“It’s just what I always wanted!” “Wow, this is so me!” “It’s my favorite gift!” These are the responses we live for come gift-giving time. So we search for the perfect gift that communicates our adoration and clairvoyance only to come up with another “thing” they’ll outgrow, or worse, never use. Then, we do it all over again the next year.
If this sounds familiar, we’ve got 10 ideas for you. They’re experiences that no amount of tape and wrapping paper can contain. Experiences that say the one thing most everyone wants to hear this time of year: "Let’s go do something fun!"
1. Visit our public lands
From national parks to wilderness areas, there are around 610 million acres of federal public lands for us to marvel at, hike in and enjoy fully. Consider gifting an America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, which covers entrance fees to national parks, national forests, wildlife refuges and more. One $80 annual pass covers the driver and all passengers. If you’re looking for inspiration on where to go, consider these 13 public lands you might have missed. You can get in the spirit even more with national park-themed T-shirts, hats, mugs and other items.
2. Plan a hiking date
Amazing things happen on hikes. Our founders, Lloyd and Mary Anderson, took one to Washington state’s Wallace Lake back in 1929 and it helped lead to the creation of our co-op. For a creative way to give this gift, pick up a map of your route, roll it up and put it in a Nalgene bottle along with an energy bar. You can even write “For: Our Next Date” on the gift tag.
3. Run a race together
Training with a team, family or partner increases the fun factor and decreases the excuses to skip a workout. Pick a sport, pick a distance, then pick a race. Get even more pumped with brand-new shoes and activewear to train in. Just think of all the pre- and post-race carbo-loading you’ll get to do together, too.
4. Fly a kite
It may sound silly, but it’s a great thing to do with kids and a relatively inexpensive way to get outside. These kites are user-friendly and fly great. Plus, you can add a picnic and call the entire outing a family day.
5. Spend an evening under the stars
The most magical (and free) gift is right above you. Check out upcoming celestial events and make your way to the best viewing spot. And since you’re in the car anyway, you may as well make a night of it and car camp. Along with your tent and sleeping bag, don’t forget to bring binoculars, a camp chair and a blanket.
6. Take a camp cooking class
It’s not all dehydrated this and canned that. In fact, campground cooking can be downright gourmet if you take the right class—and we’ve got dozens all over. Like these. Even if you just want the basics of backcountry cooking, we’ll teach you how to prep and pack your meals, work with minimal supplies and utensils and create fun, easy meals.
7. Go on a snowshoe tour
Here’s an exhilarating gift idea. And we take care of everything—the gear, the tour guides, and yeah, the snow part. Our snowshoeing classes are ideal for both the newbie to the snowshoeing party and the snowshoe adventure racer (yes, it’s a thing). Plus, they make for great dates and fun friend adventures.
8. Take a kayak tour
Whether your giftee is a seasoned kayaker or has never experienced the most amazing human-powered watercraft out there (our opinion), kayaking offers a perspective like no other. Especially when there’s a beautiful sunset to behold—or a s’more at the end. Check out all our kayaking tours and see what floats their boat.
9. Plan an adventurous weekend together ... without planning
Memories are best made spending time outdoors together. Especially when you can focus on fun and leave the details to someone else, like say, REI Adventures. Give us a few days and we’ll show you some American treasures on one of our 65 weekend trips. Our Great Smoky Mountains Backpacking trek, for example, is great for experienced backpackers and fit beginners alike. Then there’s our three-day adventure in Zion National Park, one of our unforgettable REI Signature Camping experiences which come with plush amenities and a camp host. And lest we forget, our Arizona Hiking trip in Sedona lets you enjoy easier hikes and 1,000-year-old pueblo ruins with a nice, cozy bed at the end of each day.
10. Give the adventure vacation of a lifetime
No, really you can. REI Adventures has over 250 trips that take place all over the globe, and they're all led by handpicked, local guides who know the authentic places you’ll want to visit—and brag about once you get home. Interested in zip-lining, helping to bathe rescued elephants, cycling to temples and feasting on Thai street food? If so, you’ll want to Discover Thailand. Love hiking, coastlines, history, local seafood and Alentejo wines? Of course you do, and Portugal Coastal Hiking is ideal for that. How would you like to spend 13 days in Tanzania’s spellbinding landscapes admiring lion prides, swimming in waterfalls and learning from the Maasai people? Uhh, yeah. Tanzania Ultimate Adventure and Safari is a must-do.