Experience Gifts for Kids: Memberships, Tickets, Experiences, Local Places to Play, and More


Some of the absolute best Christmas presents our family has received over the past few years haven’t been ‘things’ at all. Our family members have been amazing about gifting us and our kids with things like children’s museum memberships, park district gift cards, indoor swim lessons, restaurant gift cards, and even escape room passes!

Family fun can be expensive. These local experience gifts for kids can help put the priority on time together, or give your kids space to develop an interest or hobby. For parents of young children especially, a membership can be truly transformative, turning a local kid-friendly destination into a haven for your family. When kids are little and unpredictable when it comes to outings, having the freedom to come as often as you’d like — and stay only as long as it’s fun — is really freeing.

We’ve put together this guide to serve as a catalogue of sorts. We hope it helps you find some local destinations for kid-friendly fun that you’d love to give (or receive)! This is one to send to your family with a wink and a nudge for sure.

Local Membership Gifts for Kids and Families

Memberships give the priceless gift of year-round fun, and are my personal favorite to suggest to family members such as grandparents. Bonus: you have a great excuse to use the membership and spend time together with the gift givers! Here are just a few of the many local memberships to consider for your children.

Indoor Play Memberships and Gift Cards

The Cubhouse (Oak Park)

Funflatables (Bolingbrook, Chicago Ridge, Lombard, Norridge, North Riverside, Vernon Hills, and more)

LEGOLAND Discovery Center (Schaumburg)

Peppa Pig World of Play (Schaumburg)

We Rock the Spectrum (Franklin Park and Naperville)

The Treehouse Play Cafe (Lake Zurich)

Children’s Museum Memberships

DuPage Children’s Museum (Naperville)

Kohl Children’s Museum (Glenview)

Wonder Works (Oak Park)

Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn (Oak Lawn)

KidsWork Children’s Museum (Frankfort)

Bronzeville Children’s Museum (Chicago)

Chicago Children’s Museum (Chicago)

Bellaboo’s Play and Discovery Center (Lake Station, Indiana)

Nature Memberships

Child looking over a fence at a giraffe at the Brookfield Zoo, part of the Museum Adventure Pass program.

The Morton Arboretum (Lisle)

Brookfield Zoo (Brookfield)

Chicago Botanic Garden (Glencoe)

Cosley Zoo (Wheaton)

Gift Chicago Museum Memberships

Adler Planetarium

Art Institute of Chicago

Field Museum

Griffin Museum of Science and Industry

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Shedd Aquarium

Summer Pool Memberships

Your local pool might offer gift cards or the option to gift a membership! Check out our 2023 list of local pools offering summer memberships to find a swimming spot near you.

Indoor Swim Lessons Gifts

Indoor swim lessons make for a great Christmas gift! They help kids maintain swim skills over the winter and provide a great large muscle activity for a season when it can be hard to get outside. Some businesses offer special packages just for gifting, complete with special extras that can be wrapped and put under the tree. This is one of my family’s favorite gifts from grandparents.

Bear Paddle Swim School

  • Locations in Aurora, Bloomingdale, Kildeer, Lake In The Hills, Orland Park, and Woodridge
  • Digital gift card options available.

Big Blue Swim School

  • Locations in Buffalo Grove, Chicago, Glendale Heights, Hoffman Estates, Naperville, and Niles
  • Digital gift card options available.

Goldfish Swim School

  • Locations in Burr Ridge, Elmhurst, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Plainfield, St. Charles, Algonquin, Arlington Heights, Mundelein, Evanston, Park Ridge, Northbrook, and Chicago
  • To purchase a gift card from your desktop browser, find your location on the website, then click “More” in the top navigation and select “Goldfish eGift!” from the drop-down menu.
  • To purchase a gift card on your mobile browser, find your location on the website, then tap the three-bar icon in the upper right-hand corner. Select “Customer Portal.” From there, tap “Menu” in the upper left-hand corner and select “Goldfish eGift” from the drop-down menu.

Foss Swim School

  • Locations serving Chicago, Elmwood Park, Libertyville, Niles, South Barrington, and Highland Park
  • Purchase a gift card online and have it shipped.

FMC Natatorium

Park District Gift Cards

Many local park districts offer gift cards that can be used for classes, passes (including pool passes), and even party rentals. Check with your park district for details.

Fun, Games, and Adventures Gift Ideas

  • Check out Six Flags tickets and passes. Theme park outings are expensive, and a season pass is an incredible gift idea for teens especially!
  • If your kids love puzzles, look for a local escape room! Many offer online gift card options.
  • Top Golf, which has locations in Naperville and Schaumburg, offers memberships.
  • The Forge: Lemont Quarries offers gift cards for a wide range of outdoor adventure activities, events, camps, classes, and more.
  • Go Ape Chicago in Western Springs offers gift cards that can be used for ziplining, net climbing, escape experiences, axe throwing, and more.

Immersive Experiences Gifts

Classes Gift Ideas

a little girl at the counter of one of these kids cooking classes

Does your child have a new skill they might want to learn, or perhaps an area you think they might really enjoy exploring? Classes make some of the greatest experience gifts for kids. They can be tailored specifically to your child’s interests. Here are just a few:

  • Cooking, art, drama and music classes are sure to bring big smiles to creative kiddos. If you can’t shake the feeling that you need something to gift-wrap (no judgment! this is 100% me so you’re not alone), print out a description of the class and tie it onto a fun, colorful spatula, set of paints and brushes, and so on.
  • Have a budding athlete at home? Annie recently updated our kids sports classes list – there are so many to enjoy!
  • How about a class experience that you can do together? Yoga classes are ideal for this!
  • Indoor swim lessons are awesome in the winter for keeping up swim skills in between summer days at the pool.

Tickets as Gifts for Kids

And last, but not least, consider tickets to a live event with the kids this holiday season! Seeing live productions again has jumpstarted my kids’ imaginations with lots of questions about props, singing, costuming – the works! There are plenty of options to choose from here:

  • Family-friendly winter theater options, from big Broadway shows, to smaller community-theater productions, are a wonderful way to make lasting memories together.
  • Charlotte saw Blue Man Group with her family last year and wrote about it for us. Check out her helpful review to see if this might be a good one to take your own kids to see, especially if you have tweens and teens.

Looking for more fun things to do with the family this winter season? Check out Kidlist’s Winter Activities page for the very best inspiration.

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