Columbus brightens holiday season with impressive light displays

Even though the holiday shoppers are long gone, downtown Columbus is more festive than it’s been in years thanks to exciting bursts of light and color at the city’s impressive new parks.

My family and I experienced the city’s holiday display firsthand after attending the kickoff event, called the “Grand Illumination,” on Dec. 2. That’s when Mayor Michael B. Coleman flipped a switch to power more than 80,000 lights at the recently revamped Bicentennial Park and Scioto Mile park along the Scioto River.

More than 100,000 lights also were lit in Columbus Commons, a 9-acre green space in the heart of downtown, where shoppers had flocked to the City Center mall for two decades.

These lights, as well as other displays at City Hall and the Ohio Statehouse, will remain lit each night through early January.

My family loves to drive around central Ohio looking at Christmas and other holiday light displays, but the illumination event introduced a new way of appreciating downtown’s outdoor lights – on foot. We began our adventure at Columbus Commons, where parking is available in lots accessible from 3rd and Rich streets.

My two young children, Rosie and Max, enjoyed taking a spin on the commons’ carousel, amidst twinkling trees and the vibrant downtown buildings. (Visit for the carousel’s holiday hours.)

We then walked west on Rich Street toward Bicentennial Park, where Rosie and Max frolicked around the park’s fountain – its waterspouts replaced by colorful, animated lights. Nearby at the new Milestone 229 restaurant, customers sipped wine and noshed on gourmet eats while gazing outward.

We listened to a children’s choir singing on the Bicentennial Park stage before the mayor began the holiday light display. Then, we journeyed north along the Scioto Mile walkway, called the Promenade, which runs parallel to Front Street. We saw the LeVeque Tower reflected in the river, its multi-colored lighted top resembling a rocket pop.

We then walked east along Broad Street, passing the Christmas tree at City Hall, where children can drop off letters for Santa. Our path took us past the Palace Theatre and to the luminous corner of Broad and High, where we turned south along High street to view the big tree at the Ohio Statehouse and the decorated window displays at the former Lazarus building.

Max liked pressing his face against the glass to see a family of mannequins staged around a Christmas tree with toys piled high beneath. We saw more decorated along Town Street, including the original 12 Days of Christmas display from the Lazarus department store.

To view the lights, you might head downtown Dec. 16-18 for the Columbus Commons Holiday Fair, which will feature a Secret Santa Shop, train rides and a petting zoo. It’s worth the trip.

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