Christmas 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, most of Chicago and the ‘burbs shut down on December 25, but we found great options that are open, ready and beyond excited to entertain you and yours. Read on and make a plan.

photo: jty11117777 via pixabay

Get Fresh Air
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 with beautiful views of their ponds and (hopefully) snow-covered trees. The grounds are open from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. on Christmas Day. Admission is free, but parking is $25 per car. Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe. Online:

Party Like it’s Summer
Pretend July is here and hula dance, do the limbo and eat snow cones at the Jewish Community Center’s Annual Halfway to Summer Party. There are also crafts, a live DJ and swimming in the center’s pool. Families are asked to dress in summer attire and bring bathing suits and towels for this free event that’s scheduled for 9 a.m.-11 a.m. Bernard Weinger JCC, 300 Revere Dr., Northbrook. Event details.

photo: courtesy of Clintus McGintus via Flickr

Get Back to Nature
For a slice of nature in the city, head to North Park Village Nature Center. The buildings will be closed on Christmas, but there are plenty of trails to explore while the kids count ducks in the pond or chase squirrels. Admission is free. North Park Village Nature Center, 5801 N. Pulaski Rd., North Park. Online:

Brighten Up
Hop in your car and cruise the Aurora Festival of Lights, a drive-through outdoor display of illumination. Open daily through December 26, 5 p.m.-9 p.m., the one-mile stretch has animated displays, lit-up trees and other sights that will put a twinkle in your eye. Admission is free. Phillips Park, 1000 Ray Moses Dr., Aurora. Event details.

photo: Millennium Park Ice Rink courtesy of City of Chicago

Hit the Ice
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 10 a.m.-8 p.m. on Christmas Day. Skate rental is $15 on holidays. Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph St., The Loop. Event details.

Climb & Jump
Pump it Up Chicago is a sea of inflatable houses and slides in every size, and it has a great climbing wall, to boot. Bounce the day away and make it home in time for dinner. This spot is open from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. for a special holiday open play. Pump it Up Chicago, 821 W. Eastman St., Lincoln Park. Event details

photo: Skydeck Chicago

Go Up, Up, Up
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. It’s open Christmas Day from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Willis Tower’s Skydeck Chicago, 33 S. Wacker Dr., The Loop. Online:

Take a Walk
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. At Allison Woods on the northwest side, you’ll wind past sugar maples and past a pretty, icy river. Admission is free. Enter on Winkelman Rd., just east of Milwaukee Ave., Prospect Heights. Online:

photo: Brookfield Zoo

Go Wild
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. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Brookfield Zoo, 8400 W. 31st St., Brookfield. Online:

Build Holiday Memories
You won’t believe it, but ’tis the season for believing and LEGOLAND Discovery is OPEN on Christmas Day. Yep, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., you can take young LEGO fans to the mecca of bricks. Have fun. . . and build on! LEGOLAND Discovery, 601 N. Martingale Rd., Schaumburg Online:

Oh, one more idea! How about a movie? Lots of theaters have Christmas Day showings, so check your favorite go-to theater. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker; Little Women; Spies in Disguise; Jumanji: The Next Level; Cats; Frozen II. . . all good options for family viewing this holiday season.

— Maria Chambers & Angie Berthelsen

To find out what else is going on this holiday season in Chicago click here.


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