As someone with aspirations for a more minimalist Christmas, I’m all about experience and activity gifts for the holiday season. While my kids get plenty of toys as well, I love giving a gift that keeps the emphasis on making memories and spending quality time together. It’s also a plus that experience gifts don’t add to the toy clutter in our house, something I’m always fighting.

Opening presents is so much fun for kids, but it’s easy for them to get overwhelmed and overstimulated by a lot of toys. This holiday season, consider including some non-materialistic gifts that give them something fun to look forward to and expose them to a new, uniquely Austin experience.

Here’s our guide to Austin experiences and activity gifts for kids.

A hands-on baking class at Make It Sweet, which offers a variety of classes for kids 8-12 on everything from cocoa bombs to cookie decorating.

A session of cooking classes at Foodie Kids, which has classes like “Junior Chef” and “Cakes and Bakes” for ages 4 and up, or Kitchen House, for kids and teens ages 5 and up.

Gingerbread workshop at Foodie Kids

A high tea experience at the Driskill Hotel downtown or Rivery Coffeehouse and Desserts in Georgetown (gift cards available online).

A pass or gift card to a water park:

Splash Shack in Cedar Park

For outdoor and camping enthusiasts, a Texas State Parks pass that gives you unlimited free entry to 89 state parks and discounts on camping.

A session of Tinkergarten classes, where kids develop key life skills through purposeful outdoor play.

Tickets to an upcoming performance:

A ticket pack to Peter Pan Mini-Golf, an Austin tradition since 1948. Or a gift card to Butler Pitch and Putt, a fun and easy 9-hole course that’s fun for all ages. (It’s also an Austin original since 1949).

Peter Pan Mini-Golf

Tickets to a Texas Stars hockey game or Austin Spurs basketball game.

An art class:

A gift card or tickets to an entertainment venue like Main Event, Austin’s, or Pinballz, which has everything from arcade games to bowling to laser tag.

An introductory archery class at the Archery Training Center.

A membership to the Wildflower Center or the Thinkery children’s museum.


A fishing experience at Moby Dick’s Private Pond Fishing. You can get the full service option if you need help baiting hooks, getting fish off hooks, and fixing any problems that arise.

A roller skating lesson package at Playland Skate Center.

An annual pass to Pioneer Farms, a living history park and museum that offers engaging programs, activities, and classes throughout the year.

Pioneer Farms

An annual membership to Crowe’s Nest Farm, which gives you unlimited visits to this working farm and wildlife sanctuary that’s home to reptiles and amphibians, miniature ponies, bison, ostriches, and more.

A membership to Toybrary, so you can check out new toys as often as you’d like and play in the play area anytime for free.

A ride on the Austin Steam Train, which takes you through the Hill Country on historic train cars. They present special events throughout the year, including a North Pole Flyer ride.

A “Family Day” painting class at Painting with a Twist.

Painting with a Twist

A safari tour at Blue Hills Ranch outside of Waco, where you can rent a golf cart and meet the animals at this 150-acre sanctuary.

A guided tour, guaranteed to give you an up-and-close experience with the animals, on a tractor-led tram at the Exotic Resort Zoo in Johnson City. Another option is a guided tour at the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch in San Antonio.

For the dino lover, a member pass to the Dinosaur Park in Bastrop ($30 for unlimited visits for a year).

A single play session or play pass at Pikopye’s Town, an imaginative, adorably-designed indoor play town.

Pikopye’s Town

For aspiring rock stars, weekly lessons at School of Rock, which offers music programs for kids as young as 6.

A unique Hill Country getaway in an Airstream trailer at Open Air Resort in Spicewood or Dos Rios on the Llano River.

A flight package for an indoor skydiving experience at iFly Austin.

A day pass to try indoor rock climbing at Crux Climbing or Austin Bouldering Project.

Crux Climbing

An outdoor beginning climbing course with Rock-About, which offers guided (and safety-oriented) rock climbing trips for all ages at locations such as the Barton Creek Greenbelt, Reimer’s Ranch, and Enchanted Rock.

A trail ride on horseback with Texas Trail Rides at Lone Star Ranch, a beautiful ranch with creeks, meadows, and forests located within Austin’s city limits.

A memorable adventure underground at a nearby cavern:

A memorable adventure high above the ground at Zip Lost Pines in Cedar Creek or Lake Travis Zipline Adventures.

A cruise on Lady Bird Lake to see the sights, the bats, or the sunset, with Lone Star Riverboat Cruises. Capital Cruises also offers a lake cinema experience.

A guided kayak or paddleboard tour on Lady Bird Lake:

A drive-in movie night at Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In (gift certificates available).

A ninja training class for aspiring ninja warriors:

An outdoor ice skating experience at the Hill Country Galleria in Bee Cave (through Jan. 2) or the Ice Rodeo at the Four Seasons downtown (though Jan. 8), which has rinkside s’mores.

Ice skating at Hill Country Galleria in Bee Cave
Gretchen Pierce
Gretchen is a former communications manager turned stay-at-home mom to son Shepherd (Dec. 2016) and daughter Rosemary (Oct. 2019). She grew up in Minnesota and the D.C. area but is so happy to call Austin home, even in the summer. Gretchen and husband Ryan also have two high-maintenance fur babies, Hank and Gracie. She is a wannabe minimalist who enjoys tennis, creative projects, lake time, and spending time outdoors with her kids as much as possible.


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