This Season, Trade the Toys for a Gift of Experience

This Season, Trade the Toys for a Gift of Experience

Cleveland Botanical Garden

As parents, we’ve likely all experienced the “gift lifecycle” phenomenon that seems to go hand-in-hand with our kids’ holiday toys. You scour the internet or local retailers for that perfect present, the one that will make your child’s eyes light up and instantly become the new favorite toy. It all goes according to plan — until time passes and batteries die, parts break off or the entire toy itself gets lost.

If you want to break this annual present pattern, consider giving your children or grandchildren an experience gift this year. Rather than a toy that will eventually become lost or forgotten, experience gifts are practically guaranteed to deliver unforgettable family memories.

Simple or elaborate, inexpensive or big budget, there are plenty of options when it comes to surprising your kids with an experience gift. Read on for some inspiration.

Kalahari Resorts
Kalahari Resorts

A Place to Play
Let’s face it: the winter months have a tendency to drag on in Northeast Ohio. Come January, younger children (and their parents) are probably already tired of being cooped up in the house. Gift cards or passes to local attractions — both indoors and out — will offer a welcome change of pace.

Consider passes for area ski resorts, tobogganing, snow tubing or ice skating for outdoor fun. For extra-frigid days, gift certificates to places that offer indoor play structures, inflatables, trampolines or mini golf provide a change of scenery. Pair an indoor place to play with a valuable lesson at facilities that offer instruction in activities like karate, gymnastics or swimming (Goldfish Swim School, for example, offers a special experience gift holiday package).

The Perfect Ticket
Gifting tickets over toys is easy to do when there are so many options from which to choose.

From Canton to Cleveland and west side to east, local theaters offer live performances year-round. Choose an age-appropriate show that suits your kids’ interests and make a day of the off-Broadway experience.

Whether your budget calls for season tickets or single game stubs, there are plenty of options in Northeast Ohio for sports lovers (In fact, the Cavs newly launched Wine & Gold Nation fan club is a perfect example). Pair the ticket gift with a shirt or hat sporting the team’s logo for an added bonus.

Progressive Field
Progressive Field

Concerts, tours, comedy shows, movies and more round out the ticket category nicely. As long as it’s something in which your kids are interested and will allow you to spend time together as a family, there are no wrong choices here.

Adventures in Learning
One of the best birthday gifts I ever received was a family membership to the zoo. As a mother of a toddler, it was a lifesaver when it came to getting my son out of the house and having fun — all while learning something in the process.

Memberships or gift cards to local zoos, museums, historical sites, etc., make great experience gifts. Our region has so many museum options to keep in mind, including sports, history, science, music, art and more.

Quick Family Getaways
Nothing beats the winter blues or gets kids excited like the thought of a vacation, even if it’s just a weekend away. Plan the perfect one-tank trip for an affordable and unforgettable gift.

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Some nearby options with plenty of family-friendly attractions include Niagara Falls (the Canadian or U.S. side), the Laurel Highlands area of Pennsylvania, or Dearborn, Mich. In-state, check out the area surrounding Hocking Hills State Park, experience a change of scenery in Columbus or Cincinnati, or make the trek to one of Ohio’s many indoor waterparks (there are least half a dozen from which to choose).

Vacation Splurges
Winter break also is a great time to plan a longer family getaway, since the kids won’t miss any school days. If you’re up for celebrating the holidays away from home, consider a family-friendly option like a cruise, all-inclusive resort, beach house rental or other trip.

Many discount vacation websites offer last-minute bargains. A local travel agent also would be able to meet your family’s budget and time constraints, in addition to offering suggestions about kid-centric destinations.

For more ideas and inspiration, check out Northeast Ohio Parent’s directory  of family attractions!

About the author

Denise Koeth is managing/digital editor of Northeast Ohio Parent. She writes for and assists with production of the print magazine, as well as manages digital content on the NortheastOhioParent.com website and oversees the brand’s social media activity. Denise grew up in Northeast Ohio and she and her husband are currently raising their two boys here.

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