2015 Austin Experience Gifts {And A Giveaway}


‘Tis the season of stuff…and lots of it. More and more families are opting to substitute gifts of experiences for their children. Many of these are portable, involve spending quality time with our kids and can make memories to last a lifetime. Here are our favorites:

go dance

Adult & Child Dance Lessons
What better way to get moving after the holidays than by dancing? Go Dance is a local, women-owned business specializing in partner dancing with classes in Ballroom, Swing, Salsa, Country and more. With two studios, over 30 instructors, more than 100 weekly group classes, and private lessons offered seven days a week, there are plenty of options to go dance (pun intended). Classes are offered for youth ages 3-17, adults, and engaged couples. To check out all the offerings, click here.

Many families plan an outing to The Nutcracker for a holiday treat. If this inspires your tiny (or not-so-tiny) dancer, of course you may opt for classes or workshops for next year.

Boat Rides
Getting out on a boat can be a fun change of pace. You can make a gift certificate for a cruise on Lady Bird Lake with Capital Cruises or Lone Star Riverboat or take matters into your own hands by gifting a canoe or kayak rental. If you can curb your kids’ enthusiasm until spring, you can even take a spin in a glass-bottom illuminated kayak!

Bowling is a great activity for colder (and hotter) months, so you can even use a gift card over Winter Break! In addition to all the places on our list of bowling alleys, keep in mind that Austin’s Park & Pizza just opened a new bowling alley.

We have ordered caterpillars from Insect Lore in the past to raise into butterflies. You can also order ladybug, praying mantis and ant kits. You can also reuse the containers in future years and just order the refills. Note that weather conditions must be safe for shipping, raising and releasing your insects, so you may not be able to raise these immediately.

If your head explodes just at the thought of adding in another event before Christmas, how about a staycation? Hyatt Lost Pines is offering a Family New Year’s Eve Package which includes a feast, carnival-style jamboree, family dance, wagon rides, fireworks, a champagne toast and breakfast on New Year’s Day.

Think your kid is the next Jordan Spieth? How about a gift certificate to play golf at one of these places? Whether it’s Peter Pan or Top Golf, you can have fun and get active at the same time.

Ice Cream
Treat them with scoops at their favorite ice cream shop, whether it’s Amy’s, Lick, Sweet Ritual or Teo’s. Although they don’t open until December 19, you could make your own coupon to go get a scoop at Spun, which will feature ice cream made with liquid nitrogen!

So, this one is a little self-serving if you get one too, but everyone needs a little pampering! Most nail salons are great with kids and some even have a kids’ “menu”. We like Sugarcoat because it’s centrally-located, offers a “sugarbaby” mani/pedi and is inexpensive, but find a salon that is convenient for you.

When grandparents ask about gift ideas, family memberships are always great.

Untitled design-1


The Austin Aquarium Annual Passes are good for one year of unlimited visits with VIP early entrance on weekends and holidays, and discounts that include free attendance to Birthday Parties, 20% discount to Summer Camps, 10% discount on all gift shop purchases (does not include fish/shark/bird food), as well as discounts on Group Events and Sleepovers as well as additional guest discounts.

Additional ideas for annual memberships: The Thinkery, The Contemporary Austin, the YMCA, Yoga Yoga, The Wildflower Center, the JCC and even CSA memberships, like to Johnson’s Backyard Garden.

Movie Tickets
What’s another good activity during school breaks? Seeing a movie! You can purchase gift cards to AMC Theatres at H-E-B, but for an even cooler experience, you can support local theatres: Alamo Drafthouse and Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-in.

You can give the gift of music by buying tickets for your peeps to enjoy a concert, whether it’s at the Long Center, the Erwin Center or another local venue. For those of you looking for a For grown-ups, you can find lots of ideas here and here.
Players as young as 10 years of age can play at Austin Paintball, which is located in Dripping Springs. The facility is open on weekends and there are five different fields to play on.

Parkour Lessons
Parkour is an activity to get you from Point A to Point B – when there are obstacles in your way like walls, sticks and rocks. Getting around them might involve flipping, scaling walls and other ninja moves that is appealing to many kids. The BAM Academy has gyms in north and south Austin and works with kids of all ages, ages 5 and up.

Austin’s own Typewriter Rodeo will create an original poem for that special someone, along with a digital copy. Holiday poems submitted by midnight on December 14, 2015 will be mailed in time to arrive for Christmas. Orders will be accepted through December 18th, but aren’t guaranteed to arrive by December 25th.

Going ice skating can remind us what winter is really supposed to feel like, but if you don’t have all the winter gear needed to bundle up, roller skating is a good option, too. Check our list of places to skate in Austin for ideas of where to get passes or gift certificates.

Kids as young as three years old can try out indoor skydiving at iFly. You can read about our experience hereOur friend Priscilla let us know about SkyDive Temple, although we are way to chicken to have tried it out ourselves. Note: this is a good one for a partner, since you have to be 18 years of age to jump.

Sad you don’t get to experience the white stuff here in Austin? The newest addition at the Texas Ski Ranch is the Snow Park, a 70-acre action sports complex. You can buy classes or just purchase passes. Anyone 6 and up can enter the park, although younger shredders ages 2-8 can take lessons at the Grom Park.

Sports Tickets
Although Austin doesn’t have any major league teams, we still have a lot of sports to choose from. Check our list of sports teams in Greater Austin to see what sports you think your family would enjoy, and buy or make certificates for tickets.

Kids love to get their hands dirty and take things apart, but your home may not be the best venue to make that happen. Enter The Austin Tinkering School. You can choose from camps or classes and the once-a-month Open Shop drop-in sessions. You can also purchase maker kits which are relatively small and keep the kids busy.

Video Gaming
Those tokens can disappear in an instant, so how about giving them some extras from Pinballz or your favorite arcade? Keep in mind that Pinballz now has a south location.

Until December 24, you can save 30% off each individual ticket purchase with Lake Travis Zipline Adventures by buying online or by calling customer service at (512) 614-1996 by entering the promotional code HOLIDAY15 in your shopping cart when you make your ticket purchase using a credit card online or by mentioning the HOLIDAY15 over the phone. Read about our experience here. Keep in mind that Wimberley Zipline Adventures is another local option.


It’s official: you are on the “nice” list! Thanks to the ladies at Go Dance, we have a prize package valued at $360 to give away to a lucky reader! Leave a comment below or complete the form for your chance to win! The package includes:

6 months of Ballroom and social dance classes for youth (all ages, 3-17) + a T-shirt, valued at $270
Inspire a lifelong love of movement through dance! Our partner dance classes for ages 3 – 17 improve teamwork, physical coordination, focus, and social graces — and they’re really fun!

A Newcomer Night for 2 (parents need dancing too!), valued at $30
Drop in and dance; no pre-registration required! Learn the basic steps in popular dance styles. Dances rotate weekly between Latin, Country and Swing.

A Social Dance Survival Workshop for 2 (great to keep or give as a gift this holiday season!), valued at $60
Tired of being a wallflower? Our boot-camp-style workshop will take you from zero to dancing in three hours. Learn popular moves, how to lead and follow, tips for navigating the floor, and styling to make sure you look good.

All entries must be received by 10am CST on Wednesday, December 16, 2015. Approximate retail value is $360.

Thanks to everyone who entered! The giveaway is now closed, and we have contacted the winner via email.

Official Rules

About Nicole Basham 793 Articles
A native Austinite and soccer-playing mom, Nicole uses her 10-year-old son as an excuse to rediscover her hometown through his eyes. In Thoreau's words, her mission is to "suck out all the marrow of life", or in her son's words, to cultivate in him a love of "advenchers".