In addition to all of the holiday fun and family gatherings over Christmas break, you’ll probably encounter bored kids or will just need to get out of the house.
There are plenty of free and cheap activities for winter break in Columbus, so plan ahead to keep the kids from complaining.
This big list of play places and activities offers tons of indoor-specific activities, including play places, play areas, and active fun options like bounce houses and swimming, but I’ll mention some of these below as well.
Make sure to scroll down the list towards the bottom for ongoing winter break fun!
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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.
Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks
November 25-January 2: Discover the magic of the season as you immerse yourself in a special winter themed exhibit at the Nature Center! Open Daily 9am-6pm.
Hike any trail at your own pace on your own time during December, January, and February at select parks each month. Get your Winter Hike card stamped by a Park Ranger and to earn after 7 hikes. The December parks feature twinkling lights, so it’s a great option for evening activities.
There are lots of other family-friendly programs during winter break with Columbus Metro Parks.
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 friends, and get creative. 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 Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from Dec 21-30. For $35 kids choose two projects to work on from 1:30pm to 4:30pm. They can 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.
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!
Saturday Open Paint. It’s always Open Paint at Brush Crazy! If you come into the studio any Saturday through January.
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.
Sunday Pouring Workshop Brush Crazy is hosting a Pouring Workshop every Sunday 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.
The studio is open from Thursday through Monday from 1 pm – 8 pm (closed Tues and Weds).
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.
Other options for Winter Break
Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium: November 18 – January 2.
Butch Bando’s Holiday Fantasy of Lights: November 18 – January 1. Alum Creek light display and Santa’s House. $20-$30 per car; free cookies and cocoa at the Santa House.
Lights at the Scioto Mile: From November 23 through January 1, downtown Columbus with be lit with more than 200,000 lights for the Holiday Light Display.
Columbus Commons Holiday Lights: November 18 – January 1 from dusk to 11 pm. Check out more than 400,000 LED lights dazzle Columbus Commons park.
Nativity at Cathedral Square (formerly State Auto Christmas Corner): November 24, 2023 through early January 2024. This stunning long-standing holiday tradition has been gifted and relocated, and will be lit nightly at St. Joseph Cathedral through the season.
Christmas Corner Lighting of State Auto Christmas Display and Life-Sized Nativity: Opens on December 7 through January 3. Will be lit nightly at State Auto Downtown through the season
Conservatory Aglow at FPC: November 19 – January 8. Admission is $15 – $25. Holiday displays and activities at the Franklin Park Conservatory, including live entertainment, gingerbread contest, and family fun days.
Legendary Lights of Clifton Mill (near Yellow Springs, 40 miles SW of Columbus): November 25 – December 30 from 5 – 9 p.m. (lights turn on at 6 p.m.)
Ongoing activities for winter break in Columbus
Check links to make sure hours are the same during the holiday season. Most of these places will be closed on Christmas Day and New Years Day.
Free places to play
Libraries: Most local libraries have a kids area with puzzles, small toys, and other fun activities. Activities may be limited over Christmas break at some branches, so check the schedule.
The Columbus Metropolitan 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.
They also have the Huntington Holiday Train on display from November 22 through January 8, 2023 during regular library hours. It’s so worth a visit!
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.
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 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.
Grange Audubon Center: Small indoor play room with books, bird watching, costumes, climbing structure and cave.
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. Little kids skate is on Saturday mornings.
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.
Johnstown Skate N Swim, 103 Recreational Dr. Johnstown. Typically open Friday-Sunday, but may have holiday hours through winter break.
Special Outdoor Skating Rinks offer synthetic ice, so you can skate no matter the weather. Skate rental may be required at some; check links for details, hours and more.
These ice rinks can be used in slightly warmer temperatures, but may have to close during rain or other adverse conditions, so always check social media or the links provided for the organization to verify if they are open.
Dublin Ice Rink at Riverside Crossing: Open through March. $12 includes ice skates.
Mighty Children’s Museum Ice Skating at The Pump House Center of the Arts in Chillicothe. Open through December (closed Dec 24-26). Admission $5.
Merry on Main Iceless Ice Skating in Marysville: Open through January 2. FREE, skates provided.
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
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.
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 coupons on the website!
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, 215 W. Johnstown, Gahanna
Ten Pin Alley, 5499 Ten Pin Alley, Hilliard (Closed on Christmas Day)
Indoor Swimming in Columbus
Dublin Community Recreation Center ($6-$15 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 ($5-$12) Westerville Community Center also has a climbing wall (fees required). 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-$5) 1160 Hunter Ave. Columbus, OH 43201 (614) 645-3129 Must also get a $1 leisure card; good for 3 years.
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.
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 25 – January 1. Only $3-$4 per person.
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 $8 and adults are $12; 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 $14 for 2 and up.
SPI Science 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 Thursday-Saturday. Admission is $4; memberships (monthly and annually) available.
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. Exhibits are ideal for ages 8 and under. Open Wednesday – Sundays; admission is $6.
Tour the Butler County Donut Trail at your leisure and earn a t-shirt if you complete all of the stops
Day by Day Winter Break Fun
(scroll down for other ideas for fun during winter break)
Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Thursday, December 7, 2023
Friday, December 8, 2023
Saturday, December 9, 2023
Sunday, December 10, 2023
Monday, December 11, 2023
Tuesday, December 12, 2023
Wednesday, December 13, 2023
Thursday, December 14, 2023
Friday, December 15, 2023