Create memories with the gift of an experience this holiday season
We’ve put together the definitive list of Champaign-Urbana experience gifts that you and your family will love to give or receive. Enjoy choosing one or two that fit your family’s lifestyle as you head into 2021.
We have an interesting task ahead of us as we consider holiday shopping in 2020. While we shop for the THINGS (many of which you can buy locally!) sometimes it’s great to have some ideas that qualify as experience gifts. You can make memories as a family instead of adding more toys and STUFF to your home.
Are there special considerations to take into account for 2020? Of course. That’s why we have a list of over 50 options here for you to choose from. Perhaps something will pique your interest as a good fit for your family during this holiday season.
Tips to giving the gift of an experience:
- Give the child a small, inexpensive item that relates to the “experience” gift. Want to give that pool membership? Wrap up a pool toy. If you give movie tickets, pick up a cute popcorn bucket and throw in some candy.
- If the event has a specific date, create a countdown calendar for the child to post in his/her space. Doesn’t have to be purchased; homemade or printouts are good enough.
- If the gift is something they’ve never tried before or haven’t been to, get them excited about it by watching related videos on YouTube or finding photos.
- Big Illini fans in the house? Buy your children Fighting Illini Kids Club All-American memberships. This year’s membership includes a puzzle, t-shirt, mini-basketball hoop and more. There will be invites to exclusive experiences for Kids Club members, too.
- The Stephens Family YMCA in Champaign offers a great year-round membership opportunity for families and kids. Sign up for an open swim slot in the family pool, race each other up the climbing wall, take a fitness class or drop your kids off for an hour of play at child watch. Lots of great programs are running at the Y; everyone age 2 and up is required to wear a mask in the facility at this time.
- Dog park memberships are great for active dogs and their families. For example, the Urbana Dog Park annual membership is $41 + $10 fob fee for a resident, for one dog.
- The Leonhard Recreation Center is filled with opportunities for fun. Take a few laps around the indoor walking/jogging track or try out the weight room to get your fit on; annual memberships are available for purchase. The indoor playground and open gym are unavailable at this time.
- How about a zoo membership a short drive outside of Champaign-Urbana? Zoo members can visit as many times as they want and with a go-to outdoor activity in your family’s routine, we think you’ll get some use out of it in the coming year. Try Miller Park Zoo, Scovill Zoo or Peoria Zoo.
- We can’t wait for Krannert Center for the Performing Arts to begin running live performances again. You can purchase gift certificates to Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and these gift certificates never expire.
- Missed out on JoJo Siwa tickets when she was originally scheduled to come to Champaign in April? Don’t sweat it! You can still get tickets through the State Farm Center ticket office for the rescheduled performance to be held July 11, 2021. All tickets purchased for the April 2020 show will still be honored.
- Let the excitement of the return of live theater build even more with gift cards for family-friendly shows at the Paramount Theater in Aurora, IL. The 2020-2021 season was postponed to 2021-2022 and includes Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella.
- Our girls can’t get enough manis and pedis. Our readers weigh in on where to go with kids.
- Hair color is another big trend, for boys as well as girls. Treat them to a professional experience. Our readers suggest where to take kids for hair cuts.
- Have a child talking about pierced ears? Our readers recommend where you can take a child to get their ears pierced in Champaign-Urbana – an experience that will be remembered for many years to come!
LESSONS, CLASSES and OUTINGS
- Get a package of lessons– gymnastics, martial arts, dance, sports, or music? Which would your child enjoy? The list is endless. We have a list of ideas here.
- Sign up for swimming lessons. The Stephens Family YMCA and Campus Rec at UIUC are both offering swimming lessons. You can also sign up for private swimming lessons at the Urbana Indoor Aquatic Center.
- Sign up for a class, like photography or cooking. Parkland College offers a wide variety of classes, many of which are happening virtually in the spring semester.
- Make them flip with an Open Gym Punch Card at iPower School of Gymnastics or drop-in gymnastics at Champaign Gymnastic Academy.
- Throw a pool party! You don’t have to have a birthday to throw a party in the times of COVID-19! Rent the Urbana Indoor Aquatic Center for an afternoon and invite your closest circle of friends for a splish splashing good time.
- Got a child with an artistic flair? Plan a trip to The Pottery Place in Champaign to create in-store, or pick up a to-go kit to have a special time together at home. A number of other artsy businesses in town are still providing to-go kits, too.
- Kids will jump for joy at Elevate Trampoline Park in Champaign or skate their hearts out at Skateland in Savoy with gift cards.
- Go bowling at Old Orchard Lanes and grab a pizza while you’re there, too.
- Recipe and Ingredients. Kids love cooking with their parents. Print out a recipe, take a shopping trip to the store to purchase all the ingredients, and set a date for cooking together. Your work product is edible (hopefully!).
PLAN A ROAD TRIP
- Surprise your family with a stay at a water park and break up those winter blues. We’ve seen lots of families heading to the Great Wolf Lodge in Gurnee, among many others on our list that are operating at reduced capacity right now and pouring out buckets of family fun.
- Book a stay in a treehouse, grain bin or train car for sometime in 2021. These unique vacation stays come with special memories and plenty of opportunities to social distance, too.
- Plan a day trip (or overnight) via Amtrak to Chicago. Rates start at about $14 for one-way and kids ride half off. There’s so much to do in Chicago! There’s also lots of ways to save money at museums when you visit. Note that many museums are operating with timed admission due to capacity limits, so plan with plenty of time in advance to make your day run smoothly.
- Don’t forget about all the things you can do in St. Louis, like the Gateway Arch experience that was recently overhauled and the new aquarium that recently opened. If you plan to visit the (free!) zoo this winter, you need to reserve free timed tickets ahead of your visit.
- Get your fill of Abraham Lincoln with a trip to Springfield.
- We’re big fans of the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, a great place for children (and adults) of all ages.
- Find an inexpensive hotel night right here near Champaign-Urbana – kids love hotel pools.
GET READY FOR CAMP
- You can sign your child up for summer camp! After all this together time in 2020, we can all look forward to camp in 2021. There are lots of great options near C-U; read some of the reasons we love sending kids to overnight camp.
Looking for all kinds of info for the 2020 holiday season in Champaign-Urbana?
- Amazing Christmas Lights Around Champaign-Urbana and Beyond
- Holiday Giving and Volunteering in Champaign-Urbana
- Holiday Food Favorites You Can Find Around Champaign-Urbana
- How to Cut Down Your Own Christmas Tree in the Shawnee National Forest – For $5 (or Less)
- What You Need to Know about Hanukkah
- Where to Find Santa in the Champaign-Urbana Area
- Where to Find Gingerbread Houses Around Champaign-Urbana
- Christmas Parades a Short Drive from Champaign-Urbana
- Where to Watch the Nutcracker Online Virtually – Even for FREE! – This Holiday Season
- Drive-Thru Holiday Events in the Champaign-Urbana Area
- All Aboard: Polar Express Fun for 2020 in Champaign-Urbana
- 8 Great Places to See Holiday Lights in Central Illinois
- Champaign-Urbana Area Holiday Events and Activities
- Holiday Shopping and Eating in Champaign-Urbana