Simplify your gift giving

Looking for some good gift giving ideas that don’t require boxes or wrapping paper? The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is encouraging folks to give the gift of an experience in place of a material gift. Material gifts don’t bring lasting happiness and can actually add to stress levels. Experiences can live on in memories and sometimes you can even appreciate the gift too.  The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency came up with quite the list!

Make memories, not trash

Illustration showing gifts of Kiss tickets, homemade dessert, thrift-store finds, coupon for free babysitting.

50 things you can give that are more about experience

Membership to a tool library–find one on this nifty map!

Membership to the Minneapolis Toy Library

Cooking classes–You can find everything from ‘how to make good coffee’ to international meals to everyday basics.

Top-10 book list–Share a love of reading by putting together a “Top 10” list of books that you enjoyed.

Visit a bookstore, together–Visit a fun kids bookstore together and let them pick a book.

Jar of love–fill a jar with little notes. Each note listed an activity to do together. Examples include experiences like bike ride, canoe, cross country skiing, see a movie, and go to a park. What could be better?

Ice skating or sledding “party”–Pack a thermos of hot cocoa, some snacks, and a blanket for a winter picnic at your local rink or sledding hill. Make fancy invitations and wrap them up for gift-giving time.

Gift cards for unique winter activities—which can be done on your own, or with a guide:

Orchestra, opera, or other concert tickets

Restaurant gift cards—For a twist, give several, smaller gift cards to different restaurants, instead of one large gift card.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share

Theater tickets—Here are some Twin Cities theaters to get your wheels turning:

  • Southern theater
  • Park Square theater
  • Jungle Theatre
  • History Theatre
  • Guthrie Theater
  • Children’s Theatre Company
  • Chanhassen Dinner Theatres
  • Brave new Workshop Comedy Theatre

Minor league baseball tickets–or college, or major league, or other sports!

Roller Derby tickets

Minnesota State Parks gift card–This gift card can be used for a Minnesota State Parks Permit, camping and overnight getaways; or canoe, kayak, stand-up paddleboard, cross-country ski, snowshoe, and snowtube rentals.

Registration for social winter events, like:

Gift card for to an indoor experience. Such as mini golf, swimming, community center, or bowling.

Indoor rock climbing passes

Museum memberships–art, history, science, you name it. A few Minnesota favorites:

  • The Works
  • SEA LIFE aquarium or the Great Lakes Aquarium
  • Minnesota Zoo
  • Minnesota Landscape arboretum
  • Minnesota Historical Society
  • Minnesota Children’s Museum
  • Minnesota Science Museum
  • Bell Museum of Natural History
  • Bakken Museum

Winter indoor favorites for kids. Such as jump/trampoline gym, batting cages, or skating rink.

Train adventure dayYoung kids will enjoy a ride on one of the Twin Cities light rail trains. Make a stop to do something, eat something, or visit someone!

Treasure hunt–If you are giving a material gift, make the giving itself a fun experience. Instead of wrapping up the final gift, wrap up a clue and let the child go on a treasure hunt to find the final gift.

Geocaching–the world’s largest treasture hunt. Explore, find and log geocaches at

Lessons–anything from music, to sewing, to dancing. To keep it low-cost, see if you can find a family member or an elderly member of your community who might enjoy passing on the skill at a lower cost.

Paper-related art classes – For adults or youth, take a class together through Minnesota Center for Book Arts.

Registration for a winter family camp or retreat in Minnesota

An eco Minnesota getaway4 fun options are outlined on Do it Green! Minnesota’s webpage.

Lunch date–Give gift certificates to a favorite breakfast or lunch place and plan a one-on-one date with that child.

A meal kit delivery service–This gift can be paired with a weekly commitment to cook a meal together and learn new cooking skills. In this article, the Star Tribune reviewed 7 Minnesota meal-kit options.

Movie tickets

Movie night packages–Wrap up picture of the movie cover (stream online later) and add snacks! Families can wrap up a different movie for each kid and let each child “host” the movie night.

Game night packages–A game night is another great family activity, and giving each child one game was a fun way to expand our collection and they love playing “their game” when we have a game night. Some favorite games are Apples to Apples, Tsuro, Uno, Sequence, and basic card games.

Studio time–For the musician in your family

Metro Transit bus passes–save money on gas, take the bus or train.

Nice Ride–A biking sharing membership

Paddle Share–A new canoe rental option for day trips on the Mississippi River in Minneapolis.

Downhill ski passes

Farm tours and pizza farms–Find farms, wineries, orchards, and more through Minnesota Grown.

The Great Minnesota Ski Pass–Give access to cross country ski in Minnesota’s State Parks or Forests, or on State or Grant-in-Aid Trails.

House cleaning service

Yoga gift certificate or passes


Scuba certification class


A nap or getting to sleep in—Parents of young children will appreciate this one. If you can figure out how to let mom or dad sleep in for a day or take a nap, they will be grateful!

Day out with kids–The kids pick a fun activity they want to do with grandparents or extended family and give it to them as a gift.

Memory book–Make a photo book online or make a homemade book by printing and cutting out pictures and writing captions.

Breakfast treat of the month–Once a month, make sweet bread, muffins, or coffee cake and bring it to a grandparent or extended family member. It will ensure you get over there for a visit!

Transportation Security Authority (TSA) precheck feeGifting the TSA pre-check fee of $85 means the recipient can breeze through airport security!

DNA ancetry test

Memberships to nonprofits and causes–The org depends on the passion of your gift-recipeint!

Minnesota State Fair gate admission tickets

A subscription to Minnesota Conservation Volunteer magazine

Leave a Reply