Finding the perfect gift seems to be a challenge that we face every holiday season. What many people don't realize is that by receiving an experience instead of a tangible gift, you can bring the recipient exponentially more joy!
Not only that, but you eliminate the instance of that person receiving something that they don't want or already have. Most importantly, many experience gifts give you the opportunity to bond with that person. If you're in the market for adventure gifts, we have an array of activities to consider gifting this holiday season!
Fun Activities That Make Great Experience Gifts
Think about the personality of the person or people you're giving the experience gift to — there are plenty of ideas to fit different interests. Look for clues, like what they like to do in their spare time and the types of hobbies they enjoy. These details can help you decide on what activity might fit them best.
To create a great experience for everyone, keep in mind that if you're shopping for a family, it's best to buy enough tickets or passes for the whole crew. If you're getting a gift for someone who is single or in a relationship, accommodate for two so they can take a friend or their partner.
A sightseeing tour can be a super fun experience gift that won't break the bank. Give the gift of a staycation by sharing tickets to a sightseeing tour in the recipient's local area. Whether you give them a bus tour, train ride, walking tour, or any other kind of excursion, you'll be gifting them with a fun day or evening out while also letting them get a closer glimpse of where they live in a way they don't usually get to see.
Many places with lakes and rivers have boat tour companies that offer dinner cruises. If there's something like this near where the person you're shopping for lives, they're sure to appreciate the gift of a dinner cruise experience.
If you're shopping for someone who loves to cook (or maybe needs to learn how), consider gifting them a series of cooking classes at a local or virtual culinary school, resort, or restaurant. They'll have a tasty time while picking up some new culinary skills.
Crafting classes also make a fun experience gift for kids, teens, and adults to enjoy on their own or to participate in as a family. Check craft stores or hobby shops in their local area, as well as community event calendars and online options, to see what kinds of fun classes might be available within a few months of the time you'll be purchasing a gift.
If you're shopping for someone who enjoys messy activities and good-natured competition, paintball might just be the perfect gift. Passes to a paintball venue are a great gift idea for adventurous teens, young adults, or active families with tweens or teens. Just think: your friends or family will have a great time getting blasted with paint, courtesy of you.
Flower Arranging Classes
From gorgeous arrangements to unique centerpieces to holiday wreaths and more, local flower shops offer fun workshops that allow you to get hands-on with your floral decor! Best of all, this is not only an experience gift — they also get to take their creations home!
Escape Room Tickets
For the problem solvers in your pack who love a good challenge, another super fun experience gift is tickets to an escape room. They will have to solve clues in order to get out, but the clock will be ticking! This can be a great affordable option that can include the entire family.
Nearby Attractions as Experience Gift Ideas
Another option is to surprise friends or family with a visit to a fantastic local attraction. Look to see what kinds of exhibitions are within an hour or so of where the person or family you're shopping for lives and purchase tickets for them to visit. They can have a great experience and make some memories without having to splurge on the tickets themselves!
If you're shopping for a family that consists of grown-ups and littles, spending a day (or several) together at the zoo might be an activity they'll enjoy. You can gift either a one-time admission or, if they're big animal lovers, season tickets so they can enjoy multiple visits throughout the year.
Aquarium tickets are also a great gift idea if you're shopping for a family. You could buy admission tickets or season passes, or look to see if an aquarium near where they live offers special events, such as kid-friendly sleepovers in the aquarium or opportunities for teens or grown-ups to scuba dive in the tanks.
Forget going to the green — places like TopGolf give couples and families the perfect way to let off some steam and enjoy food and drinks at the same time. Check and see what facilities are in their area and then pay for them to play and eat!
Theme Park Admission or Season Passes
If the people you're buying for live near a fun theme park that they love to visit, consider gifting them tickets, or even a season pass that will allow them to visit as many times as they'd like for a full year. Check with the park to find out what options are available.
Theme Park Behind the Scenes Experience
Maybe the person you're shopping for already has a season pass to a local park or is planning a trip to one that's far away. In that case, consider gifting them a behind-the-scenes experience at the park. Your gift will make an upcoming visit extra special by allowing them to participate in an aspect of the park they don't usually get to experience.
Water Park Admission or Season Passes
If water slides are more up your friend's or family member's alley than roller coasters, gift tickets or a season pass to a local water park — or one that's within a reasonable driving distance away. They'll be splashing to their heart's content without spending a dime.
Outdoorsy Ideas for Adventure Gifts
Take an outdoor experience to a new level for the nature lovers in your life! We love the ideas here — they'll let your loved ones experience the outdoors in a new way or even re-experience a favorite adventure.
America the Beautiful Annual Pass
An America the Beautiful Annual Pass is the perfect gift for outdoorsy types who love visiting different places. If you're not familiar with the pass, it offers 12 months of unlimited admission to all of the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands in the United States, all for just $80.
A weekend of glamping as an experience gift can be a great choice for people who love the great outdoors, but don't have their own camping equipment, or who prefer to enjoy nature with the advantage of modern conveniences. Glamping campsites are set up with all the amenities and camping gear they'll need, so they'll basically just need to show up and have a great time.
For a gift that goes to the next level (as in underground), give the gift of a cave tour. Review this list of showcaves to find nearby caverns and then choose a tour that fits their age and physical ability. Most showcaves offer choices ranging from family-friendly walking tours to wild cave tours for those that can handle something more physically demanding.
A zipline adventure can be an exhilarating experience that could be the right choice for the fearless people on your list. This activity is ideal for adventurous adults as well as outdoorsy families with teenagers. Use this comprehensive list of zipline locations to find one near the person or family that you're shopping for this holiday season.
Canoe or Kayak Outing
A day on the water in a canoe or kayak — or even camping overnight on a sandbar — is a great gift if your recipient lives near a river or lake. Purchase a gift certificate from an outfitter in their area to gift them with a good time paddling or floating on a local waterway.
For the folks who live in bigger cities, arboretums are extremely underrated attractions. Not only do they have spectacular scenery, but many host fun classes and weekly concerts that are exclusive to members. This can be a fun gift for a couple or family to get them outdoors and in the spirit of every season.
Heart-Pounding Experience Gift Ideas
Take your experience gift idea up a notch for someone on your list who's more of a thrill seeker. These ideas will get their adrenaline going and make an unforgettable gift!
If an ordinary canoe or kayak outing isn't exciting enough for the person you're buying for, maybe gifting them the experience of whitewater rafting will be just the thrill they need. Know (or ask someone) about their skill and experience when purchasing this kind of adventure, or buy a gift card so they can decide if they should stick with relatively tame rapids or if they're ready to tackle a class IV or V adventure.
NASCAR Racing Experience
Shopping for someone who has a need for speed? The NASCAR Racing Experience will feed their need. This unique grown-ups-only experience provides driving enthusiasts an opportunity to drive an actual NASCAR vehicle on a real NASCAR speedway. Pricing varies based on location, length of the drive time (which ranges from 5-48 minutes), and other options.
Adventures don't have to stay on the ground. For someone with a super-adventurous spirit and a desire to take to the skies, flying lessons are a great experience gift. The Airline Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) publishes a flight school directory, so their website is a good place to start your research. Regional airports and flying clubs often have discovery flights available to give as gifts.
If the thrill-seekers on your shopping list are more interested in jumping out of airplanes than learning how to fly them, gift them with a skydiving adventure. Look for a location that's convenient to the person you're shopping for via the United States Parachute Association (USPA) website, where you'll find a list of USPA-affiliated skydiving vendors and drop zones.
Hang Gliding Adventure
Hang gliding is another experience that might excite friends and family members who thrive on adrenaline rushes. If you want to give the gift of a hang gliding adventure, visit Hanggliding.org to find a flying site near where the recipient lives or has plans to travel.
Axe throwing, anyone? It's like a trip to the spa, but for people whose idea of de-stressing involves blowing off some steam in a highly physical way. If that describes someone on your shopping list, give them a booking (or several!) at a local axe-throwing venue. You just might introduce them to their new favorite hobby.
Maybe the person you're shopping for is already a regular at their local axe-throwing venue — or needs something even more explosive. If so, think about buying them passes to a local rage room. They might really enjoy visiting a place where they get to destress by destroying stuff, without having to worry about getting in trouble for it.
Special Event Gift Ideas
Tickets to events make great gifts as well. If you can zero in on a special event a friend or family wants to attend, buying the tickets for them can be a nice surprise.
For families (or young-at-heart grownups), tickets to a local circus performance might make a unique experience gift. Consider throwing in a bit extra to offset the cost of snacks or souvenirs.
Professional Sports Tickets
Is there a superfan on your shopping list? As long as they don't already have season tickets, find out when their favorite team is playing nearby and buy them a pair of tickets, or tickets for the whole family if they have kids and would all enjoy seeing a pro game.
If you are shopping for someone who is gaga for a particular band or musician that just so happens to be on tour, concert tickets make a welcome gift. If budget allows, consider splurging for a once-in-a-lifetime VIP experience that includes tickets in the very front and access to a meet-and-greet before or after the show.
Music Festival Tickets
From the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival to Chicago's Lollapalooza, and similar events everywhere, music festivals are events to remember. Music lovers on your list might love to be surprised with tickets to a local music festival or one they're willing to travel to attend.
Comedy Club Tickets
If laughter is the best medicine, then it only makes sense that comedy show tickets make a fabulous gift. If there's a comedy club the person or couple you're shopping for likes to visit, buy tickets for them to go to an upcoming show, or get them a gift certificate to the club that they can use to select a show.
If your friend or family member has a particular comedian that they love to laugh at, consider seeing when that individual's tour dates are in the coming months. Many comedians travel across the country, just like musicians, making this a fun and convenient gift!
Event experiences don't have to carry a high price tag. Movie tickets also make a great experience gift idea. Whether you're shopping for individuals, couples, or families, consider gifting them a night at the movies. You could purchase from a particular theater chain or buy from Fandango so that they can go to any theater they want.
Cultural Outing Experience Gift Ideas
The gift of culture is priceless, so cultural events and activities also make great experience gifts. There are lots of options to consider for your friends and relatives who enjoy visiting places like museums, theaters, and more.
From art museums to history museums and many other types of venues, there are museums that speak to people with all kinds of interests. Find out what museums are located near where the people you're shopping for live (or plan to travel to) and gift them with tickets to visit the one(s) you think they'll love.
Going to plays is a great way to expand your horizons through cultural entertainment. Season tickets to a local community theater make a great gift, as do tickets to touring Broadway plays if the person you are shopping for lives near a venue. Visit Broadway.org for a list of shows that are touring and where they will be going.
Plays aren't the only way to see great stories told on the stage. Going to the ballet is another wonderful experience. If the person you're shopping for lives in an area that has its own ballet company, consider buying them tickets to a performance, or even season passes.
If the person or people you're shopping for are more into music than plays or ballet dancing, they might prefer receiving tickets to a symphony performance. If they're big fans and you have the budget, season tickets would be even better.
If you're shopping for someone who has a deep appreciation for opera, tickets to operatic performances make a memorable experience gift. Like other performances, you could give them tickets to a particular show or season passes that will allow them to go all year long.
Pampering Experience Gift Ideas
If your gift list includes busy people who don't often take time for self-care or pampering, consider gifting them an experience that's designed to help them de-stress.
Shower the person on your list who really deserves a day of pampering with a relaxation package at a local day spa. They'll appreciate being able to enjoy an ultimate me-day experience without feeling the slightest bit guilty about it.
If a full spa day is out of your budget, try booking a relaxing massage for the people on your shopping list who don't always take time for themselves. A couple's massage session can be a good choice if you're looking for a couple's gift, too.
If you're shopping for someone who never takes the time to focus on themselves, consider gifting them with a professional makeover that includes the works. Schedule them for a VIP treatment at a local salon, including hair, nails, and makeup.
Professional Photography Session
Booking a session with a professional photographer in their local area is a great gift idea for families to get photos together. It can also be a good gift idea for couples or individuals who may want or need professional photos. This is a fun gift for just about anyone, individuals and families alike.
Rather than picking out clothes that the person you're shopping for might not like, schedule them for a session with a personal shopper at one of their favorite stores. You can schedule it with a department store such as Nordstrom or through an online styling subscription service like Stitch Fix.
Wine & Cheese Pairing Class
Wine, artisanal cheeses, honey, jams, and crackers — could happy hour get any better? Paying for friends or family members to partake in one of these classes is a fantastically fun learning experience that involves the perfect combo of drinks and snacks! You can typically find these classes at artisan cheese shops.
Travel Experience Gift Ideas
Travel just may be the ultimate experience, but scheduling considerations can make it tough to surprise people with a prepaid trip. However, travel gift cards make it easy to give travel experiences that people can schedule themselves.
Passenger Train Tickets
Buying a gift for someone who lives near an Amtrak station and loves to travel? Buy them an Amtrak gift card that they can use to book a passenger train trip to any destination they want. You can purchase Amtrak gift cards from Amazon and other retailers in denominations ranging from $50 to $200.
If the person you're shopping for prefers air travel, airfare makes a great gift. If you know where and when they want to travel, you could buy them an airline ticket. Otherwise, an airline gift card is a great choice. Most airlines offer gift cards that can be used to purchase tickets, including Delta and American Airlines.
If the lucky person you're getting a gift for enjoys staying at Airbnbs, purchase an Airbnb gift card that they can use to book a staycation weekend or pay for part of their next vacation. Airbnb gift cards come standard in $100 increments from $100 to $500, or you can choose to purchase one for a custom amount.
Hotel gift cards are a great idea for people who prefer traditional accommodations. Most major hotel chains offer gift cards, including Marriott and Hilton. If you're not sure what brand they prefer or what hotels are in the areas they want to visit, you could buy a Hotels.com gift card instead.
A cruise booking makes a wonderful experience gift. You can book a specific cruise for someone as a gift, which would be a great option if the family is scheduling a multigenerational cruise later in the year. Alternatively, you could give them a gift card to one of the major cruise lines that they can apply to schedule any cruise they want to take.
"Experiments examining actual gift exchanges in real-life relationships reveal that experiential gifts produce greater improvements in relationship strength than material gifts, regardless of whether the gift giver and recipient consume the gift together."
Experience Gifts Are Unforgettable
Experience gifts are not only thoughtful, they're often appreciated more than tangible items that people don't need or even want. Whether you are planning the perfect gift far in advance or are searching for a last-minute gift idea, giving the people you love a special experience is a wonderful way to provide them with an unforgettable memory.