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, you will love this Grand Rapids gifts list! Giving experiences as gifts has gotten more popular over the years, and for good reason.
It can be overwhelming for parents and children alike to receive mountains of material gifts all at once. By wrapping up experience gifts rather than things, you are letting the family decide when to enjoy 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 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 allow everyone to 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 the gift an experience in itself, even if the recipient can’t use it immediately.
For example, wrap a zoo membership card in a map of the zoo or tie it around the neck of a stuffed animal you’d find at 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!
Want a smart gift for a whole family? Give them a gift card or even a whole membership to a local attraction, like a zoo, museum, or family fun center!
Gift cards can be used any time to try out a new attraction (or one you already know they love!), and memberships give the gift of fun all year long. Often memberships include free admission for the family, as well as many other perks.
We wrote all about these memberships and benefits for you already! West Michigan is rich with cultural institutions for the whole family, so you’ll have no problem finding something the whole family will enjoy!
Why not thrill the animal-loving family with access to John Ball Zoo? Bonus: Members save on camps and classes, and get to register early! A John Ball Zoo membership also gets the family discounts or free admission to several other zoos in Michigan and beyond.
Frederik Meijer Gardens offers something for the family all year long, from butterflies in the spring to holiday trees from around the world in the winter, not to mention an amazing outdoor playground.
Even the least artistic of the family will enjoy the masterpieces and cultural enrichment at the Grand Rapids Art Museum.
For the family that likes to be creative, try the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA)!
Get to know your city’s roots when you hang out at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. Top-notch programming and stellar reciprocal benefits make this a great buy.
Get $4 off per ticket for the Grand Rapids Griffins with code GRKIDS and take the whole family for New Year’s Eve, Superhero Night, Star Wars Night, and more. Check out all the details about this great deal!
Try laser tag and archery in a game setting at BattleGR.
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, there won’t be a dull moment.
Perhaps your family would enjoy some time honored fun at the bowling alley! It’s OK if someone needs to use the bumpers, a strike is a strike when you’re bowling at Spectrum Lanes.
My favorite new family outing is an evening exploring anything I could imagine in Amped Virtual Reality’s virtual reality games.
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!
At TreeRunner Adventure Park you’ll have so much fun 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 for Christmas. You’ll see the countryside along the way, and experience life in the big city.
- 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!
Spend time together AND give back by volunteering as a family in your community. Check out our Kids and Family Volunteer Guide for ideas.
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. The pass includes access to many of Grand Rapids’ museums, the zoo, and the UICA. Plus discounts on many other GR attractions!
Another way to let families experience many of the ideas here is to give them gift cards or passes to several West Michigan activities. Pick two or ten, and gift your family days of fun!
Grand Rapids Experience Gifts for Kids
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!
If you know a horse lover, what could be better than riding lessons at Karin’s Horse Connection?
Lewis Farms isn’t just a pumpkin patch. It’s also a petting zoo, a produce market, a playground, and more!
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.
Celebrate the joy of the season at The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. Everything is interactive and the kids will have so much fun, they won’t even realize they’re learning cool stuff at the same time.
The kids won’t want to miss the bubble dance party in between climbing, sliding, and jumping around at Catch Air.
Give the gift of music with lessons in instruments from guitar to flute to drums at the Ada Conservatory of Music.
Dozens of inflatables, obstacles courses, and interactive games make Jester’s Court the perfect place for fun and excitement this holiday season.
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 spot, try our list of mommy & 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 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 the cooking, she might 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!
Holiday Experience Gifts 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 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 Grand Rapids Beer Tour.
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 gift of an experience will last a lifetime
Whoever you’re buying for or whatever 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!