This post is sponsored by REI. All opinions are my own.
The last few years, we’ve tried to make the main gift for our kids for birthdays and holidays some sort of experience – we’ve gifted trips, classes, special activities, and unique outdoor experience gifts. It’s been a wonderful way to focus on connection and time together.
It’s also helped us to minimize buying stuff for stuff’s sake and instead choose a few small items to help magnify the joy of these experience gifts for kids. We look at it as an opportunity to purchase items we’d like anyway to build our our family’s gear and to fill needs. REI is our favorite place to find useful, functional items that will last and be enjoyed on adventures for years instead of a single use, and are the perfect accompaniment for experience gifts for boys and girls alike.
Here are 15 amazing and special outdoor experience gifts for families and couples. They’re great experience gifts for outdoor lovers of all ages, including and especially kiddos. I hope they inspire you to highlight and prioritize enjoying outdoor recreation together during your family’s gifting season, as well!
Experience Gift for Active Kids: Rock Climbing
Our kids love climbing anything from rocks to trees to walls, and have climbed in a gym a few times. An outdoor climbing class is a perfect option to add some excitement and get out in nature.
Consider gifting alongside: our very favorite kids’ day packs from REI to carry water, sunscreen, and other supplies; ours get tons of use as hiking and travel backpacks, as well.
Family Trip Experience Gift: Beach Trip
Doing a family beach trip for a big experience gift? Make it extra exciting by wrapping up the tickets in a big box and add in a few needed extras in smaller packages along the way.
Consider gifting alongside: REI is a great place to pick up all the little essentials you may need along the way on your trip, as well. Swimwear is a great thing to include, and I love this mineral sunscreen that smells amazing. There is also a huge variety of beach chairs, umbrellas/tents, beach blankets, and more.
Outdoor Experience Gift for Water Lovers: BoatingKayaking Rental or Tour
With younger kiddos, consider a kayak rental or tour on a river or slough for a calmer, more nature-focused paddle. Older kids may enjoy something like jet skiing or sailing, or an adventure boat tour!
Consider gifting alongside: Our beloved @REI rain pants are great to throw on over other clothing while doing water activities. Here in the Bay Area where we live and where it doesn’t get super cold, we like wearing them just over wool base layers for some more warmth without lots of bulk. If you’re participating in some warmer weather paddling, consider gifting with new swimwear (REI has tons of options for the whole family here). Any of these would make a fantastic gift that would get tons of use during well beyond the specific experience gift.
Local Experience Gift: Ice Skating
This is a perfect family activity that would make a wonderful gift. We love giving our kids “coupons” to redeem for special activities like this and maybe add in a second smaller one to purchase hot chocolate. This is also one of our favorite experience gift ideas for couples!
Consider gifting alongside: Add in some warm insulated gloves to keep everyone dry and toasty. We love these sets from REI for men, women, kids, and toddlers.
Experience Gifts for Outdoors Lovers: Camping Trip
Since we started RVing, we haven’t done much tent camping because the RV tends to be more convenient, especially for longer periods or with little babies. But one of our kiddos had been asking repeatedly to go tent camping, so Dan took just him on an overnight. He LOVED it and was absolutely over the moon. We didn’t have a 2-person tent, so we borrowed one from friends and it was a low-key, relatively low-effort way to absolutely make his month. It was such a special experience for them to go on a short hike (much faster than with a bunch of little siblings), climb some rocks, and jump in a swimming hole. He loved it so much that he even wrote a personal narrative about it in school!
Consider gifting alongside: If you need a tent anyway, this would be a good time to make that purchase and use it to build excitement for the activity. If you don’t, a simple headlamp is useful and also really fun (our kids get unreasonably excited about having their own of these – REI has a big selection of them). This warm kids sleeping bag would also be a great option if you think you’ll continue to use it over many trips.
Experience Gifts for Toddlers: Outdoor Art Class or Family Painting Time
Experience gifts don’t need to be expensive to be meaningful! It also doesn’t have to be strenuous to be fulfilling. If you have a creative in your life, consider gifting an outdoor art class (perhaps something you’d spend money on as an extracurricular anyway) or even just schedule some family painting time. That dedicated time to experience nature can be so healing and special. This is also a great experience gift for toddlers – it’s simple enough that even little ones will love participating (plus, no mess inside!).
Consider gifting alongside: If your giftee is in need of some new walking shoes, this is a perfect time to gift something you’d purchase regardless. REI now carries Allbirds in a variety of styles and colors and they’re perfect for using for walking, travel, or more strenuous activity. Add in some art supplies (this is our favorite pretty watercolor palette [there’s also this one available at REI] and our favorite colored pencils) and a beautiful spot nearby and you have a special gift of time. You could even consider including one of these inexpensive online art classes!
Experience Gifts for Kids and Adults: Paragliding
Paragliding is one of those big bucket list items that is so exciting and magical for kids and adults alike. Plus, it’s surprisingly often accessible for a wide variety of ages – the two places we’ve done it have offered tandem rides for kids as young as 3 or 4, up to any age.
Consider gifting alongside: This is definitely a pricier experience gift. So I would personally gift it with something hyper useful that will be functional for the experience but is really an everyday item to be used over and over. For us, this would be merino wool base layers. They’re wonderful as pajamas or as an extra layer for warmth. I especially love them for travel because wool is naturally odor-resistant and doesn’t need to be washed as often, and dries quickly when it is. Super functional and each of my kids has a couple sets that we use constantly at home and on every trip. REI has a big selection of merino wool base layers from a variety of brands.
Winter Experiences with Kids: Snow Play
Sometimes spending a little more effort for a trip a bit further away, even if there isn’t a set activity, makes a wonderful outdoor experience gift for kids. We love focusing most of our winter holiday season not on presents but on fun activities together, and some snow play is a classic. Some simple sledding gets our kids SO darn excited (perhaps it’s because we live in a place where people tend to pull out puffy coats when it dips below 70F…). Just driving a couple hours to some snow is the biggest thrill for our kids.
Consider gifting alongside: Does a loved one need a new coat for winter? This is the perfect time to purchase it, hopefully on sale, and give it as a gift to “introduce” the activity. I strongly prefer waterproof winter coats, and love these styles from REI for kids, women, and men. Crampons would be another good choice if you’ll be walking in the snow/ice.
Experience Gift Ideas for Couples: Hot Air Balloon Ride or Helicopter Tour
What is more romantic than a hot air balloon ride? Dan and I have always wanted to do one, or do an open helicopter tour over the city and bay.
Consider gifting alongside: A cozy Rumpl blanket to snuggle up with while in the air would be the perfect addition!
Experience Gifts for Families: Farm Visit or Farm Stay
If you’re looking for a getaway from normal life, a farm visit or a farm stay is a perfect outdoor experience gift for families. Look for a farm nearby to either visit and walk around to see animals, or see if you can help out with milking or other chores. There might be some near you that even allow overnight stays where you can participate in farm life for a bit longer.
Consider gifting alongside: If your loved one needs a new shirt, consider a soft Wallace Lake flannel that will fit right in on the farm. Or maybe even a simple bar of soap to clean up on the farm!
Experience Gifts for Animal Lovers: Animal Viewing
Do you have an animal lover and live by the coast? Consider an animal adventure tour like whale watching or a trip to the zoo. (We loved this whale watching tour in Monterey, CA.) Or you could purchase an annual pass to your local zoo to continue the fun throughout the year.
Consider gifting alongside: These little monoculars from REI are amazing and super powerful and perfect for animal watching. Each of our kids has one and loved it on our trip to Alaska, which was filled with wildlife.
Experience Gifts for Kids: Sports Class
If you have a kiddo (or adult) in your life who loves organized activities and sports, a sports class or league signup might be exactly what they’d love.
Consider gifting alongside: A nice new water bottle would be perfect to accompany this gift, and perhaps any needed gear for the activity.
Gifts for Adventurous Kids: Ropes Course
We’ve gifted this ropes course to a couple of our kids and it’s so fun and exciting. It makes an amazing and special gift, and there are often ropes courses or ziplines in a variety of areas so they’re fairly easy to find.
Consider gifting alongside: Add in a lightweight rain jacket in case it gets wet while on the course! This is also something that will hopefully get plenty of use far beyond the activity.
Active Experience Gifts: Bike Ride or Tour
A bike ride or tour is a wonderful opportunity to connect while moving your bodies outdoors. You can either schedule an official tour, a mountain biking lesson, or just plan a pretty route near your home.
Consider gifting alongside: A bike is a natural accompaniment, but expensive. But you can also look for used ones or just rent or borrow from a friend, or you may already have bikes on hand. If your loved one needs a new helmet, the Thousand helmets are my favorites for their protection and style, but REI also has a huge selection of other brands of bike helmets, as well. Bike gloves, a water bottle holder, or new bike bell would also be great options!
Simple Experience Gifts: A Hike
Again, an experience gift doesn’t need to cost a lot of money or be fancy to be fun! A peaceful hike to a beautiful spot is a wonderful way to connect. Perhaps do the research for a new trail, pack a special picnic, and add in a fun drink. You could even plan a year of hikes with one scheduled each month!
Consider gifting alongside: Gift with a pair of our very favorite warm and durable merino wool socks for an inexpensive but wonderful gift. A filter water bottle would also be really fun!
I hope these outdoor experience gifts for families inspire you to share the gift of time together in nature this holiday season!