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The Best Non-Christmas-y Things to Do on Christmas Day

Opening presents and sitting under the tree aren't the only things to do on Christmas. Here's a list of our favorite fun things to do on the big day.

Christmas calendar with 25th December on wooden blocks Misunseo/Shutterstock

Time for a new tradition?

Maybe you don’t celebrate Christmas and don’t think you should spend the holiday sitting at home all day. Or you’d just like to shake things up this year! There’s nothing “humbug” about doing non-Christmas-related things, like these, on December 25. By the way, this is why we celebrate Christmas on that day in the first place.

Hit the ice

Among the surprisingly long list of things to do on Christmas day is the popular winter pastime—skating! From New York’s famed Rockefeller Center skating rink to all three of San Francisco’s skating rinks (Yerba Buena Gardens, the Embarcadero Center, and Union Square), Christmas is the perfect time to lace up those skates and try out your fanciest skater moves. Triple salchow, anyone? Steal these 15 Christmas traditions from around the world for next year!


Go out to eat

A lot of restaurants around the country are open and have special holiday menus. From your local IHOP to a super fancy spot, why deal with dirty dishes when you don’t have to? Here are some choice picks for restaurants open on Christmas.



Why not enjoy the great outdoors this holiday season? Throw on those hiking boots or sneakers and hit the trails to experience the beauty of nature this Christmas Day. What’s a better gift than relaxing in the great outdoors? If you like to travel on Christmas, consider a wintry walk in one of these cheap, last-minute winter destinations to book for 2020.


Catch a flick

Movie buffs, you better add a cinema date to your list of favorite things to do on Christmas Day! Christmas has become a big day for blockbuster movies to open. Take advantage of having the day off from work and catch a double feature with all the popcorn you can eat. If your cinema is in a mall, you can also see if you can find one of these 28 stores that will be open on Christmas Day.


Get cultured

While a lot of major museums are closed on Christmas Day, Jewish museums, including the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco and the Jewish Museum in New York City, plus smaller ones, such as Madame Tussauds and the Museum of Mathematics in New York City, are open for visitors to feed their mind on the holiday. Speaking of culture, you can also brush up on these fun trivia facts about the holiday season.


Hang out with some monkeys

Some people spend the holiday with family, but why not spend it with your favorite furry friends at the zoo? Several major zoos, including the Santa Barbara Zoo, the San Diego Zoo, the San Francisco Zoo, the Central Park Zoo, and more are open to visitors so that even the animals can get in on the Christmas cheer. See if the best zoo in your state is an option. If you do decide to celebrate the traditional way, these are the best advent calendars for everyone on your list. 


Have a Netflix marathon

Brrrr, baby it’s cold outside. Stock up on your favorite snack food, stay in your pajamas, and start Netflix to binge-watch Gilmore Girls, Mad Men, or Breaking Bad. Or if you’re in the mood for a little Christmas, watch one of our all-time favorite Christmas flicks that you haven’t seen yet. These last-minute Christmas presents are perfect for a gift-giver in a bind.


Window shop

Take a stroll and enjoy the stunning holiday window displays. Big city stores including Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, and Macy’s are known for their fabulous and whimsical Christmas displays and smaller town centers often have fun displays, too. Learn a thing or two from these bargain shoppers who share their 40 tips for saving money on holiday shopping.


Lend a hand

Volunteer at a local soup kitchen or food bank on Christmas Day to help bring some holiday cheer to those less fortunate. Bringing smiles and joy to those who really need it is truly embodying the spirit of the holiday season. Try one of these 50 random acts of kindness that don’t cost a cent.


Hit the road

Want to head out on holiday but don’t want to deal with long lines at security and crowded airports? Try traveling on Christmas Day to avoid the frustrations of the holiday travel. And for extra savings, tickets often cost less on December 25, too. But be warned, according to Conde Nast Traveler, some normal airport amenities may not be available. Just memorize these 10 holiday travel tips every smart traveler should know.


Catch a show

Grab the kids and head to a show! Broadway favorites such as Chicago, Wicked, and The Phantom of the Opera have tickets available on Christmas Day. And the Radio City Rockettes will be high-kicking their way through their Christmas Spectacular. And New York is only one of the best cities in the world to experience Christmas.


Take a staycation

It may sound surprising, but many local hotels have empty rooms and offer deals on Christmas Day. Sites like have slashed prices for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so take the family and enjoy a night away, only a short drive from home. Or check to see if the best Christmas town in your state is nearby.


Enjoy a winter wonderland

Add a festive trip to the ski slopes to your list of things to do on Christmas Day. Throughout the Northeast, some top mountains, like Sugarloaf, Jiminy Peak, Killington, and Whiteface are open for some fun snowy activities like skiing, snowboarding, and tubing. And you’ll likely have your choice of slopes. If you’re out West, plenty top ski resort towns are open for business including Whitefish in Montana, Park City in Utah, Breckenridge in Colorado, and Lake Tahoe in Nevada. Here are some more ski resorts you should totally visit this winter.


Play tourist

Live in or near a major city but never see the sites? Christmas Day is the perfect time to hit the mostly empty streets and see what the tourists see. Visit the San Francisco Botanical Gardens, or climb the Empire State Building, hit up Faneuil Hall, or just walk around enjoying the beauty of those twinkling lights during the holiday season. Consider a visit to one of these 16 old-fashioned Christmas towns for your next family vacation. Test your holiday know-how: how well do you remember A Christmas Carol?


Hit the lanes

Many Lucky Strike bowling alleys across the country are open on Christmas Day, including in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and Chicago. Plus, many Lucky Strike alleys also offer billiard and ping pong tables, flat screen TVs, and dining options. You could also break out these 20 family Christmas games even Scrooges will love.


Get a cocktail

From your local pub to the upscale hotel bar, grab a cocktail to help you get through all that holiday cheer. Festive suggestions include a champagne cocktail, a hot toddy, or a hot buttered rum. In fact, more than one of these old-fashioned Christmas traditions we think should make a comeback involve booze.


Get brunch

Log on to and make reservations for Christmas brunch. Just because some people are enjoying home-cooked meals doesn’t mean you have to deal with dirty dishes and taking out the trash. Now that’s a real holiday treat! Psst: These homemade Christmas brunch recipes are delicious too!

Felissa Benjamin Allard
Felissa Allard has worked at The New York Daily News, Health, Life & Style, and more. As a freelancer, she has had pieces published on What To Expect, SELF, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Modern Mom, Working Mother, and more. Her specialities are beauty, fashion, health, wellness, and parenting.

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