Recent Posts


10 Experiences to Give

I read that people get more satisfaction over experiences than things so I like the idea of trying to give experiences over stuff that will just end up in a basement someday. Here are some ideas for ten experiences that you can give. Some are big ticket items but others just require you to reserve in advance or do a little digging.

1. Tickets to a Lecture Series $20
San Francisco has the Commonwealth Club where they bring in really interesting people to speak about smart topics. It’s one of my favorite things to do. You can research for interesting lectures in your area or at a local university.

2. A Hot Air Balloon Ride $200
I love hot air balloon rides! They are usually really peaceful because besides the occasional sound of the gas it is really quiet out way up in the sky. It’s such a neat experience to fly over a beautiful valley early in the morning. (Little known fact: My brother is a hot air balloon pilot so I used to work on his chase crew in college.) photo from here

3. Reserve a Campground About $25
Camping is inexpensive but usually the best spots are reserved way in advance. Do the dirty work and get the reservations and tuck them in with a new led headlamp. My favorite spot is Kirby Cove beneath the Golden Gate Bridge.

4. A Train Trip $200
Americans don’t travel by train vary often but it can be a great way to travel. You can get tickets from San Francisco to Seattle for $75. It takes 24 hours and the seats are fully reclining so you can sleep. It’s a cool adventure where you can see a part of America you’ve never seen before. No one has to stay awake to drive so you can read, eat, or just look at the beautiful scenery.

5. Stay in the Human Nest $100
The Human Nest is a treehouse on the California Coast. It overlooks the ocean and is $100/night. It’s not much fancier than camping (you bring your own sleeping bag.) But you get to wake up overlooking the ocean. It books up way in advance so make reservations for sometime in the future and then wrap up a picture for Christmas Day.

6. A Class price varies
A letterpress class, a floral design class, a pasta making class. Give a gift certificate and sign someone up for a class they’ve been meaning to take.

7. An experience about $70 allows you to buy experiences that you wouldn’t normally get. Like a Vespa tour around Paris, a Locals Eating tour around San Francisco, or learn to surf in Santa Cruz. I love this idea and I can’t wait to try out this site.

8. Eating at a Great Restaurant price varies
When I first moved to San Francisco I was really poor and never ate out. One year for Christmas my boss gave me a meal for two at a very fancy restaurant. It’s something I never would have considered doing on my own but felt so luxurious when someone else was paying for it. It’s one of my favorite memories.

9. Anything Where you say “Go Pack Your Bags, We are Leaving in Two Hours!” price varies
Paul surprised me a few years ago with a night stay down at Half Moon Bay on the coast. He could have just told me that he wanted to take off for a few days after Christmas but instead he made it a surprise and it is one of my favorite gifts he has ever gotten me. It doesn’t even have to be anywhere really fancy but the element of surprise makes everything better. My favorite thing to do when I’m procrastinating is look up tickets on Travelocity with the “flexible dates” option. I got tickets to Paris for $400 and Thailand for $600 this way. Keep your eyes peeled and you can get some great deals.

10. Tickets to a Concert or Show
Nothing makes me happier than going to a good concert. It seems like when I was younger I would travel great distances and spend any money I had to go to a great concert. Now I live in big cities where the best artists play and I never make time to go. Buy tickets for their favorite artists and wrap them up with a new cd.

I’d love to hear if you have any suggestions or ideas of experiences to give!

  1. Caroline, No

    December 7, 2011

    Love it and always try to do the same myself. Especially love the campsite tip; when it comes to summer those babies are always booked!

  2. kt

    December 7, 2011

    I’m giving my mom golf lessons for Christmas. She’s taken them before but I have a friend who is a former professional touring golfer who offers them. I’m so excited to give it to her.

  3. Sarah

    December 7, 2011

    Love this idea, my future SIL and her husband asked people to give them experiences rather than physical gifts for their wedding, so now they have heaps of fun things to do together for the next 12 months or so! (tandem bike ride, paddleboarding, tickets to gigs etc)

  4. Mara {A Blog About Love}

    December 7, 2011

    LOVE this post! My rich boss was into providing people with experiences. He used to hire a chef to make a meal in someone’s home. Or he’d be generous with his Starwood points and let people book fancy hotel rooms with his account. Or he’d provide Broadway tickets or Sports tickets to people. Or he once flew my spouse & I to stay in Rome for a week just cause he wanted to do something nice. (I know. Ridiculous 🙂

  5. Jenn

    December 7, 2011

    And today, has a package for 2 tickets to an ACM movie, 2 drinks and a popcorn for $25.

  6. Jenn

    December 7, 2011

    That was supposed to be an AMC movie…not ACM.

  7. Lindsay

    December 7, 2011

    I’m dying to try AirBnB! I also have a plan to get my dad Mystery Dinner Theater tickets this Christmas…. shhh!

  8. pollywood

    December 7, 2011

    If you ever come to Milan, here are my choices:

    1. DIOLOGUE IN THE DARK, MILAN, 15 euros.
    There’s an experience I’d love to try but I’ve never had the chance.
    I heard you can find it in many city all around the world, but my friends who did it in Milan said it’s just amazing.
    It’s called Dialogo nel buio (“Dialogue in the dark”), and it’s an exhibition path where you don’t see anything, and you are guided step by step by a blind person. It’s not just a simulation of blind people life: in total darkness you realize “you don’t need to look to see”, as their website says.
    They also organize a “Dinner in the dark” for 50 euros, and they have exibitions and a theatre (all in the dark, of course)

    2. THE PINK FLAMINGOS, MILAN, totally free
    (an english comment here:
    When I want to cheer up a friend, I take him/her in via Cappuccini 9, Milan.
    In a secret garden, in the center of the city, there’s a beatiful villa with a huge garden. If you peek through the hedge, you can see a flock of flamingos.
    Not a lot of people know about them, so it’s the perfect place if you want to surprise someone!

  9. Cammie

    December 7, 2011

    One Christmas my sister paid for my Bolder Boulder 10K race entry. We both live on the east coast now, but we grew up in Kansas with many road trips to our great grandpa’s cabin in Colorado. We flew in a few days before the race, revisited childhood memories, frolicked around Rocky Mountain National Park (it was Memorial Day weekend, so there was still a lot of snow!), explored downtown Boulder, enjoyed beautiful mountain views along the race course, and gladly accepted the free cupcakes someone was giving out just around the 8K mark.

    My sister had been trying to get me to do a race with her for a while, and the Bolder Boulder was the perfect gateway race, especially since there were 54,000+ other people running it with us. Now she has me doing half marathons. For fun!?!

  10. Cielle

    December 7, 2011

    @Sarah, I love your sister in law’s wedding gift idea! definitely going to pass that on to my engaged friends!

  11. Liz @ Bella Vita

    December 7, 2011

    Theater tickets for someone who has never experienced it can be quite memorable. I earned Best Girlfriend of the Year award for buying Yankees tickets so my then-boyfriend and his grandfather could experience a game together (just like they did when he was a kid).

    I write about happiness. Get your daily dose here:

  12. Adriana

    December 7, 2011

    Last Christmas, my boyfriend gave me tickets for a U2 concert and a whale watching excursion. both were awesome and unforgettable experiences!

  13. EMILY

    December 7, 2011

    I love the nest! I am going to look into this. So special.

  14. Amber

    December 7, 2011

    Just bought our annual zoo membership this morning- always thought this would be an awesome family gift. Or an art museum membership, or… It’s giving to a local cause while gifting at the same time!

  15. Liz @ Bella Vita

    December 7, 2011

    Theater tickets for someone who has never experienced it can be quite memorable. I earned Best Girlfriend of the Year award for buying Yankees tickets so my then-boyfriend and his grandfather could experience a game together (just like they did when he was a kid).

  16. Summer

    December 7, 2011

    Love this idea – best gift list I’ve seen! Thanks for sharing!

  17. Corrie Anne

    December 7, 2011

    Experience gifts are simply the BEST!!!!!

  18. Judy

    December 7, 2011

    Yep, I love this idea, too. I wonder what would be a good “experience” for someone in college?

  19. Taylor

    December 7, 2011

    I completely agree. Being a receiver and giver of too many gifts that just miss the mark and are thrown out or left in the back of the closet… giving an experience is my favorite gift because it’s oftentimes something you wouldn’t get yourself. LOVE IT!

  20. Karena

    December 7, 2011

    This is an amazing idea gift list. There are so many great ideas! So good to find you!

    Please Come and enter in My 12 Days of Holiday Giveaways. There are so many exciting & special Gifts! Tis the Season!


    Art by Karena

  21. Megan Flowers

    December 7, 2011

    My husband always gets his Dad a ticket to a Lakers game and then they go together.

  22. Martha

    December 7, 2011

    love, love, love it. i always love experiences over stuff!

  23. ana

    December 7, 2011

    I am thinking of taking my boyfriend to a Spa for Christmas 🙂

  24. Jien

    December 7, 2011

    I gave my son glassblowing classes. He loved it and is very proud of his gorgeous creations. better than a video game!

  25. Anna

    December 7, 2011

    i <3 this list entirely : )

  26. Debi

    December 7, 2011

    My husband and I do this for each other too. Recently, I’ve bought him beer tastings and guitar lessons. I can’t wait to see what experience he’s giving me for Christmas!

  27. Emily

    December 7, 2011

    Always experiences over physical gifts, especially for boys! Gig or sports tickets are always amazing x

  28. Meghan

    December 7, 2011

    Experiences are my favorite gifts to give and receive. I’ve given my husband a weekend at the beach with whale watching tour, hockey tickets, and vouchers for 10 kayak rentals before. Paradoxically, the memories seem to last longer than physical pressents and no clutter and minimal environmental impact are bonuses.

    Extra points to Paul for getting you a Half Moon Bay getaway. That’s where I grew up and I think it is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

  29. The New Diplomat's Wife

    December 7, 2011

    love – i’m also a big giver of “experiences” as well. the biggest one we did was for my husband’s family – we wrapped up a small silver frame for each member with the itinerary, but then took them the following day to new york city, at lunch at the boathouse, walked around central park, we arranged for a photographer to take our family photo as a surprise, walked around to see the window and light displays, and then finally concluded with the rockettes. phew.

  30. Gabrielle

    December 7, 2011

    I ABSOLUTELY agree with giving experiences rather than things. One low-cost way to do this is to give a skill- offer to teach your friend/sister/cousin how to do something new, something that you’re good at that they’ve been wanting to learn- how to cook your signature dish, how to knit, how to throw a frisbee. This year I’m teaching my older brother to slackline!

  31. Misha

    December 7, 2011

    These are such fabulous ideas! But what attracts me even more is the premise behind it all:: Giving the gift of experience.
    Clever and wonderful

  32. Megan

    December 8, 2011

    You are so right, experiences are the best! I went bungee jumping for my birthday one year and would really like to go up in a hot air balloon or sky diving. Its the experiences that you truly remember and cherish! Great post!

  33. Hannah @ Sparrow + Spark!

    December 8, 2011

    I love the surprise element in all of these!

    One of my favourite gifts like this was a wine tasting to our local vineyard. It was so fun as I didn’t even know it was there (living in the UK I don’t tend t associate it with wine too much!). Great fun!

  34. jade

    December 8, 2011

    I love this idea! I’m actually getting my brother and dad deep sea fishing trip from Groupon- they don’t live in the same city, but I found one that is half way between the two, so they can see eachother and have fun at the same time! Hopefully they will love it when they open a picture on Xmas morning!

  35. Cecilia

    December 8, 2011

    These are all so great. My husband is one of those rare Americans who still adores trains. I just might have to treat him to a two day train riding excursion. I love the sentiment behind this.

  36. Heidi

    December 8, 2011

    Jayson has been talking about a train ride since I’ve known him. I just booked a trip to Denver, and I’m so excited. Great idea, thanks Jordan!

  37. Tania

    December 8, 2011

    Wow — love love love this! We try to give experience gifts to our nieces (in their early teens) and it’s always a fun way for us to spend time with them and get them to try something new). One year we took them indoor skydiving!

  38. Adena

    December 8, 2011

    Your gift guides are the most unique I’ve seen! So many wonderfully thoughtful ideas!

    Adena xxx

  39. Emily R

    December 8, 2011

    This is one of my most favorite blog posts! I extremely dislike the gift giving part that has to do with sending people along with something completely worthless that clutters. I think experiences are the best gift (especially because I love eating at new restaurants more than anything), and I’m glad I’m not the only one who enjoys them! (sometimes I think people would just rather me buy them an object and be done). I took my son to the most recent Cirque show in NY for his birthday when we first moved here. We all had such a good time!

  40. sophia

    December 8, 2011

    babysitting from a trusted friend or family member.

  41. KRisty

    December 8, 2011

    One tip on the human nest – really pay attention to the weather in the area, including fog. For some reason the fog really gets socked in at this particular part of Big Sur, and our nights in the nest were not so fun. 🙁 We stayed there for a weekend at the end of August and the fog was so heavy we never saw the ocean the eintire time we were there, and the condensation from the fog built up so much it pretty much “rained” on us all night. We were super glad we brought our tent and ended up sleeping in that after one miserable soaked night in the nest. So definitely check fog as well as rain forecasts!

  42. Honeylyn Armstrong

    December 9, 2011

    I love that you did a post on this. For years I have felt the same way about giving “normal” gifts- they may love it for a little while, but then it just starts to collect dust. I am a huge supporter of giving experiences, or if a tangible gift is more appropriate- something handmade and thoughtful. I couldn’t agree with you more.

  43. carol

    December 9, 2011

    I am the single mom of four teenagers. About three years ago I realized that the gifts we most remember are the memories, not the things. So, year one I gave a date with me for each kid. The eldest and I went to a Bulls game, my next, a girl, went to a play….etc. The next year my youngest wrote to santa “by the way please remember I have a lifelong wish to travel” So we traveled through the world through Chicago restaurants: greektown, china town, little italy, polish restaurant, spainish, etc. A great success all around. This year we are going to NYC for the week after Christmas to add some new states to our states visited list. Steal as you wish.

  44. smee

    December 10, 2011

    we gave whale watching last year. we did not see any whales, but we ran into a “never before seen*” extremely large mega pod of feeding dolphin! Definitely one of the best experiences we’ve had.

    *our crew worked for NOAA, and told us the ‘size’ of megapod we ran into was extraordinary, something neither of them had seen in over 35 years of being on the ocean…we’re talking HUGE!

Comments are Closed

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Round-up: Unique and Unusual Gift Ideas | From China Village

    […] Sweet experiences to give. My favorite is the hot air balloon ride – sounds so peaceful! – from Oh Happy Day! […]

  2. gift giving guide {5}: things i saw, things i love « {dear friend}

    […] 10 Experiences to Give – again, I love this idea. To give an experience that will make a memory is the best gift of all! […]

  3. Lovely Links (Part 3) | Polish my crown

    […] Experiences to […]

  4. Friday! : Honey Kennedy

    […] love this idea for gift […]

  5. 30 Days of Inspiration = Day 9 « Bloom Anyway

    […] 10 Experiences to Give.  = I love the idea of giving experiences as gifts instead of stuff!!!! […]

  6. Gift Guide Round-Up… « all things splendid

    […] {Oh Happy Day} […]

More Recent Posts