There’s something vaguely mysterious about the idea of going out on Christmas.

Maybe that’s because most of us usually stay home, so we have no idea what there is to do or see out in the wider world on Christmas Day. It also seems like a concept that can be a little magical, especially for those of us who have memorized every scene in the 1983 film “A Christmas Story.” When the turkey is eaten by hounds and all seems lost on Christmas Day, the father announces loudly: “Everybody upstairs. Get dressed. We are going out to eat.”

Not to spoil the movie, but going out basically saves the family’s Christmas.

So if you’re looking to explore the idea of going out on Christmas yourself, you have plenty of options around southern Maine. There are restaurants and bars, plus holiday light shows, movie theaters, a Christmas-themed play and, of course, Maine’s most famous 24/7 retailer, L.L. Bean.

Here are some highlights of what’s going on in the outside world on Christmas Day.

Free skating at L.L. Bean’s Northern Lights Holiday celebration. The Freeport store is open Christmas Day. Photo courtesy of L.L. Bean

SHOP LATE, SHOP EARLY

L.L. Bean in Freeport is famously open every day, 24 hours a day, even on Christmas. That means you can do some really last-minute shopping at Bean’s massive store, which carries everything from snowshoes, kayaks and tents to cardigan sweaters, hiking boots and cookbooks. Or you can beat the crowds and get some very, very early shopping done for next year.

Also on Christmas Day, L.L. Bean will still be in the midst of its Northern Lights holiday celebration, with the store and surrounding area decked out in a very festive way. There’s free ice skating in Discovery Park, skate rentals and heated benches. There’s a very detailed model train layout running through a tiny New England village in the camping department. To get to the store from Main Street, you can walk through a tunnel of twinkling lights, and just outside the camping section, you can pose for pictures in a giant snow globe. There’s an outdoor “Holidays Around the World” trail where you can read about how holidays in other countries are celebrated, while taking a leisurely stroll. For more information, go to llbean.com and search for “Northern Lights.”

“West Side Story” opened this month and is one of the movies likely playing at theaters open this Christmas. Photo by Niko Tavernise/Twentieth Century Studios

ENJOY THE SHOW

Some families make a yearly tradition of seeing a movie in a theater on Christmas, and most theaters are open. Nickelodeon Cinemas in downtown Portland will be open, for sure. Flagship Cinemas are planning to be open as well, with locations in Falmouth, Auburn, Thomaston, Waterville and Wells. For others, you’ll want to check theater websites.

This Christmas, you have your choice of films featuring Maine performers, both of which opened this month. One is the much-anticipated Steven Spielberg version of the classic musical “West Side Story.”  Twin sisters Leigh-Ann and Sara Esty, who grew up in Gorham and danced at Maine State Ballet, are both part of the high-energy dance at the gym scene. To read more about them and their careers in dance – on stage and in film – see the Audience section in the next Maine Sunday Telegram.

Another film featuring a Maine performer is the coming-of-age film “The Tender Bar.” It’s the story of a boy essentially raised by the patrons of a bar and his bartender uncle (Ben Affleck). Bridgton actor Matthew Delamater, after years of small, one-scene roles in film and on TV, plays one of the core of bar patrons.

PLAY TIME

Good Theater is presenting the play “Who’s Holiday” on Christmas Day, with a 7:30 p.m. show at the St. Lawrence Arts Center in Portland. It’s a comedy about the story of a grown-up Cindy Lou Who and the “twisted turn of events her life has taken” since she was knocked up by the Grinch. It’s, of course based on the characters from Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”  The one-woman show stars Grace Bauer and features adult themes and mature language. Tickets are $34. For tickets, information and COVID safety measures, go to goodtheater.com.

A car makes its way through a tunnel of holiday lights at the seventh annual Gardens Aglow in November. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

THEY’LL KEEP THE LIGHTS ON

Maine has some impressive drive-through light shows this year, and they are open on Christmas night. One is Gardens Aglow at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, which features some 650,000 LED lights used to decorate ponds, bridges and wooded areas throughout the gardens. Timed admissions are $40 per car. There’s also a free Gardens Aglow Community Lighting Contest that allows you to drive to decorated homes and businesses around Boothbay using a downloadable map. For information on both, go to mainegardens.org.

Maine Celebration of Lights is a drive-through light show at the Cumberland Fairgrounds in Cumberland that runs for over a mile and features some 1 million lights. Tickets are $23 to $50 per vehicle, and you can get more info at fiestashows.com. If you want to drive around and see lights for free, downtown Westbrook’s display is twice is big as usual and drawing rave reviews. Also, you can get a list of the locations of all the downtown Portland light displays at portlandmaine.com.

Dock Fore in Portland is open for a pint and a bite on Christmas. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

WE’RE GOING OUT TO EAT

Of course some restaurants will be open, for people who don’t want to cook a big fancy dinner. One place to do that is at the BlueFin Restaurant in the Portland Harbor Hotel in the Old Port. On Christmas Day, the menu includes a choice of Oysters Rockefeller and sausage and white bean escarole soup as starters and grilled filet mignon with lump crab meat or stuffed acorn squash with ratatouille filling as entrees. The price is $95, and reservations are required.

Or maybe you just want to have cozy beer and a bite at your friendly neighborhood pub. One place to go for drinks and comfort food in the Old Port is Dock Fore, which will be open Christmas Day. It will be featuring its house-made meatloaf sandwich.


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