Years from now, when your little ones are all grown up (I know, I know…) what will they remember most about holidays with family? Sure, they’ll probably remember a favorite toy or two, but above all else, they’re going to remember the time you spent together and the experiences you shared.
We love giving (and receiving!) experience gifts, so we’ve curated 10 of our favorite, most memorable ideas to spark your creative gift-giving genius this holiday season.
1. Membership to a local zoo or aquarium
Kids love animals, and zoos and aquariums are the perfect places to see them all up close! We love the idea of a yearly family membership because you can spend as much—or as little—time as you like each visit and not feel guilty about wasting the price of a full-day admission ticket.
2. Adventure experience
Has your kiddo been dying to try ziplining? Rock climbing? Adventure experiences are the perfect idea for the more daring members of the family. They’re also a great way to test out an activity to see if it’s something your kiddo is really into that you may want to pursue further.
3. Museum membership
Did you know there are over 35,000 museums across the United States? (You can find a directory of them, by state and type, here .) That’s a lot of culture to take in, so you best get busy. Whether it’s a major institution or a local children’s museum, it’s easy to find something the whole family will love. And be sure to ask specifically about children’s programs, too.
4. Volunteer opportunity
Volunteering together as a family offers an invaluable opportunity to teach children about the world around them and begin to develop their sense of social consciousness. Even the littlest of kiddos can gain something from volunteering. To discover volunteer opportunities around you, try Volunteer Match , Network for Good , or America’s Promise Alliance .
5. Farm stay
This one’s a splurge, but we love it as an alternative to the standard family beach or amusement park vacation. There are tons of small working farms across the country that allow families to visit, stay, and work their farm. (Emphasis on the work part—you can’t be afraid of pitching in or getting dirty while doing it!) Check out Farm Stay U.S. for some options near you.
6. Subscription box
Is your kiddo into cooking? Do you have a mini global citizen on your hands, or an arts and craft addict? Subscription activity boxes are an awesome way to foster a specific interest and encourage screen-free time together as a family. There are tons of boxes available, but Foodstirs (cooking), Little Passports (global adventure), and Kiwi Crates (science and art) are three of our faves.
This one’s only a win if you live in New York, Boston, Chicago, LA, San Fran, or Washington DC, but we hope it will continue to expand to other locations in time. For a monthly fee, you can get credits that can be used for all types of activities—think events, sports, arts and crafts, museums, dance, and so many more. It’s easy to search and book via the app, and, unlike most kids’ activities, there’s no commitment, so it’s totally cool when your 5-year-old tells you she absolutely cannot attend ballet class ever again. Use this link to enjoy a free month trial !
8. Tickets to a play
Whether it’s a big show or a local theater, going to see a play or a musical as a family is an experience your little ones will always remember. (We also love this for a special outing with the grandparents, too.) Lots of local theaters do dedicated children’s programming. too, so be sure to check those out.
9. Train ride
Yup, you read that right. A ride on a train is cheap, works for almost any age, and pretty much every kid we’ve ever met is fascinated by them. (Especially among the toddler/preschool set.) Whether it’s a day trip through a scenic area, or something as simple as hopping on your local commuter line and going two stops over to a neighboring town for an ice cream, we love this idea for a fun and affordable experience gift.
What’s more fun that a night at a hotel when you’re a kid? Booking a night at a hotel—with a pool, of course!—is a fun, easy way to shake up your regular routine and get in some unconventional family time. Order some room service, watch a movie, and make a night of it! Gift from a larger chain, like Hilton , Marriott or Wyndham so they can use it for a variety of locations.
We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy.