10 Chicagoland Places for Kids Open on Christmas Day

Photo Credit: Aurora Festival of Lights

The city can sure feel like a ghost town on Christmas Day. Whether you’re celebrating the holiday or not, most families might not want to stay at home all day. If your kids have already played with all of their toys or your family doesn’t celebrate Christmas and is looking for an escape, check out all these kid-friendly spots open in Chicagoland on Dec. 25.

Aurora Festival of Lights

Since most local outdoor light displays like ZooLights and Brookfield Zoo’s Holiday Magic in are not lit on Christmas, it is worth the trip to Aurora to see the downtown dazzling lights. The Aurora Festival of Lights will be open from 5 to 10 p.m. on Dec. 25. It’s your last chance to drive through the free outdoor holiday light extravaganza before it closes on Dec. 27. Because the event is free, be prepared for a wait time.

Brookfield Zoo

While the Holiday Magic is not open that night, you and the family can enjoy the zoo with general admission. All tickets must be purchased in advance, including parking passes.

Chicago Botanic Garden

A walk outdoors will keep your family’s feet moving. If we’re lucky enough to have a white Christmas, imagine how pretty Chicago Botanic Garden will look! Lightscape will be closed on Dec. 25, but exploring the gardens still sounds like a fun winter activity for families.

Chi-Town Drive-In Movies

Your family has two options to enjoy holiday classics on Christmas Day: The Polar Express at 4:45 p.m. or Home Alone at 6:45 p.m. (Parents and teens can enjoy a 9 p.m. showing of Die Hard.) Book your ticket early, as catching a movie in a traditional movie theater has become a holiday tradition in many families.

December to Remember Drive-In Movies

Check out the 5 p.m. showing of A Christmas Story at Mount Prospect Ice Arena, and introduce your kids to Ralphie as he starts his quest for a Red Ryder BB gun. Advanced tickets are also required.

Holiday Art on theMART

While you’re walking downtown, secure your spot on the Riverwalk at 7 p.m. for the showing of the Holiday Art on theMART. Your family will enjoy Joffrey Ballet’s Nutcracker, Art Institute of Chicago’s Monet and Chicago and other bold images for holiday fun.

Jack Frost Winter Walk

Walk through the winter and holiday scenes created at the Goose Island pop-up experience. Advanced timed tickets are required, and children under 4 are free.

The Morton Arboretum

You’ll need a ticket to see Illumination on Christmas Day. The Arboretum will release any available tickets beginning at noon on Mondays for the weekend ahead, so check in Dec. 21 for any available tickets.

Santa’s Rock n Lights

For the last glimpse of twinkling lights before the season ends, drive through the spectacular display at the Lake County Fairgrounds. Advanced tickets are required and the shows begin at 5 p.m.

Walk Chalk Howard Street

Though holiday shopping is over for the Christmas season, you can still interact with 3D art by Nate Baranowski in storefront windows on Howard Street in Chicago. Start on the west end at Ridge or the east end at Sheridan. Masks and social distancing required. (Estimated total walk time: 30 minutes.)


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This story was originally published on Dec. 20, 2017. It has been updated with the most recent information. 

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