive wine tastings and other events each week.
- House Wine Thursday Night Tastings are just $15, including flatbreads and cheese, and will get you ready for the weekend. The Bexley location of House Wine hosts Wednesday Night Tastings too!
- $10 for $10 Wine and Bourbon Tastings at locations all over the city on select Monday-Thursdays!
Drexel Theatre hosts Free Screenings of America’s Greatest Films on the first Tuesday of each month
Do something unusual! Check out Rocky Horror Picture Show at Studio 35 on the 1st Saturday of every month.
Family Nights at Worthington Community Center is held on select Friday Nights, and features some great non-electronic fun that’ll wear the kids out.
Home Depot Kids’ Workshops are held the First Saturday of each month. Kids can build a fun project for FREE!
Michael’s offers Kids Club every Saturday from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. where kids can do weekly craft projects for just $2. They also host Make Break events for older kids throughout the month. Most require small purchase to complete project, though many supplies are provided.
Lakeshore Learning stores have free crafts on Saturdays from 11 am – 3 pm.
Factory tour at Anthony Thomas Chocolates: The tour lasts about an hour, where you’ll experience candy making from start to finish from the glass-enclosed suspended “Cat-Walk”. You’ll see 9 lines producing 30,000 pounds of chocolates per shift. Children under 2 are free, ages 3 to 18 are $1 per person, and ages 19 and over are $2 per person. Admission fee may be used towards a candy purchase when the tour ends in the 2,500 square-foot retail shoppe. No appointments needed for tour hours; September-May, Tues & Thurs, 9am to 3pm. June-August, Tues, Weds & Thurs, 9am to 3pm
Hoot Family Film Series at Gateway Film Center: Held on the last Saturday of each month. Lobby activities for the first hour. Shazzbots will perform for dance parties between cartoon shorts sets in the theater starting at 11 am. Such a fun event for kids, especially ages 0-7. Free with canned food donation.
Columbus Metro Parks offer programming year round, including the cold winter months. In addition to hikes and outdoor exploration, they offer indoor activities, and most offer open play activities (and a chance to warm up) in the nature centers.