Over the past several years, I’ve made more of a point to think outside the box when gift giving — especially to my extended family. My nieces and nephew are getting older and don’t really need much. The gifts they ask for I can hardly afford (Sorry, sweet nieces, I love you, but I’m not buying you an iPhone!). So instead of a toy that they’re going to toss aside, I’ve started gifting them gift certificates for experiences. And now I’m just wondering why I didn’t do this sooner! Over the last few years I’ve gifted them with season passes to the zoo, tickets to go snow tubing, and science center passes. I love that they have all these opportunities to make memories together as a family. Plus, since season passes can sometimes be a little expensive, I just get my nieces a group gift and it makes Christmas shopping so much easier than buying a bunch of individual gifts!

I’ve also found that my parents appreciate these types of gifts too which is a huge relief since I’m certain my parents have literally everything they could ever need. I’ve gifted my parents with a riverboat cruise and gift cards to fancy dinners that they normally wouldn’t treat themselves to. My whole family has gotten on board with this idea over the last few years. A few years ago my sister gifted my parents a canoe day trip. My mom has gotten really good at this and when my husband and I lived in Seattle, WA, she gifted us a kayak day trip to go whale watching. HOW DO YOU TOP THAT?! Another year she got us a gift card to go to an escape room. I still remember how much fun we had (even if we didn’t escape in time…wah wah wah!).

Escape room

My husband and I on a date night to an Edmonton Escape Room.

Even though so many of our favourite area attractions are closed for the time being, this certainly can’t last forever (Fingers crossed that 2021 gifts us the opportunity to say BYE to Covid-19!!!). Give your loved ones something to look forward to by gifting them an experience. I also love that gifting experiences is like gifting double the joy. You get the surprise and excitement when you first open the gift and then you get the second wave of excitement when you actually go on the experience. And you get all that time in between to look forward to it!

So without further ado, I’ve compiled my list of experience gift ideas. Happy shopping, fellow Edmontonians!

  1. West Edmonton Mall — If I listed each attraction separately, I wouldn’t have any room for anything else. There’s just SO MUCH to do at WEM! Galaxyland, World Waterpark, DRIVE Go Karts, mini golf, escape rooms, bowling. You know, just go read the post I wrote about all the great fun you can find there and then buy a gift card for someone on your list. They’ll have fun just deciding which attraction to spend it on!
    Website: www.wem.ca/attractions
  2. Edmonton Valley Zoo — Our family purchased a zoo membership this summer and I’m certain the zoo is losing money on us because we go all the time. At just $152.50, a family zoo membership is an incredible deal. A family of 4 pays for their membership in just 3 visits! We are particularly big fans of the red pandas and the Urban Farm.
    Website: www.movelearnplay.edmonton.ca
Edmonton Zoo

One of our many visits to the Edmonton Valley Zoo using our Family Membership

  1. Telus World of Science — Learning about science has never been this much fun! I love the hands-on aspect of TWOSE. With its Edmonton theme, CuriousCity is such a cool, engaging play area for younger kids.
    Website: www.telusworldofscienceedmonton.ca
  2. Royal Alberta Museum — When I was a kid, hearing the word “museum” meant “boring”. That is definitely NOT the case at RAM. Life-size replica skeletons of giant sloths, mastodons, and sabre-toothed cats are all on display. There’s a bug gallery — yes with live, crawling bugs — that kids will love to explore. And our favourite — the Children’s Gallery with so many hands-on activities. The RAM Mammoth pass is also a crazy good deal at just $70 for a family pass.
    Website: www.royalalbertamuseum.ca
  3. Canada National Parks — To me, a national parks pass is a gift with endless opportunities. Explore one of four national parks in Alberta (Jasper, Banff, Elk Island, Waterton Lakes) or go on a great Canadian road trip to one of the countless national parks across our country. A Discovery Pass also waives admission at select national historic sites. Hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, sight-seeing, canoeing, picnicking, and more — what would you do with your Discovery Pass?
    Website: www.pc.gc.ca
Jasper National Park

Using our Discovery Pass this past summer to hike in Jasper National Park

  1. Mayfield Dinner Theatre — Last year, my husband got me a gift card to Mayfield Dinner Theatre and I was over the moon with excitement! I got to select which show we went to (we saw Sister Act and it was phenomenal!) and we got to enjoy a date night out! If you have kiddos that love the theatre, children 6 and older are allowed to attend. When my girls are older, I can see our family really enjoying this as a special treat for a fancy family date night. Plus, have I mentioned how delectable the food is? It’s truly to-die-for!
    Website: www.mayfieldtheatre.ca
  2. Ski & Snow Tube Passes — With great ski locations in the Edmonton area, this is a fantastic gift to help your loved ones survive winter with their sanity intact! Edmonton Ski Club and Sunridge Ski Area offer gift cards available for purchase on their websites. Snow Valley offers gift cards for purchase in person that can be used for both their ski hills or for the aerial park in the summertime!
  3. Winspear Centre — The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra has so many offerings. Of course there are concerts with renowned musicians, but you’ll also find music appreciation classes and musical creativity classes for kids. Gift certificates to the Winspear gives the recipient the option to pick a concert, a class, or even a membership!
    Website: www.winspearcentre.com

Edmonton Dining Experiences

I’m a foodie. I plan my day around what I’m going to eat and when I’m going to eat it. I like trying all different types of foods and I think it’s fun exposing my kids to a variety of flavours, too! We’re looking forward to the day when restaurants are fully open and we can get back to eating out as a family. In the meantime, gift certificates to local restaurants are still a fantastic gift. You can use them now for take-out or save them for that magical day when dining out is commonplace again. In any case, here are some of my favourites I’d recommend as gifts:

  1. Fox Burger (Highlands) – This relatively new Edmonton restaurant has quickly become a popular one. The burgers and fries are incredible and the rooftop patio open in the summer is one of the best in the city. It’s family friendly, but also makes for a great date night spot.
    Website: www.foxburger.ca
  2. Langano Skies (Whyte Ave) – Ethiopian food is one of my favourite treats. I love the communal aspect of it — sharing a big plate of food. And the taste of the sour bread dipped in tibs, kitfo, doro wat, and lentils makes my heart ever so happy. Ethiopian food is typically eaten with your hands, so your kids will love that for once you aren’t yelling at them to use their fork! Plus, now until Christmas, get a free $20 gift certificate when you purchase a $100 gift certificate. You’re basically being paid to eat amazing food. Gift certificates are available for purchase at the restaurant.
    Website: www.facebook.com
  3. Sugarbowl (Garneau) – If you watch the Food Network, you may be familiar with Sugarbowl and their huge cinnamon rolls! But they dish up so much more than scrumptious sweets. The menu is small, but everything is expertly made. And while it’s kid friendly, mom and dad will also enjoy the extensive local drink menu. This is also another restaurant with a great outdoor patio for summertime. Gift cards are available for purchase at the restaurant.
    Website: www.facebook.com
  4. LaPatrona (Sherwood Park) – This is one of our favourite date night places. The Mexican food at LaPatrona is, in my opinion, the best around. We’ve gone with our kids before, too, and it’s perfectly family friendly. It’s a small restaurant, though, so once restaurants are allowed to re-open, keep in mind that you’d probably want to make reservations. Gift cards are available for purchase at the restaurant.
    Website: www.facebook.com
  5. Kind Ice Cream (Ritchie) – Okay, okay, okay so maybe this isn’t a restaurant, but who says you can eat ice cream for dinner? And tell me who on your Christmas list wouldn’t love a gift card to get ice cream?! That’s right. No one complains about ice cream. Kind is one of our favourite local ice cream shops because of the small batch flavours that change monthly and the homemade waffle cones. Plus, they’re opening a second location in the Highlands neighbourhood in Spring 2021.
    Website: www.kindicecream.ca

Are your wheels turning now with great gift ideas? Do you have other recommendations you’d put on the list? Drop me a note below with what you would include or fun ideas for experiences that you are gifting this year.