The number of parents—and grandparents—wanting to gift experiences and classes grows every year! Gifting an experience to a child provides lifelong memories that can’t be found inside wrapping paper. This list is for those looking for less clutter and wanting to embrace adventure and time spent together.
13 Experience Gift Ideas
Indianapolis and the surrounding areas offer a wide variety of choices that will have you checking everyone off your list in no time.
The gift that keeps on giving. To start off our list we are going to highlight a few memberships because the simplicity and value cannot be overstated! Depending on your family size, by visit 2 or 3 the membership pays for itself. Find your adventure at Conner Prairie, go wild at the Indianapolis Zoo, or gift year-round access to the largest Children’s Museum in the World! The Indiana State Museum Membership offers reciprocal privileges at other Indiana museums like Wonderlab in Bloomington and the Muncie Children’s Museum.
If you’re worried about staying active this winter and having a place to swim, the Monon Center in Carmel and Goldfish Swim School offer memberships on a monthly basis! NinjaZone is a another great activity to burn off that holiday sugar rush. Before purchasing, look at the various events held by each place and choose the one that your family would want to return to year-round. Most memberships go beyond daily admission by also including discounts to events, camps, and other special experiences.
Gift A Holiday Experience
Sometimes the best gift for the holiday is taking pleasure in the festivities together. Give your loved ones some holiday magic with any of the following activities.
The Christmas Nights of Lights at the Fairground is $30/car and quickly becoming a family tradition. Online reservations are required in order to reduce wait times. New this year is Magic of Lights at Ruoff Music Center for $35/car. Bring along snacks, candy or hot cocoa to complete the experience. If walking is more your style, gift your family the magic of Winterlights at Newfield’s. This event sells out quickly every year and for good reason!
There is nothing quite light Carriage Rides amongst all the Christmas lights and décor. A tour around the Circle of Lights in Monument Circle is an experience worthy of gifting. Carriage rides are also available Downtown Noblesville Square.
For a classic holiday show, there are several Nutcracker Ballet Performances being put on around the city. Check out show times at Clowes Memorial Hall, the Murat Theatre, or the Palladium Center. For a memorable time with trains, hot cocoa and the big man in the red suit check out one of the several train rides going on near you. Tickets are limited for these popular holiday train rides but are worth snagging this year or planning ahead for next year. A few we love are Sullivan’s Express Holiday Train, Nickel Plates Reindeer Express, and The Polar Express in French Lick and Connersville.
Gift A Winter Getaway
Being in Central Indiana means we are just hours away from an amazing day trip or an unforgettable weekend away! Embrace the elements and head to Chicago where you can visit the American Girl Store or the Legoland Discovery Center.
Most kids I know are ecstatic at the chance to swim in the middle of winter. For this type of adventure, book a stay at Great Wolf Lodge in Mason, Ohio or our very own Big Splash Indiana in French Lick. Did you know caves in Southern Indiana stay 56 degrees year-round? A gift certificate to Indiana Caverns would make for a refreshing experience in winter when nature exploration seems so limiting.
Gift Animal Interactions
Animals have the ability to capture our attention unlike anything else. For a gift that is sure to be pure enjoyment, consider one of these wildlife encounters.
At the Indianapolis Zoo you can book a coveted In-Water Dolphin Experience. This is a 90-minute experience for those over 6 years old. Located in French Lick is Wilstem Ranch–a wildlife park offering special encounters with animals as well as a Drive Thru Safari. You can choose an exclusive experience with a sloth, giraffe, kangaroo, grizzly bear or an ultimate access pass. A little way outside of Indiana is The Wilds in Colombus, Ohio where you can go on a real safari in the Midwest. Once you decide, present your gift with an adorable new stuffed animal and a letter letting the child know about their wild experience to come!
Gift Indoor Recreation
Cabin fever is real and kids need a place to get their energy out the next few months. Fortunately, there are no shortages of these indoor adventure parks in Indy. Urban Air, Defy, and Adrenaline offer attractions like trampolines, warrior courses, foam pits, and other challenges. Buy a gift card for a day or check out the different membership options available at the one nearest you.
Put a smile on any toddler or preschooler’s face with passes to the family favorite Smiley’s. If you have those looking for bigger challenges you may want to consider rock climbing and bouldering passes at Hoosier Heights and North Mass Boulder. Gift certificates to an Escape Room or Breakout Games is perfect for older kids and teens! Foam Warriorz is new on the scene and making a huge impression with its indoor nerf arena and axe throwing.
Gift Tickets To Shows
There are so many great options for shows in the next few months. The dino fanatics can catch sight of their favorites at the Dinosaur World Live show at Paramount Theatre in Anderson February 6. See Mickey and Friends at Disney on Ice January 19-23 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Monster Jam is bringing its action-packed show to Lucas Oil Stadium April 9 & 10. Catch the entertaining Harlem Globetrotters January 16 at Gainbridge. While February 15 will be a beautiful day to be at Clowe’s Memorial Hall to catch the Daniel Tiger Neighborhood live show.
The following month, March 22 at Clowe’s is the Disney Princess: The Concert show recommended for 6 & up. LOL Surprise has rescheduled their show at Old National Center to April 24 tickets are limited but a few remain available. While not in Indy, we thought our readers would like to know that Blippi will be in Evansville February 23 and in Ft Wayne March 11. Purchase tickets of your choosing and count down the days together.
Gift Seats For Game Day
Indy is home to many exciting sport teams including the Indianapolis Colts, Pacers, Indy Eleven, Indy Fuel, Indy Fever, and Indianapolis Indians. Root for the home team at any of our local arenas for a spectacular time together. Several promotions are available including family nights, discounted food, fireworks and more special events so be sure to check the schedule ahead of purchasing tickets. To enhance this gift, wrap up a jersey, ball or other sports gear to reveal the surprise.
Gift One On One Time
Any of the places and events on this list would make an excellent setting for time together but you can also curate a day as unique as the child you are buying for! Surprise them with gift cards to their favorite restaurant or local store. Or pick out a fancy outfit for them to wear to Cake Bake Shop. Impress the gamers in your life with the retro arcade at Boss Battle Games in Castleton. Nine Live’s Cat Café is a wonderful way to spend time with a cat enthusiast. Movie theatres are opening back up including Flix Brewhouse in Carmel. This luxury theatre offers dinner, drinks, and a show! Did you know you can pour your own candles at Penn & Beech or create custom bath products at Bath Junkies? No matter what you decide on, gifting intentional time together is invaluable.
Everyone needs a creative outlet and there are some true hidden gems in the Indy area for the aspiring artists. The Tie Dye Lab in Avon is a studio where anyone can create customized tie dye apparel. Ripple Mobile Arts offers pottery wheel rentals including clay, glaze, and tools for very reasonable prices!
With school breaks right around the corner, these weekly rentals allow everyone in the home to get in on the action. Broad Ripple is home to the Kicasso Sneaker Art Bar where you start with blank canvas sneakers and end up with custom designed kicks! Purchase a gift certificate or a Kicasso Box which allows you to partake in the experience at home. MyArt has several locations offering art classes, camps and family events. The Wandering Peacock is the most serene and blissful pottery studio we’ve seen offering classes, parties and camps in Westfield. For those near Hendricks County purchase gift cards for Brightly Art Studio for artists of any age.
Gift Unique Classes
Do you know a kid who likes to experiment in the kitchen? Give the little chefs in your life cooking classes like those found at Sprouts Cooking School, Yumz up Cooking Classes, or Circle City Sweets. Maybe you have a computer whiz that would enjoy coding classes. Check out the exciting and educational programs offered at Easy Fun Coding and Code Ninjas. For a unique and active experience, gift a session of aerial silks classes at Cirque Indy. These classes promote strength and body awareness for children 8-12. Other great considerations for classes include En Pointe Indiana Ballet and Wright’s Gymnastics & Ninja Zone.
Gift Winter Fun
Try something new with your loved ones this year and embrace the winter activities. Did you know you can ski in Southeast, Indiana? Perfect North offers skiing, snow tubing and snowboarding. Stay tuned for opening day. Snow tubing is a perfect activity for the whole family and is available locally at Koteewi Park in Noblesville. Gift certificates and reservations are available now for use after December 18.
There are some spectacular outdoor Ice-Skating rinks being installed temporarily around Central Indiana. Spend the day on the ice at Federal Hill Commons, Carmel’s Ice at Center Green, or Lawrence’s Winterfest. Another great way to encourage winter fun this year is to gift new sleds, snow gear and hot cocoa baskets so the kiddos are prepared for those snow days to come!
Gift A Summer Camp
The popular summer camps around Indy fill up quickly. Researching a camp ahead of time, bookmarking the registration date, and setting the fees aside is a very smart and proactive gift! Some of the most popular camps in the Indy area include Conner Prairie, Camp Indy, Wright’s Gymnastics & Ninja Zone Camps, YMCA camps. Keep in mind memberships can also be helpful for discounts to summer camps.
Gift A Year Of Fun
With so many great choices available year-round why not commit to a year of family fun adventures or precious time together? Gift your family a customized calendar or 12 envelopes with one dedicated experience each month! This is a perfect way to be purposeful this coming year with scheduled family fun.
Trading in bows for memories is worthwhile for many reasons. With so many options around us you’ll need to keep this list handy for future holidays and birthdays. We hope this list inspired you to think outside of the gift box this holiday season. Help your family and friends with stress free holiday shopping by sharing this list!