Experience Gift Ideas for the Holidays – and How to Get a Deal!

This guide has tons of ideas for experience gifts—not physical things to buy, but memories you can make together. It also includes discounts that local businesses wanted to extend to Kidlist readers.

Call it what you will—minimalism, anti-consumerism, the desire to not trip over plastic toys and set off nerve-jangling music in the middle of the night—but there’s a growing awareness that many of our kids have too much stuff. (We grown-ups may be guilty, too.) Like many other families I’ve heard from, we’ve been looking for ways to celebrate the holidays by making memories together, rather than racking up too many physical gifts that just end up as clutter.

So here is Kidlist’s own experience gift wish list! Feel free to send the link to Santa (and the grandparents).

Families roast marshmallows around bonfires at the Morton Arboretum's Illumination event

Photo courtesy of The Morton Arboretum

Kidlist’s 2017 Experience Gift Idea Guide

Membership Gift Ideas

Memberships make great gifts because they give your family a cost-effective way to get out and have fun together all year round. After all, “Let’s go to the zoo!” makes a lot more sense when you know the tickets are already paid for. Check out our guide to which memberships are really worth it, as well as these ideas:

  • Zoo and aquarium memberships to spots like Brookfield Zoo, Cosley Zoo, Phillips Park Zoo, and the Shedd Aquarium
  • Museum memberships, both for local children’s museums and kid-friendly regular museums like the Museum of Science and Industry
  • Memberships for a local pool
  • Amusement park memberships
  • Botanic garden memberships
  • Memberships for indoor play areas to see you through the winter (we were recently gifted a Kidstreet membership and love it)

A few local park districts are also offering special deals on memberships:

  • Glen Ellyn Park District: Get one month free with a new Ackerman SFC membership on Friday, November 24, 2017. (The deal is only good on Black Friday and isn’t valid towards upgrades or walking track, one-month, or three-month memberships.)
  • Oak Brook Park District: Offering a “Gift from the Grandparents” special: $10 off the discounted Early Bird rate on Family Summer Aquatic Membership ($295 instead of $335). Valid from Friday, November 24–Sunday, January 14. The Oak Brook Park District also waives the regular $100 enrollment on any new membership from December 7–January 14.
  • Wheaton Park District: 25% off pool passes from November 21–30. Buy a $100 gift card for the park district, and you’ll get a $10 holiday voucher for Arrowhead Restaurant (valid January –March 2018). $5 coupon code of off DuPage County Historical Museum Membership (includes access to a free Members Only event in April).

Classes Gift Ideas

If there’s a skill your child has talked about wanting to learn, a class is a great gift. A few ideas:

Local discounts on classes:

  • Goldfish Swim School (Burr Ridge and Glen Ellyn): $189 holiday gift package that includes two months of lessons, a Goldfish picnic blanket, a water bottle, and family swim passes. Check out the deal here.
  • AquaMermaid (Chicago): $15 off a mermaid class for kids or adults with promo code SAHM.
  • Mattix Music Studio (Western Springs): Buy a $100 gift certificate, get an additional $25 free. Available for new students only; valid towards many classes including Music Together, Suzuki, violin, cello, viola, and piano. Shop here and choose the “HOLIDAY SPECIAL” option from the drop-down menu.
  • Ms. Clara’s Mini Musicians (Brookfield and Oak Park): Ms. Clara is offering a special deal for Kidlist readers—buy a gift certificate, and you’ll get another gift certificate worth 25% of your original purchase for free. (For example, buy a $100 gift certificate and get an extra worth $25 for free.) The extra amount will expire six months after purchase. To redeem the deal, purchase a gift certificate online and enter “Kidlist” in the Personal Note Section (not the promo code section).

Theater and Dance Ticket Gift Ideas

  • Get tickets for the family to see a play
  • Go see a holiday show, such as a performance of the Nutcracker
  • Check out Kidlist’s half-price tickets page for local plays, family-friendly comedy shows, magic shows, and more

Sports Gift Ideas

For sports-loving kids, outings to a game become lifelong memories. Actually, I don’t even like sports, but I loved seeing Blackhawks games with my family as a kid! A couple ideas:

  • Tickets to see a pro team play; check out the Chicago sports schedule for ideas
  • Homemade coupon to go to a local high school sports game
  • Tickets for a local batting cage

Winter Fun Gift Ideas

Tickets or a homemade coupon for winter fun can help see your family through all the cold and snow! Here are a few ideas:

Parent/Child Date Gift Ideas

A special outing together for one-on-one time makes a great gift. A few things you can do:

Plan a Vacation (or “Staycation”)

A winter break trip is a fun way to build memories together—even if you decide to stay put! You might want to:

Check out our Winter Holiday Fun Guide for family-friendly fun this season!

Don’t Miss Our Giveaways!

We will be running contests and you can win big prizes from wonderful local businesses. Sign up for the Kidlist emails to get the info on how to enter! You’ll also get great ideas for experience gifts while you’re at it.

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We hope all of these ideas give you inspiration to give experience gifts this year. If you have more ideas, leave a comment below!

About the Author

Rachel Matuch
Rachel is a writer and mom of two boys who lives in Woodridge. She recently moved from Downers Grove and grew up in Naperville, but she and her husband have been discovering new things to do now that they’ve got a toddler and baby in tow. Rachel loves cooking, playing board games, and regularly raiding the Woodridge library. She also volunteers with teens at Four Corners Community Church, which makes her feel like an old geezer.

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