Christmas List: Gifts of Experiences

“One gift,” my friend proclaimed while waving her left pointer-finger in the air. As our boys ran wild around us and we enjoyed our Friday night, she continued, “We’re doing only one gift this Christmas!”

“Experiences – that’s it!” Another friend exclaimed the following night while we attended our college roommate’s wedding. Even though our children were hundreds of miles away, we kept them close in our conversation. “My parents do the museum membership each year. We try to do experiences.”

Two nights, the same message: enough things – no more things!

Lights are popping up on houses. Christmas trees are peaking out of windows. My inbox is overfilled with the Best Deal Ever! (until tomorrow). It’s go time.

Following the advice of my smart friends, I started making a list of experiences as gift options for my kids and loved ones. The list grew. So here it is if anyone else is agonizing over: what am I going to get for mom / dad / niece / nephew / [fill in the blank].

  1. Annual Memberships
    1. Zoo – annual memberships allow for unlimited visits which is great for days that we need to get out of the house. These usually pay for themselves in two visits and it alleviates my need to stay forever to get my money’s worth.
    2. Museums – same as above, but even better for the days that are too hot, too cold or too rainy.
  2. Athletic Activities and Lessons
    1. Swimming – indoor pools like Blairwood and the Bubble make swimming lessons a year round activity.
    2. Soccer – My 2 year old loves Soccer Shots so much he won’t take off his Soccer Shots jersey.
    3. Open Gym – All About Kids and KGA provide wide open indoor spaces for kids to act like kids.
    4. Trampolines – House of Boom and Sky Zone when jumping on the bed isn’t getting it done.
  3. Art Classes / Lessons
    1. A few places give children the chance to explore art:
      1. Speed Art Museum features Art Sparks and also has workshops just for the little ones. Sundays are always free. No strings attached, completely free thanks to Brown-Forman.
      2. Side by Side Studio is a non-profit family and community art studio with activities ranging from drop-in sessions to summer camps to private parties.
  4. Music Classes / Lessons
    1. Click here for a list of options in Louisville that range from interactive classes aimed at the pre-K and younger crowd to private lessons.
  5. Live Performances
    1. Broadway‘s highlights this year are: The Sound of Music, Beautiful (The Carol King Musical), Kinky Boots and The Little Mermaid.
    2. Plays: A Christmas Carol is playing at Actors Theatre until 12/23/16. The Humana Festival, which showcases New American Plays, runs from March through early April. Stage One offers something for the kids.
    3. Live Conversations – This one is definitely for the adults and is such a nice departure from the normal routine of grabbing drinks or dinner.
      1. Kentucky to the World showcases Kentucky’s talent. I attended their November event which featured a conversation between Wendy Whelan and Emily Bingham that focused on Wendy’s storied career. It was excellent: interesting, intimate and inspiring. (Lesson: Great doesn’t happen without a lot of hard work.)
      2. Anderson Cooper & Andy Cohen at the Palace in March (3/11/17).
    4. Dance – Ballet, Modern Dance, etc.
      1. Modern Dance – Wendy Whelan performs Some of a Thousand Words on March 8th at the Brown Theatre. I should disclose that I am biased. She is my cousin. But appreciating she was a NYC Ballet Principal Dancer for 25 years and considered an extraordinary dancer and artist, you don’t have to be family to enjoy her work.
      2. The Louisville Ballet’s Nutcracker runs from 12/10 to 12/22.
  6. Live Music
    1. Orchestra and Symphony / POPS – Most local orchestras or symphonies include performances tailored for children in their annual line-up. These performances  are so entertaining and special.
    2. Concerts
      1. Louisville has a lot of great venues. This list seems to be pretty comprehensive across all venues of the notable acts coming to town.
  7. Sporting Events – In Kentucky, I’d be remiss to not mention that basketball season is upon us. Tickets to the fave team’s games are always well-received (if you can get your hands on tickets!)
  8. The Experience of Giving to others – This is a non-negotiable for me. Over the Holiday season, there are so many opportunities to help others. This year I selected the Angel Tree for our family because my children could participate. We chose children the same age as them, explained the process and took them with us to help us shop for the items. I’m consistently surprised at how these gestures check my “Christmas stress,” put things in perspective and reminds me to appreciate how lucky and blessed we are.


I hope this list helps your Holiday list (after re-reading, I realize it also doubles as a “things to do list”!) For non-Louisville readers, yes, the links are mostly to Louisville. But if any of the ideas strike your fancy, hopefully this sends you down the right Google path to find it in your area.

Please share any other ideas in the comment section and one last, no cost gift, follow MRT by email 🙂

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