Local Experience Gifts You’ll Want to Put Under the Tree This Holiday

If you’d like to give or receive experiences rather than toys this holiday, here’s your Grand Rapids gifts list! Giving Christmas present experiences has gotten more popular over the years – and for good reason.

It can be overwhelming for parents and children alike to receive mountains of gifts all at one time. By wrapping up Christmas experience gifts rather than things, you are letting the family decide when to best use their present, as well as keeping in-home clutter to a minimum. In fact, some families prefer to do one or two big fun family gifts for Christmas rather than a bunch of smaller items.

While it’s probably not practical to give 100% of your gifts in the form of experiences, even switching just a few over will help spread the holiday cheer throughout the year and let kids think of the gift-giver year round.

Give them Something to Unwrap

To add to the fun, you can find creative ways to wrap these gifts and make opening an experience gift exciting even if it’s not something the recipient can use immediately.

For example, wrap a zoo membership card in a map of the zoo. Wrap theatre or concert tickets in a giant box to throw them off the trail. If the real gift is dance lessons, wrap the studio’s brochure with a new tutu. Or make an adventure of it by drawing a map and sending the recipient on a treasure hunt for their gift!

Jump to find…
Eat with Santa
Santa Parades
Trains + Sleigh Ride Events
Santa Photos + Visits
Holiday Countdown Calendar
Complete Holiday Guide
Cut Your Own Christmas Tree
Nutcracker + Holiday Show List
Gift Ideas for the Whole Family

Want a smart gift for a whole family? Give a membership to a local attraction, like a zoo or museum!

Memberships often include free admission to the family, as well as many other perks. Grand Rapids Kids laid out these benefits for you. If you can’t swing full membership, gift cards or day passes are great too. Grand Rapids is rich with cultural institutions for the whole family.

Thrill the animal-loving family with access to John Ball Zoo. Bonus: Members save on – and register early – for camps and classes!

The Mud Room

Partner Gift Idea

Get Crafty at The Mud Room @Knapp’s Corner

Plan a visit during Open Studio hours to paint pottery (all ages are welcome). Colors are washable and non-toxic, and you don’t need any talent or experience. The wide selection of ceramic pieces offers something for everyone, and their friendly staff will help with the rest.

For something more personal, sign up your child (age 7-15) for an upcoming Camp Mud Potter’s Wheel Class over winter break, or purchase a Gift Card to sneak in their stocking or under the tree.

Call 616.259.7269, visit our website, or Facebook

The Mud Room

If butterflies, holiday trees, and an amazing outdoor playground are what you’re after, Frederik Meijer Gardens memberships are a great bet.

Get to know your city’s roots when you hang out at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. Top-notch programming throughout the year and stellar reciprocal benefits make this a great buy.

Even the least artistic of the family will enjoy the masterpieces at the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

Horizon Kids Complex

Partner Gift Idea

Get active @Horizon Kids Complex

From infancy through childhood, Horizon Kids Complex has a place for your child.

Horizon Kids Complex specializes in unique educational classes that revolve around active learning. Watch your child build self-esteem, strength, and BIG dreams in a fun, safe, and clean environment.

Give your child the advantage of one of our programs in gymnastics, dance, ninja, cheer, or Karate-Jitsu.

Call 616.259.7269, visit our website, or Facebook

Grand Rapids Gifts - the Horizon Complex

Horizon Kids Complex
John Ball Zoo

Partner Gift Idea

Explore Nature and Wildlife @John Ball Zoo

Give the perfect gift! John Ball Zoo members support the mission to inspire our community to be actively engaged in the conservation of wildlife and our natural environment.

Members can visit often, receive discounts, and take advantage of all the opportunities at the Zoo through a membership.

Call 616,336.4300, visit our website, or Facebook

John Ball Zoo

At the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, kids can be kids and parents can play along! Everything is interactive and the kids will have so much fun, they won’t know they’re learning, too.

For the family that just can’t stop talking about their love of art, the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA) is the place to be.

Craigs Cruisers

Partner Gift Idea

Family Fun @Craigs Cruisers

Give the gift the whole family will remember. Come play in West Michigan’s Largest Family Fun Center. Gift Cards available!

Attractions and offerings include:
• Indoor Go-Karts
• Laser Tag
• Ninja Course
• Cruiser Coaster
• Bumper Cars
• Trampoline Park
• Huge Arcade
• Buffet with menu featuring salad, pasta, pizza, dessert and beverages.

Call 616.530.2900, visit our website, or Facebook

Craigs Cruisers
Kroc Center

Partner Gift Idea

Go for a Swim @Kroc Center

Want to swim, climb, and play at the Kroc without the monthly payment? Check out our Pool & Play Pass!

This pass will give your family access to our most popular open swim times – Saturdays & Sundays, along with Christmas Break AND Spring Break!

Cost is just $99 for the year.

Call 616.588.7200, visit our website, or Facebook

Kroc Center

When you can’t decide which Grand Rapids experience they’ll like best, give them a taste of everything with the Grand Rapids Culture Pass.

Families also love a day full of fun! Why not give them access to loads of fun with a gift card or passes to any of these exciting West Michigan activities?

Get $5 off per ticket for the Grand Rapids Griffins with code GRKIDS and take the whole family for New Year’s Eve, Superhero Night, or Star Wars Night.

With go-karts, laser tag, and arcade games, there’s something for everyone at Craig’s Cruisers and AJ’s Fun Park.

Climb high or dive deep. Either way, these indoor water and fun parks at the Kroc Center  and the Holland Aquatic Center are hours of family fun.

Your Family can make it a weekend adventure any time of year at Double JJ resort. With Horseback riding, Snow tubing, the Gold Rush Indoor Water Park, and much more you are bound to find something for everyone in your family.

It’s OK if someone needs to use the bumpers, a strike is a strike when you’re bowling at Spectrum Lanes.

Battle GR

Partner Gift Idea

Be the Hero in a Real Life Video Game @Battle GR

Give the gift of FUN this holiday season.

At BattleGR Tactical Games you can be the hero in your own real life video game…laser tag style. We have seven different objective based games to please everyone.

You will be the holiday hero for helping make unforgettable memories this holiday season.

Call 616.345.0698, visit our website, or Facebook

Battle GR

Whether you’re smooth on your feet or falling on your backside, roller skating at Tarry Hall Roller Rink is sure to come with lots of laughs.

Voted one of the great public spaces by the American Planning Association Rosa Parks Circle is a terrific place to enjoy a winter evening on the ice.

Bunny hills or black diamonds, amateurs or experts. If you know a family who likes to shred, send them skiing at Cannonsburg.

Your family may not know port from starboard, but they can learn with sailing lessons from Grand Rapids Yacht Club.

If you’re looking to travel but not go far, gift the family a 14-mile ride on the rails. The Coopersville & Marne Railway offers a Santa Train, and Easter Bunny Train, and more!

Muskegon Luge & Sports

Partner Gift Idea

Get warmed up @Muskegon Luge & Sports Complex

Gift your family the joy of active-fun outdoors.

Winter’s a lot warmer with fun things to do in the snow!

• 2 acres of outdoor ice rink
• ¼ mile ice skating trail in the woods
• 15 kilometers of groomed ski trails
• Snowshoe trails in the Lake Michigan sand dunes
• Open day and night
• Rental equipment available

Call 1.877.TRY-LUGE or 231.744.9629, visit our website, or Facebook

Muskegon Luge & Sports

At Treetop Adventure Park you’ll have so much together and walk away feeling like not only a family, but a team.

If a day of fun doesn’t seem like enough, extend the festivities into an overnight away from home. Whether it’s a local stay or somewhere out of town, any family would enjoy some time at one of these exciting locations.

It’s a few hours and world away. Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City includes a massive indoor water park, many kid-friendly activities, and plenty to do for the grown ups, too.

Frohe Weihnachten! (That’s Merry Christmas in German.) Enjoy a German-themed at Bavarian Inn Lodge in Frankenmuth.

Go for the whole experience with skiing, dog sledding, snow tubing, and snowshoeing at Crystal Mountain.

Book your train tickets to Chicago and take the whole family to the Windy City. You’ll see the countryside along the way, and experience life in the big city.

Or consider a night in a local hotel. Sometimes all you need is a hotel room, a pool, and a pizza to have a blast!

Finally, any opportunity to spend time together makes a great gift. Sometimes it’s just about getting out of the house and doing something different.

A family photo session is the gift of time together AND beautiful portraits to cherish!

Spread holiday cheer now and throughout the year by volunteering as a family in your community. Check out our Kids and Family Volunteer Guide for ideas.

Local Gift Experience Ideas for Kids

Grand Rapids Experience Gifts for Kids

Around the holidays, kids often get a lot of “stuff,” and the joy of watching them open a longed-for toy or gadget is a gift in itself. But along with all that “stuff,” there are many ways to give the gift of an experience that will last beyond the holiday season.

Kids of all ages will love the gift of lessons to try something new or continue an activity they already love. West Michigan provides lots of great options to pick up or hone a skill.

Classes at a local gymnastics facility will give your kids access to a giant mat and some padded equipment to get out all of that energy!

Music and the arts enrich our lives and helps kids learn, so give them the gift that keeps on giving with lessons from Ada Piano Academy and other local institutions.

If you know a horse lover, what could be better than riding lessons at Karin’s Horse Connection?

Swimming is not only fun, but it’s also a valuable life skill. With swimming lessons at Goldfish Swim School, everyone wins!

Send your child to cooking classes at the Downtown Market and pretty soon they will be making dinner for YOU.

Passes or gift cards to one of the many indoor or outdoor recreation areas are a fun way to get kids moving. Or encourage their artistic side with a gift card to a local art studio. Save these passes for a rainy (or sunny) day when everyone has some extra energy to burn.

Dozens of inflatables, obstacles courses, and interactive games make Jester’s Court the perfect place for fun and excitement this holiday season.

If you’re looking for trampolines, foam pits, and a place to play for kids of all ages, check out Airtime.

The kids won’t want to miss the bubble dance party in between climbing, sliding, and jumping around at Catch Air.

No need to wait for summer to attend camp. Let them enjoy archery, sledding, and other snowy activities now with winter camping at Sherman Lake YMCA.

Plan a visit during open studio time and create something wonderful at The Mud Room. Or sign up your child for Camp Mud Potter’s Wheel Class over winter break. Even with no experience, you can be an artist. It’s simple and relaxing and fun for everyone.

Backyard play sets and trampolines from Backyard Fun Zone create year-round memories for the whole family. OK technically these could be considered “stuff,” but since they will provide years of playful entertainment, we’ll let them slide (pun intended)!

Goldfish Swim School

Partner Gift Idea

Wrap your future in a fishbowl @Goldfish Swim School

Give the life saving skill to their world this holiday season with the gift of swim lessons at Goldfish Swim School!

Our holiday package includes 2 months of lessons, bubbles plush toy, new bubbles book and one family swim pass all wrapped up in a cute fishbowl!

Call 616.259.0725, visit our website, or Facebook

Goldfish Swim School

The gift of an experience will last a lifetime

No matter who you’re buying for or what you choose to give, you will be glad you replaced some of the holiday “stuff” with experiences that create lasting memories. Unlike toys and gadgets, gifts of experience don’t lose their novelty. So go ahead and buy that amazing “thing” you know they’ll love, but also wrap up the gift of a great experience!

Ada Conservatory of Music

Partner Idea

Give the gift of music @Ada Conservatory of Music

Give your child the gift of music this holiday season. Ada Conservatory of Music offers lessons in piano, voice, violin, viola, flute, guitar, ukulele and bass guitar with the top instructors in West Michigan.

Experience the difference music can make in your child’s life with our trusted professionals.

Call 248.660.6360, visit our website, or Facebook

Ada Conservatory of Music
Creative Gift Experiences for Local Moms

Holiday Experience Gifts for Mom

Are you looking for an experience gift for mom? We think that moms do a lot and they deserve a lot for the holidays! Whether they work outside the home, stay home with the kids full-time, or something in between, moms deserve to do something amazing.

A spa day is the perfect way to say “We love you!” and every mom deserves a massage and a facial. And a mani/pedi. And everything else the spa has to offer. If you don’t know her favorite place, try Design 1 or Vasaio Life Spa. Or use our list ofmommy & me pedi spots around town.

At Renew Mama Studio, moms can refresh and nourish their mind and body through yoga classes, workshops, and an overall atmosphere of mom power!

The Civic Theatre has a full season of shows – from “My Fair Lady” to “School of Rock” that Mom is sure to love.

Maybe Mom is into classical music and would enjoy an evening at the Grand Rapids Symphony.

Or perhaps her style is more country or rock n’ roll. In that case, score her some tickets for a concert at the Van Andel Arena.

A great and unexpected, way to explore downtown Grand Rapids is on a horse-drawn tour of the city with Classic Carriage Rides.

If a mom in your life enjoys the thrill of suspense, why not bring her to a Murder Mystery Dinner? Not only will she enjoy a three-course meal, but she’ll become part of the show!

No matter how busy a mom gets, it’s always a joy to do something just for her, something to take her mind off of everything else. For the holidays, encourage her try her hand at something new or practice a skill she already loves.

If she doesn’t cook, she may enjoy learning. And if she already does all the cooking, she will love to learn new techniques and recipes. Grand Rapids offers several options for adult cooking classes, from amateurs to experts.

Give her the opportunity make something beautiful with a floral arrangement class at Eastern Floral.

Sign her up for language classes at Grand Rapids Community College. Then plan an international trip to let her use her new skills!

Dad Gifts that aren’t Ties or Tools

Christmas Presents for Dad

Dads deserve a little pampering, too, and no matter how he likes to spend his time, West Michigan has something to offer. Read on to find the perfect experience gift for him!

For the baseball fan, don’t just send him to a West Michigan Whitecaps game, give him the chance to throw the first pitch of the game!

For the basketball fan, send him to a Grand Rapids Drive home game. Wrap the tickets in some team swag for an added touch.

Don’t let the snow stop Dad from hitting the links this winter. With X-Golf, the innovative golf simulator, he can practice his swing all year long.

He’ll be telling fish tales for days after a guided fishing trip with Betts Guide Service in Newaygo.

Grand Rapids is a great place to live for a beer lover. You can take a home brewing class, join a tour of one of dozens of local breweries, or go all in with the Beer Experience GR, a tasting tour of several big name breweries.

Any movie buff will appreciate a gift card to Celebration Cinema to watch the latest films on the big screen. Throw in a restaurant gift card and make a night of it.

Part scavenger hunt, part puzzlers, The Great Escape Room will challenge Dad and his chosen team to “escape” in 60 minutes or less.

Dads might enjoy all the same lessons and classes as mom, and vice versa, but here are a couple more ideas to encourage anyone to pick up a new talent:

It’s never too late to pick up a martial art. Whether it’s Karate, Tae Kwon Do, or kung fu. Whether it’s a serious passion or a casual pastime, there are many options in West Michigan.

When you give someone the gift of photography lessons, not only do they enhance a skill, but you could score some beautiful photos! What could be better?

The Best Gift

No matter what you pick to gift this year, we hope that you’ll have moments to make great memories with the people you love. Happy Holidays!

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