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42 Experience Gifts for Kids That Are Way Better Than Another Toy

Give the gift of incredible memories

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Dasha Burobina for PureWow

There’s nothing like seeing the smile on your kid’s face as they tear open their gifts on Christmas morning…or the frown on yours as you tidy up the mess and realize that they’ve already broken/lost/gotten bored of their gift before noon. This year, why not give the gift of incredible memories instead with an experience gift? These are non-material gifts that provide a fun and memorable experience. Here, a list of our favorite experience gifts for kids of all ages, from toddlers to teens and featuring everything from concert tickets and RV road trips to at-home virtual voice lessons and crafting subscription boxes. Read on and you’re sure to find a gift that makes a lasting impression (without adding clutter to your living space).

The Best Experience Gifts for Kids at a Glance

1

Most Magical Experience Gift

Magic 101: Show and Lesson

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2

Best at-home Boredom Buster

The Adventure Challenge Kids Edition

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3

Best Subscription for Budding Chefs

YesChef Subscription

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4

Best Subscription for Teens

Masterclass Membership

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5

Best for Young Explorers

Airbnb Stay

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What Is an Experience Gift?

An experience gift is, as it sounds, an activity-oriented gift that promises a memorable experience for the recipient…as opposed to, you know, material goods that simply add to the clutter. Experience gifts can be hands-on activities that speak to kids’ individual interests, scrapbook-worthy trips or tickets to a cool local event that can be enjoyed with the company of friends or family. Either way, the idea is to provide stimulation, engagement and fun without adding more stuff to the never-ending pile of junk already in their room.

How We Chose the Best Experience Gifts for Kids

When choosing the best experience gifts for kids, we crowd-sourced the wants of a wide age range of kids, got recommendations from parents and scoured the internet for gifts with glowing reviews, while prioritizing vendors we know our readers love and taking budgets, both big and small, into account.

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Most Magical Experience Gift

1. Magic 101: Show and Lesson

Created by Ming Da

Kids ages 13 and up will be dazzled by elite magician Ming Da, and even more delighted when they learn how to wow their own friends with those very same tricks.

Best at-home Boredom Buster

2. The Adventure Challenge Kids Edition

The Adventure Challenge

This innovative activity book is packed with engaging and adventurous (but safe) challenges that will keep kids entertained with minimal supervision and supplies required. Best of all, the interactive scratch-off design keeps the surprises coming well after the gift has been unwrapped and the activities are all repeatable so your kid will enjoy hour upon hour of screen-free fun.

Best Subscription for Budding Chefs

3. YesChef Subscription

Junior cooks stand to gain quite a lot from YesChef—a subscription service that grants access to a huge number of cooking lessons led by the world’s best culinary experts including Jamie Oliver, Nancy Silverton and Asma Khan. That said, it’s worth noting that YesChef is not intended specifically for kids, so this one is best gifted to an older teen.

Best Subscription for Teens

4. Masterclass Membership

Masterclass is all the rage right now—and although there’s no specific filter when it comes to finding classes for kids, there’s plenty of content that will appeal to tweens and teens. (Skateboarding lessons with Tony Hawk, anyone?)

Best for Young Explorers

5. Airbnb Stay

Airbnb

If you’re looking to avoid the further accumulation of toys without disappointing your kid this holiday season, a big ticket trip fits the bill. Decide whether you want to go near or far, and then follow the link for a thoughtfully curated list of vacation rentals around the country and beyond. (How cool is this boat house in Springfield, Tennessee?) Once you find the location that suits your family, you can start planning your kid’s dream itinerary—though it’s worth noting that the change of scenery alone promises a memorable experience.

Best for Theater Fans

6. Gift Card to See a Play or Theater Event

Stubhub

Young actors are sure to be dazzled by a live stage performance delivered by a cast of pros. That said, you might not know which particular play they find most appealing, so your best bet is a gift card that allows them the freedom to browse the programs of local playhouses and score some tickets that are truly exciting.

Best for Swifities

7. Taylor Swift Eras Tour Movie Tickets

Fandango

Didn’t get tickets to the Taylor Swift Eras tour (or chose not to because, wow, that price tag)? Fear not: Young Swifties will be more than happy to settle for this special viewing opportunity, which provides a nearly three hour-long, immersive cinematic experience of the history-making live tour and a (likely relatable) glimpse into the whole Taylor Swift craze.

Season Pass to a Museum
JOSE LUIS PELAEZ INC/GETTY IMAGES

Best for Thoughtful Observers

8. Season Pass to a Museum

Speaking of art, why not give the kid in your life a season pass to a favorite museum, so they can visit and soak up some culture whenever the mood strikes?

Best STEAM Activity Box for Younger Kids

9. Kiwico Koala Crate

KIWICO

Hands-on activities, pretend play props, and crafting materials are among the goods young kids will receive from this monthly STEAM subscription. It’s an invitation to play in a box. Previous activities have included learning all about rainbows (with a stained glass craft and rainbow tote bag dyeing project) and taking a trip to the farm (think: making a beaded vegetable garden and playing a matching game with a friend, plus creating four adorable animal finger puppets to live inside your barn).

Experience Gifts for Kids Limo and Dinner Night. Group of kids in a cheers and smiling.
ZERO CREATIVES/GETTY IMAGES

Best for a Teen Girl’s Night Out

10. Limo and Dinner Night

Give your kid the star treatment for the night by renting a limo to take her and a few friends to a favorite restaurant or to the movies (ahem, Taylor Swift Eras Tour Movie Tickets anyone?). Needless to say, the novelty factor is high, so the Insta-worthy experience is sure to be a memorable one.

Best for Too-Cool-for-School Teenagers

11. Concert Tickets

Ticketmaster

For a teen who’s always tuned into Spotify, there’s no better gift than being able to check out a live performance of their favorite band with a friend. (Psst: Olivia Rodrigo’s GUTS World Tour will be stateside as early as February 2024.)

Best for the Pet-Obsessed

12. Paint Your Pet: Portrait Class & Kit

Created by Addie Stunkard

A portrait of a pet is a thoughtful present for any child who has a special bond with a furry friend, but the gift of having a pro help them paint their own is even more precious.

Best for Young Cosmopolitans

13. Little Passports World Edition

Little Passports

This subscription box from Little Passports takes grade school kids on an action-packed, simulated globe-trotting adventure, complete with souvenirs and plenty of hands-on activities like building your own 3D puzzle of the Rialto Bridge and making your very own sea turtles out of play sand. Designed for kids ages 6 to 10, the experience is sure to satisfy their wanderlust, while teaching them a thing or two, to boot.

Best for Family Road Trips

14. Book a Camper Van or RV

Outdoorsy

Flights are expensive and family road trips in a sedan can be, well, less than magical. Why not rent a camper van or RV instead and let your kid map out the route (within reason)? The end result is sure to be an adventure they’ll rave to their friends about when winter break is over.

Best for the Young and Energetic

15. Trampoline Park Passes

A vast expanse of bouncy surfaces, things to swing on and crash into without injury…Yep, trampoline parks are like a kid's dream come true, especially for those under ten with energy to burn. Score some passes for a SkyZone or other trampoline park near you and your child and a couple friends, so they can make wild memories while you sit back and watch.

experience gifts for kids ice skating passes
MEREDITH WINN PHOTOGRAPHY/GETTY IMAGES

Best Cold Weather Experience

16. Ice Skating Passes

Encourage your kid to turn off the tube and hit the rink with friends for a much-needed breath of fresh air and an undeniably fun winter boredom buster.

Best for Budding Scientists

17. Little Passports Science Expeditions

Little Passports

From aerodynamics to forensics, this STEM subscription box covers a new area of scientific inquiry every month with fascinating experiments that guarantee hands-on fun.

Best for future Star Bakers

18. Baketivity

Baketivity

Activities, lessons, step-by-step recipes, cook-along instructional videos and all the necessary dry ingredients are included in this monthly baking subscription box for kids. The subscription also includes extras like monthly live, virtual baking lessons and homeschool activities so kids can really hone their culinary skills. Let’s just say, the end result is pretty sweet.

Check out a Novelty Museum Experience Gifts for Kids
Cindy Ord/Staff/Museum of Ice Cream

Best Day Outing

19. Check out a Novelty Museum

If your kid isn’t quite sophisticated enough to appreciate fine art and historical artifacts don’t hold his attention either, you might consider trying a different kind of museum entirely. Children’s museums, in general, are designed specifically to address this reality—but there are some other, particularly novel options. If you live in NYC, a visit to the Museum of Ice Cream promises unlimited frozen treats, a sprinkle pit the size of a swimming pool and a giant tube slide that delivers a serious thrill. Another fine choice for folks outside of the Big Apple is the Museum of Illusions—a privately-held museum that serves up mind-bending fun at all of its 24 locations across the country.

Best for construction enthusiasts

20. Annie’s Kit Clubs Young Woodworkers Club

ANNIE’S KIT CLUBS

Sign up for this woodworking craft subscription and every month your kid will receive everything needed—including high quality, kid-sized tools, and easy-to-follow instructions—to complete a construction project that will inspire pride.

Best for Aspiring Pop Stars

21. Virtual Voice Lessons

The Skillshare music offerings are comprehensive, and kids who are passionate about music will definitely benefit from the numerous voice lessons available to kids of any skill level. It’s also an excellent way to encourage their interest and help them hone their talent without investing in an expensive instrument before having assessed their commitment. (Just saying.)

Best for Fashionistas

22. Fashion Illustration and Design Course

OUTSCHOOL

This flexible eight-week virtual course is sure to inspire creativity and feed the imagination of any tween or teen with an eye for design and a love of fashion. Taught by an award-winning fashion and costume designer, your kid will get a  step-by-step guide to how to draw their very own fashion designs and create original figures.

Best for Budding Artists

23. Smartest Artists 12-Week Course

OUTSCHOOL

Artists between the ages of 4 and 9 will learn a wide range of new techniques from this 12-week session of thoughtful art lessons, in which every major academic subject (science, history, math and literature!) is incorporated into the creative process. (Bonus: There's even the possibility of a sibling discount.)

Best for the Insta-obsessed

24. Level 1 Creative Photography Class

OUTSCHOOL

If Instagram isn’t already in your tween’s life, it will be soon enough. Help them up their photography game with a flexible four-week course that covers all the basics of composition and lighting, while encouraging creativity.

Best STEAM Activity Box for Older Kids

25. Green Kid Crafts Steam Box

by Green Kid Crafts

Give your kid a well-rounded STEAM experience with this Green Kids box, which boasts four to six separate activities that spark the imagination, encourage exploration and provide hours of hands-on, screen-free fun. From science experiments to art and engineering projects, this one checks all the boxes, and chances are you’ll both be grateful to have it around on a rainy day.

experience gifts for kids amusement park trip
ANDRESR/GETTY IMAGES

Best for Thrill-seekers

26. Amusement Park Trip

Gift your young thrill-seeker tickets to a theme park—the adrenaline rush of the roller coaster rides won’t last forever, but the memories surely will.

A badass mama with a black belt in mixed martial arts and a background in fitness instruction teaches this flexible four-week class for littles ages 3 to 7. If you’ve got a kid who’s bouncing off the walls, this gift will pay dividends for both parties.

Best for Outdoorsy Kids

28. Camping or Glamping Trip

campspot

Whether you’re seeking an RV park surrounded by natural beauty, a traditional campsite with easy access to hiking trails or a camp-style resort complete with a water park, there are tons of affordable options that ensure an amazing weekend in the Great Outdoors—and if that’s up your kid’s alley, this experience gift idea is kind of a no-brainer.

Phone In Astrology Reading

Best for Astrology Lovers

29. Phone In Astrology Reading

virginexperiencegifts

If you’ve got a budding astrologer at home, they’ll love having their astrological chart analyzed by the American College of Vedic Astrologers. In the 30- or 60-minute reading, their strengths, weaknesses and dynamics of their romantic, personal and professional relationships will be addressed (which means mom or dad’s name is likely to come up!) Note: Participants must be at least 18 years old so this is an experience gift that’s only available for the oldest kids.

Best for Pinterest-loving Teens

30. Kiwico Maker Crate

KIWICO

Here a crafty subscription box that will keep teens busy making Pinterest-worthy decorative objects that look so impressive, you’ll want to sign yourself up, too. (The punch-needle pillow and terrazzo clay organizers are simply too cute.)

experience gifts for kids hot air balloon ride
EDELMAR/GETTY IMAGES

Best for Sky-high Views

31. Hot Air Balloon Ride

Book a hot air balloon ride and your kid will be on cloud nine. Plus, when they come back down to the earth, they’ll be raving about the unforgettable experience for quite some time to come.

experience gifts for kids bowling passes
LISEGAGNE/GETTY IMAGES

Best for Having Fun with Friends

32. Bowling Passes

Bowling is a blast for all but the youngest kids and an excellent opportunity for teens and tweens to socialize with friends. Give the gift of an all-expenses paid trip (or several) at the bowling alley, and your kid will have Friday night plans worth looking forward to.

Best for beauty queens

33. Salon Treatment Gift Card

Treat the young diva in your life to a day at the salon for a blow-out, eyebrow shaping, what have you. Then, follow it up with a special dinner out with friends. There will be gratitude (and likely a whole lot of selfies).

Best for Film Buffs

34. Movie Theater Gift Card

Fandango

The young film buff under your roof will be pleased as punch to see what the local cinema has on offer without having to dip too much into his allowance.

Best for Kids with a Green Thumb

35. My Garden Box

by My Garden Box

Kids of all ages can reap the rewards of some time spent in the garden (i.e., a hands-on activity that connects them to nature). This gardening subscription box features indoor and outdoor plants, along with the supplies and step-by-step instructions needed to ensure success for new plant parents.

Best for Pre-school Pen Pals

36. Snail Mail Weekly Subscription Box

by Snail Mail for Kids

Here, a painfully adorable gift idea for the little one in your life. This subscription box promises younger kids (think: ages three to eight) personalized letters every week from a pen pal, Sunny the Mail Snail. The content of each note is imaginative and educational, and the correspondence even includes interactive activities like puzzles and codes to crack. That said, we think the highlight of this experience is simply the joy and excitement that comes from getting a special piece of mail.

Best for Athletes

37. Tickets to a Sporting Event

Sports fans of all ages will be wild about seeing their favorite athletes show off their stuff in real time. You can compliment the gift with a piece of sports memorabilia from their team, and don’t skimp on the snacks when you’re at the big game.

After completing this four-week flexible Roblox course, your enthusiastic gamers will have learned the skills to build a whole new world, translating their creativity into a playable game of their own making.

Best for Home Ec Enthusiasts

39. Beginner Sewing Camp

OUTSCHOOL

Once young fashion designers have mastered the artistic skill required for sketching their designs (see above), they can start learning the basics of how to turn their visions into wearable art with this beginner-friendly sewing class.

Best for Aspiring Rock Stars

40. Fender Play Guitar Lessons

fender

Aspiring musicians of all ages can learn guitar on their own schedule with a Fender Play subscription—an innovative teaching app that relies on engaging, bite-sized lessons to produce big results.

experience gifts for kids donation to a gap year fund
VIROJT CHANGYENCHAM/GETTY IMAGES

Best for High School Seniors

41. Donation to a Gap Year Fund

Your high schooler wants to take a gap year after graduation and see the world. Well, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Just kidding—you aren’t invited. Instead, lend them a hand with a monetary contribution that supports their travel plans and ensures they start freshman year of college with some amazing bucket list experiences under their belt.

Best for Animal Lovers

42. Book a Farm Stay

airbnb

Check out options for kid-friendly farm stays near you and reserve a weekend spot. This unique gift idea guarantees a truly memorable experience—complete with hands-on tasks, face-time with animals and all the farm fresh food they can eat—in a beautiful rural setting.

What to Consider When Selecting an Experience Gift for Kids

  • Location 

A trip to a new place is always novel, which is why it’s pretty hard to go wrong with a first-time visit to an amusement park or, if you’re going all out, a vacation. Still, a great experience can be had without even leaving home. Online classes and subscription boxes are a very rewarding way to stretch out the experience beyond just one day. Consider which category of experience gift will bring your kid the most joy and also what you actually have the bandwidth for and go from there. 

  • Interest 

Needless to say, the best experience gifts are ones that speak to the recipient’s unique interests and personality. When giving gifts it can be easy to end up shopping for yourself (i.e., you haven’t been to a concert in years!). Don’t fall into that trap here. For kids who seemingly have a new interest every week, get some intel from their friends and always listen for hints your kid might be dropping before you go all in on an experience gift. 

  • Price Point 

This one is kind of a no-brainer, but don’t invest more money than you feel comfortable with in an experience gift. Come up with a budget before you start brainstorming ideas and stick to it. There are amazing experiences to be had at every price point. Trust. 

  • Age 

Some experiences are best enjoyed by older kids…because how much of that astronomically expensive trip to Disney is your 3-year-old really going to remember? Similarly, your salty teen might suddenly be too cool for a trip to a trampoline park. You get the idea—just pick an age-appropriate gift for best results.

Do Kids Appreciate Experience Gifts?

That’s an unequivocal yes! In fact, the question you really should be asking is how much your kids actually appreciate the tangible gifts they have been given beyond the thrill of ripping off the wrapping paper. For the most part, kids rapidly lose interest in new toys and the more stuff they accumulate the less it means to them; the same cannot be said about a memorable experience.

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Freelance PureWow Editor

Emma Singer is a freelance contributing editor and writer at PureWow who has over 7 years of professional proofreading, copyediting and writing experience. At PureWow, she covers...

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