Whether you have friends and family visiting for Thanksgiving Day Weekend, or you’re looking for something to do to get out of the house, we have the list for you!
We’ve gathered LOTS of things to do Thanksgiving weekend in Columbus besides eating turkey and shopping (though we included a few unique shopping experiences that are good for just browsing).
Check out our featured events, plus a list of every free event we have on the calendar from Wednesday, November 23, through Sunday, November 27, 2023.
We also included a few experiences that aren’t free, but are great if you want to splurge and show out of town guests a special holiday experience, like Wildlights at the Zoo and more!
Restaurants open on Thanksgiving in Columbus in 2023
Thanksgiving is a popular day to dine out! We’ve gathered a big list of places to dine in Columbus on Thanksgiving.
We also have some options of to-go and prepared heat and eat holiday meals on the list!
Fully Cooked Thanksgiving Meals
Don’t want to cook OR dine out for Thanksgiving? We have a huge list of places to get a fully cooked Thanksgiving meal that you can just reheat and eat.
Annual Lighting of The Licking County Courthouse
See the Lighting of the Licking County Courthouse on Friday, November 24 at 6pm. Enjoy a festive holiday evening of entertainment including a variety of musical guests, carols, and Santa Claus!
Come early for the Holiday Bazaar at the Canal Market District from 3 pm – 6:30 pm. Shop with over 40 vendors and pick up some Christmas gifts and amazing baked goods. Food trucks will be on site to dine from before the Courthouse lighting, or dine at one of the local restaurants.
Holiday Horse Parade in Urbana
Friday, November 24, 2023. Celebrate the season with holiday activities for the whole family and welcome the holidays to Historic Downtown Urbana, Ohio.
- 10:00 am: Shop downtown, most shops open
- 4:00 pm – Music in the streets/Street vendors and food trucks open
- 5:15 pm – Caroling in Legacy Park
- 5:30 pm – Tree Lighting Ceremony at Legacy Park
- 6:30 pm – Lighted Horse Parade
- 7:15 pm – Santa arrives by carriage to Santa Land
- 7:15 pm – 9:00 pm – Carriage and Trolley Rides
Worthington Holiday Open House and Tree Lighting
Sunday, November 26, 2023 Experience the sights and sounds of the holiday season, including horse-drawn carriage rides, live music and a photo opportunity with Santa in downtown Worthington. Local retailers will be offering special promotions and sidewalk sales from noon – 5:30 pm.
After the Holiday Open House, head to Southeast Village Green for the annual tree lighting. The program begins at 5:30 with carols and an appearance by Santa Clause to light the tree.
Granville Village Tree Lighting
Sunday, November 26, 2023. Gather together to kick off the holiday season with the official lighting of the Granville Christmas Tree at 5 pm. The tree is located at the median on Broadway west of Main. Cookies and hot cocoa will be provided. Details here.
Santa’s Wonderland and Photos at Cabela’s
Santa is available for free photos at Cabela’s from November 4 – December 24, 2023; hours vary based on day.
A 4×6 studio quality photo with Santa is free (package options are available), and the set and Santa are authentic and festive! The store is fun to explore, and they are open on Thanksgiving and the day after for select hours. Reservations recommended in advance.
Oakland Nursery Holiday Fun, Santa, and Carriage Rides
All Oakland Nursery locations have special holiday fun on weekends from November 9-December 10, 2023, including live music, seasonal delights, Santa, holiday treats, and more!
Columbus Christmas Lights
All Season. Drive around to enjoy the displays of Christmas lights in Columbus in various neighborhoods and attractions – for free! Check out the Christmas Lights Finder website to search near your neighborhood – or use it to take a tour around Columbus!
Read about some of our favorite options below!
Columbus Commons Holiday Lights
November 17, 2023-January 1, 2024 from dusk until to 11 pm. Check out more than 400,000 LED lights dazzle Columbus Commons park in Downtown Columbus, thanks to a generous contribution from American Electric Power.
Festive Fridays on December 1, 8, 15, 22 will be a little extra festive from 5-9 pm, with free hot chocolate and free carousel rides. Plus, you’ll catch musicians roaming around the park so you can sing along to your favorite seasonal songs as you stroll.
Lights at the Scioto Mile
November 22 through January 1, 2024. Downtown Columbus with be lit with more than 200,000 lights for the Holiday Light Display along the Scioto Mile. This spectacular display will span Columbus Commons, the Lazarus Building and along the Scioto Mile.
Easton Town Center Grand Illumination
Easton Town Center is beautiful during the holidays starting on November 18! From the giant tree to the train display, and the lights strung up everywhere! Walk around, or take a horse drawn carriage ride check out the holiday lights of Easton – it’s beautiful during the season. Santa is back too!
The season at Easton kicks off on November 17 with the Grand Illumination.
Lights of Glenross
November 23, 2023 – January 1, 2024. Glenross subdivision in Delaware and has around 300 houses with light displays choreographed to Christmas music played on 94.1FM.
The Lucy Depp Park Light Show
Runs every night from November 25, 2023 through first week of January. 5pm to 10pm Sunday thru Thursday, 5pm to 11pm Friday and Saturday. Frabell Dr. Powell, OH 43065 features 45,000+lights over 5.5 acres. Make sure you read about the history of Lucy Depp Park – it’s fascinating!
There is a donation box located at the entrance to the show for Peace for Paws Ohio, an amazing non-profit dog rescue organization.
Huntington Holiday Train at the Main Library
November 22, 2023 through January 7, 2024 during regular hours at Columbus Metropolitan Main Library. This fixture of the downtown holiday scene has delighted people of all ages since 1992 with its trains, tracks, tunnels, bridges and replicas of historic German homes and castles.
Free one-hour parking in the library garage. Read more here. Closed Thanksgiving, December 24-26, New Years Eve, and New Years Day
Write Santa Letters!
Drop off letters to Santa at the Santa Mailboxes all over the city!
Obviously it’s a HUGE shopping weekend, but you can always just browse!
Support local business for Small Business Saturday! Most shopping districts (think Uptown Westerville, Short North, etc) are having special events for Small Business Saturday.
There are a few Holiday Craft shows listed below that are perfect for browsing or holiday shopping too.
Not Your Mama’s Craft Markets
November 26, 2023: Not Your Mama’s Craft Market Holiday Market at Brewdog. 11 am – 4 pm. Over 50 handpicked and curated Makers, Vintage Shops and Boutiques will be filling BrewDog’s Beer Museum to create a unique one stop shopping experience for you and your friends! Dog-friendly!
November 26, 2023: Not Your Mama’s Craft Market Holiday Market at The Kee
Over 100 small businesses to shop at The Kee , a new entertainment venue in downtown Columbus. When you’re done shopping, stay and enjoy bars, games, galleries, multiple restaurants and more!
Scott Antique Market
WHEN: November 25-26, 2023 9am-6pm, 10am-4pm
WHERE: Ohio Expo Center Bricker Building, 717 East 17th Avenue, Columbus, OH 43211
WHAT: This large show will feature aisles upon aisles with hundreds booths with one-of-a-kind antiques and collectible items available for sale. Details here.
ADMISSION: Free, $5 parking
Free Museum Visits
Columbus Museum of Art, Downtown Columbus
Columbus Museum of Art features a fantastic collection of exhibits and art, as well as interactive and exploratory creativity for all ages.
Get FREE Sunday admission for all thanks to a PNC Arts Alive grant. Hours are 10 am – 5 pm. There are fun activities for all ages!
Ohio Craft Museum, Columbus near Grandview
The Ohio Craft Museum is a program of Ohio Designer Craftsmen, presenting five major exhibitions each year, plus exhibits and a rotating display of the permanent collection.
The museum houses the Craft Research Library and offers educational workshops and events for all ages and levels of experience.
Admission to the Ohio Craft Museum is free; programming requires registration fees. They also have the Gifts of the Craftsman Sale going on, in case you want to do a little shopping.
Cultural Arts Center, Downtown Columbus
The Cultural Arts Center is Central Ohio’s premier visual arts center featuring contemporary art and emphasizing emerging artists. They offer hands-on instruction, a learning hub and creative space.
Free tours, workshops, and other programming is available, while some require registration fees. HOURS: Mon, 1pm-4pm & 7pm-10pm, Tue-Thu 9am-4pm & 7pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 9am-4pm, Sun Closed. Closed on Thanksgiving.
Ohio Statehouse, Downtown Columbus
Capitol Square includes the Ohio Statehouse, Senate Building and Atrium. The buildings are not only working government offices but magnificent monuments to the people and the period during which Ohio’s democracy was founded and formed.
Guided tours are offered Monday through Friday every hour on the hour with the first tour beginning at 10 a.m. and the last tour beginning at 3 p.m. (Closed on Thanksgiving) Guided tours are offered on Saturdays and Sundays at 12, 1, 2 , and 3 p.m.
Please note that while the Ohio Statehouse is open to the public on the weekends, the House and Senate Chambers are kept locked, and are only available to be viewed during guided tours.
Riffe Gallery, Vern Riffe Center in Downtown Columbus
The Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery showcases the work of Ohio’s artists and the collections of the state’s museums and galleries. Admission is always free and exhibitions feature a quarterly rotating feature.
Programming is free and open to all, including opening receptions for exhibits, artist talks, and more.
Free Fitness on Thanksgiving weekend
Check out our big list of free and cheap fitness options in Columbus during the winter. Check dates to ensure they are open on holiday weekends.
Columbus Metro Parks and Preservation Parks Hikes
Take a hike! It’s the perfect chance to walk off some Thanksgiving food and enjoy nature before the weather gets too cold. Columbus and Delaware (and surrounding counties) are home to some amazing Metro Parks and hiking trails, so enjoy a favorite or pick a new one!
Check out the calendar below for more free options, and scroll down for options with admission fees.
Wednesday, November 22, 2023
Thursday, November 23, 2023
Friday, November 24, 2023
Saturday, November 25, 2023
Sunday, November 26, 2023
Events with admission or fees
If you have out of town guests and are willing to spend a little more money, here are some experiences they may enjoy.
Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
November 17 – January 7, 2024. Don’t miss the Columbus Zoo Christmas lights for 2023! Wildlights is included with Zoo admission or membership. Parking is $10/car for non-members.
The Zoo can be a little pricey for a group, so try to go early (before dark) and visit some of the animals.
Butch Bando’s Fantasy of Lights
November 17 – January 1, 2024. Butch Bando’s Fantasy of Lights Alum Creek light display and Santa’s House. $20-$30 per car; free cookies and cocoa at the Santa House down the road.
Conservatory Aglow at Franklin Park Conservatory
November 18 – January 7, 2024. Admission is $15.50 – $26 for adults. Holiday displays and activities at the Franklin Park Conservatory, including live entertainment, gingerbread contest, and family fun days. There are events every weekend and select weekdays.
Christmas Ranch in Morrow, Ohio
November 17 – December 23, 2023. Christmas Ranch is open every day except Thanksgiving. Located about an hour and fifteen minutes SW of Columbus, the Christmas Ranch features a Christmas Village with a combination drive-thru/walk-thru experience featuring approximately 1 Million LED lights which dance with the music.
Drive through to see the lights and park to visit areas of Christmas Ranch. Shop in 6 Christmas shops, grab a treat at Santa’s Bakery or the Elves food truck (walk-up window and outdoor seating), and visit with Santa. Admission is $37 per carload.
Legendary Lights of Clifton Mill
November 24 – December 30, 2023 from 5 – 9 p.m. (lights turn on at 6 p.m.) On Christmas Eve and Christmas they close at 8 pm. Enjoy 4 million lights, outdoor miniature village, Santa Claus Museum, and nostalgic Toy Collection at the Lights at Clifton Mills.
You can’t visit Santa, but you can peek into Santa’s Workshop to see Santa at work until December 23. Every 15 minutes or so, watch him check his list and go up the chimney to load his sleigh.
Monday through Wednesday admission is $15 per person for everyone age 4 and older. Children 3 and under always get in free!
WonderLight’s Christmas in Ohio at Hartford Fairgrounds
November 10 – December 31, 2023 from 5:30 pm to 10:00 pm (11:00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays). Open rain, shine, or snow. Hartford Fairgrounds, 14028 Fairgrounds Road, Hartford, OH 43013
Come see over 1 million LED lights synchronized to traditional and newer Christmas music played through your own car stereo. Pack your vehicle full of friends and family to enjoy the show. Admission is $30/vehicle up to 7 passengers. Children age 3 & under are FREE! Larger vehicle options available as well.
Easton Holiday Carriage Rides
Check out the beauty of Easton during the holidays on a Easton Holiday Carriage Ride! Available weekends from November 18 – December 23, 2023
Admission is $10, children under 15 ride free with paying adult.
Turkey Trots and Holiday Races
Run off some turkey! There are tons of turkey trots and holiday races with great swag, as well as other fun races after Thanksgiving!
Sunday, December 3, 2023
Monday, December 4, 2023
Tuesday, December 5, 2023
Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Thursday, December 7, 2023
Friday, December 8, 2023
Saturday, December 9, 2023