21 Experiences That Make Great Gifts


I don't know about you, but I have way too much stuff in my house. When I think about holiday gift giving, I get sort of frantic thinking about the new stuff that might come in. And when I'm planning gifts for others, I don't want to spread around that kind of burden. Consider giving experiences to your friends and family this year instead of tangible items. Here are some ideas to get you started. (Related: 12 Fun Ways to Give Experiences Instead of Stuff)

1. Ice Skating

Bundle up and take the whole family ice skating. There's likely a rink right in your neighborhood with modest skate rental prices. Don't forget the camera either, as you won't want to miss your brother slipping and sliding around out there.

2. Art Classes

For those of you more into drawing, painting, photography, and other arts, check around your city for classes. Some meet just once for a few hours while others, through community colleges, for example, meet weekly.

3. Children's Museum Pass

Give those kids in your life a pass to the local children's museum or science center. Many passes are accepted at other area museums, zoos, etc. You'll make parents happy, too! While you're at it, consider gifting passes to other attractions in your area.

4. Concert Tickets

Is your friend just dying to see her favorite band? Find out if they're on tour in a city near you, and treat her to the night of her life. Rocking out for a whole night? This is one gift she won't soon forget. You can have just as much fun at the symphony.

5. Game Tickets

Round up the guys and surprise them with tickets to the big game. If the cost climbs too high, you could also throw an awesome party at your place and watch it together. Body paint is optional, but highly recommended.

6. Wine or Beer Tasting

For your beverage-loving friends, a wine or beer tasting afternoon is where it's at. You can stick with one of your favorites, or make it a tour of your area's finest. Be extra generous to everyone and appoint yourself the designated driver or arrange for other transportation.

7. Mini Trip

You don't need to be gone for a whole week to have an awesome vacation. Pick a destination that's only a couple hours from your hometown and plan out an amazing long weekend. Try ski lodges, family themed hotels (Great Wolf Lodge, for example), or anywhere else that seems worth the trek.

8. Movie Tickets

Pile your family in the car and drive to your local movie theater to catch a new flick. Matinees are typically cheaper, especially for larger groups. And if you're short on cash, try dollar theaters or other discounted shows that feature slightly older movies on the big screen.

9. Park Passes

Is there an outdoorsy person in your family? Give the gift of total access to state or national parks. That way, your special person can hike, fish, camp, or do all other sorts of cool nature things.

10. Restaurant Certificates

Wow your foodie friends with restaurants gift certificates. You can give them a night out at their favorite eatery or a unique experience someplace new. Check out sites like Restaurant.com for great deals in your area.

11. Dance Lessons

Whether it's a year of ballet for your four-year-old daughter or a couple's ballroom class, dance lessons are a fun gift to give. Bonus: You'll be giving your fitness goal-making friends an excuse to get moving and grooving in the new year.

12. Cooking Classes

Community centers, grocery stores, restaurants, farms, and cooking shops often offer cooking classes to the public. Comb their websites for a calendar of events or simply call and ask. I took a mozzarella cheese making class at a dairy farm once, and it's a skill I'm glad to have in my back pocket.

13. Tours

Take your mom on that Historic Homes tour she's been talking about all these years. Or round up your siblings and take a ghost tour. If you're more into city tours, check sites like ToursByLocals to find area guides near you.

14. Something Crazy

Ask your dad what's on his bucket list. If the answer is something like skydiving, you have yet another great experience gift idea. The sky's the limit here, but it's the crazy things that people never tend to do on their own.

15. Music Lessons

Last year, I signed my husband up for an online course in guitar. He has now mastered bar chords and many of his favorite songs. Best of all? He plays his guitar every single day. Contact the music department at your town's high school or college to get information on local instructors.

16. Train Ride

Take your family on a train ride or a ferry cruise. Or maybe even a hot air balloon excursion. The fun is in the moments you spend together taking in the scenery. Of course, you can combine your travel with many of the other gift ideas on this list.

17. Spa Day

Let your mom relax with a long day at the spa. You can choose to join her or let her breathe in peace. Also, this is a great experience to gift yourself when all you want for Christmas is alone time.

18. Gym Membership

While we're on the topic of wellness, gift a gym membership to your favorite athlete (or wannabe). Definitely check with your recipient to find out about preferences for the gym's location and features. Otherwise, search around for promotional deals that can cut out a good chunk of registration fees and monthly charges.

19. Fitness Classes

Is a la carte fitness more your loved one's style? Give your aunt the gift of yoga or Pilates with a class pass. Maybe your brother wants to try a session at that new CrossFit gym. There are fitness classes for everyone on your list. Who knows? Maybe they'll want to sign up for more.

20. Babysitting

Let your sister and brother-in-law have a night on the town while you watch their kids. Offer your services for a few hours up to a night or two, depending on your comfort level. I guarantee (as someone who would love to receive this gift!) they'll be thanking you for years to come.

21. Giving Back

Volunteering is another wonderful way to celebrate the holidays. Gather your friends and family together and donate your time at a soup kitchen. Assemble bags of canned goods for a local food bank. Visit a nursing home and plan an activity for the bunch. Or read books to kids at your local library. Here are more holiday volunteer opportunities on VolunteerMatch.org.

What other experiences make great gifts? Share with us in the comments!

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