What to Do on Christmas When You Don't Celebrate It

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year for many people, but a large number of us don't celebrate the holiday, giving us nothing to do on December 25th. If you're without plans this year, here's how to make the most of your day off. [[MORE]]

The Obvious Stuff

Chinese restaurants and movie theaters traditionally stay open on Christmas day for those of us who have nowhere else to go. In fact, my Christmas plans involve both because I enjoy them. While this guide will include ways to find other activities, you shouldn't necessarily rule out these classic non-Christmas activities. They're staples of the un-holiday for good reason.


Chinese Food

Finding a Chinese restaurant that's open on Christmas doesn't take much work. Click here to search Yelp for options near you that are open. A few phone calls (or, in my case, one) should find you some good options. If you're in a larger city with a large cluster of Chinese restaurants (e.g. Chinatown), look in that area as well. Don't forget to make a reservation even if it's just dinner for you or a small party. Popular restaurants sometimes receive so much business on Christmas day that they can't accommodate everyone. Last year, when I visited a restaurant unprepared, they laughed at me and said there was no way I was getting in. When I finally found a place, it took over an hour to get a table. Perhaps you won't run into a problem, but it's always better to be prepared.



For your entertainment, movies are the traditional choice. Several come out on Christmas day because theaters attract both people who celebrate the holiday and those that don't. The Washington Times offers a list of ten great movies for Christmas if you're looking for suggestions. Since you can buy movie tickets online, it's easy to ensure you have a seat in advance. Just hit up Fandango, MovieTickets.com, or buy directly from your theater of choice in advance. Because theaters tend to be very busy on Christmas, you'll want to show up earlier than usual—at least 30 minutes—to ensure you get a decent seat. If you can buy your ticket from a theater with reserved seats, that's your best bet. Just purchase early or you may not have access to the best ones.

The Not-So-Obvious Stuff

Chinese restaurants and movie theaters aren't the only establishments open on Christmas. A number of other retail chains—and even some local stores—keep limited hours for the minority who do not celebrate the holiday.




Several attractions remain open on Christmas day, especially in larger cities. As always, call ahead before making plans. Here are your options:

  • Pretend to Be a Tourist: Tourist attractions tend to stay open on Christmas, especially in larger cities. This includes places like Madame Tussaud's and Ripley's Believe It or Not as well as zipline and Segway tours. Find out what's local to your area and chances are they'll have special Christmas hours. Of course, many tourist attractions don't have to remain open for you to enjoy them. If you go check out a monument or historical landmark, they're around on Christmas and cost you nothing.
  • Visit a Park or Skating Rink: It may be cold outside (in some places), but if you bundle up you can enjoy a park or skating rink. Bring some friends and get a game of snow football together. Take a sled with you if your park has a big hill. When you get home, make some hot chocolate and enjoy being warm again.
  • Get a Room: If you've got some spare cash lying around and have nothing better to do, get a room at a hotel. Hotels can't exactly close on Christmas and offer plenty of amenities. As always, be sure to call ahead and find out if there are any Christmas day restrictions.
  • Use Christmas as a Catch-Up Day: Is everyone out of town? Have you been neglecting chores, work, your hobbies, generally hacking your life, or even working on a few DIY projects? While getting things done may not be anyone's first choice on their day off, Christmas or otherwise, you can spend at least part of your day knocking a few things off your to-do list and the rest of the time relaxing. That way you'll get a break and still feel accomplished.
  • Spend Time with Friends and Family at Home: Just because you don't celebrate Christmas, itself, doesn't mean you can't spend the day with family and/or friends. Play games, watch a movie, cook together, talk, or whatever else you'll all enjoy. You don't have to go out to have fun, so don't rule out staying in with people you care about.

These are just a handful of options. A few local activities and attractions, such as arcades, laser tag, spas, and sports clubs stay open on Christmas day. We couldn't possibly list them all here, but call a few places to find out if they're open. You might be surprised.



Several restaurants remain open on Christmas day, so if you aren't a fan of Chinese food you can often count on national chains. Keep in mind that franchises often do not follow the same schedule, so while one Burger King may be open on Christmas, another may not. Be sure to call first and check. Here are your options this year:

If you don't want to go to a restaurant and prefer to eat at home, most grocery stores prepare Christmas dinners. Call your local store for more information if you'd like to simply have a dinner ready-to-go that you can eat at home.


Drug, Convenience, and Grocery Stores


You won't find much to celebrate at a store, but many chains traditionally stay open for a short time on Christmas day. Here are the options that we know of.

Drug Stores:

Grocery Stores:

  • Winn Dixie
  • Kroger (and some Kroger-owned stores, such as Ralph's)
  • Pathmark
  • Safeway (and Safeway-owned stores): Most locations will not be open on Christmas, but a Yelp search often reveals if a nearby location will. Several users discuss the possibilities, so check and see (or just call your local store).

Convenience/Other Stores:

Plan Ahead

Because so few places are open on Christmas day, you'll want to get a plan together in advance. This won't take more than 15-20 minutes in most cases, and can ensure you won't run into any unwanted disappointments during the day. Just follow these steps:

  1. Make a list of the places you want to go.
  2. Call nearby locations to confirm they'll be open, as not every chain follows corporate holiday hour recommendations. It's always a good idea to find out their exact hours for Christmas day, too.
  3. Make reservations at any restaurant(s) you plan to visit.
  4. Put together a basic timeline of the day, accounting for travel time, so you don't lose any reservations, miss a movie, or arrive after the store closes.

If you follow those steps you'll be ready to enjoy a very special non-Christmas, whether you're going solo or enjoying the day with others.

Photos by abdulsatarid (Shutterstock), Katarina Kirilova (Shutterstock), Paul Lowry, KB35, Pierce Martin, Elvert Barnes, and me.

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