Tis the season.

It’s that time of year, once again. The gift guides are rolling into your inbox and the sales are plentiful. So, here’s what I’ll promise you: a gift guide of an entirely different sort. There are no affiliate links in this post. This list is my gift to you, to consider gifts that keep on giving all year long. This gift guide is dedicated to the pursuit of experiences over things. I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t buy the things, go for it. But if you’re looking for something a little different this year, I’d like to invite you to check out the experiences and memberships in this blog post.

Experiences over things.

Why experiences? Because they give us opportunities to create memories. Those memories will stick with us for a lifetime. At least, that’s my hope. My kids may not remember all of the experiences from when they were little, but they build upon themselves for a cumulative effect. I’ve always believed in bringing my kids along, whether it’s the trails, the creeks, the museums or the parks. Read more about that HERE. Keep reading for all the ideas!

kids and art phoenix art museum
Phoenix Art Museum


One of our favorite holiday gifts from family are memberships. I’ve received a family membership to a science museum near us from my Mom for the past five years. It’s an annual membership to a museum that is also a member to the ASTC collection of science centers. One of the best benefits to these memberships is their reciprocating benefits, which means free or reduced (up to 50% off) entrance fees at participating museums. Be sure to check THIS link to see if your local museum is on there. Your “home” museum has to be within 90 miles (as the crow flies) of your home address. It will also exclude any other member museums within a 90 mile radius.

There are memberships for art museums, zoos, science museums, culture museums, garden centers and so much more! Spend a little time researching to see what’s near you that may benefit your family in the next year.

Here’s a list of a few of our favorite memberships that we keep current:

A few (somewhat local) places to consider memberships to:

Shop local.

Another one of our favorite ways to embrace experiences over things is by utilizing what is close to us. Perhaps you know someone who is a Master Gardener, and you have a child who loves flowers? What a great way to build into your community and find a mentor for your children. The same is true for any type of craft, blacksmithing, sewing, knitting, archery, painting, ceramic artists, farming, etc. Get to know your local community and find a way to get plugged in, and give yourself, your family, or your children the gift of time and investment in relationships.

Another fun option for embracing experiences over things? Choose one day a month to have a “date day” with one of your children and spend the day shopping entirely local. Coffee, snacks, a park, thrift stores, local boutiques, local bookstore, anything local to your city or town.

Here are a few examples of things or places to consider:

Unique places to stay.

This is one of our favorite things to do over the year. Finding a place to stay that’s completely out of the norm can create an entirely magical experience. Whether it’s a new camping experience, glamping, an AirBnb or an independent hotel, each has something fun to offer. This year, a great way give a gift that keeps on giving is to start a “whimsy” fund that can be used toward little getaways throughout the year.

Here are a few of our favorites:

One big gift.

Another option to consider is saving up or pooling funds for one big trip or experience. Last year, I saved up and pooled gift money to use it toward a week long river trip on the Colorado with Oars Rafting, and it was absolutely worth every penny. There are plenty of tour companies out there that can offer something a little different. I can promise you that the experience of watching the Milky Way as a family, in some place remote, will be a life changing experience. Send me an email if you need help finding that one big vacation (and no, I’m not talking about anything relating to Disney).

Other experience based gifts.

There are limitless options once you start to consider the experience over the thing, and here are a few more ideas:

  • Subscription boxes – art projects, science projects, produce, groceries, etc.
  • Online classes – foreign language, art classes, music, check out Outschool for tons of classes
  • Train rides and historic train rides
  • Bike tours (check out Natural State Rock and Republic)
  • Pay attention to your local city parks, state parks, and nearby National parks for special events and classes

If you’re looking to add more travel to your plans for the upcoming year, be sure to check out the Get Out Guides from Run Wild My Child. These one stop guides include everything you could need to plan an epic, outdoor focused family vacation in cities across the United States. Guides for Bentonville and St. Louis are available now with Cape Cod and Virginia Beach coming very soon!

I hope that this list of ideas for experiences over things gifts is helpful to you and your family. Just remember, there’s also nothing wrong with buying things, or even nothing at all. A day spent together with your family is perhaps the very best gift of all and the time spent in meaningful conversations will last a lifetime. Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday season! ~Nichole