Create memories, not clutter, with the gift of an experience this holiday season
We’ve put together the definitive list of Champaign-Urbana experience gifts that your family will love to give or receive
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.
Our 2021 Champaign-Urbana “Experience” Gift List:
- Big Illini fans in the house? Buy your children Fighting Illini Kids Club All-American memberships. In addition to free football and men’s basketball tickets, All-American members will receive an Illini Kid Nation Passport, which allows members to get their passports stamped at any Fighting Illini regular season event and redeem stamps for prizes.
- Get a family membership to the Children’s Discovery Museum (Bloomington-Normal) or the Children’s Museum of Illinois (Decatur). BONUS TIP: if you get the “Family Plus Membership” in Bloomington-Normal or “Fun Family Membership” in Decatur, the membership provides discounts at other museums around the country.
- Space fans? Get a family membership to the Staerkel Planetarium, which offers free admission to unlimited shows for a year.
- Summer pool memberships are a great gift idea, even if outdoor swim season seems so far away. The Champaign and Urbana Park Districts often offer some of the best rates of the year around the holidays.
- 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 Stephens Family YMCA in Champaign offers a great year-round membership opportunity for families and kids.
TICKETS TO EVENTS
- What kid wouldn’t want Illini men’s basketball tickets? Great options for games coming up, especially those over winter break right after the holiday. Women’s basketball tickets are inexpensive, and just as fun!
- Krannert Center for the Performing Arts has fabulous options for families. Don’t want to buy a specific show? You can purchase gift certificates to Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in any domination; these gift certificates never expire.
- Never too early to dream about the drive-in. Harvest Moon Drive-In offers packages for next season, starting Black Friday.
LESSONS, CLASSES and OUTINGS
- Buy a package of lessons – music, gymnastics, dance, ice skating, roller skating, martial arts? The list is endless.
- Buy a class experience in something crafty. Joann Fabrics offers beginner classes for kids so they can learn how to sew, knit, and more.
- Sign up for a class. A great idea for big kids, Parkland College offers specialty classes, like archery, coding, chess camp and more.
- Make them flip with an Open Gym Punch Card at I-Power School of Gymnastics.
- Want to swim indoors this winter? Get a punch card to the Urbana Indoor Aquatic Center, and your sharks and fishies can swim all winter long. A five-pass card is $25; 10 punches are $50.
- Got a child with an artistic flair? Plan a trip to The Pottery Place in Champaign or Pretties by Paris where you can make beautiful creations together that will last a lifetime.
- Kids will jump for joy with a gift card to Elevate Trampoline Park in Champaign.
- Buy a gift card for roller skating at Skateland in Savoy, or take to the ice with the gift of ice skating at the University of Illinois Ice Arena.
- Go bowling at the Illini Union Rec Room. Or let the kids play old school arcade games there.
- Movie tickets never go out of style.
- 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.
- Plan a day trip (or overnight) via Amtrak to Chicago. So much to do!
- Don’t forget about all the new stuff happening in St. Louis, where the Gateway Arch experience is relatively new — and you don’t even need a ticket to the top to visit — after having been overhauled. Also, the new aquarium has opened.
- 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.
- Terre Haute is an unexpected place for a fun, inexpensive getaway.
- Find an inexpensive hotel night here – kids love hotel pools!
- 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.
Everything Holiday Season In and Around Champaign-Urbana
- Where to Find Santa Claus in the Champaign-Urbana Area
- 50+ Experience Gift Ideas for Kids in Champaign-Urbana
- Amazing Christmas Lights Around Champaign-Urbana and Beyond
- Live Nativity Displays in Champaign-Urbana
- Holiday Lights at the Zoo: Where to Drive From Champaign-Urbana
- How to Chop Down Your Own Christmas Tree in the Shawnee National Forest – For $5 (or Less)
- Home for the Holidays: Shopping and Eating Locally in Champaign-Urbana
- Botanical Garden at Lake of the Woods to Illuminate during Holidays for First Time
- 8+ Great Places to See Holiday Lights in Central Illinois
- All Aboard: Polar Express Fun (Beyond the Train) in Champaign-Urbana
- Champaign-Urbana Area Holiday Events and Activities
- Where to Buy a Live Christmas Tree Near Champaign-Urbana
- Christmas Parades near Champaign-Urbana
- German Christmas Market Returns to Riggs Beer Company in Urbana
- What You Need to Know About the Walk-Through Holiday Lights at Allerton Park