I think a running theme among conversations about holiday gifts is always- "the kids don't need more toys!". Since we are all on the same page, here are 50 local experience gifts to give your family this holiday season! Give them the gift of your time, and encourage grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends to do the same!
1. Broadway Show – There are so many great family friendly shows currently running on Broadway. Each offers matinee performances which is great for little ones. Tickets are available through Telecharge or Ticketmaster, or try going to the box office the day of the show and avoid handling fees.
2.Turtleback Zoo Membership – This is truly a gift that keeps on giving (for about $125 for a family!). You’ll get UNLIMITED admission to the zoo for one year, discounts at the café and gift shop, exclusive exhibit previews and member mornings and late nights! As an added bonus with your membership you will get free or discounted admissions to more than 110 affiliated zoos and aquariums around the county!
3. Power Play Gaming – This is a fun place for the kids to go play on a rainy day and Mom and Dad will love walking around the corner to Starbucks while the kids are gaming. Check online for special events!
4. Liberty Science Center – Spend the day at the Liberty Science Center and then catch one of the several IMAX movies that play daily.
5. Indoor Water Park Overnight –Water parks seem to be all the rage right now and we have several within driving distance. If you have younger kids, definitely check out Great Wolf Lodge! We also love Aquatopia at Camel Beach, Kartrite and Kalahari!
6. Baseball Game – We now have three minor league baseball teams nearby -- the Sussex Miners, the Jersey Jackals and the Somerset Patriots. Tickets are inexpensive and the games are really geared toward the family, with different fun activities planned between innings and sometimes fireworks after the games.
7. Overnight at the Zoo or Aquarium –Experience the Center for Aquatic Sciences or the Philadelphia Zoo like you never have before! Book an overnight adventure and have fun with animal meet-and- greets, behind the scenes tours, and exclusive activities!
8. Escape Room – Looking for something to do with your older kids? Check out an escape room! Escape Room Center in Bridgewater and Amazing Escape Room in Montclair are both family friendly. This is an ideal group activity mom, dad, older kids, and even grandparents can all do together!
9. Summer Camp- Give your kids a gift they can look forward to all year long! We love Meadowbrook County Day Camp in Long Valley! Your child will make memories to last a lifetime!
10. Family Game Night- How about treating them with a family game night?! Wrap a game up for each member of the family to expand your collection! You can even get small prizes for the winners! When we play Candy Land, we always let the winner have a piece of candy out of the candy jar. Some other favorites are Uno, Apples to Apples, Pictionary. If you are really brave… nerf gun challenges!
11. Lessons – Sign them up for swimming karate, art, piano, fencing, voice lessons… the possibilities are endless. This is a great gift option because if they love it, you can renew for next year’s gift! Our favorite swim school, North Jersey Aquatics, is now offering gift certificates for the holidays!
12. Horseback Riding – Seaton Hackney Stables is located conveniently in Morristown and is operated by the Morris County Park Commission. They offer private and group lessons, summer camps and even birthday parties.
13. The Garden State Discovery Museum- Located in Cherry Hill, NJ offers hands on exhibits where children and adults can interact and learn together. Kids can remodel houses in the two-story “Under Construction” or take care of pets in “Vet and Pet”. You can have hours of fun here! Check out the interactive map on their website! Plus, they also offer tons of special events and annual memberships for only $128 for the family!
14. Monster Mini Golf – This 18 hole indoor miniature golf course on route 46 in Fairfield is monster themed and everything glows in the dark. There’s an arcade on site also. Perfect for a rainy day!
15. Spa Day - How about a mother/daughter mani/pedi day? Bring Grandma along too for some girl fun. Check out The Pampered Princess in Sparta!
17. Pottery Making – How about a night out painting pottery? You can even bring your own drinks and snacks. There are a number of options in the area. We love The Ant & the Grasshopper in Chester for pottery painting and all crafting!
18. Crayola Experience – The Crayola Factory in Easton, PA is a magical place where creativity rules and everything is hands-on. Perfect for a family day trip.
19. Planetarium – The Longo Planetarium at CCM has live shows monthly for different age groups. It’s a great outing for kids and adults alike.
20. The American Dream- Take the family to the new American Dream. Check out the Nickelodeon Theme Park, The Rink, Dreamworks Water Park, and Big Snow. Over 350 shopping experiences and over 100 dining destinations will open in March 2020.
21. Glass Fusing – A great gift for your older kiddos. At Glassworks in Morristown you can design a masterpiece as a walk-in, in a class setting or during a private lesson.
22. Visit to Sterling Hill Mining Museum – Have a scientific adventure and an underground mine tour. See mining equipment, a drilling and blasting demonstration, and the world famous fluorescent “Rainbow Tunnel". They also offer activities such as: discovery centers, mineral collecting, sluicing, and other special events.
23. Adopt an animal – Through the World Wildlife Fund you can symbolically adopt an animal of your choosing. With a $55 adoption kit you’ll receive a photo, bag, plush and certificate.
24. Randolph Climbing Center – Have some fun rock climbing and using the different gymnastics equipment, trampolines and inflatables. Check out the Friday night open gym from 7:30-10:00PM. The cost is $20 per participant or $25 with pizza & drink. An added bonus, drop offs are welcome, so drop off the kids and take some much needed “you” time!
25. Mommy and Me High Tea- On the 3rd Friday of the month from September to June, Parteaz in East Hanover offers a high tea luncheon with princess visits! Tea sandwiches, scones, and yummy desserts await! You also will make a photo frame memory craft to remember the special occasion!
27. Movies – How about treating them to a gift card for the movies, or better yet, a family movie date? Throw in a few boxes of their favorite candy, and it will be an evening to remember!
28. Build A Bear Workshop – Always a crowd favorite, head to the Rockaway Mall to create your own personalized stuffed friend.
30. Kids Night Out– Riverside Kids Gym in Hackettstown has Kids Night Out where kids can enjoy three hours of fun and parents enjoy a well-deserved break. Each Kids Night Out is a new adventure! New skills are learned and friends are made. Pizza and juice are served.
31. Book of the Month Club – Plan out your own book of the month club! This is a gift that keeps giving all year! Purchase 12 books all at once and give one out on the first of each month.
32. Trampoline Center – Skyzone in Mt. Olive is fun for the whole family and there’s something for everyone. Open jump, ultimate dodgeball or Skyrobics class to name a few.
33. Volunteer – Give the gift of helping others. If possible with your kids’ ages, volunteer at a local food pantry or charity. Check out volunteermatch.org for organizations near you.
34. Every Kid Outdoors – If you have a fourth grader, there is no excuse not to get this gift: a FREE year-long pass to ALL the national parks with the “Every Kid Outdoors” program. This pass provides access to national parks for everyone in your immediate family, not just the fourth grader, so it is a great family gift! (Here’s how to get it)
35. Batting Cages – For a child who loves baseball, check out In the Zone Baseball and Softball Academy in Flanders. They offer individual and group rentals, as well as training programs. This is a great way to stay active and a fun outing with your child.
36. Lakota Wolf Preserve- Located in Columbia, this is a unique opportunity to observe and learn about wolves. Take a wolf tour while you’re there, and don’t forget your camera! Call for availability.
38. Geo Caching – Ready for a day of family fun? Try Geo Caching! It is a fun, free way to go on a treasure hunt with your kids almost anywhere in the world. You can learn more about it here.
39. Funplex- This indoor amusement center in East Hanover features Go Karts, Foam Frenzy, Lazer Tag, Bumper Cars, Free Fall, Skyscraper, a 4D theater and an arcade. Late night and early bird specials available. From Memorial Day to Labor Day enjoy the outdoor Splashplex!
40. Crafting Class- Sign up for a class at Michaels. Painting, drawing, jewelry making, crochet, knitting… there are plenty of options for someone who is crafty. Take the class with them for extra fun!
41. Indoor Play Place- Ticklez in Mount Olive is a great place to unplug from electronics and let kids have fun using their imagination and physical strength. Inside there is tons of space to run around, massive play structures to climb and slide on and lots of pretend play. Some of our other favorites are Imagine That in Florham Park, Tag Alongs in Lake Hopatcong, and Play Away in Hackettstown.
42. Subscription Boxes- There are SO many options when it comes to subscription boxes. You can personalize it to what your family would enjoy the most and it is something you can look forward to every month! Check out CrateJoy for tons of options! We also like Foodstirs, Kiwi Co, and Amazon’s STEM club.
43. Visit to Historic Smithville – This is quaint little town in Burlington County with 60 unique stores and 7 places to dine. There’s a carousel, train and paddle boats and the town hosts 40 free weekend events each year including a pet parade, a ghost walk, a children’s festival and a Renaissance Faire.
44. Pocono TreeVentures- Great for all levels from beginner to expert, the family outdoor aerial forest adventure offers 8 different courses. Pocono Zip Racer, Pocono KidVentures, for ages 4-7, TruClimb, tree climbing walls and Pocono Zip Quest. Also, 9 zip lines connected by bridges and ladders are part of the park. Open year round- weather permitting.
46. Bowling- Always a fun time! Try laser light bowing with disco lights and great music! We have some great bowling alley’s near us! We love Circle Bowl and Oakwood Lanes. Also check out the “Kids Bowl Free” program for the summer months!
47. Land of Make Believe- Gift certificates for the 2020 season are now available. This is a fun day for the whole family! Land of Make Believe has it all, amusement park, water park, low prices, short lines, and FREE parking!
48. Grounds for Sculpture – Visit this impressive outdoor collection of artwork in Hamilton Township. One day passes make a great stocking stuffer
49. Laser Tag- Looking for something like paintball, without the paint? Check out Laser Tag New Jersey. They also are mobile and can come to you! Branchburg Sports Complex is another great option with a 9,000 square foot, four-level laser tag arena. Drop in rates are only $8 per person/per game!
50. A Special Trip- Has your child ever been on a plane? Seen the ocean? This is a great time to give them that first-experience that they will remember forever. If you can, splurge on a family trip to Disney or Universal, maybe book a beach getaway and try snorkeling! For a shorter trip, Francis Scott Key Family Resort in Ocean City, MD is great for a getaway that won’t drain your savings!