Guide to Martin Luther King Jr. in Columbus: Festivals, Events, Things to Do

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Wikimedia Commons/World Telegram & Sun/Dick DeMarsico

Martin Luther King Jr was a civil rights leader, and his impact on the world is still felt to this day. Each year, the nation celebrates the life and work of Dr. King on the national holiday (January 21, 2019).

Along with communities nationwide that honor the man and his message, Columbus and the surrounding area also offer many events and activities for this holiday. Many locals and visitors throughout the community work to make it a day "on" and not a day off by participating in projects that directly impact the Central Ohio area.

If you're planning to visit Columbus during this annual holiday, be sure to check out some of the events happening in the area and learn more about this historic figure and his impact on life in Ohio.

01 of 09

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Breakfast

The 34th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Breakfast will be celebrated on Monday, January 21, 2019, and will feature keynote speaker John B. King, Jr., the former Secretary of Education for President Barack Obama. The event will take place at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, with doors opening at 7 a.m. and the program lasting from 7:30 to 10 a.m.

02 of 09

The Martin Luther King Jr. March

Each year, the annual Martin Luther King Day March begins at East High School at 4:45 p.m. Participants of the march are encouraged to wear warm clothing and bring banners representative of their school, organization, or city department. Music will be provided along the march and donated hot drinks and cookies will be available prior to the march.

03 of 09

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration

The city of Worthington hosts an annual celebration in honor of Dr. King's legacy, and in 2019 the event will feature musical performances and a community lunch.

04 of 09

Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the Zoo

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium offers free admission each year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, from 10 a.m. through 4 p.m. While many of the animals are still in winter hibernation, the polar bears, bison, cougars, otters, moose, and reindeer are all out as well as the red pandas and tigers.

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05 of 09

MLK Day of Service

This annual community service event planned by the Ohio Union's ServeCorps takes place on MLK Day each January. There is no pre-registration and registration is on a first-come-first-serve basis. Groups are encouraged to attend but are encouraged to stay together in the line.

Upon arrival in the Ohio Union, students will be assigned a service site, transported via bus to and from the service agency, and lunch will be served at the Hale Center immediately following the community service activities. All volunteers will receive a free t-shirt and pizza for lunch.
It is smart to dress appropriately for the weather and wear clothes you would not mind getting dirty at your service site. Some tasks may involve painting or cleaning at the service site.

06 of 09

Annual MLK Call for Artists

In honor of the life and legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Community Relations Commission is opening its doors for the Annual MLK Call for Artists! All artists grades 6 through 12 are encouraged to submit art, essays, or multimedia entries by the December 21, 2018 deadline for a juried exhibition. The exhibit will also be moved to various sites throughout the year.

07 of 09

Capital University MLK Day of Learning

Each year, Capital University hosts a "Day of Learning" in honor of Dr. King's values concerning education and community engagement. The 2019 has yet to be announced, however past themes have included "The Power of We: Progressing Human Dignity," which focused on a keynote speech from coach Herman Boone, whose story was the inspiration for the Disney film "Remember the Titans." At Capital University thematic workshops will be held to explore a variety of topics affecting the country including racial relations, xenophobia and immigration, and social welfare.

08 of 09

The Hank Marr Jazz Luncheon

During the Day of Learning, The Capital University invites guests to enjoy jazz music at the Harry C. Moores Campus Center. For a small fee that helps support the free events of the rest of the Day of Learning, guests can enjoy a delicious meal and listen to a special guest speaker.

The meal is based on the southern style dinner that Dr. King might have enjoyed after a Sunday service and was incorporated in 1992 after Dr. Bob Breithaupt assembled a group of local musicians that included Hank Marr to perform during the meal. Mr. Marr remained a central part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Learning Jazz Luncheon until his death in 2004. The luncheon is now named in his honor and features several of his fellow musicians, including Bob Breithaupt, Bobby Floyd, Byron Stripling, and Gene Walker.

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09 of 09

An Afternoon of Community Service

Another event that's part of the Day of Learning in Bexley Ohio's Capital University, the Afternoon of Community Service focused on giving back to the local residents in need. The Capital Center Athletic Facility hosts a food drive and the Red Cross sets up a wellness and disaster preparedness fair.

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