Columbus

Ultimate Holiday Events & Christmas Guide to Columbus - 2018

November 20, 2018

By

Lani Redinger

on

Oct 16, 2018

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It’s beginning to look a lot like the most wonderful time of year in Columbus, Ohio. As the days grow colder and the year comes to an end, regardless of the holidays you celebrate there’s plenty of merry celebration to be had in Columbus. In fact, there is so much to do, it may be hard to decide, especially while trying to prepare for holiday guests, shopping, and decorating.  That’s why we’ve curated a list of holiday events and activities for you!

Beautiful Outdoor Holiday Lights

No matter what part of Columbus you reside in there’s plenty to do, and if you’re looking for a new home to bring in the new year, check out homes available in Columbus now.

Christmas lights are a hallmark of the season, and the perfect activity to get you feeling festive. From season kick-off Lighting Ceremonies, to ongoing display, here’s our picks for an illuminated holiday.

Light Up Events

lights on large christmas tree for light up night

Lighting Ceremonies are a magical tradition to share with your family, marking the beginning of the holiday season. Fortunately there are plenty of “Light Up” celebrations in and around Columbus!

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Cabela’s Tree Lighting and Arrival of Santa

Sat, Nov 10, 5pm

1650 Gemini Pl, Columbus, OH 43240

Magical tree lighting, Unveiling of Santa’s Wonderland, with FREE cookies and hot chocolate, and stocking decorating.

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Light up Easton

Fri, Nov 16, 2018 6:30pm

160 Easton Town Center, Columbus, OH 43219

Enjoy the beautiful majestic tree, carriage rides, live music performances and the lighting ceremony includes a parade, a fireworks show, a visit from Santa and more!

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Sparkle Night at The Shops at Worthington Place

Sat, Nov 17, 2018, 6-8pm

7227 North High St. Worthington, OH 43085

Fun, music, and celebration with the Tree Lighting at 6:30pm.  Kids can visit and have photos taken with Santa, and there will be face painting, a balloon artist, and music.

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Gahanna Holiday Lights Celebration

Sun, Nov 18, 2018, 3-6:30pm

117 Mill St. Gahanna, OH 43230

This magical holiday celebration features family friendly activities and hours of fun wrapped up in one UNFORGETTABLE holiday event. From carollers to camel rides and a visit from Santa, it’s everything you need to kick off the holiday season!

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Worthington Holiday Open House and Tree Lighting

Sun, Nov 25, 2018, 12-5pm

High St, Worthington, OH 43085

Enjoy carriage rides, iceless ice rink, live music, and Santa in Downtown Worthington. Head to the Village Green for carolers and the annual tree lighting at dusk.

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Marysville Uptown Christmas Walk

Mon, Nov 26, 2018, 5-8pm

125 East Sixth St, Marysville, OH 43040

Free, family-friendly festival featuring Santa, carriage rides, live nativity, holiday dancers, and the Christmas Tree Lighting in Partners Park at 6 pm.  Shops will be open and many will be offering refreshment and discounts.

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Reynoldsburg Tree Lighting Ceremony

Mon, Nov 26, 2018, 7pm

7232 East Main St, Reynoldsburg, OH 43068

Sing carols, drink hot chocolate and watch the tree lighting ceremony at the Reynoldsburg City Hall.

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City of Dublin Annual Christmas Tree Lighting

Thu, Nov 29, 2018, 5-7 pm

5600 Emerald Parkway, Dublin, OH 43016

Santa, music and more.

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Christmas at the Coffman Homestead

Thu, Nov 29, 2018, 5-7pm

9 South High Street, Dublin, OH 43017

Come see the historic Coffman House and homestead, and enjoy the Tree Lighting ceremony. You can return Sunday December 2nd and 9th in conjunction with Holly Days. The Coffman House will be decorated with a Victorian Christmas theme by the Muirfield Village Garden Club. On both days, the barn will be open with a gaily-decorated sleigh offering a perfect spot for a photo.

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Upper Arlington Winter Festival and Tree Lighting

Fri, Nov 30, 2018, 6-8:30pm

2096 Upper Arlington Ave, Upper Arlington, OH 43221

Caroling, carriage rides, bonfire with s’mores, visits with Santa and the tree lighting ceremony.

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First Friday and Holiday Tree Lighting in Delaware

Fri, Nov 30, 2018, 6-9pm

20 E. Winter St, Delaware, OH 43015

Featuring caroling, carriage rides, the Tree Lighting and more. Holiday Open House, Santa House, and the parade will be happening during the weekend too!

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Christmas on the Towne in Reynoldsburg

Sat, Dec 1, 2018, 10-3pm

Lancaster Ave, Reynoldsburg, OH 43068

Kick off the holiday season in Olde Towne Reynoldsburg. Local merchants open their shops with specials and giveaways for adults and kids alike. Visit with Santa Claus, stop by the Secret Santa Shop, enjoy a carriage ride through Olde Reynoldsburg, and sample many of the seasonal goodies that are offered throughout the day.

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Pataskala Main Street Christmas Cookie Walk & Lighted Parade

Sat, Dec 1, 2018, 3-8pm

Main St, Pataskala, OH 43062

Make a donation to receive a bag with which you can walk between shops collecting your goodies.  Open to the first 400 families. Donations will be given to local food pantries.  Food truck and/or vendors will be open for dinner.  Free activities include kids crafts, letters to Santa, hot chocolate, face painting, train display, light refreshments, character experiences, caroling, music, Mead Needham Museum tour, selfie station, and Lighted Christmas Parade at 6:00 pm.

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Grove City Christmas Celebration and Mistletoe Market

Sat, Dec 1, 2018, 10–8pm

Broadway, Route 62, Grove City, OH 43123

This family-friendly festival features photos with Santa, live reindeer, Mistletoe Market and Secret Santa shop, carols, a parade, Grove City tree lighting and more.

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Downtown Lancaster Winter Fest

Sat, Dec 1, 2018, 12-5pm

109 N. Broad St, Lancaster, OH 43130

Free carriage rides, photos with Santa at the Santa House, kids crafts in the businesses, elf scavenger hunt, holiday music, and much more!  The downtown tree lighting is at 5 pm.

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Christmas in Zoar

Sat Dec 1, 10am, Sun Dec 2, 5pm

198 Main St

Zoar, Ohio 44697

Experience all the joy and cheer of the season during Christmas in Zoar. enjoy musical entertainment, a juried craft show, tour the village, and more. While in Zoar, makes sure to visit Belsnickel, Santa, and Kristkind, and take a horse-drawn wagon ride around the village. On Saturday evening, attend a candlelight church service at the Historic Zoar Meeting House (Zoar United Church of Christ), followed by a tree lighting ceremony in the Historic Zoar Garden.

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Ohio Statehouse Tree Lighting and Holiday Festival

Thurs, Dec 6, 2018, 5:30 – 7:30pm  

1 Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 43215

Free, family-friendly holiday festival including Santa and Mrs. Claus, the lighting of the Statehouse and trees, and more!

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Old Pickerington Village Holiday

Fri, Dec 7, 2018, 5-8 pm

15 E. Columbus St, Pickerington, OH 43147

Strolling carolers, cookie decorating, storytelling, crafts, horse-drawn carriage rides, indoor Holiday gift market, hop on/off trolley, Gingerbread House contest, visit with Santa, lighting of the pantry lights at 6:00 pm and lighting of Pickerington’s Christmas Tree at 7:00 pm.

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Lighting the Serpent

Fri, Dec 21, 4-5:30pm

3850 OH-73, Peebles, OH 45660

Celebrate the Winter Solstice at Serpent Mound. You can help the Friends of Serpent Mound light over 1000 candles around the perimeter of the mound and enjoy festive drinks and seasonal goodies.

Ongoing Light Displays

Stunning Holiday Lights on Trees

Beyond official lighting ceremonies, there are plenty of lights aglow around Columbus to get you in the holiday spirit and inspire wonder in folks young and old:

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Dragon Lights Columbus

November 23 – January 6, 5:30-10 pm

717 East 17th St, Columbus, OH 43211

Everyday including holidays, at the Ohio Expo Center. Celebration of Chinese culture with exquisite 39 larger-than-life illuminated displays crafted by Chinese artisans, traditional performances, and amazing food!  

Tickets are $12-$17.

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Wildlights at the Zoo

November 16 , 2018 – January 6, 2019, 5pm

4850 Powell Rd, Powell, OH 43065

It its 25th year Wildlight decks the zoo with millions of LED lights. The 8 minute light show new songs and elements and 25 animated trees. The shows begin nightly at 5:30 pm and runs every 30 minutes. Guests can also visit Santa and Mrs. Clas getting photos and decorating cookies in the Holiday Village.

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Conservatory Aglow

Nov 17, 2018 – Jan 2, 2019- 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM; Dec Hours- 10:00 AM – 9:00 PM

1777 E. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43203

Conservatory Aglow returns for the biggest and brightest holiday show in the history of the Conservatory. Artfully placed light installations highlight the lush horticulture displays within the interior biomes and courtyards, while the classic poinsettia plant floods the Dorothy M. Davis Showhouse with rich holiday colors. The Paul Busse model railway, hand-blown glass ornament trees, and family-favorite poinsettia trees provide the perfect backdrop for photo opportunities.

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Downtown Holiday Lights and Events

Nov 21 - Jan 2, 2018, Dusk - 11pm

Special Events: Sat,  Dec 1

Downtown Columbus exudes holiday magic with several holiday displays throughout the season.

Columbus Commons display begins Nov 21 and features 320,000 dazzling lights in the park. Fridays will be extra festive with free hot chocolate, carousel rides, and roaming carolers. Plus on Dec 1 from 11-5 there will be additional kids activities and classic holiday movies playing on screens throughout the park.

The Lazurus Building will feature charming holiday window displays along Town and High Streets, and a Santa’s Workshop event Sat, Dec 1 from 11am-5pm. Grab your own cell phone photos decorate crafts as well.  

The Scioto Mile, from Bicentennial Park to Broad Street, the riverfront will be decked out in 250,000 sparkling lights. On Dec 1, enjoy Winter Fest at Bicentennial Park featuring live music, seasonal brews and food truck fare.

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Butch Bandos Fantasy of Lights

Nov 16 - Jan 2, 2018

Sun-Thu 5:30-930 pm; Fri - Sat 5:30-10:30 pm

331 South Old State Road

Delaware, OH 43051

Enjoy a 3 mile drive thru light display featuring 145 + scenes, you can feel festive in the cozy warmth of your vehicle. They’re open every day, even holidays, no matter the weather. Rates ar $20 for cars on weekdays, $30 on weekends.

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Winterfest at Kings Island

Select Nights: Nov 23- Dec 31, 2018

6300 Kings Island Drive

Mason, OH 45040

With something for everyone, you can enjoy ice skating in the Royal Fountain, marvel at the Eiffel Tower transformed into a 314 foot Christmas tree, take in live shows, rides, holiday treats and million of lights alongside holiday characters like Jack Frost and the Sugar Plum fairy.

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Christmas Corner Lighting of State Auto Christmas Display and Life-Sized Nativity

Dec 5 - Jan 2, 2018

Daily from 6 – 8 am; 5 – 11:30 pm; until 12:30 a.m. on Fri and Sat

518 E. Broad Street

Columbus, Ohio 43215

The beloved central Ohio tradition, will be lit nightly at State Auto Downtown through the season, with choir performances on Fridays and Saturdays. This life-sized Nativity is a family favorite!

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The Legendary Lights of Historic Clifton Hills

Nov 23- Dec 31, 2018, 5-9pm; Closes at 8pm on holidays

75 Water St.

Clifton, OH 45316

One of the country’s finest light displays, take in over 3.5 million lights illuminating the mill, gorge, riverbanks, bridges and trees, with a 100 foot “waterfall” of twinkling lights. With indoor and outdoor displays, this winter wonderland features a miniature village, Santa Claus Museum, toy collection, and synchronized light and music show. Admission is $10.

Holiday Activities

woman riding holiday carriage in the snow

There are plenty of holiday happenings and activities beyond the traditional light displays to enjoy this season. Here’s our picks for unique holiday events and activities to try around Columbus:

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Easton Holiday Carriage Rides

Nov 16 - Dec 23, Fri & Sat 6-10pm, Sun 3-7pm

160 Easton Town Center

Columbus, OH 43219

Travel back in time on with an old fashioned horse and carriage ride, and rest assured the horse knows the way!

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Segway Holiday Lights Tour

Nov 29-Dec 23, 6pm & 8:15pm

400 North High Street

Columbus, OH 43215

Enjoy the beautiful sights and sounds of festive downtown Columbus while you cruise along on a Segway. Appreciate classic holiday tunes through wireless headphones as you take in the light displays along Scioto Greenway.

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The Christmas Ranch

Nov 16- Dec 23, 5-9pm, Fri & Sat 5-10pm

3205 S. Waynesville Road

Morrow, OH 45152

If you’re looking for a truly old fashioned holiday family experience, head to the Christmas Ranch to enjoy over 1 millions lights synchronized to Christmas music. Admission is $20/ car.

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Christmas at Lynd Fruit Farm

Nov 24 & 25, 10am – 5pm

9399 Marse Rd SW

Pataskala, OH 43062

The Christmas Shoppe will be open and they will be selling Christmas trees. Step inside the giant Giant Snow Globe for an awesome picture. NOTE: There will be an additional 2 weekends of activities, TBA

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Christmas at Kingwood Center

Nov 24 - Dec 30, Thu - Sun, 3-9pm

50 N. Trimble Rd.

Mansfield, Ohio 44906

Kingwood Center in Mansfield offers a variety of activities such as live music, dozens of uniquely trimmed themed Christmas trees in rooms throughout the hall, a beautifully decorated Greenhouse, and outdoor light displays.  Admission is $5, ages 6 and under free.

Holiday Performances

holiday soldiers dance in front of christmas tree for holiday performance
Image courtesy of Larry Lamsa

Taking in a holiday performance is a fun family tradition, and Columbus has classic favorites and fun new options to enjoy throughout the season!

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Nutcracker

Dec 7-23, 2018, Wed - Sun

Ohio Theatre

39 E. State St.

Columbus, Oh 43215

Experience the magic of a beloved holiday tradition. Follow Clara and her Nutcracker Prince to find the Sugar Plum Fairy set to Tchaikovsky’s extraordinary arrangement.

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Ohio Statehouse Holiday Choir Performances

Mon-Fri Dec 11-21, 12pm

1 Capitol Square

Columbus, OH 43215

Take in free lunchtime holiday choir performances from local choirs in the Museum Room.

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Shadowbox Live: Holiday Hoopla

Nov 15- Dec 29,

Select Tue- Thu, 7:30pm

Select Fri & Sat 7:30 & 10:30pm

503 S. Front St.

Columbus, OH 43215

Featuring a mash up of sketch comedy and seasonal music, it’s slightly raunchy Christmas Fun and Rock and Roll. Tickets are $25 and up.

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Holiday Lunchbox

Dec 4 – 21, 1 p.m. Select Weekdays

503 S. Front St.

Columbus, OH 43215

A 45 minute holiday show featuring music and sketch comedy from the Shadowbox holiday archives featuring holiday fun and antics with The Snow Bunnies! Tickets start at $5.

Movies

movie theater playing holiday classics, it's a wonderful life

Grab some popcorn! If you’d like to get your holiday happenings inside where it’s cozy and warm, you can enjoy one of the holiday movies series happening around town. Holiday classics new and old, kids tales and action packed adventures will surely get you in the spirit.

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Gateway Film Center’s Holiday Film Series

Through Dec 31, 2018, Various Times

1550 North High Street

Columbus, Ohio 43201

Enjoy holiday films that define the season  Retro thrills versus the iconic classics, and add a dash of chills with Holiday Nightmares. Pick your list, or check it twice and watch them all!

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Holiday Classic FIlm Series at Marcus Theaters

Nov 30- Dec 13, Various Times

Nov 30-Dec 6 Movies: Elf, Home Alone, It’s a Wonderful Life

Dec 7-13 Movies: Christmas Vacation, Polar Bear Express, Miracle on 34th Street

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Crosswoods Cinema

200 Hutchinson Ave.

Columbus, OH 43235, and

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Pickerington Cinema

1776 Hill Road North

Pickerington, OH 43147

Bring the whole family to the theater for classic holiday films on the big screen for only $5!

Trains

Cuyahoga Falls train
Image courtesy of Kevin Vance

Whether you prefer exploring the intricate worlds of miniature train displays, or boarding a nostalgic train ride, little ones and the young at heart can make magical memories this holiday season, at the many train adventures around Columbus.

Model Trains

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Huntington Holiday Train

Nov 18-Jan 2 (Closed holidays)

96 S. Grant Ave. Columbus, OH 43215

Transport to a miniature historic German village, castles and all, in this delightful model train exhibit at the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

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Holiday Train at Ohio History Center

Nov 23- Jan 6, 9am-5pm

800 E. 17th. Ave., Columbus OH 43211

This operating model train display runs through a Victorian holiday scene. Interactive buttons allow you to control aspects of the trains’ movements along the winding, multi-tiered, 12x24-foot layout.

Train rides

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Hocking Valley Santa Train

Nov 24- Dec 16, 2018, Sat & Sun 11am & 2pm

Fri Dec 7 & 14th, 6pm

33 West Canal Street

Nelsonville, Ohio 45764

This holiday tradition continues, with a roundtrip from Nelsonville depot to Easton. Santa gets on board the train and visits with each child as the train traverses the historic (and with any luck, snow-covered) Hocking River Valley. Each coach is decorated, heated, Christmas music plays throughout the train over the audio system, and after Santa’s visit, each child receives a special candy cane treat!

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LM&M Railroad North Pole Express

Nov 16- Dec 29, 2018, Various Times

16 E South St, Lebanon, OH 45036

During the hour long journey Santa and his elves will make their way through the train to visit with each family. Every child will receive a bell from Santa’s sleigh, hot chocolate mug and souvenir North Pole Express ticket. Prices begin at $18 for children 2-16 to $22 for adults +$11 for deluxe seats.

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Northwest Ohio Railroad North Pole Express

Nov 23- Dec 30, 2018, Fri-Sun 5:30-8:30pm

2505 County Road 99 Findlay, OH  458400-60

All aboard this quarter scale locomotive! Tickets for the holiday wonderland are only $3 for adults and $2 for children.

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Cuyahoga Valley Polar Bear Express

Unfortunately, Cuyahoga Valley Polar Bear Express Tickets are sold out for 2018- be sure to shop early for 2019!

Santa

santa's arm holding cookies & hot chocolate

The man, the mystery, the legend, Santa Claus is the most magical of holiday traditions. There are so many ways to meet Santa and his helpers around Columbus this year!

Breakfasts & Cookies with Santa

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KidX Club Cookies with Santa at Polaris Fashion Place

Sun, Nov 18, 2018 10:30 -11:30 am

1500 Polaris Parkway , Columbus, OH 43240

Enjoy cookies with Santa Claus at KidX Club! Decorate your own Cheryl’s cookie, write letters to Santa and enjoy storytime with the Sugar Plum Fairy. Aquatot’s Swim School, face painters and Matt the Balloon Guy will be there too!

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Grove City Girls’ Club Annual Breakfast with Santa

Sat, Dec 1, 2018 at 8 am or 10:30 am

2140 Sonora Drive Grove City, OH 43123

Secret Santa shop will be open for your little ones to shop, Face Painting, Live DJ, Free Digital Pictures with Santa and Cookie Decorating! Enjoy homemade pancakes, bacon, sausage and of course Santa. Tickets are $5 per person.

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Franklin Park Conservatory Breakfast with Santa

The Conservatory Breakfast with Santa is sold out for 2018 but be sure to shop early for 2019!

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Breakfast with Santa at Texas de Brazil

Sat, Dec 1, 2018, 9-11 am

4040 Easton Station, Suite E 105

Columbus, OH 43219

Join Ronald McDonald House Charity for a special Texas de Brazil breakfast menu, entertainment, gifts, and a visit with Santa. Raffle tickets will also be available! Proceeds from this event will benefit RMHC of Central Ohio.Tickets are $40 for adults, $23 for children 12 and under, and $3 for children under 2.

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Celtic Christmas and Breakfast and Cookies with Santa at Dublin Community Church

Sat, Dec 8, 2018, 9am – 3pm  

81 W Bridge St, Dublin, Ohio 43017

Breakfast with Santa seatings at 9:30am, 10:30am or 11:30am for, $5 per person, or 1pm or 2pm for Cookies with Santa, $3 per person.   After breakfast, take your kids to the Secret Santa Shop where they can buy a gift for mom or dad all on their own. There will also be shopping available with small businesses through the day.

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Holiday Character Breakfast

Sat, Dec 8, 2018 from 8am-12pm

New Life Church

3690 N. Stygler Rd

Gahanna, Ohio

Attendees can enjoy the catch-a-flying-pancake breakfast with Holiday Characters, a performance by Columbus Children’s Theatre, face painting, hands-on crafts, storytime. Advance-purchase tickets are $5 for under 4, $10/child (ages 4 and up) and $12 for adults.

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Breakfast with Santa at Rusty Bucket

Sat, Dec 8, 2018, 8:30-10 am  

Select area locations  

Celebrate a special holiday breakfast where Santa walks around and sits at tables for a bit if the kids were receptive, and will take pictures by the fireplace with kids. $5 per person.

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Evening at the North Pole Westerville Community Center

Thur, Dec 13 & Fri, Dec 14 from 6-7:30 pm

350 N Cleveland Ave.

Westerville, Ohio 43082

Santa’s elves will serve a light meal with a special dessert and beverages. Santa will share great stories from the North Pole! Christmas crafts and a sing-a-long will get everyone in the holiday spirit! Ages 8 and under with parent, $15 per child; $10 per adult, free for under 1. Pre-registration required

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Breakfast with Santa Flapjack Fundraiser

Sat, Dec 15, 8-10 am

Applebee’s Grill & Bar

3894 Morse Rd.

Columbus, OH 43219

You can’t go wrong with a delicious holiday breakfast of pancakes and bacon with Santa. There will be delicious treats for sale and door prize giveaways every 30 minutes!  Tickets are $8.

Photos with Santa

There’s no greater Christmas tradition to chronicle your little one’s childhood, than visiting Santa to share their wish list and get a photo. There are so many great places around Columbus to snap your shot, here’s a list of our favorites:

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Santa Photos at Easton

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Santa at Oakland Nursery

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Polaris Mall (For your fur babies there’s Paw and Claus and Sensitive Santa for children w ASD)

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Tuttle Mall ( Also with Fur Baby and Caring Santa options)

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Worthington Place

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Cabela’s

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Darryl Walter’s Magical Santa Experience

Holiday Shopping

Holiday Presents in gift bags

The holidays are certainly about more than just presents, but finding the perfect something for your friends and family is certainly fulfilling! Here’s our picks for the best place to find great gifts and enjoy the Christmas spirit while you’re at it:

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German Village

The German Village in Columbus maintains an authentic 1800s German style and is home to dozens of unique shops, stores, and art galleries that are perfect for a holiday shopping trip. Afterward, you can stop at one of the many pubs, restaurants, or bakeries to grab a bite to eat!

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Easton Town Center

The Easton Town Center takes pride in being the most upscale, aspirational shopping destination in Columbus. Over the holidays, take a trip around the center in one of their horse-drawn carriages.

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The Shops on Lane Avenue - Upper Arlington, OH

Lane Avenue is an outdoor lifestyle center that showcases a unique mix of over 30 national and local retailers. Pick up some festive winter décor from one of their many Mom and Pop antique shops or pick up gifts for the techies, fashionistas, traditionalists, and everything in between in your family!

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The Short North

The Short North Arts District in Columbus features art, food, drinks, spas, live music, festivals, and shops of course! Whether your friends and families are on the cutting edge of the latest trends and styles, or they have an eye for traditional vintage treasures, you're sure to find something to put a smile on the face of anyone you know with the gifts you'll find at the Short North.

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Holiday Shopping Bazaar

Sat, Dec 8, 2018 3-7pm

2330 Stelzer Road

Columbus, OH 43219

Check off everyone from your list with treats from over 15 local vendors + a toy drive to give back.

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If handmade goods are what you’re looking for, check out one of the 40+ Arts and Crafts Festivals happening around Columbus this year!

Holiday Crafts and decor

There’s so much to do this holiday season in Columbus, it will be hard to pick your favorite events, lights, and shopping trips! There’s no better place to be this time of year than Columbus, Ohio.

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