Whether you're looking for lights, arts or Santa, there's something for every taste and budget.

There’s a wintery chill in the air these days, a sure sign that the holiday season is in full swing in Central Ohio.

It’s one of the most wonderful times of the year in Columbus, which offers abundant opportunities to see holiday lights, seasonal shows and arts events. We’ve compiled some of the most notable and recurring traditions as well as new offerings, most of which also appear in our December print edition. All are family-friendly, and some are even free.

You’ll find more holiday events, including numerous park programs and chances to visit with Santa Claus, in the print calendar and online at ColumbusParent.com.

Happy Holidays!


Nov. 28

FREE! Holiday Open House, Columbus Metropolitan Library will host a free Holiday Open House for families. The event features the debut of the 27th installment of the Huntington Holiday Train as well as activities, music, reindeer and refreshments. It coincides with Light the Park, the tree-lighting in the adjacent Topiary Park. 6-8 p.m. Main Library, 96 S. Grant Ave. (Downtown), Columbus. The train will be on display during library hours through Jan. 2. columbuslibrary.org

Nov. 28

FREE! Light the Park, Topiary Park, the city of Columbus venue best known for its botanical interpretation of Georges Seurat’s painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grand Jatte,” will turn on the holiday lights in conjunction with Main Library’s Holiday Open House (see listing above). The park will remain illuminated through early January. Topiary Park, 480 E. Town St. (Downtown), Columbus. topiarypark.org

Dec. 1

FREE! Lazarus Santa’s Workshop, Central Ohio natives still talk wistfully about visiting Santa Claus at the bygone Downtown department store. Now, parents can relive those memories with their own children. The Columbus Downtown Development Corp. will hold Lazarus Santa’s Workshop from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Children can meet Santa in the original Lazarus sleigh, decorate crafts and catch the Orange Line Holiday Train exhibit. Lazarus Building, 50 W. Town St. (Downtown), Columbus. Free carousel rides, face painting and hot chocolate will be offered at the adjacent John F. Wolfe Columbus Commons from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Dec. 1-21

FREE! Santa House at the Strand Theatre, Bring the family to meet Santa Claus at the historic Strand Theatre in downtown Delaware. 6-8 p.m. Fridays and 1-3 p.m. Saturdays. The Strand Theatre, 28 E. Winter St., Delaware. thestrandtheatre.net

Dec. 1

FREE! WinterFest, This is the second year for this Columbus Recreation and Parks Department event, which features national and local musicians, food trucks and beer from local breweries. A portion of food and beverage sales and the on-site Empty Bowls initiative benefit Mid-Ohio Foodbank.

Dec. 4 to Jan. 2

FREE! State Auto’s Christmas Corner, The Columbus-based insurance company has long featured a life-size nativity at its headquarters. A lighting ceremony will take place at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 4 with a Columbus Children’s Choir performance. Choirs will perform Friday and Saturday evenings until Christmas. 6-8 a.m. and 5-11:30 p.m. daily (until 12:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays), and 3 p.m. Dec. 24 to 8 a.m. Dec. 25. State Auto Insurance Companies, 518 E. Broad St. (Downtown), Columbus. stateauto.com/christmas

Dec. 8

FREE! Discovery District Holiday Trolley Hop, The Discovery District will make 10 stops at local businesses and attractions during this family-friendly event. Noon to 4 p.m. Trolleys load at the Topiary Park gatehouse, 480 E. Town St. (Downtown), Columbus. discoverydistrictcolumbus.org

Dec. 8-9, 15-16

Dickens of a Christmas, The Ohio History Connection transports visitors back to the time of Charles Dickens with music, holiday decorations, crafting and cooking demonstrations. $14 adults, $11 children ages 4-12, free for ages 3 and younger. Ohio Village, 800 E. 17th Ave., Columbus. ohiohistory.org

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Through Dec. 23

Gifts of the Craftsmen, The Ohio Craft Museum’s annual holiday sale features more than 100 artists from across the country. Items include jewelry, pottery, wood cutting boards, puppets and animals, ornaments, handmade greeting cards and more. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. Ohio Craft Museum, 1665 W. Fifth Ave., Columbus. 614-486-4402. ohiocraft.org

Through Jan. 1

Fantasy of Lights, Butch Bando’s Fantasy of Lights, formerly the Alum Creek Fantasy of Lights, has been operating since 1999. The drive-through display offers numerous holiday scenes as well as a nearby Santa House with free hot chocolate and cookies. $20-$30 per car for standard passenger vehicles. 5:30-9:30 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 5:30-10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Alum Creek State Park Campgrounds, 3311 S. Old State Road, Delaware. 614-368-9961. butchbandosfantasyoflights.com

Through Jan. 2

Conservatory Aglow, Highlights of this annual holiday event include a 15-foot poinsettia tree, Paul Busse model train, trees of glass-blown ornaments and the 12th annual Gingerbread Competition. Numerous daytime and evening performances are scheduled in addition to children’s activities. This year’s show extends outdoors into the new Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden. Included with admission; some craft projects have fees. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, extending until 9 p.m. Dec. 1 through Jan. 2 (except Dec. 24). Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas. Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, 1777 E. Broad St., Columbus. 614-715-8000. fpconservatory.org

Through Jan. 2

FREE! Holiday Lights, John F. Wolfe Columbus Commons will be illuminated with more than 320,000 lights. Free hot chocolate and carousel rides, plus strolling carolers, will be featured on Fridays in December. Dusk to 11 p.m. daily. John F. Wolfe Columbus Commons, 160 S. High St. (Downtown), Columbus. columbuscommons.org. While you’re in the neighborhood, check out the decorated window displays in the Lazarus Building at High and Town streets.

Through Jan. 2

FREE! Huntington Holiday Train, Columbus Metropolitan Library hosts the 27th installment of the Huntington Holiday Train. Main Library, 96 S. Grant Ave. (Downtown), Columbus. The train is on display during library hours. columbuslibrary.org

Through Jan. 2

“The Museum in Holiday Splendor,” The Kelton House Museum & Garden features 19th century Christmas decorations. Visitors also will learn how Santa Claus has changed through the years as they tour the home. Tickets are $3 to $6. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 1-4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Closed Dec. 25 and Jan. 1. The house also will be open from noon to 4 p.m. Dec. 8 for the Discovery District Holiday Trolley Hop. Kelton House Museum & Garden, 586 E. Town St. (Downtown), Columbus. keltonhouse.com

Through Jan. 6

Dragon Lights, Formerly known as the Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival, this unique event from Tianyu Arts and Culture returns to Columbus for a third year. Visitors can see all-new LED lantern installations and live performances and explore Chinese culture and food. 5:30-10 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. $12-$17. Parking is $6. Ohio Expo Center, Natural Resources Park, 717 E. 17th Ave., Columbus. dragonlightscolumbus.com

Through Jan. 6

FREE! Holiday Lights on the Scioto Mile, Thousands of lights will illuminate the Scioto Mile from Bicentennial Park to Broad Street. The display is presented by the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department. Dusk to dawn nightly. Bicentennial Park, 233 Civic Center Drive (Downtown), Columbus. sciotomile.com

Through Jan. 6

Wildlights, This 30th annual holiday event includes millions of LED lights; visits with Santa Claus, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the Bumble and Hermey; animated light shows; and more. 5-9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 5-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Display and some activities are included with admission. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, 4850 Powell Road, Powell. columbuszoo.org

Through Early January

FREE! Easton Holiday Lights, Easton held its 20th annual holiday lighting ceremony in mid-November, but shoppers and Town Square passersby can view the 50-foot holiday tree’s light show every 15 minutes into the new year. More than 28,000 LEDs are synced to a soundtrack. Easton, 160 Easton Town Center, Columbus. eastontowncenter.com

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Nov. 24 to Dec. 16

“Uptown Scrooge,” For the third year, Good Medicine Productions offers this guided journey through Uptown Westerville in the vein of “A Christmas Carol.” Participants will hear the story of Scrooge through the ghosts, augmented by audience interaction, improvisation and music. Several performances are scheduled each Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Tickets are $10 to $22. Tour check-in is at 30 E. College Ave., Westerville. goodmedicineproductions.org

Nov. 28 to Dec. 9

“Snow Day,” When a blanket of snow covers the neighborhood, a young girl named Skip is overcome with curiosity. An elf demonstrates the magical quality of snow on Skip’s first snow day in this nonverbal production, performed through choreography and music. This 30-minute, Theatre for the Very Young production from Columbus Children’s Theatre is recommend for ages 2-6. $12.50 adults, $7.50 children. Times vary. Park Street Theatre, 512 N. Park St. (Arena District), Columbus. columbuschildrenstheatre.org

Nov. 28 to Dec. 16

“The Christmas Schooner,” CATCO is Kids presents this family-friendly musical about a schooner crew that attempts to bring the Christmas spirit to German immigrants in Chicago. Tickets start at $20. Times vary. Shedd Theatre, Columbus Performing Arts Center, 549 Franklin Ave. (Discovery District), Columbus. catco.org

Nov. 30 to Dec. 2

“Holiday Pops,” The Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s annual seasonal concert features Santa Claus and a cast of more than 300 musicians, singers and dancers. Two shows have an optional pre-show meal. Tickets start at $25. Times vary. Ohio Theatre, 39 E. State St. (Downtown), Columbus, 614-228-8600, columbussymphony.com

Dec. 7-23

“The Nutcracker,” BalletMet’s signature production of the Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky ballet is a Columbus holiday tradition. The cast of more than 100 performers features both professionals and children. Tickets start at $29. Times vary. Ohio Theatre, 39 E. State St. (Downtown), Columbus, 614-469-0939, balletmet.org

Dec. 8

“The Hip Hop Nutcracker,” This CAPA production takes the classic Tchaikovsky ballet and brings it into the modern era, with an onstage DJ, electric violinist and a story that transports Maria-Clara back to the 1980s, when her parents met in Brooklyn. Tickets are $30 to $60. 8 p.m. Palace Theatre, 34 W. Broad St. (Downtown), Columbus, 614-469-0939, capa.com

Dec. 13-23

“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical,” This all-ages Columbus Children’s Theatre production features beloved classic carols as well as a few new songs in the familiar story of the Herdman children, who shake things up when they’re cast in the church Christmas pageant. A Sensory Friendly Performance is scheduled Dec. 15. Tickets start at $14. Times vary. Lincoln Theatre, 769 E. Long St. (King-Lincoln District), Columbus. 614-224-6672, ext. 1. columbuschildrenstheatre.org

Dec. 16

“A Charlie Brown Christmas Live on Stage,” CAPA will present two performances of this live-action version of the televised cartoon mainstay, complete with the Vince Guaraldi score. Tickets are $35 to $50. 2 and 5 p.m. Palace Theatre, 34 W. Broad St. (Downtown), Columbus, 614-469-0939, capa.com