Experience gifts can be one good way to avoid clutter, although you still need to select them with care to match the recipients’ interests. The following list goes beyond the common gifts (such as a gift certificate for a massage) to give you some more food for thought. Although the examples come from selected U.S. cities, you may be able to find something similar in other areas.
Because some people want to give something tangible, I’ve also suggested books you could match with these experience gifts.
One reminder: If using your gift will cause the recipient to incur significant additional expenses (babysitting, parking, etc.) then consider including some cash to cover these expenses or arranging to have them pre-paid, when possible.
Visits to local attractions
There’s a saying about tourists seeing places that long-term residents never do, and that can certainly be true. In my area, the Winchester Mystery House is a well-known place that I’ve never visited in the 40+ years I’ve lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. The ticket prices always seemed a bit high, but I’d definitely go if someone got me a ticket. You may know of similar places your gift recipient would like to visit.
It’s always easier on the recipient if you can buy a gift certificate rather than tickets for a specific day. If the website doesn’t mention gift certificates, try calling. That’s what I did for the Winchester Mystery House, and I found out that gift certificates are indeed available.
If you’d like to include a book, one option is Side Walks — a journal that encourages readers to explore their cities.
Museum gift cards
We’ve mentioned museum memberships on Unclutterer in the past, but a gift card (or gift certificate) allows the recipient to purchase a range of things: admission (or a membership), classes, food and beverage at the museum café, etc.
Of course, the gift card can also be used at the museum gift shop, which will result in more stuff, but that’s the recipient’s choice.
These gifts can work for both adults and children. Just a few of the museums that offer gift cards are the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the Terre Haute Children’s Museum, and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.
Appropriate books will depend on the type of museum and the age of the gift recipient. For adults interested in natural history museums, you might choose Stuffed Animals and Pickled Heads: The Culture and Evolution of Natural History Museums. Children ages 8 to 12 might like Animalium: Welcome to the Museum, which has gorgeous illustrations.
Arboretum and state park gift cards
As with museum gift cards, these are an alternative to memberships or annual passes (which can also be great gifts). The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum notes that its gift cards (which can be used for admission, membership, classes, restaurant meals, etc.) never expire. The Morton Arboretum has a long list of things the cards can be used for, including chamber concert tickets, tram tours, and Mother’s Day brunch. They can be bought in any denomination, so you can spend the amount that works best for you.
Arizona State Parks gift cards can be used for day use, overnight camping, and cave tours (as well as gift shop purchases). Ohio State Parks gift cards and certificates can be used for camping, cabin or lodge rentals, six state park golf courses, boat and bike rentals, etc.
An interesting companion book might be Unseen City: The Majesty of Pigeons, the Discreet Charm of Snails and Other Wonders of the Urban Wilderness.
Ball park tours
Most of these tours require you to buy tickets for specific dates and times, but Wrigley Field tours are available via gift certificate. Others might offer gift certificates if you called and asked — if not, you would need to coordinate with your gift recipient. If you want the gift to be a surprise, you could always give a greeting card saying, “Good for a tour of the ball park. Let me know a good time for you and I’ll buy the ticket.”
One possible book to partner with this gift is the novel Bang the Drum Slowly. For children, books from the Ballpark Mystery series might be fun.
City art and architecture tours
There are all sorts of city tours available, many focused on food and beverages and others focused on the city’s history. But some of the most interesting-sounding tours are ones like these:
Of course, there are many wonderful books about art and architecture that could get paired with a gift certificate or tickets for such tours. One book to consider is The Architecture of Happiness.
Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.