COLUMBUS, Ohio — Experience Columbus, the destination marketing organization for the Columbus region, is extending a warm invitation to everyone to enjoy the most wonderful time of year in Ohio’s capital with the launch of its new holiday campaign, "Celebrate Columbus." Whether you’re a visitor seeking a spur-of-the-moment winter getaway or a local looking to enjoy a nostalgic weekend with beloved holiday traditions, memorable experiences await in Columbus.
"There's truly no place quite like Columbus during the holiday season,” said Sarah Townes, Chief Marketing and Innovation Officer at Experience Columbus. “From unique holiday light experiences at the city’s top attractions to a traditional Striezelmarkt in our historic German Village neighborhood and from festive holiday performances in our downtown historic theatres to holiday shopping experiences at local boutiques, there is so much to experience in Columbus this holiday season.”
Here are some of the many ways to celebrate the holiday season in Columbus:
Experience Columbus’ Biggest Holiday Weekend
The first weekend of December ushers in a bustling month of holiday fun throughout Columbus. It all begins Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, from 5-7 p.m. at The Junto, the city’s newest independent lifestyle hotel, with its inaugural Tree Lighting Celebration featuring live music, local vendors and seasonal cocktails and sweet treats by the fire.
Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, brings a flurry of holiday activity with new and returning events. Downtown, WinterFest at Dorrian Green features live music, seasonal craft beers and cocktails and local food trucks from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. After, enjoy more holiday happenings across the Scioto River, including the Discovery District Trolley Hop from 1-6 p.m. featuring family-friendly activities and stops at local downtown businesses; a Santa Extravaganza at the Lazarus Building from 4-7 p.m. complete with a visit from Mr. Claus, facepainting, letter-writing to Santa and more; and Good Market – Holiday Edition, a cozy, European-inspired holiday market happening from 4-9 p.m. at the Columbus Commons Esplanade featuring hand-crafted local goods from more than 20 Columbus vendors.
The seasonal festivities continue Saturday, Dec. 2 in the Short North Arts District with the return of the Short North Holiday Hop. New this year is the High Street Holiday Market at Holiday Hop from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. featuring a festive atmosphere along a closed portion of High Street with 150 vendors, holiday music and family fun. On Sunday, Dec. 3 from 5-9 p.m., German Village invites visitors to stroll luminary-lined brick streets and explore a traditional Striezelmarkt in one of the most atmospheric neighborhoods in the country during Village Lights.
Fans of nostalgic holiday traditions will also want to check out Ohio History Connection’s Dickens of a Christmas Dec. 2-17. The annual 1890s holiday celebration includes hands-on crafts, caroling, readings by candlelight and other Victorian holiday traditions. Also throughout the weekend, Ohio Theatre will transform into a winter wonderland as the Columbus Symphony Chorus and Columbus Children's Choir perform classic holiday songs and carols during their Holiday Pops concert. To top it all off, catch BalletMet's The Nutcracker, a beloved holiday classic with breathtaking performances and dazzling costumes, also gracing the Ohio Theatre stage from Dec. 7-23.
Enjoy Dazzling Light Displays at the City’s Top Attractions
See why Columbus was named one of the best cities in the country for holiday light displays by Best Life at three unique events. Utilize the Experience Columbus Holiday Lights Pass for discounted admission to some of these bright attractions. Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens hosts its annual Conservatory Aglow Nov. 18 through Jan. 7, enhancing the gardens’ year-round beauty with immersive light displays, outdoor games, a lively dance celebration, festive igloos and a life-size gingerbread house. Finally, one of the Midwest’s favorite family holiday traditions, Wildlights, returns to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium for its 35th year. Happening Nov. 17 through Jan. 7., the yuletide season comes alive with millions of LED lights, animated musical light shows, performances by local bands and choirs and visits from Santa and his reindeer. Downtown, the free Columbus Commons Holiday Lights powered by the AEP Foundation features more than 400,000 LED lights aglow Nov. 17 through Jan. 1 daily from 5-11 p.m.
Shop Local with the Columbus Gift Guide
Returning for its fourth holiday season, the Columbus Gift Guide, presented by Fifth Third Bank, is the ultimate resource for locally crafted, artisanal gifts that can’t be found anywhere else. Find inspiration for everyone on your list with more than 100 carefully selected items ranging from gifts for kids and teens to beauty and wellness products to the perfect finds for food or fashion lovers. Let it steer your Small Business Saturday shopping on Saturday, Nov. 25 while supporting local businesses, including Columbus’ minority-owned businesses, which add to the rich cultural vibrancy of our community.
In addition to the Columbus Gift Guide and shop small celebrations in the Short North Arts District and Downtown, Columbus makes holiday shopping easy at Easton Town Center, named the No. 1 retail experience in the country for three years in a row by Chain Store Age. The Midwest’s premier shopping dining and entertainment district is home to more than 200 retailers and several holiday events, including a grand illumination of their 56-foot tree, a Menorah lighting, horse drawn carriage rides, photos with Santa at the North Pole and more. You can also explore hundreds of brands with unbeatable value at Tanger Outlets.
Give the Gift of Travel with Curated Packages and Tours
With so many festivities to choose from, Experience Columbus has created an easy way to give the gift of travel with curated travel packages and experiential tours that can be purchased for friends and family. Options include build-your-own experiences, with everything from museum tickets to themed walking and food tours to free experiential tours. Make it a fun holiday weekend or mid-week trip with special rates on hotel stays that come with extra perks like Lyft credits or free attraction tickets. Book a stay in Columbus for yourself or as a gift at www.ExperienceColumbus.com/Hotels and discover experiences at www.ExperienceColumbus.com/Marketplace.
Learn more about how to celebrate the holidays in Columbus at ExperienceColumbus.com/Holidays. Share your experiences online by using #celebrateCBUS.
About Columbus, Ohio
Columbus is a city unlike any other. Vibrant and alive, Ohio’s capital is known for its open attitude, smart style and entrepreneurial spirit. Columbus' blend of neighborhoods, dynamic nightlife, noteworthy music scene, arts and culinary experiences, events, attractions and accommodations are all made unforgettable by the diversity of its outgoing locals who eagerly await and warmly welcome visitors. Columbus is proud to have hosted the 2023 U.S. Conference of Mayors Annual Meeting in June and PCMA Convening Leaders 2023, which brought together the world's business events professionals in January. Free travel guides, maps, online booking and detailed information are available at www.ExperienceColumbus.com. Visitor information is also available on Instagram: @ExperienceColumbus, Facebook: @ExperienceColumbus, Threads: @ExperienceColumbus and TikTok: @ExperienceColumbus.