Despite all of the holiday fun and gifts over Christmas break, kids will still complain about being bored! With smaller gatherings and less places to go, it may be even more of a challenge to keep them entertained. There are plenty of free and cheap activities for winter break in Columbus, so plan ahead to keep the kids from complaining.
Want us to highlight your event or give it a prime spot at the top of this list? Email me about sponsoring this popular post: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Winter Break in Columbus
Make sure to scroll down the list towards the bottom for ongoing winter break fun!
Holiday Hockey Camp Chiller
Throughout the winter break, OhioHealth Chiller offers hockey camps and clinics over winter break, including adult clinics, developmental camps, Jr. Stinger Camp, and event a parent & player holiday camp.
Winter Camp and workshops with Microsoft
Kids won’t know they are learning during the fun and free virtual Winter Camp and workshops with Microsoft. With interesting topics such as Video Game Coding, Alaskan Dog Sled Race, Minecraft, and more – they’ll WANT to join these camps!
Ohio Craft Museum To-Go kits and workshops
Do some art at home with Art Boxes To-Go, and virtual education classes and workshops. Art Boxes To-Go provide the supplies needed to create art projects which are supported by fun instructional videos for children or live virtual Zoom instruction for adults.
They also offer Take and Make Ornament Kits, and educational resources at home!
Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks
While they aren’t holding programs and guided events in the Metro Parks right now, you should still visit and explore! Our parks are awesome any time of year! Bundle up and get some fresh air!
Metro Parks Annual Winter Hike Series – For the 2020/2021 series, the hikes are not guided or scheduled. Simply visit the parks and hike any trail on your own schedule, pace, and distance. After hikes at 7 parks, you’ll get a reward!
Story Trail at Blendon Woods Metro Park – This interactive trail features a full-length picture book to read with your kids and includes activity suggestions to support the story. The Story Trail is fully wheelchair and stroller accessible; short enough for even the smallest visitors to complete, but long enough to get the wiggles out! Available during park hours. They plan to have a new story available each month this winter. The Story Trail begins near the Nature Center on the 1/3 mi. trail out to the lake.
December story: The Mitten, by Jan Brett. See details and future story announcements on the Facebook page.
Buddy the Elf Scavenger Hunt at Homestead Metro Park – Buddy the Elf will be exploring a new part of the park each week. Find him and post a picture on Facebook – tag Homestead Metro Park and use #HomesteadBuddyTheElf! Remember, don’t touch him or he’ll lose his magic! See park Facebook page for hints.
Holiday Lights in the Columbus Metro Parks – Trails at Blacklick Woods Metro Park, Highbanks Metro Park, Homestead Metro Park and Scioto Grove Metro Park are decorated with holiday lights through December! Visit the parks between 5 pm – 8 pm each night to enjoy the twinkling in nature! See locations below and see Facebook or website for details.
- Scioto Grove: REI River Trail near The Grove, and check out the “A Christmas Story” display
- Homestead Metro Park: Covered Bridge and trail; paved and handicap accessible
- Inniswood Metro Garden: Throughout the gardens
- Blacklick Woods Metro Park: Buttonbush Trail only
- Highbanks Metro Park: Dripping Rock Trail behind the nature center. Restrooms are a short walk away in the Oak Coves Picnic Area.
View this post on Instagram
Brush Crazy Art Camp, Art-to-Gough, and more
Brush Crazy at 1299 Bethel Road has lots of fun offerings for all ages. Paint wood signs, ceramics, or canvas. They also offer pouring, mosaics, and clay crafting. With a spacious studio and separate tables, you can visit with family and get creative, safely. Private events are available for booking too! Or you can choose To-Gogh options if you’d rather paint at home! See website and calendar here.
Art Camp is offered on most Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. For $35 kids get two projects to paint from 1:30pm to 4:30pm. They will get to choose from canvas paintings, ceramics and wood cutouts. Parents can stay if they want, or they can fill out a form and come back later! If kids finish early, there are games available. Kids are encouraged to bring a snack. The studio is sanitized regularly, and hand sanitizer is provided. Masks are strongly encouraged, but there is lots of room for social distancing when seated at separate tables.
Art To-Gogh. Shop the website, or walk in to pick out a To-Gogh project. Each option includes supplies and instructions. Great gift idea!
Gift Card Deal Come into Brush Crazy and purchase a gift card for a loved one (or for yourself) between Dec 17th and Dec 24th (except Tuesday or Wednesday, because we are closed) and receive 10% of the gift card purchase as studio credit to be used anytime you like.
Saturday Open Paint. It’s always Open Paint at Brush Crazy! If you come into the studio any Saturday through March and mention Columbus on the Cheap, get a free $10.00 ceramic of your choice (from the options available) with each purchase of $30.00 or more. The studio is open from Thursday through Monday from 1 pm – 8 pm (closed Tues and Weds).
Sunday Pouring Workshop Brush Crazy is hosting a Pouring Workshop every Sunday December 2020 through March 2021 from 3 pm – 5 pm! Pour your favorite colors (choose up to 5) onto canvas, wood or your favorite ceramic!! Get a free $10.00 ceramic of your choice (from the options available) with each purchase of $30.00 or more when you mention Columbus on the Cheap.
Lazer Kraze Private Sessions
5524 North Hamilton Rd, Gahanna OH 614-656-8216. No open hours; Private sessions available for your family. $20 per person for 2 private missions (min 5 paid players) or $21.50 per person for 1 laser tag mission and 30 minutes on the trampoline. Call for reservations 614-656-8216
Columbus Museum of Art
$5 admission every Thursday from 5-9 pm, and Free Admission on Sundays! Reservations are required for all visitors, and masks must be worn.
Flying Horse Farms “Light Up Camp” drive-through event
Flying Horse Farms in Mt. Gilead features “Light Up Camp” every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening through Sunday, December 27, including Christmas Eve and Christmas. The half-mile drive through the property will feature festively decorated camp buildings and showcase a 12-minute animated light show at the center of camp. All visitors must remain in their cars for the entire event.
The light display will include more than 8,000 individual bulbs and more than 3 miles of lights. The event is free, but donations are highly appreciated and suggested. Donations are used for camps and programming to allow children with severe medical conditions to enjoy a camp experience. 5260 OH-95, Mt Gilead, OH 43338
Day Specific Events for Winter Break
Christmas with the Critters at Ohio Wildlife Center: December 19 from 11 am – 2 pm. Drive-thru gifting event for the animals. $10 per car.
Christmas for the Critters at Sharon Woods. December 19-20 from 2 pm – 4 pm. Drop by the Naturalist Office on Saturday and Sunday December 19th and 20th from 2-4pm to pick up a feathered friends scavenger hunt. Return your completed sheet for a goodie bag filled with items to make a special Christmas treat for the critters in your backyard!
Curbside Adventure and Discovery Backpacks at Grange Audubon Insurance Center: December 22, 10:30 am – 2 pm
The center offers a variety of nature-themed backpacks for family exploration at the park! Adventure Backpacks are geared to school-aged children and Discovery Backpacks are geared to preschoolers. Must pre-register to pick up backpacks.
Families will be able to check out a backpack for an hour and a half at a time, you can call us at your pick up time and our staff will bring your backpack to the center entrance before you head out to enjoy your activities in the surrounding park. Adults will just need to leave an ID with our staff person until each bag is returned. Pre-registration is required, items in the bag will be sanitized before your arrival and again after the bags are returned. Current Backpack Option through December 23rd: Bird Study Adventure Backpacks, Art in Nature Discovery Backpacks
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
Enjoy time with your family, but if you still need to kill more time on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, we have a few suggestion:
- Select roller skating and ice skating rinks open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (scroll down for details)
- Metro park hikes – some parks have Holiday lights; see above
- Best Christmas Lights in Columbus, including drive-thru and drive-by options.
- Restaurants open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
Community Day at Franklin Park Conservatory: January 3, admission 10 am – 2:30 pm. On the first Sunday of each month, the Conservatory is free for residents of Franklin County and the City of Columbus during regular operating hours. Reservations are required and fill up quickly. Masks are required to be worn at Franklin Park Conservatory. Community Day admission does not include Conservatory Aglow, but Holiday Blooms is on display, plus you’ll enjoy the Children’s Garden, Paul Busse Garden Railway, and so much more.
More events after Christmas for Winter Break
Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
November 20 – January 3. Registration and masks required. See more details here. Special Wildlights Appreciation Days available for selects public employees on specific days. A limited number of free tickets are available each night at the Zoo’s ticket window. You cannot make online reservations for Appreciation Days. Tickets are available for early pickup at the Zoo’s ticket window starting on December 1. Proof of employment is required. You will have to pay the $10 Parking fee for the ticket pickup, but will receive a parking credit for your future visit during Appreciation Days.
- First Responder and Public Safety Appreciation Days: Saturday, December 26 – Monday, December 28, 2020 All current and retired first responders and public safety personnel, plus immediate family up to 5 guests, can enjoy free admission to the Columbus Zoo and Wildlights from 10 am – close. A valid police/fire photo ID must be presented (showing proof of department of employment), or badges and credentials, plus a photo ID. Standard parking fee of $10/car applies to non-members. Qualified personnel include firefighters, EMT/paramedics, police officers, state troopers, border patrol agents, deputies, investigators, evidence technicians, firearms examiners, crime lab technicians, 911 dispatchers, corrections officers, hand writing examiners, intelligence analysts, and investigative assistants.
- Educator Appreciation Days at Wildlights: Tuesday, December 29-Thursday, December 31, 2020 All current and retired education personnel and their immediate family members (up to 5 guests) will get free admission to the Zoo and Wildlights for the day. Parking is $10/car for non-members. Qualified personnel include: certified public/private preK-12 grade school teachers, teachers at licensed/registered childcare and preschool facilities, college/university faculty, and home school educators with ID and proof of intent to homeschool.
- Healthcare Professionals Appreciation Days: Friday, January 1 – Sunday, January 3, 2021 Healthcare professionals and their immediate family (up to 5 guests) can get free admission from 10 am – close. Qualified personnel includes surgeons, physicians, therapists, nurses, CNA’s, pharmacists, optometrists, paramedics, EMT’s, dietitians, pathologists, family practitioners, phlebotomists, vet techs, chiropractors, psychiatrists, nurse’s aides, medical assistants, and more.
Butch Bando’s Holiday Fantasy of Lights
November 20 – January 3. Alum Creek light display and Santa’s House. $20-$30 per car.
- Military Appreciation Nights: December 28th – January 1st. Active Duty and Spouses – FREE, Veterans – $10 *Please provide proper military ID*
Lights at the Scioto Mile
From November 25 through January 3, downtown Columbus with be lit with more than 200,000 lights for the Holiday Light Display.
Conservatory Aglow at Franklin Park Conservatory
November 14 – January 10. Admission is $12 – $22. Holiday displays and activities at the Franklin Park Conservatory. Reservations are required for all visits, and safety protocols are in place.
Columbus Commons Holiday Lights
November 20 – January 3 from dusk to 10 pm. Check out more than 320,000 LED lights dazzle Columbus Commons park
WonderLight’s Christmas in Ohio at National Trail Raceway
November 13, 2020 – January 3, 2021 from 5:30 pm to 10:00 pm. Open rain, shine, or snow. National Trail Raceway, 2650 National Road SW, Hebron, OH 43025 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. Tickets are $7.00 per person. Children Age 3 & Under: FREE! Or get a Carload Special for up to 7 passengers for only $30.
Legendary Lights of Clifton Mill
November 23 – December 30 from 5 – 9 p.m. (lights turn on at 6 p.m.) On Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Eve they close at 8 pm. Enjoy 4 million lights, outdoor miniature village, Santa Claus Museum, and nostalgic Toy Collection. Food is available for purchase except on Christmas. Details here. (near Yellow Springs, 40 miles SW of Columbus)
Christmas Corner Lighting of State Auto Christmas Display and Life-Sized Nativity
December through January 4. Christmas display and Life-Sized Nativity are lit nightly at State Auto Downtown through the season. Free parking available.
Ongoing activities for winter break in Columbus
Sledding in Columbus
Dreaming of a White Christmas? If it’s a reality, here are 25 places to go sledding in Columbus. Whether you’re looking for small or large sledding hills in Columbus, there are plenty of options. Please obey all posted signs for parking, sledding, and other designations, as availability of these hills may have changed since last sledding season. If you have other favorites, I’d love to hear them!
Roller skating in Columbus
Whether your kids are new to roller skating or experienced, it will make for a fun and tiring activity. There are 3 roller skating rinks in the Columbus area, and all are offering fun activities and skating parties over winter break. Sessions are 2-3 hours long, and some are discounted admission or included meals. Most of the websites offer additional coupons, so be sure to look for those
Skate America in Grove City: Great pricing and plenty of discounts, plus New Years Eve and New Years Day parties. Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Skate Zone 71 near Morse Rd: Open every single day through Christmas break, including holidays. Tons of skate parties with characters. There are also discounted days, young teen nights, and adult nights. There’s an New Years Eve party with mock countdown, as well as a family New Years Eve night with midnight countdown.
United Skates of America on Refugee Rd: Lots of family skate and discount days over Christmas break. Open every day, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Character skates, discounts, and several New Years Eve parties and New Years Day skate.
Chiller Ice Rinks in Easton, Lewis Center, Dublin and Downtown: Check public skate times and pricing for each location.
The Ohio State University Ice Rink, 390 Woody Hayes Drive, Columbus. Phone: (614)292-4154. Closed for 2020
Public admission is $6, skate rental is $3. Limited open skate sessions. December/January hours have not been updated; check here for updates.
Lou & Gibb Reese Ice Arena, 936 Sharon Valley Rd, Newark. Phone: (740) 349-6784
Admission $3-$6, skate rental is $3. Open select days over winter break. Skate with Santa on December 14 at noon.
Merry on Main Iceless Ice Skating, Partners Park, 125 E. Sixth St., Marysville, OH 43040
Saturday, December 12, 200 – January 3, 2021 (closed Christmas Day). Skates provided. Outdoor heaters. 72′ x 40′ rink. CPR/First Aid staffed. To assist with maintaining social distance for the safety of our patrons the maximum number of people allowed on the rink at one time will be 25. Real-time occupancy data will be available on the Ice Rink Occupancy Dashboard. Patrons are encouraged to check the occupancy status prior to visiting the rink.
Face coverings must be worn at all times by everyone except for one of the reasons stated by the State health order. Free face masks will be available for patrons.
Downtown Chillicothe Ice Skating at The Mighty Children’s Museum, The Corner of Paint & 4th in Chillicothe
November 20 – December. Thursday: 4pm-8pm, Friday: 12p – 8pm, Saturday: 12p-8p, Sunday: 12p-8p
Admission is just $5. Masks required for those over age 4, temperature checks will be performed
Check out their schedule of events on Facebook, including the cast of Frozen, Santa, and more!
Mighty Children’s Museum admission is $6. Hours: Wednesday: 9a-4p, Thursday: 9a-4p, Friday: 9a-4p, Saturday: 9a-4p
Outdoor ice skating options will only be open when the weather is below freezing for several days.
Coffman Park in Dublin, 5200 Emerald Parkway, Dublin
Hours (when open) are weekdays from 3 – 8:30 pm and weekends and school cancellations days from 10 am – 8:30 pm. Fireplaces in the pavilion provide for a nice warm up; restrooms are available. Skates are available for rental. Hockey is not permitted. Signs will be posted along Coffman Drive when open, or check the City of Dublin website or on Dublin Parks website.
Blendon Woods, 4265 East Dublin Granville Road, Columbus, OH 43017
Skating Pond: Winter outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy this one-foot deep, 2 acre pond
Battelle Darby Creek, 3711 Gardner Road, Georgesville OH 43123. 1/2 acre, 16 inch deep pond.
Bowling in Columbus during Winter Break
Plenty of options, but here are a few nice suggestions for families. Check for precautions and/or restrictions at the links.
- 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
Friday, October 22, 2021
Tuesday, October 26, 2021
Friday, October 29, 2021
Tuesday, November 2, 2021
Friday, November 5, 2021
Tuesday, November 9, 2021
Friday, November 12, 2021
Tuesday, November 16, 2021
Friday, November 19, 2021
Winter Break Fun not available in 2020
This big list of play places and activities offers over 85 indoor-specific activities, including play places, mall and store play areas, and active fun options like bounce houses and swimming, but I’ll mention some of these below.
Columbus Recreation and Parks Department’s Community Centers: Most events are cancelled for 2020. Community centers are typically hosting various programs and events during winter break. Check out the “Schools Out” calendar for the closest center near you. You’ll find open gyms, crafts, gymnastics, and more. Must purchase a $1 Columbus Parks & Rec Leisure Card, which is valid for 3 years. Most activities are free; some have a nominal charge.
Day Camps at Ohio Wildlife Center: December 18, December 30, December 31. Several themes are available. All ca.mps include up-close animal encounters, animal care instruction, crafts, hikes, and a snack. Hours are 9am – 12 pm for ages 3-5 or 9am – 3pm for ages 6-12 (with after-care available until 5 pm). These are a great option for working parents, or for kid-free time while the kids learn and have fun at camp.
Holiday Gift-Making Workshops: December 15 and 21. Drop off kids in grades 1-6 at the Ohio Craft Museum in Grandview Heights. They will make 2 gifts and wrap them before they leave for $25 – and you get 3 hours to yourself!
Preschoolers: Winter in the Woods at Blendon Woods: December 17 and 19 at 9:30 am and 11 am. Animals survive the winter in different ways – hibernate, migrate, or tough it out! Ages 3-6. Nature Center
Winter Wonderland Scavenger Hunt at Blendon Woods. December 21-27 from 9 am – 5 pm. See if you can find all of the winter creatures hiding in the nature center! All ages. Nature Center
Go Wilds Kids Club: Holiday Crafts at Sharon Woods. Not held in 2020. Celebrate the season by creating a few works of art to gift or share. Ages 5-12 Spring Hollow.
Vitality Athletic Center, 3455 Centerpoint Dr. Suite F, Grove City, OH 43123 Phone: 614.593.3127
No open gum for 2020. Supervision provided; no instruction. Both opens gyms are $10 per person for members, $15 per person for non-members. If you want to go to more than one per month, the monthly memberships are a great deal at $19.95/mo.
Breakfast with Santa at Oakland Nursery Columbus and Dublin: Cancelled for 2020. Call the store for details and registration.
Coffee, Cocoa, and Birds: Cancelled 2020 at Blendon Woods from 10 am – 2 pm. Drop by and enjoy a steaming cup while watching birds at our viewing window. All ages Nature Center
Winter Warmup at Grange Audubon Insurance Center: Cancelled 2020 10 am – noon
Bundle up the family and celebrate the first day of winter with games, crafts, songs, movies and a snack geared toward first grade children and younger. There will be a special story time with Carol Husberger and her Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Andi, who inspired Carol’s beautiful watercolor paintings as well as her brand new children’s book, The Adventures of Andi the Adorable. The event is free, but RSVP’s are requested. Donations always appreciated!
Free crafts for kids at Lakeshore Learning: Cancelled 2020 from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Thumbprint Keepsake Holiday Ornament
Elsa & Anna, The Princesses from the ‘Tundra’ up North at Oakland Nursery Columbus! Cancelled 2020 from 12 noon – 2 pm. Be sure to bring your camera to capture the magic.
Holiday Crafts at Battelle Darby Creek: Cancelled 2020 from 1-3 pm. Create easy seasonal crafts with materials found in nature. Nature Center
‘Tis the Season at Slate Run Farm: Cancelled 2020 from 1 pm – 3 pm. Take a break from the holiday bustle with a quiet stroll around the farm. String popcorn and make an ornament to take home. All ages Farmhouse
Lantern Stroll at Sharon Woods. Cancelled 2020 at 5:30 pm. Candle lanterns will light the way on a 1-mile stroll through the woods on the winter solstice. All ages Schrock Lake Restrooms
Solstice Walk at Inniswood. Cancelled 2020 at 6 pm. Join us in the gardens for a guided walk in celebration of the longest night of the year. All ages Gardens Entrance
Cookies with Santa at Coffee Connections in Hilliard: Cancelled 2020 from 3:30 pm. Come decorate delicious cookies made by Cori’s Confections and visit with Santa! It’s a Christmas Classic, be sure to make plans to attend! it’s free to see Santa, and cookies are only $1.50!
Luminary Workshop at Inniswood. Cancelled 2020 at 4:30 pm. Bring your family to make your own luminary from household items. Materials provided. All ages Innis House
Legend of the Christmas Spider at Blacklick Woods. Cancelled 2020 at 1 pm. Listen to a European folktale about a spider and make a spider ornament for your Christmas tree. All ages Beech Maple Lodge
New Moon Lantern Stroll at Blendon Woods. Cancelled 2020. Relax after the holidays with a peaceful lantern-lit hike through the forest. All ages. Nature Center
Tots on Trails at Blacklick Woods. Cancelled 2020 at 10 am. Join a naturalist for a slow-paced half-mile walk through the woods. Ages 5 and younger Nature Center
Franklin Park Conservatory Family Fun: Cancelled 2020. The Bugman. Columbus favorite, Mark Berman, shares his love of all things creepy and crawly. This is an interactive, walk by engagement; rather than a sit down performance.
Holiday Break Workday at Slate Run Farm. Cancelled 2020. Help with farm chores, visit the animals and warm up next to the woodstove. Farmhouse
For Families Backyard Birds at Homestead Metro Park: Cancelled 2020. Learn how to attract birds to your yard and make a bird feeder to take home. All ages. Lakeside Pavilion
Reduced admission at COSI for Family Friday Nights: Cancelled 2020. Time is running out to catch Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles™ Secrets of the Sewers. This exhibits heads back underground after January 5!
Night at the Nature Center at Battelle Darby Creek: Cancelled 2020. See what animals awaken after dark in the 53-foot living stream. All Ages Nature Center
Christmas Bird Count at Prairie Oaks. Cancelled 2020. Calling all birders of every level! Come participate in the nation’s longest-running community science bird project that fuels Audubon’s work throughout the year. All ages Park Office
Coffee, Cocoa, and Birds at Blendon Woods: Cancelled 2020. Drop by and enjoy a steaming cup while
watching birds at our viewing window. All ages Nature Center
Hoot Family Film Series at Gateway Film Center: Cancelled 2020. 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.
For Families: Backyard Birds Open House at Highbanks. Cancelled 2020. Come enjoy the birds at the Highbanks feeders and learn how to tell them apart. We might see pileated woodpeckers, blue jays, sparrows, hawks and more. Ages 6 and older Nature Center
Franklin Park Conservatory Family Fun: Cancelled 2020. Comedy Juggler, Matt Jergens. This international gold medalist juggler has been thrilling and captivating audiences with his one man variety show of juggling, stunts, acrobatics and comedy.
Franklin Park Conservatory Family Fun: Cancelled 2020. The Shazzbots! For over ten years, this three-time emmy award winning rock band has been entertaining kids and parents of all ages with their unique brand of music, adventure and fun!
Franklin Park Conservatory Family Fun: Cancelled 2020. Mr. Puppet. A professional comedian and ventriloquist, Bob Abdou performs with his puppets in this hilarious act appropriate for children and adults!
Family Fun New Year’s Eve Open House Party at Sharon Woods: Cancelled 2020. Stop by anytime to celebrate New Year withngames, activities and crafts. Ages 3-7 Spring Hollow Lodge
Noon-Lite Madness at Westerville Community Center: Cancelled 2020. Celebrate New Year’s Eve preschool style with crafts and entertainment, and a countdown at Noon to celebrate the New Year. $5 per child; registration required. Activity #408604-01
Christmas Bird Count at Glacier Ridge. Cancelled 2020. Search for birds and help collect data for the National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count. Hot drinks provided. Ages 8 and older at the Maintenance Shop
Mini-Lazer Camp at Lazer Kraze Gahanna: Cancelled 2020. Lazer Kraze Mini Camp on January 2nd! Camp activities include mega amounts of world-class laser tag, air dodgeball and trampoline fun, arcade games, pizza and pop lunch. Register in advance by Dec 26th and pay just $69 per child. Call to reserve your spot or Click here (pdf) for registration form.
Franklin Park Conservatory Family Fun: Cancelled 2020. Rockin’ Pirate Magic Show. Children’s Entertainer, Erica Carlson brings comedy, magic and her famous hedgehog “Hedgie” together in this fun for all ages performance.
$5 Thursdays at Lazer Craze: Cancelled 2020 $5 per laser tag mission and $5 for 1 hr arcade card (Columbus East) – 5524 North Hamilton Rd, Gahanna OH 614-656-8216
Franklin Park Conservatory Family Fun: Cancelled 2020. Columbus Children’s Theatre. Geared to the youngest audience members, Matt Bassett’s production Nutt and Bolt, will be sure to have you and your little ones tapping your feet and making sounds of your own in no time.
Munchkin Madness at Lazer Kraze Cancelled 2020.
Kids 12 & under play unlimited laser tag for $15 per person from 11am – 1pm. Limited to 80 players. A minimum of 3 games is guaranteed if you purchase your ticket by 11:15 and stay until 1:15. Older siblings and parents may play if they purchase a $15 ticket also with management approval and if space permits. Buying your tickets in advance is always recommended as space is limited. Please note: Players can be very competitive even at this age so keep this in mind when bringing really young players.
Free places to play: Closed or not open play for 2020
Polaris Fashion Place: The zoo themed play space is great for kids under 5 years old. There’s only one point of entry, and seating around the play area.
The Shops at Worthington Place: This play area isn’t big, but its clean and doesn’t get too busy. If you feel like splurging for lunch or dessert, hit up Pies and Pints for pizza afterwards, or just swing through Cookie Dough Creamery for a sweet treat.
The Mall at Tuttle Crossing: The kids area is on the lower level and is good for kids until 42 inches tall. There are structures for the kids to play on and seating around the enclosed area.
LEGO Store at Easton: LEGO lovers can play with a lego table set up inside the store, as well as other hands-on activities
United Art & Education in Hilliard: Play area in the front of the store
Pottery Barn Kids in Polaris: Toys for kids to play with, plus story times on Tuesday and other special events through the year.
Whole Foods Stores: Small play areas in the store cafe areas.
Barnes & Noble: Store usually have trains or blocks set out for kids, or they can look at books. Area stores all host story times and special events.
Libraries: Most local libraries have a kids area with puzzles, small toys, and other fun activities, plus story times for all ages. Activities may be limited over Christmas break at some branches, so check the schedule. The Columbus Main Library is a favorite with lots of play structures, double-sided fish tank, and more. Staff often walks around and interacts with kids. You can easily spend a couple of hours playing and exploring.
Graeters Scoops and Shoots Play Area: There’s a great play area in the Graeters on Bethel Rd. with slides and structures to climb in and around. No purchase necessary, but it’s ice cream, so just plan to get some while you’re there. Otherwise, the play area is completely free! Geared for ages 9 and under.
Columbus Museum of Art (Free on Sundays)- The Center for Creativity offers hands on imaginative and creative play in several areas for all ages. Free on Sundays, Kids under 5 are always free, and Thursdays from 5-9 pm are just $5.
Columbus Metro Parks offer programming year round, including plenty of activities over winter break. 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.
Coffee Connections in Hilliard: This coffee house has a separate space behind with more seating and a kids’ area on the second floor with comfy seating and creative play opportunities. It’s an amazing place to sit and talk to other adults while the kids play.
Westerville Community Center: Free Tree Top Playground right off of the lobby which requires no membership or admission. The structure looks best suited to 2 years and up, as it’s quite high.
Grange Audubon Center: Small indoor play room with books, bird watching, costumes, climbing structure and cave.
Vineyard Community Center in Westerville: Free indoor playground from 6 pm-8:30 pm M-F, 9 am-2 pm on Saturday. Ages 4-11. Check hours through the holidays.
The Naz Playplace in Grove City Church of the Nazarene: Indoor playground for ages 4-11, and cafe inside the church, so you can grab lunch after the kids play. See hours on the website. Story time is held on select Tuesdays. Check hours through the holidays.
McDonald’s Indoor PlayPlace: Bethel, Sawmill, Renner Rd., W. Broad, and Worthington-Galena locations have indoor PlayPlaces. You’ll spend a little on lunch or a drink, but you have to eat anyway.
Chick-fil-A Playgrounds: Located at Grove City, Sawmill, Polaris, Easton, Hilliard, and E. Broad. Stop for a meal or drinks and let the kids play.
Columbus Recreation and Parks Department’s Community Centers: December 26-January 5. All 29 community centers are hosting various programs and events during winter break. Check out the “Schools Out” calendar for the closest center near you. You’ll find open gyms, crafts, gymnastics, and more. Must purchase a $1 Columbus Parks & Rec Leisure Card, which is valid for 3 years. Most activities are free; some have a nominal charge.
Indoor Swimming in Columbus
Dublin Community Recreation Center ($3-$8 for daily admission) 5600 Post Road, Dublin. Lazy river, zero entry for area, waterslides, and more. Check link for leisure pool hours.
Worthington Community Center ($5-$8, free under 3) 345 E. Wilson Bridge Rd., Worthington, OH 43085, Ph: (614) 436-2743. Great option for little kids with zero entry, little kids slide, plus lazy river and vortex and larger slides. Check link for leisure pool hours.
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. NOTE: Leisure pool is still closed for construction. Lap pool and hot tub are open.
Columbus Aquatic Center ($1) 1160 Hunter Ave. Columbus, OH 43201 (614) 645-3129 Must also get a $1 leisure card; good for 3 years.
Dessert Date for Winter Break in Columbus
I know…the holidays are full of sweets, but the promise of a sweet excursion may be enough to make them play nice for a bit.
Ice Cream or Frozen Yogurt shops. Too many to name, but there’s probably one right around the corner from you. It’s never too cold for ice cream.
Duck Donuts – Now open in Dublin and Polaris, these donuts are a hit. You may want to aim for non-peak times and days at the Dublin locations, as long lines are reported on weekend mornings.
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
The holidays are a popular time at the movies and its nice to just sit and relax with a movie and a popcorn for a couple of hours during the busy season. Matinees are always less expensive and usually less crowded, so they are a great option for families.
Kids Crafts in Columbus
Michael’s offers Kids Club every Saturday from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. where kids can do weekly craft projects for just $2
Lakeshore Learning stores have free crafts on Saturdays from 11 am – 3 pm.
Home Depot Kids Workshops are held on various Saturdays. Check the Lowe’s or Home Depot site for dates, times, and schedule projects and help teach your kids about safety and building. On January 5, kids can make an Easel with Whiteboard.
Gateway Family Film Center hosts Hoot Family Film Series on the last Saturday of the month featuring crafts, short films, music by the Shazzbots, and more for donation of canned goods. The next Hoot is December 29.
Take a drive for these fun places outside of Columbus
Please check the links to verify holiday hours.
North Pole Express at Northwest Ohio Railroad Preservation Inc. (Findlay, Ohio – 1 hour, 45 minutes from Columbus) The North Pole Express at Northwest Ohio Railroad Preservation is a short train experience that is perfect for those short on time or for younger children who may not enjoy a longer train ride. Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from November 23 – December 30. Only $2-$3 per person.
The Works: Ohio Center for History, Art & Technology in Newark: Like a mini-COSI, there are plenty of interactive exhibits for all ages focusing on scientific, technological or artistic topics, driving simulators, invent lab to build and take apart, as well as a little kids area that features creative play with pretend produce and ice cream stands, puppet stage, science lab, firetruck, train table, and much more. There are also history and art exhibits and a few outdoor features including an Interurban Railway Car to check out. The size isn’t overwhelming and you can check everything out and play in just a couple of hours. Kids 2-16 are $6 and adults are $10; COSI members get 1/2 off with COSI card.
AHA! Children’s Museum in Lancaster: 4,000 square foot, adventure space featuring more than 30 hands-on exhibits and activities for children of all ages! $8 per person, open Mon-Sat 10 am-4 pm, and on Sunday, November through March only 12-4 pm. It’s definitely one of our favorites!
Little Buckeye Children’s Museum in Mansfield: Exhibits in the arts, sciences, transportation, and imagination play for ages 2-12. See website for hours. Admission is $8.50 for 2 and up.
SPI Sciece Play Initiative in Mount Vernon: Non-profit, local play space with a focus on science and technology, located in the Kenyon College Wright Center (400 S. Main Street, Mount Vernon, Ohio). There are tons of fun activities, including climbing structures, toddler-only area, dress up, art, science activities, interactive sandbox, and more. My kids played for hours and asked to go back soon. Open every day except Wednesday. Admission is $3; memberships (monthly and annualy) available. Free on Second Saturdays from 2:00-5:00 p.m. from December – April. Free during Main Street Mount Vernon First Fridays from May through October.
Mighty Children’s Museum in Chillicothe: Creative development exhibits and stations while allowing for self-directed learning for building creativity, divergent thinking, problem solving, and the ability to innovate. Open Wednesday – Sundays; admission is $6. Exhibits are ideal for ages 8 and under.
Tour the Butler County Donut Trail at your leisure and earn a t-shirt if you complete all of the stops