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Rockefeller ice rink and Christmas tree in New York
Elizabeth Tait

Inexpensive Holiday Date Ideas

December is the most wonderful time of year — except for all the money you spend on gifts, travel, outfits and activities! Here are some fun holiday ‘date’ (I use this term loosely, as these are all perfect for a group of your besties, your mom, your sister and more!) ideas that won’t break the bank! 

Lincoln Park Zoo Lights

Check out the pretty Christmas lights at Lincoln Park Zoo, beginning on November 19th and closing for the season on January 2nd. They are running from 4pm to 10pm. It’s just $5 per person (free on Mondays and Tuesdays!), and a great way to get in the Christmas spirit.

Ice Skating Ribbon at Maggie Daley Park

This is my favorite winter tradition because there’s something so magical about skating with the city lights around you! Skating at Maggie Daley is “free”, but you do have to pay to rent skates which are between $16-$22, depending on the day you go. This will be opening on November 19th, and closing for the season on March 13th. I’ll leave the skate rental prices below for you to check out!

  • Monday-Thursday
    • $16 online + tax
    • $18 walkup + tax
  • Friday – Sunday & Holidays
    • $20 online + tax
    • $22 walkup + tax
    • Skate with your own skates – $5 + tax (2pm, 5pm & 8pm session)


I also love going to the Christkindlmarket each year, and I was so sad to miss it last year. They have the best soft pretzels, hot chocolate and other traditional foods, along with gorgeous handmade items for sale. 

This will open in two locations on November 19th, and will remain open until December 31st. Their hours are 3pm to 9pm on Monday-Thursday, 11am to 10pm on Friday and Saturday, and 11am to 7pm on Sunday!

Chicago Christmas Tree lighting- The actual lighting of Chicago’s iconic Christmas tree in Millennium Park will be taking place on November 19th at 6:30pm, but the tree will be up through January 9th.

Light up the Lake

Navy Pier is hosting Light Up the Lake beginning November 26th, and closing on January 2nd. This attraction is brand-new this year, so you will be one of the first to try it out! If you go on a Monday, tickets will be just $15, which is a steal for all that’s included. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are $21, and weekends are $26. 

That might not seem super budget-friendly, but this includes an indoor light garden, an ice rink, a beer garden, gift shop and, of course, a visit with Santa.

Millenium park ice skating

I’ve actually never gotten to skate at the Millenium park ice rink since lines are usually long.  This year, however, there are online reservations required which should shorten the wait times! This has been on my bucket list for a while since it’s so beautiful. The rink will be open daily from November 19th through March 6th (weather permitting). Again, this rink is “free”, but skating rentals are between $13-$15. 

Here are some other ways to get in the spirit without leaving home, because sometimes it’s just too cold to go out!

  • Watch the Polar Express in your Christmas PJs, while drinking hot chocolate
  • Wrap christmas presents and bake the Pillsbury Christmas cookies
  • Follow a step-by-step painting tutorial while listening to christmas music (My personal favorite? Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas is You”!)
  • Make homemade Christmas sugar cookies and decorate with frosting and sprinkles
  • Build gingerbread houses (even better if it’s a competition- post on Instagram stories to find the real winner!)
Frankie is a sophomore at Loyola University Chicago, majoring in Advertising/Public Relations with minors in Marketing and Visual Communications. She's from the suburbs of Chicago, and can usually be found online shopping, on a coffee run or forcing her little sister to stop for pictures.
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