Have you ever thought about gifting an experience to a child or family? We usually see movie tickets being gifted but what else can you gift? My sister gifted my son a trip to Build-A-Bear for his birthday so they can spend some quality time together while they build a stuffed animal. I love this idea because an experience can introduce children to new hobbies, interests, or explore a new place that opens their eyes about the world. With my educational background I am a strong believer of learning by doing. I remember taking my son to the Jim Henson exhibit at Skirball Cultural Center and it was really the first time we spent time learning about puppetry. He was so eager to come home and began to make his own puppets. The first time we went to a dance recital, sparked an interest for dance and now he takes ballet and tap. Gifting an experience is giving our kids a new appreciation for places rather than just toys. It can be a learning and bonding experience for you and your family. Have you gifted an experience?
I have created a list of experiences around Southern California that are perfect for gifting a child or family. Check them out!
Pretend City (Irvine) – This is the perfect place to bring a little to if they love pretend play. They get to experience being a community member in a city by helping out the fire department, delivering packages as a UPS worker, providing entertainment as a musician or playing doctor at the local clinic. There are puzzles, Legos, and books scattered in different sections. As well as an amazing library and craft room if you want to take a break. A ticket price for anyone over 1 year old is $13.95. So gifting this to a parent and child is affordable.
Autry Museum (Griffith Park, Los Angeles) – Allow a family to explore an interactive experience of the American West. During the weekend there are so many activities taking place either in one of the 14 exhibits, theater, or outside such as panning for gold. Let children learn about film and the American West by pretending to be film makers in the kid-friendly Imagine West Studios. This is an affordable museum since adult tickets are $14, students (with current ID) and Seniors (60+): $10, children (3–12): $6 and children under 3: Free.
Kidspace Children’s Museum (Pasadena) – Looking to explore STEAM activities? Kidspace is perfect for your littles to build, create, explore both indoors and outdoors in the world of science and the arts. This is also a great option if there are older children in the family as well. Check them out for additional classes and workshops. Coming up is their week of Snow Days, Dec 26-30th! And a Noon Year’s Eve party Dec. 31st! There are additional events that are perfect for gifting a family a trip here. Adults tickets are $14, and children over 1 are $14.
La Habra Children’s Museum – Located in La Habra, this hidden gem is perfect for your littles. There are seven exhibits including an awesome dinosaur exhibit and dinosaur garden, real train, grocery store, theatre role play, and an art center! There are always events going on, there’s an upcoming Noon Years Eve party! This is another affordable option since tickets are $12 per person (2 years to adult) and $11 La Habra Residents!
Aquarium of the Pacific – The aquarium is an ideal gift for any age! Spend a day learning about our sea life by visiting different exhibits and a couple of hands on interactions. There are Parent and Me, Junior Biologists classes, and festivals throughout the year. Tickets are $34.95 for adults, $24.95 for children and $31.95 for seniors.
America’s Teaching Zoo – A hidden gem located near Simi Valley at Moorpark College, this is a great zoo to take your littles too especially if they are learning how to walk, you want to ease yourself into take your littles places on your own, or you only have a short afternoon to explore. I love that they offer an animal show and animal demonstrations so you actually get to see animals close up and learn about them from students who are caring for them. Prices are $9 for Adults, and $7 for Children & Seniors — under 2 years old is always FREE). They are only open on the weekends so plan accordingly.
Santa Ana Zoo – I love the Santa Ana Zoo! It has a trail to take so you won’t get lost and you can let your kids run! They have a barn as well which is nice because you can learn about barn life and meet some animals! A playground is located near the dining area so you can eat and play. They are full of amazing resources and their events are so much fun! A family membership is $100 and easy to gift (includes two parents and up to 4 children). Adults are $12, children and seniors $9!
Pasadena Civic Center, (Pasadena)– Lythgoe Family Panto: A Snow White Christmas is a great holiday gifting option especially during this winter break. Perfect for a family with children, pantos allows you to interact by booing, cheering or singing while enjoying a family classic with a modern twist. Ticket prices vary, please see website for more information.
Segerstrom Center for the Arts, (Costa Mesa)– I love when theaters offer a family series and/or sensory friendly showings. This means that sound and lighting is reduced and kids can move and talk. I am excite about the upcoming shows: Beep and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (The Musical) by Mo Williams will be coming out in March.
Theatre West, (West LA) – The Adventures of Peter Rabbit will be showing every Saturday until March 21st, at 1pm, all tickets are $15. This is an awesome opportunity to introduce your little to theatre life. The show is 50 minutes long with a juice and cookie intermission. After the show, children can meet the cast and get autographs.
Downey Theatre – Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along – Sunday, March 22nd, 2pm (tickets range $15-$19). Dress up as your favorite character and come watch the movie while singing along! Lyrics will be up for the audience to read, and goody bags will be available for purchase.
The Soraya (Northridge) – Located on the CSUN campus, this is a great opportunity to introduce your littles to higher education, walk around campus before your show begins! Not only that, but the amazing variety of cultural performances that The Soraya provides is an enriching experience. There’s so many performances available such as Voctave happening this weekend that welcome children and followed a meet and greet! Cirque Éloize Hotel and Ballet Folclórico Nacional de México de Silvia Lozano will be happening in January while Ballet West’s Giselle, Stomp and Step Afrika! will show in February!
El Capitan Theatre (Hollywood) – Want to gift the magic of Disney without spending a fortune on an amusement park? The El Capitan provides audience members to experience Disney movies with a sprinkle of extra magic by providing performances or characters prior to the show. Coming up next is Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker showing Dec 19th-Jan 12th, with a laser and light show, stormtrooper photo ops and a costume exhibit!
iPlayology – Located in Corona, iPlayology offers your littles a chance to run around in an indoor and space space. There are options for pretend play in their tiny town, or run and jump in their playground. There are 2-hour passes ($12.99), day passes ($17.99) and monthly memberships ($40) that are definitely affordable for an amazing gift. Children under 12 months are free!
Bubble Pop – Immerse yourself in a bubble experience in Tustin! How amazing is it that there’s a place that exists that’s all about the science of bubbles! I’m a STEAM fanatic so this is a great place to learn about the science behind bubbles while just playing with bubbles! The kids will be running around and their energy will be redirected to the bubble experience! Tickets are $12 a person during the weekday, and $15 during the weekends.
We Rock the Spectrum – Located across SoCal, We Rock the Spectrum allows children from all abilities the opportunity to enjoy a safe and sensory friendly gym space. This is a great place to meet up for playdates, or work on gross motor skills. Price varies by location but for example, the Woodland Hills location is $14, or a 3-pack for $38, 5-pack for $55, parent entry is free.
Wonder of Dinosaurs – Do you have any dinosaur fans? Located in Redondo Beach, Wonder of Dinosaurs is a museum and jumper! There’s a mini golf course, panning for gold, and a couple of toddler rides in addition to the themed jumpers. The kids will be entertained for hours. Wonder of Dinosaurs is located inside the South Bay Galleria. Ticket prices are as followed: WEEKDAY: child (2-12), $16 ; Adults (13-54), $8 ; Seniors (55-above) $7. WEEKEND: Child (2-12), $18; Adults (13-54), $10; Seniors (55-above) $7. Tickets good all-day, same-day re-entry allowed.
Music and Cooking Appreciation –
Love Bug Music – Want something for a super little (0-4) gift a series musicclass for a little. Currently there is a holiday series but upcoming will be a winter one that will focus on letters and numbers! They offer a pajama sing-a-long and community classes. Mixed aged classes and all caregivers welcomed. Looking to gift a class for a party or playdate? They also offer private party classes and will come to you! Prices range so check them out for more information.
Piano Play – Want to gift a child the love for music? Find a music class near you or check out Piano Play. They offer music classes from toddlers-adults. These are super fun piano classes that will introduce the love for learning music at a young age.
Cookin’ with Kids – Do you know a junior chef? Introduce a child to the world of cooking and baking by gifting them a class to learn or develop their skills and love for cooking. Sample a class or purchase a class set.
Do you still want to gift something physical? A small toy or book related to your experience is a perfect combo. So for example, if you want to gift a zoo membership, a zoo book or small stuffed zoo animal can accompany your membership. Interested in Pretend City (children’s museum, Irvine)? A dress-up item like a construction hard hat or white-coat alongside the tickets will get them excited for their trip! Gifting tickets to the new Star Wars movie coming out at El Capitan? A small Storm Trooper plush to take into the theatre will be fun!