Finding the perfect gift for that special someone in our lives can be challenging, especially when they already have everything. So how do we avoid adding to the clutter and give a gift that creates lasting memories? Experience gifts!
Central Ohio offers some amazing experiences of art, culinary delights, and thrill-seeking adventures that are perfect to take home and place under the tree this holiday season.
Whether buying for a family member, friends, boss, or babysitter, surprise them with an unforgettable experience. Check out this big list of experience gift ideas to jumpstart the gift giving season.
Article written by contributing writer, Deb
Experience Gift Ideas in Columbus and Ohio
Gifts for History Buffs
Ohio is a state rich in history from Native American heritage to European colonization. It’s also home to eight US presidents and numerous pioneers in science, space, and industry. Gift the history buff in your life with a firsthand experience from the past.
1. A gift membership to the Ohio History Connection will unlock Ohio’s rich history all year long. Membership provides free access to 50+ historical sites and free or discounted tickets to special events.
Read more about offerings, discounts, and more at Ohio History Center and Ohio Village.
2. Plan a visit to the 6th largest historical home in the nation. Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens (Akron) is the former home of F.A. Seiberling, co-founder of Goodyear Tire & Rubber. A visit here, including a guided tour(s) can easily take the entire day.
Read more about our visit to Stan Hywet.
Experience Gifts for Creative Artists
Creative expression is good for the mind, body, and spirit. A gift of art, theatre, music, or dance is sure to brighten anyone’s holiday. Ohio has an endless number of choices to inspire the creativity in each of us.
1. Visit the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts (CAPA) or Broadway Across America to purchase tickets for a live performance at the Ohio Theatre or Palace Theatre, as well as five other venues around Columbus. Not sure which show to pick? They offer gift certificates too!
2. For those who prefer to be onstage, a class or workshop may be the perfect gift. The Columbus Children’s Theatre, Columbus Actors Theatre, and Drama Kids offer classes for all ages. Check out your local and community theatre organizations to find a spotlight for your budding star.
4. A gift membership to the Columbus Museum of Art will provide hours of inspiration. Members can enjoy reciprocity with thousands of museums located all over the US, including several in Ohio. There’s a 15% discount on gift memberships available through December!
Can’t afford a membership? Make a certificate to visit Columbus Museum of Art with the gift recipient on a Sunday, when admission is free! The gift of time and togetherness is often more appreciated, no matter the cost. Read more about offerings at CMA, including discounts and more.
5. Immersive Art provides an opportunity to become completely involved in the art experience through sight, touch, and sometimes even smell. Columbus has two unique immersive experiences Otherworld & Lighthouse Art Space, that will be an “out of the this world” gift experience.
6. Whether it’s painting, clay, glass, or other media, gifting a seat in an art class is a creative experience that gives the recipient a piece of art to take home and cherish. Classes can be found just about anywhere, but here are a few ideas: Brush Crazy, Pinot’s Palette, Glass Axis, 400W Rich, or The Arts Castle.
Brush Crazy offers a special discount for Columbus on the Cheap readers – see details here!
7. “Happy Trees.” Sometime in our lives, we’ve all watched as Bob Ross quietly, melodically showcased his “wet-on-wet” painting style. Fortunately, we can all learn to paint our own Happy Trees through the Bob Ross Experience, right here in Columbus.
8. A good song can stop us in our tracks or make us jump up and dance. Gifting concert tickets at Nationwide Arena is a sure bet. If nostalgia is an interest, plan a trip to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
Experience Gifts for Foodies
Who doesn’t like finding a new favorite restaurant or exploring a different style of food or drink? In the 1990s, Columbus was a preferred test market for new products, including food. The result is a vibrant and eclectic food scene that will appeal to anyone on your list.
1. Create a custom ‘food trail” with gift cards to various restaurants, cafes, bakeries, or ice cream shops around Columbus. Pick a neighborhood, a theme, or mix it up! Another great option is to gift a progressive night out by buying gift cards to different locations for an appetizer, main course, dessert, and night cap.
For a less expensive option, take the recipient out for a great happy hour! It’s usually less than a full dinner, but just as much (or more!) fun!
2. Taking a food or beverage tour is a fun experience in new or unfamiliar places. Columbus Food Adventures offers several great options including neighborhood walking tours, van tours and adult beverage tours.
3. What do riddles, a scavenger hunt, and food have in common? A unique twist on a fun day out with a Mystery Picnic. Pick your special someone, the whole family, or group of friends and surprise them with this interactive meal adventure.
4. Know someone who enjoys taking the scenic route? Dine on a Covered Bridge in Union County is a perfect gift option. Diners board a trolley at a local winery or brewhouse and enjoy a ride through the countryside on the way to the Pottersburg covered bridge, where dinner and music awaits.
5. For those who love to experiment with food, a cooking class may just be the gift of choice. A wide range of classes are available to satisfy even the most adventurous cook. Here are a few local options: The Seasoned Farmhouse, Sur la Table, Savoir, Glass Rooster Cannery, Ohio Herb Center, Young Chef’s Academy
6. If you want to take your “foodie” on the road, there are a few places in Ohio not to be missed. Jungle Jims International Market (Fairfield) is like a culinary amusement park and easily an all-day affair. West Side Market (Cleveland) is as pleasing to the eyes as it is the tastebuds. Built in 1912, it offers 100s of vendors and plenty to explore. If cheese and homemade goodness is your vibe, Grandpa’s Cheesebarn (Ashland) is a winner!
Experience gifts for Animal Lovers
I think animals are a universal love language. We all love them, and most of us have them. Any opportunity to have a fun experience with animals seriously never gets old!
1. Columbus is home to one of the best zoos in the country. A membership to the Columbus Zoo, or any other zoo in Ohio is a great family gift idea. (Cincinnati Zoo, Cleveland Zoo, Akron Zoo, Toledo Zoo).
2. For an “up close and personal” experience, a behind the scenes animal encounter is a bucket list gift. Check out the animal encounters offered at your favorite zoo location: Columbus, Cincinnati, Akron, Cleveland, Toledo.
3. A trip to The Wilds is a one-stop shop for experiences of all kinds. Pick from an animal encounter, fishing excursion, horseback ride, or zipline adventure. If it’s in the budget, spending the night in a yurt or cabin is a real treat.
Read more about visiting The Wilds here.
4. For a high flying animal encounter, check out the Ohio School of Falconry. Walk through the woods as hawks, falcons and owls fly freely in the canopy above. Put on a glove and feel the exhilaration as they swoop down to land on your outstretched hand.
5. The Newport Aquarium is not technically in Ohio, but I think we can give it honorary residency. There is a lot to offer here, making it a favorite family experience.
Gift these experiences for Outdoor Enthusiasts
Take full advantage of all four seasons in Ohio to gift an experience for the outdoor enthusiast or nature lover on your list.
1. The National Park Service is made up of 423 units ranging from breathtaking parks, vast forests, military memorials, and historical sites. There are 10 NPS units in Ohio. For those who love to travel, the America the Beautiful pass is the gift of a lifetime. See all passes and discounts available.
2. Anyone who loves gardening will appreciate a gift membership to the Franklin Park Conservatory. Both members and non-members alike can enjoy classes, events, and experiences. FPC members can enjoy reciprocal benefits all over the US.
Read more about visiting Franklin Park Conservatory here!
3. With miles and miles of waterways in Ohio, fishing is a pastime for many. Lake Erie is a hotbed for walleye and perch. A spring or summer fishing charter is a fantastic opportunity to land the big one.
4. The Ohio River and Lake Erie are just short drives away. Sit back and relax on an old-fashioned riverboat with B&B Riverboats (Cincinnati) or the Valley Gem (Marietta). If a modern vessel is more your style, the Goodtime III (Cleveland) is an experience for sure!
5. For anyone who would like to be the captain of their own ship, look no further than Alum Creek State Park. Rent a boat, kayak, or paddleboard from the Alum Creek Marina or plan a guided kayak adventure with Alum Creek Adventures.
Read more about places your can rent kayaks and canoes all over Columbus, and see if they offer gift certificates!
7. Dawes Arboretum is just a quick drive from Columbus, and is a stunning place to walk and drive through. There are events throughout the year, including special programming for members. Read more about visiting Dawes and the programming here.
Gifts that will thrill the Thrill Seekers
Finding the perfect gift experience for an adrenaline junkie can feel like its own extreme experience. Take the highs and lows out of gift giving with these ideas.
Read more about Kings Island Winterfest, which celebrates the season through December 31!
2. Ever wonder what it’s like to skydive, but not ready to jump out of an airplane? Suit up and step into a vertical wind tunnel to defy gravity at iFLY (Cincinnati) It’s a gift experience that will take your breath away!
3. For some, staying safely connected while soaring through the air is thrill enough. Gift a ziplining adventure with ZipZone in Worthington. They have options for young kids, adults, and everyone in between!
4. There are several experiences for car enthusiasts where watching your speed isn’t required. Each of these locations offers extreme race experiences: Nelson Ledges, Dayton NASCAR, and Exotic Car Columbus.
5. Take the captain’s seat in a commercial airliner and enjoy the thrill of flying. The full-scale simulators at Take Flight Ohio allows “pilots” to take off, fly through the skies to various destinations, and land an aircraft. No experience is needed.
Sports Fans Gift Options
Sports fans in Ohio have plenty of reasons to put on a jersey and cheer for their favorite team(s).
2. Buckeye Nation is strong and spending a day at Ohio Stadium watching the Buckeyes is a bucket list item for many. Purchase tickets for a game and plan a gameday celebration on Lane Avenue. Attend a Skull Session at St. John arena, enjoy some tailgate festivities, and cheer the Bucks to victory.
3. Need a gift for the “weekend warrior” who will try any sport at least once? Check out these unique sporting opportunities.
4. For those who are ready to take athleticism to the next level, gift an experience at a local climbing facility or ninja warrior gym, such as Vertical Adventures, Movement Lab Ohio, Play CBUS, or Ninja Citi.
Gifts for a Buckeye Blast
OH-IO. Gameday isn’t the only time Buckeye fans can enjoy a visit to campus. Plan an exciting OSU family day (here) and check out some of these unique experiences:
1. Schedule a private tour of Ohio Stadium. Tours cost $200 for up to 10 people, so bring some friends! The tour takes visitors through the band room, players lounges, hospitality suites, media box, and of course…a walk down the players tunnel for visit to the 50-yard line!
2. Basketball fans may enjoy a tour of the Schottenstein Center. Tours cost $50 for up to 10 people.
3. For golfers tee up a visit to the Jack Nicklaus Museum. The museum follows the life and career of the Golden Bear, along with a complete collection of memorabilia.
Do you have some young Einsteins on your gift list? Quinch their thirst for knowledge with a STEM gift experience.
3. LEGO fanatics will jump head over heals for a chance to join Robot Academy. It’s a great introduction to FIRST robotics and takes building to the next level.
4. LEGO fans of the younger set always have a blast at LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Columbus at Easton. From thrill rides, 3-D movies, and tons of building experiences, tickets or a membership are a great option for young kids.
5. Kids spending too much time in front of the computer or gaming console? Give them a chance to put all of that gaming knowledge to use by learning how games are created. Game-U offers a wide range of design, animation, and engineering classes.
Need more options?
Can’t afford a membership, or even a one-day ticket? That’s ok! Don’t go in debt for gifting!
There are so many free and fun events all over Columbus, including discounted and free museum days. Create a certificate for your loved one or friend that promises an outing on a discounted day or to an “always” free museum.
In addition, local experience passes can be checked out from the library through the Culture Pass program.
Check out other gift guides we’ve put together over the years!
Do you have recommendations for other great experience gifts? Leave a comment, so the readers can see even more options!
More holiday fun…
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Photos are credited to contributing writing, Deb, or property of Columbus on the Cheap