Go for a walk, go ice skating, or go wild—there are plenty of ways to get out and about for Christmas Day activities in Chicago

Christmas Day will be here faster than you can say “Grandma’s fruitcake.” Whether you celebrate it or not, you might want an excuse to get out of the house on the big day. Yes, it’s true that most of Chicago and the surrounding suburbs shut down on Dec. 25, but between hitting the ice and finding Chicago’s best holiday light displays, festive fun is available on Christmas. However, by the end of a month filled to the brim with holiday events, you may be looking for amusements beyond seeing if Santa Claus has come to town, so we rounded up great options for all that are open, ready, and beyond excited to entertain you and yours.


1. Get Fresh Air: Chicago Botanic Garden

It’s obviously too late in the year to enjoy the flowers, and Lightscape isn't available on Christmas Day, but Chicago Botanic Garden still draws visitors with beautiful views of their ponds and (hopefully) snow-covered trees.

Time: 8 a.m.-3 p.m. 
Cost: $15-$17/ages 13 and older, $10-$12/ages 3-12, free under 3 

Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Rd.
Online: chicagobotanic.org

2. Take a Bright Drive: Aurora Festival of Lights

Hop in your car and cruise the Aurora Festival of Lights, a drive-through outdoor display of illumination. The one-mile stretch has animated displays, lit-up trees, and other sights that will put a twinkle in your eye.

Time: 5-9 p.m.
Cost: Free

Phillips Park
1000 Ray Moses Dr.


3. Hit the Ice: Millennium Park

The McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park is not just for tourists. Anyone who digs stunning skyline views and being in the shadow of The Bean will love it here. The best part: Skating is free and open on Christmas Day. Parkway Bank Park also welcomes you to their Chicago Wolves Rink from 4-10 p.m. on Christmas Day. 

Times: 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Free admission, $20/skate rental

Millennium Park
201 E. Randolph St.
The Loop
Online: chicago.gov

4. Take a Scenic Stroll: Morton Arboretum

Morton Arboretum's grounds are open 365 days a year, and you can explore an oasis of trees and landscapes with a Children's Garden, Maze Garden, and 16 miles of hiking trails.  The leaves may have found their way south for the season, but winter views on the drivable trails at the Arboretum are still a sight to behold. And although the arboretum normally comes with an entry free, they offer free admission on Dec. 25. You simply need to secure your free timed-entry pass online in advance of arrival.

Times: 7 a.m. to sunset
$16/adults, $11/ages 2-17, free under 2

Morton Arboretum
4100 Illinois Rt. 53
Online: mortonarb.org


5. Go Up, Up, Up: Skydeck

Get a bird's-eye view from Willis Tower. Its Skydeck Chicago, positioned at 1,353 feet in the air, is a great option if you want to wow out-of-town guests. 

Times: 8:30 a.m.-10 p.m.
Cost: $35/ages 12 and up, $26/ages 3-11, free under 3

Willis Tower's Skydeck Chicago
33 S. Wacker Dr.
The Loop
Online: theskydeck.com

6. Get in Touch With Nature: Cook County Forest Preserves

Crisp winter air can be invigorating, especially for tots. Enjoy it in the Forest Preserves of Cook County, which has 68,000 acres of land with trails for self-guided walks. Admission is free and locations vary; please check the website for more information. 

Online: fpdcc.com


7. Go Wild: Brookfield Zoo

Polar bears, giraffes, and lions are waiting for your company on Christmas Day. Brookfield Zoo stays open 365 days a year, and Christmas Day is one of its quieter times, so you should be able to enjoy the animals at your leisure. The Lincoln Park Zoo also stays open 365 days a year, plus admission is free. 

Times: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Cost: $25/adults, $18/ages 3-11, free under 3

Brookfield Zoo
8400 W. 31st St.
Online: czs.org/BrookfieldZoo

8. See a Festive Flick: ChiTown Movies

Watch a movie old-school-style under the stars in your car at ChiTown Movies. Order popcorn, tacos, wings, pizza, kids meals, and more to be delivered to your car from the ChiTown Grille. 

Times: Elf at 5 p.m., Home Alone at 7 p.m.
Cost: $33/vehicle

ChiTown Movies
2343 S. Throop St.
Online: chitownmovies.com


9. Experience a Unique Digital Art Display: Art on theMart

Merchandise Mart’s Art on theMart is the world’s largest digital art projection, appearing on the Mart’s nearly three-acre exterior facade. On Christmas Day at 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., you'll see two programs running back-to-back: Chicago Design Through the Decades, an exciting journey through the history of Chicago design over the past 100 years (1920s-2020s); and The Nutcracker, a projection inspired by Joffrey Ballet's The Nutcracker that allows visitors to experience scenes from the holiday classic as they listen to Tchaikovsky's famous score. 

Times: 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. 
Cost: Free

Merchandise Mart
222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza
River North
Online: artonthemart.com

10. Fuel Up: Travelle

Travelle is truly decking the halls with extraordinary dining offerings. Its Christmas Day buffet will include an expansive presentation with festive stations throughout the lobby. 

Times: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Cost: $265/adults, $60/children ages 5-12, free under 5

Travelle at The Langham
330 N. Wabash
River North
Online: travellechicago.com

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