Trade in your shopping bags for exciting plans with these great gift experiences in Los Angeles you can’t get anywhere else
Like anyone with kids, we have too much stuff—but you can never have too many local family-bonding experiences. Thanks to life reopening, let’s make this year’s gifts about experiences rather than things. While this season is filled with experiences such as enjoying festive shows for all ages in Los Angeles or heading out to seek the best light displays, the fun times don’t need to end with the holidays. Whether you and your brood want to go horseback riding, perfect a macaron, or take a family staycation at the beach, now’s as good a time as any to make happy memories with the best experience gifts in Los Angeles.
LA Experience Gift: Plan a Seaside Holiday Escape at the Loews Santa Monica
Traveling beyond California can require much planning, but booking a magical seaside escape at the Loews Santa Monica is nothing but fun for you and the kids. This gift experience is bound to alleviate a lot of the holiday stress for the parents while providing tons of entertainment that the kids will go ga-ga over (and may become a new annual tradition).
From now until Jan. 1, you can experience a host of holiday-themed fun events including breakfast with Santa, Brunch with Santa Paws (bring your furry friends), Tea with a Twist, holiday movies, a Holiday Drag Brunch, and seasonal cocktails. And if that wasn't all, there's a heated pool and jacuzzi so kids can swim and splash to their holiday heart's delight while parents can join in or relax poolside. Not to mention, there's also daily bike access so you and your crew want to hop on and ride along The Strand, one of our favorite spots to bike with kids in LA. And, if you still have energy after all of that, Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier is literally a hop, skip, and jump away.
Date: Now-Jan. 1
Cost: Varies according to event
Loews Santa Monica
1700 Ocean Ave.
LA Experience Gift: Go City
For those that can't commit to just one experience, give the gift of many! Go City is a travel pass (but not just for tourists—locals can take advantage too) that offers over 40 exclusive experiences around LA for one low cost. The All-Inclusive Pass allows you to visit as many attractions as you would like in a one-to-7 day period (perfect for when guests come into town and you want to show them all the things). Or choose the Explorer Pass where you can pick from two-to-7 experiences—all to be completed within a 60-day period (parenting pro tip: ideal for winter breaks and spring breaks when you want to do something fun in town with the kids!).
Insider Tip: Go City is currently in 31 cities around the world—check out their site if you're headed out of town or want to gift an experience to a friend or other family member.
Cost: Prices vary depending on which pass you choose
LA Experience Gift: Lakers Game
Watch the Lakers (and King James) rule the court by gifting a set of basketball tickets. And while any season game would be absolutely worthwhile, we can't help but endorse the Jan. 4 game, which conveniently takes place shortly after Christmas. The Lakers are playing Miami Heat for an end-of-the-holidays east coast-west coast mash-up that's not to be missed.
Dates: Now-Apr. 9
Cost: Tickets start at $60
1111. S. Figueroa St.
LA Experience Gift: Cooking Class
Does your toddler love to mix, stir, and mash? Does your teen want to recreate every winning dish from the Great British Baking Show? Thankfully we have two pro spots to send your kids—whether it's for a stand-alone class or if you want to gift them a series of classes.
The Little Kitchen Academy in Century City offers various sessions based on age group but they also have "drop-in" classes—some that will be focusing on edible gifts.
Dates: Classes offered daily
Cost: $140 drop-ins, $387 three-class session
10250 Santa Monica Blvd.
At the Gourmandise School in Santa Monica, you can take classes together for ages 6-11 (hello bonding experience) and make cookies for Santa and other Christmas treats. For ages 12-16, you can send them on their own to make classic holiday cookies, holiday macarons, and more.
Dates: Varies throughout the year
Cost: Classes start at $115
395 Santa Monica Pl., #323
LA Experience Gift: Snow Play Near LA
Give your sunny, SoCal kids a taste of winter! LA has a number of fun, snowy options, from nearby spots to worth-the-drive Mammoth Lakes. If proximity is your jam, then grab tickets for Mt. Baldy, located just 52 miles from DTLA. A reservation includes round-trip scenic lift tickets to the top of Mount Baldy plus a day of snow play. There's also a restaurant at the top where chilly kiddos can stock up on hot chocolate and snacks. Participants must be at least 40" tall.
Insider Tip: For more ways to play in the snow near LA, from sledding to snowboarding, check out our favorite local resorts that offer gift cards and the like for an unforgettable, snow-filled experience.
LA Experience Gift: Surf Lessons
Are your kids even LA kids if they don't know how to surf? Now's the time to gift them a surf session from Go Surf LA. And while they offer private lessons, we think the family deal package where they tailor the group lesson to your family's needs would make a great gift for everyone. Lessons are located in Santa Monica, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Zuma, and Venice although beginner lessons take place in Santa Monica, run for 90 minutes, and include a wet suit and surfboard.
Dates: Daily, year-round
Cost: $90/person (group lessons); $165/person (private lessons)
Go Surf LA
1 Bicknell Ave.
LA Experience Gift: Trapeze School New York/Los Angeles
If you've got a budding daredevil, then gift them a series of lessons at the Trapeze School New York (in LA) for the perfect high-flying experience gift. Sessions are two hours—just enough to get all those little fliers airborne. If the trapeze feels too scary, you can also gift a trampoline class that teaches the fundamentals of body awareness and trains for somersaults and twisting skills. These lessons are open to children ages 6 and older.
Dates: Daily, year-round
Cost: Sessions are $45-$84/person
Santa Monica Pier
200 Santa Monica Pier
LA Experience Gift: Family Horseback Ride in Griffith Park
Head out into the hills by horseback and see the city from spots you've never seen before. Located next to Griffith Park, Sunset Ranch is one of LA's most popular riding spots, with easy access to wide-open trails that offer incredible views of the LA Basin and the Hollywood sign. Choose from one- or two-hour trail rides—or splurge and book an evening ride to see the sun set over the mountains. Kids must be at least 8 years old to ride.
Insider tip: They're open on Christmas day in case you're looking for something to do with the family.
Dates: Daily, year-round
3400 N. Beachwood Dr.
LA Experience Gift: Meet Your Favorite Wild Animal
If you've got "animal people" in your family you'll want to reserve an experience at the Wildlife Learning Center in Sylmar, where you can get up-close experiences sure to wow any critter-lover. Feed a giraffe, hang out with a sloth, give snacks to a porcupine, and hold a boa constrictor—among other experiences. All proceeds go back to the center, which has provided care to more than 100 displaced, rescued, and zoo-born wild animals since 1993.
Dates: Mon.-Fri.; 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Cost: $35-$150/group (up to five people, general admission not included)
16027 Yarnell St.
LA Experience Gift: Go Kart Racing
Do your kids have a need for speed? Then send them go kart racing at one of the tracks located around LA. Today’s indoor karts are designed for drivers as young as 5 or 6, and they can drive independently—the only requirement: drivers must be at least 48 inches tall for most karts (some require a height of 50 inches). See our guide for the list of kid-friendly go kart tracks around LA to gift this adrenaline-pumping experience.
LA Experience Gift: Go On a Family Hike
Not all gifts have to cost a ton of money. Take the opportunity this holiday to spend time in nature and visit one of our National Forests near LA. If these are too far or you are looking for something with slightly less commitment, you can check out these local LA hikes for babies, toddlers and big kids near LA. This gift of time may just be your kid's favorite gift yet.