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Holiday Activities

December 13, 2016

With the drop in temperature and the occasional snow flurry, it is starting to feel like the holidays are here!

From hot chocolate to mulled cider, gift-wrapping to visits with Santa, the month of December is full of exciting events for kids of all ages and all abilities. Here are a few fun activities around Columbus to start help you and your family celebrate the season with cheer.

1. Columbus Zoo Wildlights
Imagine seeing the Columbus Zoo with thousands of energy-efficient LED lights! The annual Wildlights ends in January, but there are plenty of activities to enjoy throughout the season: from holiday music to an animated light show (an eight-minute display of lights coordinated to music), a new Character Christmas show, a holiday skating rink, camel rides, live reindeer, and the Polar Bear Express train ride for just $1 per person. Buy tickets ahead at Kroger or at the zoo the day of the event (FYI: wildlights tickets includes zoo admission).

2. Grand Illumination
On Friday, December 2nd, the Grand Illumination ceremony kicked off the holiday season in downtown with special tents, holiday-inspired activities and entertainment, and an appearance by Santa. The lights along the Commons and Promenade will be lit nightly until January 8, 2017. Take a quick stroll along Scioto Mile Promenade, where the fountain will provide a colorful light show. Admission to Grand Illumination is free; visit for event details.

3. Easton Town Center   
The holiday season has arrived at Columbus’ outdoor mall, from its beautifully decorated Christmas tree in the center square to the thousands of twinkling lights throughout the area. Various activities are available (some are free, some require a fee) including holiday carriage rides (on weekends only), roaming entertainers, and of course the man himself, Santa Claus.

4. AMC Sensory-Friendly Experiences at the Lennox
AMC has partnered with the Autism Society to create a movie-going experience that accommodates everyone. These special showings turn up lights and turn the sound down, so you can get up, dance, walk, shout or sing! There are up to four showings per month. Click the link above for movie listings!

5. Fantasy of Lights in Alum Creek
One of the best parts of the season is seeing beautiful lights and festive decorations from the comfort and warmth of your car! This activity is great for families with physical challenges or aversions to cold or crowds. Check out the festive scene in a familiar, comfortable surrounding when you head to Fantasy of Lights in Alum Creek. Around for 17 years now, the Fantasy of Lights is a drive-through light display with free cookies and hot chocolate served at Santa’s House. The admission starts at $20 per car and is open through January 1, 2017.

6. COSI (Polar Express Movie Weekend)
There is much to do, learn and discover at COSI, with hands-on exhibits and traveling shows, a movie theater, motion simulator and planetarium! It’s a day full of exploration for the whole family.

For the holidays, COSI will host several showings of Polar Express over the weekend of December 9-11, including sensory friendly screenings! They will also offer a special Polar Express Family Overnight event, where the whole family can spend the night at the museum (registration and fees required).

In addition, COSI has its own Calming Room, located on the first floor near the Guest Services desk. Overstimulated children, those on the autism spectrum or with other cognitive conditions, and individuals who need a brief moment away can use it, for free!

7. Gateway Film Center Sensory Experience

For families and individuals with autism or developmental disabilities, Gateway Film Center presents screenings at a lower volume with the lights up in a “no-shushing” atmosphere.

Tickets to the Sensory Friendly Screenings are always free and are presented in conjunction with OSU’s Nisonger Center.

There is a special sensory friendly screening of Arthur Christmas on December 10th at 11:00am. Everyone knows that, each Christmas, Santa Claus delivers presents to every last child on Earth. What everyone doesn’t know is that Santa accomplishes the feat with a very high-tech operation beneath the North Pole. But when the unthinkable happens, and Santa misses one child out of hundreds of millions, someone has to save the day. It’s up to Arthur, Santa’s youngest son, to deliver a present to the forgotten tyke before Christmas morning dawns.

8. The North Market
There’s no need to bundle up for this event – the North Market has plenty of fun activities planned throughout the month and they all take place indoors! On various Saturdays throughout December, the North Market will host live music and entertainment, craft shows, and sell holiday decor and Christmas trees. Look out for visit or two from Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and their live reindeer.


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Meet Andrea BartoschSupporting Literacy

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