Cincinnati Family Magazine

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May 27, 2024

Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo

Mom Report: A Columbus Christmas

Take the kids to Columbus for a memorable holiday weekend, or to make memories anytime of the year! Mom Reporter, Susie Dyson, shares why this is a family road trip worth taking.

Columbus was always that city up 71 North. I have flown out of Columbus a few times and went to the Convention Center for a teaching conference when I was teaching, but I have never experienced Columbus! Wow, what a neat city! My family recently got to explore Columbus and some popular attractions amidst the holiday season, which was a bonus.

Drury Inn and Suites Columbus Convention Center

Our trip started out on Friday night. We checked into the Drury Inn and Suites Columbus Convention Center (88 E. Nationwide Blvd.) where the staff was more then friendly and accommodating. Brendan, the manager, made sure we had everything we needed and gave us suggestions and recommendations for our weekend. The hotel was very clean and the room spacious for my family of five. The breakfast bar was plentiful and a light dinner was offered every evening as well. We took advantage of the exercise room and pool, too. The hotel was conveniently located and just minutes to all the attractions we experienced! I definitely would recommend staying there! Learn more at

Columbus Zoo; photos by Susie Dyson

After checking into the hotel and eating we headed to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (4850 Powell Road) for Wildlights. We frequently visit the zoo here in Cincinnati but we have never been to the Columbus Zoo; it is huge and features many exhibits and habitats from around the world with a variety of animals. My son was excited to see the king cobra, and my youngest daughter loved Frankie, the baby elephant. In addition to the animals, the zoo was ablaze with lots of bright lights and a synchronized light show upon entering. The zoo had Santa visits and carousel rides to add to the Christmas experience. I can’t forget to mention the hot chocolate and delicious pretzels! Likewise, the zoo has a water park for the warmer months. We may need to come back in the summer! Learn more at
German Village
On Saturday, we slept in a bit and then enjoyed waffles and eggs at the hotel’s breakfast. Next, we headed to the historic German Village. The rows of well-maintained red brick houses and cobblestone streets were impressive. It was a nice day, so many people were putting up Christmas decorations. Lots of people were out walking their dogs and drinking coffee. Third Street featured some unique stores like the 32 room Book Loft and a few blocks over the Redbarn had quaint souvenirs. Across the way was Schmidt’s (240 E. Kossuth St. a historical German restaurant. All the servers dressed in lederhosen and other authentic German American clothing. The menu followed suit with many authentic dishes. I had a Reuben and my husband dove into the the feature item, Bahama Mama, a sausage link on a New England bun. The desserts were incredible, too! The cream puffs looked so good, but I fell for the German chocolate cake instead! In addition to the food and stores, we discovered Schiller Park (1069 Jaeger St.) It had big trees that my kids climbed, sculptures of acrobats, a duck pond with a fountain, a walking path, of course a playground that my kids flocked to; but the charm of an early German American gathering place (1891) and the pleasure of people enjoying it today and then made it so neat. Though we freelanced, German Village tours and other events take place there and are worth looking into.
Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Garden
Our Saturday was jam packed! We went to the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Garden (1777 E. Broad St.) for Conservatory Aglow in the evening. We learned about different regions of the world and their flora and fauna. The arid dessert region and tropical room made you feel as if you were there. In addition to the permanent exhibits, the holiday features were impressive! There was a gingerbread display with all of the contestants’ projects and rooms with poinsettias and other holiday decor. Outside, there was a Candyland cottage you could walk through and Christmas characters on stilts! The music and light displays were brilliant. My kids especially loved the outdoor Garden Train that had houses, bridges, waterfalls and more! The trains went through tunnels and the track was long; we spent a good bit of time watching it. Then we had some kettle corn and continued through the outdoor display, which also continued through the decorated but permanent Children’s Garden with features including a cottage, nest, instruments, a puppet show and logs to interact and climb on! Though cold, the beauty of the outdoor Christmas display and the permanent displays kept us there awhile! Like the zoo, this would be a fun place to check out in the summer. Learn more at
Columbus Commons
We ended out night at Columbus Commons (160 S. High St.), which is a green space in the city. It hosts summer concerts and is a great gathering place. This month, several free events are happening like free hot chocolate and free merry go round rides, but mostly it is a fun place to walk around and see the lights. The huge Christmas tree in the middle provides a great photo opportunity! Learn more at
Shopping at Short North District
On Sunday, we ended our trip with a shopping trip to the trendy Short North district on High Street. Jeni’s ice cream, Bakersfield and Forno were some of the restaurants worth trying, to name a few. There were lots of boutiques and galleries, too, but our main stop was Big Fun (672 N. High St.), a vintage toy shop. The narrow aisles were stocked with hot wheels, Star Wars figures, Mr. Potato Heads, metal lunch boxes, gag gifts, LEGO’s and more! We came out with a mood ring, an army tank, view finder slides and car bingo!
Ohio History Center’s Ohio Village
Our last experience was at the Ohio History Center’s Ohio Village, which was decked out for Christmas. It was the Dickens of a Christmas Event (800 E. 17th Ave.); many of the historical homes had holiday activities for families, including stringing popcorn and cranberries in the school house, decorating Victorian cards, sampling sugar snaps, making ornaments and more holiday festivities. There was also cider, popcorn, and roasted chestnuts to sample, horse drawn carriage rides to enjoy, music to listen to, food trucks to make a purchase, characters from Scrooge roaming, decorated houses and businesses and more in addition to the regular period workers and buildings to tour! We also learned about many Christmas traditions like making a stringed spider web to each family members gifts, and my kids played dreidel to learn about Hanukah. Learn more at
Before hitting the road, we ate downtown near the main Ohio State University campus at Adriatico’s (1618 Neil Ave.), a New York style pizza joint. The food and service were good, and our bellies were full for the hour and forty five minute drive home.
We had a great weekend, and many of these attractions are continuing their special events all monthlong! Be sure to check them out and make a day trip or even a weekend trip up to Columbus, plus we are giving a trip away for our 12 Days of Giveaways! Keep a lookout on our Facebook page through December 16 for your chance to win!

About the Author

Susie Dyson

Susie lives in the northern suburbs of Cincinnati with her husband and four kids. She has a 7-Year-old, 6-year-old, 3-year-old and a new baby! Together, they like to explore new things in Cincinnati as well as favorite places like Summit Park and the Cincinnati Nature Center. Susie is a former high school teacher and now a stay-at-home mom. She also enjoys running, being outside, spending time with family and friends, road tripping, participating in her church's activities and drinking coffee.