7 ways to gift experiences instead of stuff this holiday season

Person putting sugar cookies on a baking sheet. Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

Year after year, you look at your holiday shopping list and struggle to figure out something fresh to give the people in your life. As you stare at that list, consider this: Research shows 56% of people in the U.S. surveyed last year admitted to unwrapping at least one unwanted gift over the holidays. At the same time, more than half say time with family is their favorite part of the holidays. With that in mind, here are seven creative ways to slow down, stay local and replace a gift with quality time.
Person sketching in notebook. Photo by Kaizen Nguyễn on Unsplash

  1. Give the gift of learning: DIY gifts like soaps and ornaments have been popular for years. Kick it up a notch by gifting a certificate to a local glass studio or book a cooking class. Find inspiration in your local parks and rec class schedule. Minneapolis and St. Paul both have extensive offerings, as do many Minnesota cities. If you’re looking for something artistic, the Minneapolis Institute of Art offers Sketching in the Galleries classes, and our friends at the Guthrie Theater have options for people of all ages, ranging from beginner level to advanced classes.
  2. Bake up some holiday warmth: If you like giving pretty mason jars with ingredients layered inside, pair it with the gift of baking together. Put on a festive playlist or stream episodes of The Great British Baking Show, pour some festive cocktails or mocktails and turn it into a day of warm baking fun to chase the winter blues away.
    Woman and child smiling in front of Lion King marquee at the Orpheum Theatre
  3. Tickets make great gifts: What better way to enjoy the company of friends and family than a show? If you’re OK with forgoing the element of surprise, make it an annual tradition to see a holiday-themed show. The Blenders, the Nutcracker and Sounds of Blackness are great options. If you want something to gift wrap, go big with tickets to a January show: Jesus Christ Superstar, Riverdance or Blue Man Group are not to be missed. Explore the vibrant Hennepin Theatre District by getting some laughs at Brave New Workshop or experience beautiful modern dance at The Cowles Center.
  4. Make it a night on the town: The Hennepin Theatre District offers some of the best dining around. If you’re seeing a show at the Orpheum, State or Pantages theatres, make a reservation with one of our restaurant partners and show your ticket for these great offers.
  5. Person reading a book to a childGift wrap cuddles: Give younger family members some quality time reading together with a book kit. Pair the book with cozy socks, a book-themed blanket or even this library-card tote bag for a perfect winter evening at home.
  6. Create an art adventure: Plan a walking tour to check out the world-class public art in the Twin Cities. Hennepin Theatre Trust’s “It’s the People” is a new installation featuring larger-than-life portraits of the avenue’s regulars by renowned Minnesota artists. It joins existing murals — like the favorite featuring Bob Dylan — that make the Hennepin Theatre District a vibrant and welcoming place. Another option is to head east of the river to St. Paul’s Midway Murals along Snelling Avenue. To keep warm, hop on a light rail and check out the art along Metro Transit’s Green Line and Blue Line — each station on both lines features public art. Put a bow on the experience by snapping a great photo in front of some colorful art to frame and gift.
  7. Make it last all year: A membership to any of the fascinating museums, zoos or arboretums in the Twin Cities makes a great gift experience that lasts all year. Up your gifting game by slipping the membership card into a greeting card, guide book or tote bag from that museum for a gift that’s sure to delight.