Free & Affordable Holiday Activities in Columbus

Let’s be honest: Christmas comes with a lot of expenses each year. Luckily Columbus is full of budget-friendly activities for the holidays! Save money this holiday season and check out these affordable and free Christmas activities!

Daily Free Christmas Activities

Huntington Holiday Train at the Main Library: The beloved Huntington Holiday Train will be back on display at the Main Library this year. Check the library website for operating hours. It will be on display November 21, 2022 until January 8, 2023.

State Auto’s Christmas Corner: A life-sized Nativity scene can be found at State Auto Headquarters. The display is lighted daily from December 7, 2022 through January 3, 2023. On weekends through December 16, 2022, local choirs will offer free performances on Friday and Saturday evenings. Also a special performance on December 24, 2022.

Santa Mailboxes: Write a letter to Santa and drop it off at one of Santa’s mailboxes around town.

12 Elves of Dublin Scavenger Hunt: Pick up a scavenger card at one of the 12 participating businesses in Historic Dublin and search for the hidden elf.  At each location, you will receive a small treat for finding the elf. Begins December 1, 2022 until December 24, 2022.

Easton Photos with Santa: The first 5 x 7 is only $5. Reserve your spot in the line by checking in with one of Santa’s Helpers. Click here to see a list of Photos with Santa locations in Columbus.

WildLights is free with a Columbus Zoo Membership. Click here to see a full list of Holiday Light Displays.

Christmas Light Finder: Type your zip code into this website and it will show you the houses with amazing displays near you. It’s fun to grab some hot chocolate, bundle into the car and cruise around looking at lights.

Columbus Commons Lights: Enjoy the festive lights at Columbus Commons from November 18, 2022 through January 2, 2022 from dusk until 11 pm. To sweeten the deal, Fridays in December will be a little extra festive, with free hot chocolate and carousel rides. Plus, you’ll hear the music of the season with musicians roaming around the park. You can find that extra bit of holiday cheer on these dates: Friday, December 2; Friday, December 9; Friday, December 16, and December 23, 2022.

Scioto Mile Lights/Bicentennial Park: Beginning November 18, 2022 The Scioto Mile will also be decked out for the holidays. Take in the stunning view of the Scioto River sparkling with more than 250,000 lights. From Bicentennial Park in the south all the way up to Broad Street, our riverfront will be heralding the holiday season.

Reoccurring Weekday Events

Ohio Statehouse Holiday Choir Performances: Enjoy lunchtime concerts from 12:00-1:00 pm on weekdays from December 7-22, 2022 at the Museum Gallery in the Ohio Statehouse.

Weekend Events

Oakland Nurseries: Each location has different events on Saturdays and Sundays from November 25, 2022- December 16, 2022. Come to see Santa too!

Calendar of Daily Events

December 1, 2022

Dublin Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony: 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. | The City of Dublin will mark the official start of the 2022 holiday season by hosting its annual Tree Lighting Thursday, Dec. 1. This free event will be held in Riverside Crossing Park, located at 6635 Riverside Dr. FREE.

Capital University Christmas Festival: See website for times | December 1 through 4, the Capital University Conservatory of Music will present its annual Christmas Festival, featuring the Chapel Choir, Choral Union, Women’s Chorus, The Chordsmen, Philomel and a variety of instrumentalists. This long-standing holiday tradition enjoyed by the university, its friends from far and wide and the greater Columbus community.

Ohio Statehouse Holiday Festival and Tree Lighting: 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. | Visit with Santa and other historical characters and modern dignitaries at the annual holiday Statehouse event. You’ll also find model trains, carolers and refreshments- FREE.

December 2, 2022

Olde Pickerington Village Holiday: 5:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. | Typically free family-friendly event featuring lighting the City tree at the Gazebo at 7:00pm. Horse-drawn wagon rides, circulating hop-on/hop-off trolley, ice carving demonstrations, children’s games and activities, cookie decorating for kids, strolling carolers, live reindeer, complimentary popcorn and hot chocolate, shopping, live nativity, and more. 2022 info coming soon!

Upper Arlington Tree Lighting and Winter Festival: 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. | Activities include the lighting of the Holiday tree, holiday music and caroling by the high school choir, live reindeer, carriage rides, bonfire with s’mores, giveaways, and coffee and hot chocolate – FREE.

Westerville Tree Lighting: 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. in Uptown Westerville | Visit the holiday tree at Westerville City Hall (21 S. State St.) and expect to encounter carolers, costumed characters, live music, a performance by the talented dancers at Generations Performing Arts Center, special lighting displays and more throughout the night.

Delaware Tree Lighting and Santa House: 7:00 p.m. | Horse-drawn carriage ride, Santa House, carolers and tree lighting ceremony at 7:00 p.m. – FREE. Events continue on additional December dates!

Grove City Christmas Celebration:7:00 p.m. | The Grove City community is invited to celebrate Christmas in Grove City. The Grove City Christmas Parade is at 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 3 and the tree lighting follows promptly after the parade. Visit the Heart of Grove City website to register to participate in the parade.

December 3, 2022

Grove City Christmas Celebration: 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. | Don’t miss a day filled to the brim with holiday spirit during the Grove City Shop the Heart of Grove City Mistletoe Market 5 to 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 2, and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3 in Town Center Park, 3359 Park St. Find unique, creative, one-of-a-kind gift items, decorations, artwork and delicious treats to enjoy or share with others while strolling through the festive market.

Deck the Stalls: 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. at Stockhands for Healing | Must register for time slot-Face painting, Christmas bulb decorating, photos with Santa ($5 donation and free for military families), pony rides ($3 donation or 2 for $5), refreshments and more. Stockhands Horses For Healing- (3788 Olentangy River Rd, Delaware, Ohio 43015)

Delaware visit with Santa: Main Street Delaware’s annual Holiday Open House features specials and free community events for all! Come downtown and enjoy their local shops, see Santa (register) and much more. Stores will be open their regular business hours all day. There is also a Dash for Dancer event from 11-1 to look for Santa’s reindeer! December 2-4. FREE.

Downtown Lancaster Winterfest: 12:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. | Free carriage rides, photos with Santa at the Santa House, kids crafts in the businesses, elf scavenger hunt, holiday music, and much more! 

Granville Candlelight Walking Tour: 1:00 p.m.- 9:00 p.m. | The day will feature numerous holiday activities, events, and performances to enjoy.

Holidays in Powell: 12:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. | Families will be required to register to participate during a 30-minute window. Registration begins Monday, Nov. 7. City residents will receive priority registration through Sunday, Nov. 21. If spots are still available, registration will be open to non-residents through Friday, Dec. 3. One family member (parent/guardian) should register and then list the total number of participants for their family. Not each family member needs to be registered individually.

Sunbury Christmas on the Square: 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. | Watch a lighted parade at 5:30 p.m., participate in festivities such as craft making, visit with Mr. and Mrs. Claus and much more! – FREE.

Holiday Hop: 4:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. | Stroll the streets in the Short North and look at the decorated window displays, watch street performers, shop at the businesses that stay open later- FREE.

December 4, 2022

Holiday Hop in Hilliard and Tree Lighting: 4:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. | Musical selections will be performed by children, visit from Santa, ice sculpting demonstrations, balloon artist, reindeer, wagon rides and hot chocolate. Tree Lighting will be at 6:15 p.m – FREE.

German Village Lights: 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. | Follow luminaries from shops, restaurants and businesses that have stayed open late with discounts and holiday treats. There are surprises on each corner including live music, carolers and carriage rides – FREE.

December 6, 2022

Grandview Holiday Tree Lighting: 3:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. | Enjoy carol singing by the Grandview Heights High School singers and refreshments and annual tree lighting. Many festivities begin at 3:00 such as iceless ice skating. – FREE.

Cookies and Claus: 5:00 p.m.- 6:30 p.m. at Polaris Fashion Place | While visiting Santa on Tuesday, December 6th from 5-6:30 pm, we invite you to decorate cookies with us! Pick a cookie and create your own holiday design with icing, sprinkles and more! Then, enjoy your tasty treat!

December 7, 2022

Worthington Illuminating Shopping: 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. | Stroll the streets of historic Old Worthington and experience live music, luminaries lining the streets and special sales from the retailers that stay open late – FREE.

December 9, 2022

Worthington Holiday Party: 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at The Worthington Community Center | Visit the Community Center for games, crafts,music, and ice carving demonstration, reindeer, and the big guy from the North Pole. Bring your camera for pictures! For more information, see the last page of activity brochure!

December 10, 2022

Jingle Mingle: 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. at The Shops on Lane Avenue | This free event includes: Festive Music, Santa & Singing Elves, Hot Chocolate Bar, Craft Station, Story Time with the Upper Arlington Library at 12:30PM, Cookie Decorating, Lightbulb Scavenger Hunt, Giant Snow Globe, and Plenty of Shopping! Books for children and adults are being collected for the Ronald McDonald House.

December 11, 2022

Holiday Wonderland Market: 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. upstairs at Understory | Find 40+ local makers and artists, carolers and a drag Santa. A mobile bar will be setup to order drinks while you shop.

Santa in the Caboose: 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. | Enter the red caboose to interact and take photos with Santa in his suit from the 1800s. The Historical Village will also be open with live music, art projects, refreshments and more. Location: Hilliard Ohio Historical Society – FREE.

December 17, 2022

Holiday Market + Santa in the Park: 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. | From 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. a Holiday Market will be taking place in Bridge Park at North Market. There will be a dj to set the holiday mood and 30+ vendors. At Keystone Park, Santa will be available from 12:00 – 3:00 p.m. to take a free picture and drop off a letter to him.

There are many other Breakfast with Santa options that are affordable as well!

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