What are the best gift ideas you’ve ever had? Experience-gifts are the ones I love most and remember the longest. Science even backs up that experiences make you happier than things. So we’ve put together some of our favorite experiential gifts for both adults and kids, as well as ones that inspire travel and exploration.
As nice as it is to open that toy or sweater, having something to look forward to after the hustle and bustle of the holidays are over is more exciting. So without further ado, here are the best gift ideas that keep giving even after the decorations have been put away. Experiences can be hard to wrap up and put under the tree, so keep reading for ways to box up your special gift, so the recipient gets the thrill of unwrapping too.
Let’s count the many reasons we love Fernbank. Dinosaurs, free parking, the indoor playground called NatureQuest, high-quality rotating exhibits, WildWoods and Fernbank Forest, 3D Movies, Fernbank After Dark events for adults, and did I mention dinosaurs? Give the gift of Fernbank all year long with a gift membership. Membership is an undeniable value that lasts beyond the holiday season. Each Gift Membership purchased includes a special “Welcome Packet” that can be mailed directly to the purchaser or to the recipient. A personalized message will be included upon request.
Thunderbird youth lacrosse sticks are made for the beginner player, because having high quality, easy-to-learn-the-game equipment leads to early success and happier players. Catching is hard. Scooping is hard. Thunderbird makes it easier with a 50% larger head. Pick up 3 balls at one time! For the ultimate experience gift, get kids excited with tickets to an Atlanta Blaze or Atlanta Swarm professional lacrosse game, learn the game with a registration for a local lacrosse clinic or league, and ensure the child’s early success with a Thunderbird youth lacrosse stick.
For the Griller in your life, consider a certificate for a class on butchering from Farmview Market’s certified butcher, or one to help that Big Green Egg hum. Wrap it up with a Griller’s Companion Box, or Soundview Millworks Steak Board from the home and decor section. Then make sure you get invited to dinner. Win-Win. P.S. Grilling not your thing? Farmview has lots of other classes and products to create the perfect experience for any budding chef.
An evening in the trees away from the kids is much appreciated holiday gift for busy parents. Courtesy of Banning Mills[/caption]
Best Experience Gifts for Adults
My favorite gifts are ones that are special times for my husband and me to connect…time away from the kids. So here are some of our best gift ideas exclusively for adults! Here are a few ways to make long lasting memories with the one you love.
Classes for everyone - together. Thrill and skill seekers will enjoy the gift of adventure this holiday season. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation, Georgia's one-of-a-kind, state of the art facility dedicated to expanding rider education and motorcycle safety opportunities, offers gift certificates that will get gears turning for both novice and skilled riders. For the less adventurous and more artistic, think Out of the Box. Out of the Box Art Studio offers classes in wheel, clay hand building, drawing, oil painting, acrylic, watercolor, multi-media art and more. Aspiring and amateur artists will appreciate the gift of creativity this Christmas. Looking for more ideas in Alpharetta? Check out our list of fun things to do - Alpharetta is a favorite date night spot for us!
Rejuvenation with Jeju Sauna: Home of Wellbeing. There are spas, and there are saunas. And then there is Jeju Sauna- a different world of relaxation and rejuvenation. Jeju Sauna’s 35,000 sq ft includes a gender-segregated traditional Korean public bathhouse, furnished with hot tubs, showers and Korean traditional kiln saunas with nine different natural materials, each offering a different experience. Other areas of the facility include unisex areas, with a food court, heated floor for lounging and sleeping, wide-screen TVs, exercise rooms, ice rooms, heated mineral rooms, a swimming pool and sleeping quarters with mats.
Omakase with Umi. Omakase is the Japanese word for “chef’s choice.” You’re giving the chef free range- telling him you trust his judgement on fish selection, presentation and taste. Expect to sit in close proximity to the chef and possibly hear from him about the dishes in front of you. You don’t share your likes and dislikes, and you don’t worry about the bill.
For those who might not know, I lived in Japan for four years. I’m a die-hard lover of all thing Japan- including the food. I’ve searched high and low for the best omakase in Atlanta, and Umi is it! Sit at the counter with the chef and TRUST him. Just be sure to leave a little room for coffee and dessert. Yes - at a Japanese restaurant. You will not regret it.
Power Driving with Porsche. Wouldn’t you love to wake to a new Porsche in the driveway? For some of us, it’s only a dream. In the meantime, you can head to the new Porsche Experience Center. Spend 90 minutes behind the wheel of a Porsche with a highly trained Porsche driving coach at your side, or try the Porsche Driving Simulators. Painstakingly designed to replicate characteristics of some of the world’s most famous circuits such as France’s famous Le Mans circuit, you can feel every turn and nuance of the track.
A kid-free view of Downtown. Spend the day taking in the sights without the kiddos. Take a VIP Tour of World of Coca Cola (and pick up an Annual Pass for the kids.) Walk one of my favorite Atlanta museums, Center for Civil and Human Rights. Take a spin on the SkyView Ferris Wheel. Watch a show at Tabernacle. If you’re truly ready to splurge on an unforgettable experience, swim the whale sharks, manta rays and more at Georgia Aquarium.
Sporting Clays at Barnsley Resort. For a premier shooting experience, SpringBank Sporting Club is host to one of the top sporting clays facilities in the Southeast. For starters, the 15-station clays course boasts a diverse layout of shots in the open field, under a natural canopy the woods and over the water with two reclaimed bauxite mine ponds. A covered five-stand layout overlooks a larger pond, for shooting in most any weather condition. To book this experience visit barnsleyresort.com.
Explore the wilds of Barnsley Resort in horseback, riding through the open fields and wooded trails surrounding the resort. From a guided wilderness ride to a lesson in the corral, experienced wranglers welcome riders of all abilities. Whether it’s a romantic wilderness ride complete with picnic, or a group rodeo experience, adventures on horseback are some of the most popular activities at Barnsley Resort.
Art Classes and Tree Climbing in Dunwoody. The Spruill Center for the Arts is the largest community arts education center in the Southeast, and it sits right in the heart of the Dunwoody Village. At the education center, you can take art classes ranging from jewelry, pottery, painting and more. For more information visit. Need more?
Enjoy a Treetop Quest. After a safety crash-course, guests will be able to zip line through multiple adventure courses on a self-guided experience for two and a half hours. The courses range in difficulty level, so everyone has the opportunity to join in the fun!
GreensPass Golfing with Georgia State Parks. Give the gift of the outdoors at Georgia State Parks with gift cards or passes. Gift cards can be used at campsites, cabins, yurts, retail shops, picnic shelters, historic sites, boat rentals and numerous other outdoor activities.
For frequent park visitors, gift a ParkPass or a Friends of Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites membership. For $50, ParkPass holders get unlimited visits to any park year-round. Annual ParkPasses are valid for 12 months from the date of purchase. A Friends of Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites membership includes a ParkPass and a 25 percent discount on Historic Sites visits, as well as 10 percent discounts on retail shops and overnight stays, and free rounds of golf or camping.
And for those who want to include a wrapped gift, this is a fantastic idea to include with a National Parks Pass.
Climbing and Zip Lining with Historic Banning Mills. Get a gift card that can be used for zip lining, climbing and swinging through the trees at Historic Banning Mills. For the thrill seeker: Historic Banning Mills is home to World’s Longest Continuous Zip Line Course and Eco-canopy Adventure Tour with six different adventure levels. In addition to the famous zip line canopy tour, Banning Mills has the World’s Tallest Freestanding Climbing Wall, standing at 140 feet. We went with the kids, but it would be just as much fun (more???) without them! If Banning Mills is a bit too much for you, try these other zip lines in Georgia.
Journey Markers Directional Signs. So this one isn't an experience, but commemorates your travels. 358 miles to the Beach, 3785 miles to Mountains, 8 miles to your favorite restaurant. Maybe you have seen versions of these signs in seaside shanty towns, island themed restaurants and pubs, or maybe the TV show M.A.S.H. You can personalize it with your favorite vacation destinations and the actual milage from your house.
Best Experience Gifts for Kids
Between Sue and I, we have five boys. Needless to say, we already have an arsenal of weapons and an army of action figures. Our basement planets have seen galactic battles where Jedi are helped out by green army men, Harry Potter and a Rescue Hero police cruiser, all while Civilization plays on the big screen.
So what are our suggestions that don't involve a licensed character? Well, we have several.
Immerse Yourself in American Girl. An American Girl doll may be on many little girls wish list this year. Make it truly special by immersing them in the American Girl experience at the Atlanta Marriott Alpharetta where they can spend the night in a specially themed room, after a very special check-in for them and their doll.
Travel Back to Medieval Times. Little boys and little girls will enjoy going back in time at Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament. You can make it extra special by booking a specially themed room as part of the Good Knight Package at the Hampton Inn Sugarloaf.
Travel Around the World with Little Passports. Kids can become world explorers with a Little Passports subscription. Little Passports follows characters Sam and Sofia around the world or the US depending on what edition you choose. Give kids the initial package at Christmas and then each month they get a new adventure in the mail. There is an Early Explorers Edition too that is geared toward children 3 – 5. For a complete review of Little Passports, see this post on my friend Mara’s site Mother of All Trips.
Become a Detective with Highlights. With Highlights Top Secret Adventures, kids become detectives as they try to solve an international crime. Each top secret adventure is set in a new location around the globe and kids must figure out what was stolen, who took it and where it is hidden. I love the silly suspects like Hattie Nuff, and Major League (who has robbed zoos across the country. He stole a Chicago Cub, a Detroit tiger and a Baltimore oriole.) Adventure kits are geared toward kids 7 - 12 and arrive about every three weeks.
Become a Member
One of my favorite gifts to give and receive is a museum membership, that way I can enjoy the attraction over and over again. The College Football Hall of Fame is one of Atlanta’s newer attractions and perfect for the little or BIG football fan.
I always love having a membership. It allows me to relax about the experience and not worry whether or not we are "getting our money's worth" from the daily admission price, something especially important with younger children. It also allows you to see things at different times of year and from a different perspective.
Plus, if you have someone on your list that is counting pennies (been there, done that, couldn't afford the t-shirt), it's a wonderful gift that allows the family to get out and enjoy themselves together in a different setting all year - something that always helps me focus a bit more on what I have, instead of what I don't.
Or Just Give Tickets
If a full membership is out of your price range, just buy a ticket or pair of tickets. The recipient can upgrade the tickets to the membership during their visit. In addition, many museums offer reciprocal memberships at similar institutions in other cities.
For instance, an Atlanta Botanical Gardens membership is good at nearly 300 other museums around the country. It’s not just museums either.In many cases it's a one-for-one exchange, but in some it may be just a discount. There are reciprocal programs through ACM (children’s museums), ASTC (science museums), AZA (zoos), and/or Time Travelers (historical societies). If you start running through the lists of reciprocal museums, you may find that you can get in free to more than one type of museum with your membership too.
It doesn't have to be just museums either, tickets to one of Atlanta’s seasonal ice skating rinks is a fun way to embrace the cold weather.
Create famous works of art with Master Kitz Master Works. I absolutely love this gift that lets kids re-create famous paintings by well-known artists. It’s a perfect pre-museum activity or even something to do once you get home. In addition to giving you all the materials to make your own masterpiece, the kit includes a kid friendly biography of the artist and the work.
Solve Puzzles with ClueTown Books. Part puzzle book, part scavenger hunt, this is another gift I love. Not only is it a fun puzzle book, but it gets you outside exploring some of Atlanta's best parks and neighborhoods. It comes with a pencil and compass, so you have everything you need for a fun afternoon.
Need MORE ideas? Read this post on the best gift ideas for the kiddos to get them outdoors.
How to Wrap the Best Gift Ideas
The memory of an experiential gift may last a lifetime, however, an IOU isn’t too exciting to open, especially for kids. If you’re planning to give an experiential gift this holiday season, here are some ideas on ways to wrap it up to make it more exciting.
Ask about Premiums. When purchasing an experience for the holidays or even a membership, ask the organization about premium items. Often attractions offer a certificate, tote bag, stuffed animal or other item with a gift purchase. If they don’t offer a premium, ask if you can purchase something inexpensive from a gift shop or online to wrap up with the membership or tickets.
Wrap a Book About the Adventure. Wrap a brochure or book about the show, attraction, or something you’ll see during your visit (we’ve used books we already own or even a book from the library). Not only is it something to open, but it educates the recipient about what they’ll experience and get them excited for the visit. For younger children a picture book like If I Ran the Zoo can help them visualize what to expect on a trip to the zoo.
Purchase something Small. Purchase a small toy, ornament, hat or other object that represents what you’ll be doing. I find it perfectly acceptable to wrap up something you already own for this purpose – especially if it’s your own children. For instance, wrap a CD or video for a Broadway show, a toy boat for a wake boarding lesson, pick up a rock in the yard for rock climbing at Atlanta Rocks, Stone Summit or caving at Cloudland Canyon. If it's a golf lesson or trip, wrap up golf balls.
Package a Certificate Creatively. Create a certificate for the recipient and get creative with the packaging. Include a helium balloon that rises in the air as they open the box. Nest wrapped boxes with a clue in each one to what the recipient will find at the end.
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After 18 years in software development, Lesli bailed on the corporate scene. When she’s not traveling, she’s hiking in the mountains or checking out Atlanta’s culinary scene, whiskey in hand.
Lesli has two kiddos -Cooper and Elliot- plus two bonus kids currently at UGA, and she’s happily married to her soul mate.