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Giving experiences as gifts

Once you’ve gotten in the habit of reusing or recycling your gift wrap and choosing more environmentally-friendly gifts, you may be ready to take it to the next step and start giving experiences instead of things. This is a great method to reduce waste while sharing your love, but if you haven’t done it before, it may seem difficult. This article will provide a few tips on how to give experiences well and some ideas to get you started!

Make it tangible 

Giving experiences as gifts can be a big leap if you or your family members are accustomed to the excitement and instant gratification of opening traditional gifts. If you want to still give something to represent the experience, wrap up the tickets, a homemade coupon, a picture or a creative symbol to clue them in (for example, if you plan to send someone to a cooking class, you might use a dish towel and wrap up a few of their kitchen utensils as their “present”). This way they have a physical token of the gift.

Make it happen

Don’t let your gift lose its excitement, become a burden, or never happen because you didn’t plan it well. Unless you know your recipient has a lot of patience, make sure the experience can take place in the following month or two so it is close enough for them to look forward to, not forget about or feel discouraged by the wait time. If your activity doesn’t have a set date and relies on you to make a payment or do something later (e.g. a coffee date or offer of services), give your recipient several days to choose from and schedule it immediately. Don’t put the pressure on them to make you follow through on their gift.

Get ideas

Now that you know some good practices for experience-giving, start thinking about what your loved one might enjoy receiving. Here are some ideas to give you inspiration.

Seasonal staples

Year-round appeal

  • Culture: movie theater tickets, going to a play, live music (local or a bigger act), comedy clubs, museums (you can even get to a museum for free with a MELSA smARTpass from the library)

  • Learning: A community education class (so many topics!), e-books, craft or skill classes at a local businesses (for example, a beginning sewing class at a fabric store)

  • Health and wellness: gym memberships, fitness class passes (community ed or local studios), admission to a race (lots of New Year 5ks, indoor triathlons), Minnesota State Park permit, massages or spa days


  • Getting active: Trampoline park, Nickelodeon Universe, rock  climbing, indoor water park (see a large list of indoor play areas)

  • Gifts for kids to give to others: coupons for services like back rubs, babysitting, cleaning the car, shoveling, homework help for a sibling

Giving an experience as a gift is a great way to reduce waste this holiday season and isn’t as hard as it may seem. For more ideas, read "50 Things to Do This Winter in Minnesota" and to search for upcoming events check out some sources like the Mpls. St. Paul Magazine or Eventbrite.