WORTH THE DRIVE: Explore life-size gingerbread houses and thousands of twinkling holiday lights in Columbus

Suffering from cabin fever this holiday season? The city of Columbus has quite a few day trip-worthy destinations to give holiday aficionados a break from restless hours at home.

From the holiday lights display at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium to the outdoor Candyland at the Conservatory Aglow by Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Columbus has plenty of holiday-related activities to experience this year.

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These are just a few of the best holiday activities to experience in Columbus this year.


Credit: Grahm S. Jones

Credit: Grahm S. Jones

Location: 4850 W. Powell Road, Powell

More info: Website | Facebook

The Columbus Zoo is back with its annual holiday tradition — the Wildlights, a holiday lights display that covers the entire zoo with over three million LED lights.

Now through Jan. 3 (except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day), crowds can enter the zoo’s winter wonderland daily from 5-9 p.m. The festivities follow regular zoo hours, which begin at 10 a.m.

Along with the lights display, guests have the opportunity to enjoy a number of other holiday-related sights, like the Polar Bear Express, camel rides and visits with Santa and zoo animals.

Santa Claus will be at the zoothrough Dec. 23 on Monday through Thursday from 5-9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 4-10 p.m. and Sunday from 4-9 p.m. Guests will be socially distanced from Santa, but will be able to talk to and take photos with the jolly old elf while he is in his sleigh. Reservations must be made ahead of time to visit Santa at the zoo.

In order to ensure that proper social distancing guidelines are being met, there will be a timed ticketing system. Both zoo members and guests will have to make advance reservations that will include a timed entry throughout the day and evening by visiting the zoo’s website. Admission is $9.99 per person.

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Credit: Franklin Park Conservatory

Credit: Franklin Park Conservatory

Location: 1777 E. Broad St., Columbus

More info: Website | Facebook

Visitors to the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Columbus this holiday season will have a sweet surprise in store. This year, the center has been transformed into an outdoor Candyland complete with a life-size gingerbread house.

The outdoor Candyland and winter wonderland will be open to the public from now until Jan. 10 on a daily basis from 5-9 p.m. The conservatory will close to general admission at 4 p.m.

Along with the Candyland scene and magical train display, the Paul Busse Garden Railway, guests can look forward to other familiar favorites, like the rainbow tunnel, ornament trees and more.

Before heading to the conservatory, guests must purchase their tickets in advance on the conservatory’s website. General admission tickets are $22, while seniors (60+) get in for $19 and children (ages 3-12) get in for $12. Adult members get in for $11, senior members get in for $9.50 and the younger crowd gets in for only $6.

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Credit: Franklin Park Cons

Credit: Franklin Park Cons

Location: 160 S. High St., Columbus

More info: Website | Facebook

Guests who pay a visit to Columbus Commons from now until Sunday, Jan. 3, will have a chance to see the six-acre area lit up with over 400,000 LED lights. The commons area will be lit up from 5-10 p.m. every night.

After you take in the lights at commons, be sure to head to the other nearby holiday lights display along the Scioto Mile.

Due to COVID-related precautions, there will be no concessions or restrooms available, and the carousel will be closed to the public.

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