There’s a lot of joy in choosing the perfect gift for someone, but the best present isn’t always found in a shopping mall. As you put together your holiday shopping list, consider wrapping up a fun experience instead. It could be a cool adventure, a set of lessons to learn a new skill or a special outing for the whole family.
Experience gifts can open up new worlds and expand horizons. They can create stories and memories that will last long after the latest fad has worn off. If you plan the experience for early in the new year, you’ll give the lucky recipient something to look forward to when the January doldrums hit.
Here are some of our favourite experiences to help you find the perfect gift for those on your Christmas list.
The Ultimate Tea Party
Treat someone to the pleasure of afternoon tea at one of the beautiful tea rooms around town. This British tradition serves up a three-tier tray of delectable goodness: savoury finger sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream, and elegant pastries—all accompanied by a fragrant cup of tea, of course. Most places also offer a children’s tea for young palates, served with juice or cocoa. Neverland Tea Salon on West Broadway, Secret Garden Tea Company in Kerrisdale, La Petite Cuillère in Mount Pleasant, and Adorabelle Tea Room in Steveston are all great places to enjoy the ultimate tea party.
Marvelous Musicals & Plays
Live theatre can be an inspiring event for children, as they see stories unfold right before their eyes. There are several plays coming up in Vancouver based on popular children’s books. The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Eric Carle Favourites, Elephant & Piggie’s “We Are in a Play!” and Matilda the Musical would all make wonderful experience gifts. For extra fun, include with the tickets the book that the play is based on. You can read the story together while counting down the days until the performance.
If your child wants a pony for Christmas, and you’re a city-dweller, the next best gift might be a pony ride. Back in the Saddle Again and Langley 204 both offer reasonably-priced rides for young children starting at $25. At Maplewood Farms, you can book one attendant and one pony for an hour, so siblings or friends can join in the fun. If your child wants to learn to ride, Southlands Heritage Farms offers lessons for kids as young as three, while Leghorn Ranch in Pitt Meadows has lessons for those aged four and older.
Behind the Scenes at the Aquarium
It’s always fun to explore the Vancouver Aquarium, but getting access to what happens behind the scenes is even more exciting. Choose an animal encounter with dolphins, otters, penguins, sea lions or turtles, and let your child get up close and personal with their favourite animals. These sessions can include feeding, training and learning about conservation and research. Kids can also see what it’s like to work as a biologist in different areas of the aquarium, helping to care for animals. Participants must be eight years of age or older. Children under 13 must be accompanied by a paying adult, so mom or dad get to join in too.
A Good Old Hockey Game
If your children love the thrill of a fast-paced hockey match, take them to a Vancouver Canucks game. They’ll see their heroes in person and be inspired by this season’s young star, Elias Pettersson. The Vancouver Giants, the local WHL team, are a fun and affordable alternative. They play at a smaller arena, so you’ll get close to all of the exciting action. For a real splurge, see some of the best young players from around the globe when the World Junior Hockey Championship gets underway at Rogers Arena on Boxing Day.
Enriching Art Classes
Spark some creativity with lessons at a local art studio such as Collage Collage on Main Street, 4Cats (various locations) and Arts Umbrella (Granville Island, Surrey). Check the websites for the latest offerings and give your little artist a chance to express themselves through drawing, painting, mixed media, weaving, sculpture and more. Whether you choose a one-off workshop, camp or weekly class, there are lots of ways to keep your child’s imagination flowing. 4Cats occasionally offers family workshops so everyone can create a masterpiece together, while Arts Umbrella also has theatre and music classes.
A chocolate manicure and pedicure? Yes, please! There are several places in Vancouver that offer spa treatments for the younger set. Luxe Beauty Lounge on Homer Street has a delectable selection of services for kids and teens. Choose from organic facials, manicures and pedicures, and fun extras such as a hand and foot massage or chocolate face mask. Lush Nail Lounge in Surrey provides princess manicures and pedicures with a design, while Pure Nail Bar (various locations) offers a ‘little miss mani’ or ‘little miss pedi’. Over at the Hair Loft on Granville Island, the Princess Spa will pamper your little ones with a hair updo, light makeup and nail polish.
A Wildlife or Waterpark Weekend
Whisk the entire family away for a few days and give yourselves the gift of time together. There are two family-friendly destinations in Washington State that are close enough to drive to, but far enough away that you’ll feel like you had a mini-vacation.
Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, near Tacoma, is home to 40 species of animals native to the northwest region. Take a tram through meadows and forests where moose, bison, bighorn sheep and elk roam freely. Explore walking trails and safely see bears, wolves, cougars, beavers, and otters in their natural habitat. When the kids want to play, there’s a nature-inspired playground and zip line course. There’s no lodging in the park, but Tacoma and Seattle are within an hour’s drive.
Great Wolf Lodge, south of Seattle, will keep everyone in the family entertained. In addition to a big indoor waterpark with slides and a wave pool, there are kid-friendly attractions such as story time, mini-golf, an arcade, and a ropes course. There are plenty of dining options to keep everybody fuelled, as well as a fitness centre, spa, and shopping. Everything the family needs is under one roof, making it a low-stress getaway for you.