Even in the winter months, there is no shortage of memories to make or experiences to be had in Columbus, Ohio. Leading up to the holiday season, the city is literally aglow with thousands of lights, and the local family-friendly attractions eagerly participate in adding to the joy of the season.
Covid guidelines are in place wherever you venture and most places have gone above and beyond to ensure everyone’s safety. Things may look a little different than they have in the past, but we were still able to find plenty of adventure despite the new socially distanced, masked up atmosphere.
If you’re looking for a weekend getaway that’s not too far away, or even just a day trip to create new family traditions, Columbus is the perfect place to go! Check out some of our kid and parent approved suggestions for making your trip to Columbus well worth the drive.
We spent the majority of a day exploring the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. There was so much to see and do! Even though some of the rides and exhibits close during the winter months, we stayed busy visiting all the attractions and animals that were out to enjoy. We were able to see so many of our favorites–zebras, gorillas, elephants, turtles and even reindeer. We rode on camels, fed and pet the stingrays, and “played around” with the seals and sea lions.
The train ride is open, and gave us an up close and personal look at animals like the giant moose, as well as some of the ‘Zoo Wildlights’ displays. Speaking of Wildlights, you won’t want to miss this amazing holiday experience in the evenings. Bundle up, grab a cup of hot cocoa and take in all the incredible lights while visiting with the animals.
We dedicated one of our evenings to ‘Conservatory Aglow’ at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, and it did not disappoint! Thousands of lights are on display throughout the gardens, creating a stunning, interactive adventure. New this year, guests are also able to experience a Candy-land scene with life-sized gingerbread house, as well as a magical Garden Railway display. Kids young and old will enjoy every part of this family-friendly event. Holiday Blooms, which boasts a 10-foot tall poinsettia tree, is also a favorite exhibit, and there are so many gorgeous photo ops throughout the Conservatory!
Although you are never very far from a delicious pub, bistro or cafe in Columbus, German Village was our favorite place to stop and eat this weekend. Schmidt’s provided our whole crew with amazing food and equally amazing service. There was a full kids menu with options for even the pickiest eater, and irresistible authentic German cuisine for the more adventurous. But really, who could turn down their famous cream puffs??
If you’re still looking to satisfy a sweet tooth, or are shopping for unique gifts, be sure to visit Schmidt’s Fudge Haus just down the road. They have several mouth-watering varieties of handmade fudge as well as so many other treats to choose from. Paula Deen herself has even stated they have some of the best fudge she’s ever tasted!
Walk or drive along the 19th century brick streets, and you’ll find unique shops and historic houses lit up and glowing for the holidays.
Other notable (and free) holiday experiences:
The Columbus Commons holiday lights are beautiful and kids will enjoy roaming (or running) along all the pathways and open spaces.
Walk through a historic life-sized Nativity scene!
Stroll along the river for even more stunning outdoor light displays.
As always, make sure to check event websites or call before you visit. Some attractions are limiting guests, or require reservations due to new Covid guidelines. But no matter where you go, stay or eat while you’re there, enjoy your Columbus experience!