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Experience This: Out of the Box Gifts for Teenagers This Holiday Season

“What would you like for Christmas?” I asked my teenage son.

Money,” he replied. “Or a gift card.”

Sigh. Shopping for teens can be so boring. But what if parents could give teens something they would never forget? Something out of the box that would expand their world view, fuel their interests, and create lasting memories?

Out of the Box Gifts: Non-material Gifts For Teens

Experiential gifts do just that, and strengthen our relationships in the process, according to a recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research. So put aside the cash and gift cards this year. Here are dozens of amazing experiences that you can give your teen this holiday season!

Get Personal

  • How about a coupon for a “Yes” day with Mom or Dad? This is a fun way to spend time together–your teen makes all decisions, from what to do to where to eat, and you have to go along with whatever they want to do!
  • Is your teen already thinking about his future career? Set up a day for him to shadow someone in his chosen profession, such as a lawyer, veterinarian, or doctor. It’s a gift that is sure to stay with him—and might lead to bigger things!


  • If your teen is a Green Bay Packer Cheesehead or a Detroit Red Wings Wingnut, then snap up tickets to the next game on Ticketmaster or StubHub. For more tickets that won’t break the bank, consider college or minor league games.
  • Got a Hamilton fan in your house? The touring production is on its way across America. Or make a big weekend of it by heading to New York City or Chicago for an unforgettable getaway.
  • Concert tickets are sure to please. Check out the websites or social media accounts of favorite performers for tour dates. If the concert is months away, the anticipation will make this a gift that lasts and lasts!
  • Don’t forget about symphony tickets for your classical musician or a trip to the ballet for your dancer. Or how about tickets to a comedy or magic show? The possibilities are almost endless and are sure to not only entertain, but inspire!

Outdoor Adventures

  • Does your teen love the great outdoors? Check out local offerings for favorite activities, from rock climbing to surfing.
  • Stores like REI host classes and clinics tailored to the area. Here in the Midwest, for example, my teen can learn how to snowshoe or dabble in travel photography. For the teenage angler, ask local pro shops about fishing lessons or charter boat tours.
  • If you want to splurge on more than an afternoon’s adventure, check out L.L.Bean’s Outdoor Discovery School in Maine. Weeklong trips include white water rafting, float plane tours, and lodging in cabins.

Health and Wellness

  • A Classpass membership gives your teen access to hundreds of workouts, from Pilates to cycling. And your local gyms are sure to be running deals on memberships for the new year.
  • Get your teen some Om at Yogaworks, boasting 60+ yoga studios across the country and online access to over 1,000 classes.
  • How about a spa day? Give the gift of a mani-pedi, an acne-fighting facial or even a sports massage—or build a day’s worth of treatments for your favorite teen.

Learn and Grow

  • The choices of educational classes to give your teen are nearly endless. For the dance enthusiast, local studios offer lessons from the tango and foxtrot to hip hop and tap.
  • If cooking is your teen’s thing, try culinary classes at retail stores like Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table.
  • School of Rock offers a range of classes including guitar, drums and vocals for your budding musician.
  • Take a look at affordable class offerings—in everything from foreign language to coding—through community continuing education programs and local colleges.
  • Many art museums offer classes in a variety of artistic disciplines, from beginner to advanced.
  • If your teen aspires to be an astronaut, you can give her a week at Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. Teens ages 12-14 can attend Space Academy, while those ages 14-18 can try Advanced Space Academy. Or make it a gift for everyone and sign up for Family Space Camp.


How To Give the Gift of Experience

Other than websites and brick-and-mortar stores, you can also find experiential gifts through sites like Groupon and LivingSocial. Also, UpGift lets you build and share a wish list so family and friends can help fund an experience.

From an afternoon spent learning a new skill to a grand weeklong solo or family adventure, these experiences will make your teen’s season merry and bright. And an experience gift could just bring you closer, too. Happy holidays indeed!

Katy M. Clark is a writer who embraces her imperfections as a mom at Experienced Bad Mom. You can follow her on Facebook, TwitterPinterest and Instagram.

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