Tired of purchasing gifts that end up never being played with? These Bay Area gift experiences offer family-filled fun, and sometimes, a little learning on the side

There is no doubt that your kid’s holiday lists are a long list of toys, games, and just more stuff to add to their collection because let’s face it, material gifts are super fun to unwrap. That being said, we all know that kids remember experiences for far longer than a toy, and can even become a core-memory maker. Experience gifts also have the ability to foster new skills, help with decluttering, and create connections within a family. A LEGO set is fun to put together, but giving an experience gift is also a great way to enhance your child’s interests and foster a love of learning. If your little one is all about animal encounters, the chance to spend a day on the farm where they can feed the chickens and pet the goats may be the best day ever. The options are really endless.

In the Bay Area, there is no shortage of opportunities for experiences that make wonderful gifts—how lucky for us! From cooking sessions to fostering a love of animals, we’ve rounded up our favorite experiences that isn’t just another toy for the playroom.

The Best Gift for Animal Lovers



Animal Rescuers will Love the Adopt-a-Seal at the Marine Mammal Center: For marine-minded kids who love fostering and caring for animals, their Adopt-a-Seal program is a surefire gift that gives back. Choose the pup you'd like to help and you'll receive an adoption package that includes adoption certificate, your seal's photo and history, and all the ways your gift will help ensure the pup's rehabilitation and safe return to the wild. Optional upgrade will deliver a plush harbor-seal for that extra "aw" factor. 

The Best Gifts for Train-Obsessed Kids



For Kids Who Love Steam Trains: Train tickets, tucked under the tree or the menorah, to ride the rails? Yes, please! This gift experience will have you headed south to board the trains at Roaring Camp. In addition to their popular holiday trains, you can buy annual passes that offer unlimited Redwood Forest Steam and Santa Cruz Beach trains for one full year. 

Good to Know: There are often other activities happening at the camp like gold panning and scavenger hunts that are great for families and kids of all ages. 

For Kids Who Want to Sleep in a Train Car: For the ultimate train lover's destination, book at night at Railroad Park Resort where you can spend the night in a vintage caboose and your little engineer can dream about riding the rails all night long. 

Good to Know: Siskiyou County is full of train history and outdoor experiences (picture waterfalls, fishing, and spelunking to name a few) that everyone in the family will enjoy.

The Best Gifts for Adventure Junkies

best gift experiences for kids in the bay area
iFly World

For Kids Who Love Swinging and Climbing: Got a kid who loves an adrenaline rush and climbing great heights? Head to Rocklin and spend the day at Quarry Park Adventures. There, they can soar across the ravine on the zipline, balance on the ropes course, and test their strength on the rock wall.

For Kids Who Want to Go Skydiving (without the Plane): Does your kid love jumping off the tops of playground structures and won't stop talking about skydiving one day? Gift them the next best thing with time at iFLY Indoor Skydiving where kids ages three and up can experience the feeling of skydiving. 

The Best Gift for Kids Who Love to Cook


For Your Mini Martha Stewart or Gordon Ramsey: Cucina Bambini is a great way to get your budding chef to sharpen their kitchen skills. Classes like the macaron workshop or gingerbread house decorating class are not only fun (and festive) but parents will hopefully get to taste some of the sweet treats that come home.

The Best Gifts for The Whole Family

best gift experiences in san francisco

A Holiday-Themed Trip to San Francisco: Always a fun gift, and a great way for the family to spend quality time together, whether you're coming in from out of town or making it a staycation. Our recommend? Book a holiday tea and stay in the Santa Suite at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.

An African Safari without Leaving SFO: Safari West is just a short drive away and an experience that the whole family is sure to love. Here you'll see giraffes, zebras, and rhinos that roam freely on the property. Want to continue the fun? Spend the night in a luxury tent.

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