40 Winter Outings in Columbus – With a Toddler in Tow

The first 3 months of the year are generally the longest for me, as I’m sure they are for everyone else.  Below, I have listed 40 great ways to beat the winter blues in Columbus. These outings are perfect for children of all ages, but especially geared for those toddlers in your life to play, explore, and learn. You will find us out and about somewhere on this list, blowing off some of that extra energy!

Music/Theater Activities:

  • PBJ & Jazz Concert Series: PBJ & Jazz concerts are “1-hour long interactive concerts designed to introduce jazz and American music to young children and their families.” Concerts are held in the ballroom at the Lincoln Theatre (769 E. Long St, Columbus, Ohio). Admission is $5 per person, with a family max of $20 at the door, and each child receives a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, juice, and a cookie upon arrival. This winter, concerts are January 13, February 3, and March 24, with two performances at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.

  • The Shazzbots: The Shazzbots are Central Ohio’s premier kid-music band. Formed in 2008, the rock- and blues-influenced quintet now performs regularly at music festivals, libraries, parties and family-friendly events throughout the area. Click the link for performance dates and times.
  • WeJoySing Drop in Classes: I have heard great things about WeJoySing classes, but I have never been able to commit to a series. Luckily, Coffee Connections of Hilliard knows planning life with kids can be a challenge. That’s why they have partnered with WeJoySing to host cost effective drop in music classes at the shop. For $5 a child, and $3 for a sibling; you and your littles can learn to love and appreciate music! Click the link for dates and times and how to sign up.
  • Toddler Theater: Join Miss Marlene for a music party with a special costumed character on select Wednesdays at 10 a.m. during the school year at the Abbey Theater of Dublin. Shows are from 10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. in the Abbey Theater, Dublin Community Recreation Center: 5600 Post Rd. Admission for children is $2. (Parents and babies are free.)
  • Music & Movement: Offered at the Grandview Heights Public Library on Mondays from 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Recommended for children ages 2 to 5 and admission is free.

Gym Time:

  • Dublin Preschool Open Gym: The parks and recreation department in Dublin offers open gym for young children, ages 6 months to 6 years for $3 per child/per visit. “The gym is set up with age appropriate toys and equipment for you and your child to play and have a safe, fun time. This is a drop-in program, with no registration necessary.” The program is offered on Mondays and Fridays, January 5 – May 25, with some days off for holidays (Click this link to find the days NOT in session). Open gym is located at Dublin’s Parks and Recreation Department (5600 Post Rd, Dublin, Ohio 43017).

  • Worthington Preschool Open Gym: Worthington Parks and Recreation offers preschool open gym on Fridays from 10:15 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. January 5 through March 2. A wide variety of large and fine motor equipment is available for your child to have fun, play, and interact. This program is recommended for children age 1 to 6 years. Admission is $2/day, payable at the Customer Service Desk.
  • Get Air Toddler Time: Toddler Time is offered on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
    This is a designated time when the facility is open to little kids (under 46″). Little Air jumpers and their parents are the only ones allowed during this time. Parents cannot share a trampoline with a child, but can jump near them.

Process Art Classes

  • Art with Anna: Baby & Art is offered on the second Sunday of the month from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. for children age 9+ months to 3 years. Grown-Up & Me Art is offered on the second Saturday of the month from 10:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. Click the link for more details.
  • Toddler Art Play Group at Party Like it’s Your Birthday: Art Play group is an hour free form art class where walking toddlers can investigate and learn through inspired art and sensory experiences. Classes are $12/class and are offered on Tuesdays & Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Recommended for walking toddlers through age 5.
  • Messy Art at Piccadilly: You and your child will explore textures, colors, creating amazing masterpieces and the best part: YOU DON’T HAVE TO CLEAN IT UP! Click the link for class times and admission.
  • Young Child Studios at the Columbus Museum of Art: Recommended for children age 18 months to 5 years. This program is a hands-on workshop for families with young children and provides an opportunity for children talk, play, and think creatively together. This is a drop-in program on January 16 & 27 and February 6 & 24 the cost of the program is $8 per child plus adult admission for nonmembers and $8 per child for members. Click the link for more information.
  • Marcy’s Clayground: Toddler Tuesdays. Any child 6 years and younger is welcome to paint in the studio with no studio fee.

Library Storytimes:

You will find us at baby/toddler story times often this winter. Story time is a wonderful way to promote early literacy skills through short books, rhymes, and movement. Each library system in Central Ohio offers a variety of story times for different age groups. Be sure to click the link below to find the best story time that fits your schedule.

Play Cafes:

  • Firefly: Located in Clintonville, Firefly is a “modern, indoor play space geared towards young children. Enjoy custom designed play areas, (along with some familiar favorites) while drinking coffee or tea, reading a magazine or chatting with friends.” Click the link for hours and admission.
  • Peabod Play Cafe: Located on the northeast side of Columbus, Peapod Play Cafe, offers something fun for everyone. Designed for walkers to age 7, “kids will love the unique, interactive toys and ultramodern play space, and adults will feel right at home relaxing or surfing the Web in the coffee and snack bar.” Click the link for hours and admission.
  • Piccadilly Modern Play and Creative CafeIn addition to the traditional indoor play space, Piccadilly offers in-house babysitting, weekly classes, and a café. The messy art class is currently my daughter’s favorite class. We always end up staying for some extra playtime after class and to eat the café’s pizza bagels for lunch.

Columbus MetroParks Nature Centers:

Even though it is cold outside, we are still taking advantage of the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks. Check out these 5 Nature Centers for indoor entertainment.

  • Scioto Audubon Nature Center:  The Grange Insurance Audubon Center is a beautiful facility located in the Scioto Audubon Metro Park. A few of the features include bird viewing windows, a small library, and a children’s playroom. The playroom offers both climbing opportunities, dress up clothes, and interactive activities on local birds and bugs. The center also offers Pre-K story time on Thursdays and Saturdays at 10 a.m.

  • Battelle Darby Creek Nature Center: The Battelle Darby Creek Nature Center is a beautiful facility located in the Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park near Galloway and completely free to the public. The Nature Center offers a “living stream” with toads and fish that can be explored from above, below, and beside. In addition, the nature center has interactive exhibits and a variety of animal pelts for children to explore. Outside, there is a heard of bison that roam freely within two enclosed pastures. If you are lucky, they will be in the pasture near the parking lot when you arrive! Finding your way there can be a bit tricky, so be sure to follow the signs off of Darby Creek Drive in Galloway.
  • Highbanks Metro Park: We haven’t been yet, but want to go based on this review.
  • Blacklick Woods Metro Park: This nature center is smaller in size, but offers an interactive tent area, drawing station, magnet boards, and viewing stations.
  • The Discovery Center at Dawes Arboretum: Located in the lower level of the Visitors Center, the Discovery Center offers a variety of hands-on nature activities. The center also offers an opportunity to view a live fox snake, a spotted turtle and get an inside look at a working bee hive.

Children’s Museums:

  • AHA! Children’s Museum: While technically not in Columbus, this Children’s Museum is an easy 45-minute drive southeast in Lancaster, Ohio. It’s my favorite children’s museum to take my daughter, because it is located in a building with a smaller footprint. This makes it easier for my toddler to navigate (and for me to keep an eye on her), but it’s still packed full of a ton of hands-on, interactive activities. My daughter’s favorites include the water table and the hands-on firetruck. It’s a bargain with admission only $6 per person and children six months-old and younger are free.

  • Little Buckeye Children’s Museum: Another opportunity for a road trip! Located in Mansfield, this museum is approximately an hour and 15-minute drive north of Columbus and admission is only $8 (for 2 and up). The museum’s mission statement is “To Provide Children and Families Opportunities to Learn and Discover Through The Power of Play” and is an ideal location for visits by children ages 2-12 years.
  • The Works: Located in Newark, this museum is a 45-minute drive from Columbus. Admission is $6 for children age 2 to 17 years and $10 for adults.
  • SPI Science Place: We haven’t been yet, but we have heard good things. This science place is located in Mt. Vernon and offers areas of play for children that foster scientific ways of understanding of the natural world and technology that are appropriate for their age. Daily individual admission for all ages is $3. Click the link for hours and more information.
  • Mighty Children’s MuseumAnother children’s museum that is on our list! This one is located in Chillicothe. Admission is $6/person and children age 6 months and younger are free.

Family Indoor Swim:

  • City of Dublin – Indoor Pools: An indoor family swim opportunity. Click this link for more information.
  • Family Swim – Goldfish Swim School:  Family swim events are scheduled for select Fridays at the Dublin, Westerville, and soon to be Lewis Center Goldfish Locations. $5/person with a max of $15/family. Click the link for more information on dates and times.
  • Watering Hole – Westerville Parks & Recreation: Enjoy a Leisure Pool, Competition Pool and Whirlpool. In the Leisure Pool alone there’s a fun body slide, tube slide, fountains, shallow play area, water playground, lazy river and both lap lanes, and an open area for swimming. Preschool swim for 6 & under is scheduled Mon-Fri from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
  • Aquatics – Worthington: The natatorium features a four lane fitness pool, a 12 person hot tub and a zero entry leisure pool area equipped with a kiddie slide and play features extending to a three and half foot play area attached to a lazy river, vortex area and 110 foot slide. Click this link for times and admission.

Winter Memberships:

  • Franklin Park Conservatory: The Conservatory offers a balmy oasis when the winter weather is getting you down. You can take your coat off and explore three biomes (Himalayan Mountain/Rainforest/Desert), the Pacific Island Water Garden, the Showhouse, and the Palmhouse, to see the more than 400 species of plants on display. We enjoy taking the time to wander and often find something new each time we visit. If you are looking for something a little more structured, the conservatory also offers great family programming. Personally, I think the membership is worth the investment!

  • COSI offers a variety of hands-on activities for children and adults of all ages and a perfect way to spend a gloomy winter day. With the high cost of admission, a membership practically pays for itself after a couple visits.
  • Columbus Museum of Art: A membership to the art museum gives you free admission all week long and access to the Wonderlab and young child studio days. Admission is free every Sunday if you want to avoid the cost of the membership.
  • Ohio History Connection: I haven’t been in years and have yet to take my daughter, but I have heard good things from others that it might be worth looking into.

There you have it! 40 ways we are going to beat the winter blues this year. I can’t wait to hear from you about your favorite winter outings are in Columbus. I’ll add them at the bottom of this list as a bonus, so write them up in the comments!

Bonus Outings From Readers:

  • Central Park Playland at the Westerville Christian Church. Central Park is open to the general public during open play hours and available on Friday and Saturday for private parties. Socks are required to play in the play land. Admission is FREE! For Health and Safety reasons, there is no outside food allowed during open play hours. Open play is Thursday from 10 a.m. to 11:25 a.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
  • We Rock the Spectrum – Columbus: “We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym was founded to provide a place for children of all ability levels to play and grow together. As the only kid’s gym that offers an all-inclusive philosophy we have found all children can benefit from our uniquely designed sensory equipment that is specifically designed to aid children with sensory processing disorders.” Recommended for children age infant to 13 years old. Open play time is offered daily at $12 per child and siblings discounted to $10.