Experience Gifts

Who needs more junk? Not me. I’ve been trying to simplify for a little while now. Fewer novels and more trips to the library and books on Kindle. Fewer trinkets, more quality art. That sort of thing… So what can you get that person with too much stuff already? Experience gifts are a great way to go.

In some cases, experience gifts are really true experiences: hot air balloons rides, sky diving, sport fishing. But I like to think of experience gifts as anything that gets you out of the house and doing something a little different. And that can make a great gift, right?

On this blog, we’re going to give you an idea for an experiential gift. Memories make amazing gifts!

Concert Tickets

Concert tickets are a way cool experiential gift – especially if the recipient is someone who is really into music. Buying 2 or 4 tickets to see one of their favorite bands can easily create an experience that stays with them for years to come and they’ll have you to think of and thank each time they remember the experience. If you’re unsure of what type of music they like, you could instead get a gift certificate or gift card that covers the face value cost of the tickets + any purchase fees. Here are some sites that will help you see upcoming shows in different cities nationally with links to purchase tickets:



If you’re looking for tickets to a show that has sold out or you are looking for seats that aren’t available from the main ticket seller, these sites may be helpful:



This type of gift experience can also easily include tickets to a play or a sporting event. Giving someone the opportunity to experience something that they’ll enjoy and help them create happy memories is a gift that can’t go wrong!

Pic from Flickr User Beograd


Community Supported Agriculture Membership

We all love fresh,  locally grown vegetables. But while it’s pleasant to visit your local farmer’s market once in a while, using it for all your grocery needs can be expensive.

If you also have that super eco-friendly foodie in your family, give him or her a whole season of fresh, organic produce and more through community supported agriculture.

Community supported agriculture (CSA) is a mutual agreement between consumers and a farmer that guarantees the farmer a reliable income, and the consumers a share of the farm’s production. Consumers pay in advance for a weekly basket throughout growing season. The baskets usually have enough vegetables, fruits, and even dairy products to feed a family of four, with different options for different size families. There are also options for smaller families. These baskets will be delivered to a local farmer’s market and or any other location that’s convenient for the both of you. Most farmers have multiple delivery locations throughout a metropolitan area. If you’re still not sure what to expect, check out the YouTube video below:


Now, there is some risk to this program – a bad season can mean less produce. However, by supporting your farmer through a rougher season, you may receive a sizable payoff during the better seasons, and also develop a close, personal relationship to the person harvesting your food. Not to mention, you’ll always have fresh, tasty, and nutritious vegetables on your table.

If you don’t have a farm in mind (and the chances are that you don’t), Local Harvest is a good place to start. They have a “living” directory of small farms, farmer’s markets, and other local food sources. While you’re at it, why not look for an organic restaurant near you as well?


community supported agriculture

Since this gift is likely to have an impact on your recipient’s lifestyle (or at least their dinner table), it’s a good idea to make sure they have a genuine passion for fresh, organic food. And if that’s the case, a  Community Supported Agriculture Membership will make a perfect experiential gift.

Feature image from Martin Cathrae.

Post image from Cristina.

Wine and Painting

“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.”

–Pablo Picasso

So many of us loved drawing when we were kids. The world was full of possibilities, and there’s never a shortage of creativity. But somehow, so many of us lose that artist within us along the way, and most people never pick up a brush again. Thanks to numerous wine and painting franchises that have emerged in recent years, now is your chance to reconnect with that creative self again! You can explore the beauty of color while sipping on your favorite wine. If it sounds like something you might enjoy, track down your local franchise and get in touch with your artistic side. Here’s some example templates that you’ll be able to paint yourself:

Wine and Painting                      Wine and Painting

As you may have noticed, these paintings are simplified and  have helpful outlines to color in, so ZERO painting experience is required! You don’t even have to bring your own paint or brush. Just show up with a bottle of wine, your choice of snack, and let the creative juices flow!  With some simple guiding steps from an instructor, you’ll have a new, self-created piece of art in your living room in no time!

The largest franchise by far is Painting with a Twist, which has 94 locations in the nation. It is a Louisiana-based  business that has a strong presence in the south. There are 10 shops in greater Houston area alone. Some Painting with a Twist locations even offer a free S.O.S. session every month where you can finish the rest of your masterpiece or simply touch it up a bit.


One of their main competitors is Pinot’s Palette, which offers the same prices- $35 for two hours and $45 for three hours. They both offer gift certificates to which you can add a personal message!

There are other similar franchises, such as Wine and Canvas & Paintnite.

It’s the perfect experiential gift for a date night, a girls’ night out, and even bachelorette parties.

Feature image from Frank Kovalchek.

Romantic Dinner Cruise

Date nights are always fun with good food, good drinks, and good company. But after a while, they can definitely get repetitive.  Ready to take it up a notch? To really spice things up, take your next date on a romantic dinner cruise!

Romantic Dinner Cruise

Dinner cruises are an especially great option for special occasions such as Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, and birthdays.

They usually last 2 to 3 hours. You will sail away peacefully while watching the sunset, enjoy an intimate dinner with your sweetheart, and dance the night away under the moon. Dinners are usually prepared with fresh local seafood.  Some cruise lines even end the night with a firework show! Music options usually ranges from soft jazz to more modern DJ music, so if that matters to you, be sure to ask beforehand.

The best part is, you don’t have to live next to the ocean to enjoy the experience. If you are close to any substantial area of water, chances are there is some kind of cruise dinner. Cloud9Living.com offers a range of cruising options around the country.

You can also include the experience into your traveling itinerary. If it is the ultimate New York experience you’re looking for, be sure to check out this package offered by Viator.com.

Let’s go cruising!

Feature image from Prayitno.

Post image from ayustety.

Drive a NASCAR!

Do you have a NASCAR crazy father like me? Why not give him the ultimate NASCAR experience – an opportunity to drive an actual Sprint Cup style stock car (a NASCAR car!).

nascar experience

The experience usually starts with a quick classroom session about high speed driving and safety instructions. Then, once your dad hops in 500 horse power racing machine, it’s rock ‘n roll time!  The roaring V-8 engine can propel the car up to 150+ mph. Passing is also allowed! Worried about safety? No need, he can drive at his own pace and will be in full radio contact with a support crew.

If there is a speedway near you, chances are they offer some kind of  NASCAR driving experience.

You can also choose 8 to 32 minutes packages from Cloud9living.com. Add a 3-lap ride alongside a professional to experience the full potential of the 500 horse power stock car.

Is your dad more of an Indy fan? They also offer the same packages for Indy cars.  (For the less NASCAR-savvy: Indy cars are open wheel race car that looks like the ones in F1, only smaller).

It’s the perfect, fun, and unforgettable gift for Father’s Day or any time of year!

Feature image from Wikimedia.

Post image from Cloud9living.com.

Movie Gift Cards

CheckedTwice Official Father Mark (a.k.a. Dad, Grandpa) is now officially retired. While he fills much of his time with his favorite hobbies (woodworking, going to gym, and shuttling grandchildren around), it’s nice to escape the real world every now and again. And his favorite way of doing that? One word for you:


One of the great benefits of being retired (besides the AARP membership) is the incredibly flexible schedule. And movie theaters have most certainly learned this. They’ll offer discounted tickets for matinee shows, that are sometimes doubly discounted for seniors. That adds up to your dollar going a long way at the theaters.

And that’s why movie theater gift cards can make a great gift for Grandpa.

movie gift cards

Movie trips can be an indulgence, and it’s nice to receive them as a gift. And your gift might go twice as far when combined with those senior discounts and matinee prices. Plus, Grandpa can go see all of those more violent movies that Grandma doesn’t like.

And if dad hasn’t exactly been good this year? You can get him one of these:

movie gift cards
Feature image from Daniel Cortes.

The Gift of a Clean House

Merry Maidmas!  Happy Cleanakah!

If you’re like me, you don’t have the time or, more importantly, the inclination to do any more than pick up the socks and shoes littered around the apartment.  But, despite my general cleanliness apathy, I still get that happy tingly feeling when I see a sparkling sink or dust-free baseboards.

This year my sister got me a maid service for my birthday.  They came for one session and it was glorious.  She was nervous about buying it for me because she thought I might be insulted.  Now, if you know me, this is clearly ridiculous.  I have no illusions about my housekeeping abilities and I think most people are the same.  I do the bare minimum to make my apartment presentable and I’ve never pretended to do more.

(The exception to this is the mother or mother-in-law.  No matter how good the relationship, buying a maid service for your daughter-in-law is a big gamble.  It’s like buying a giant basket of bath and body works for the smelly girl in your office – tempting but a very risky proposition).

So buy your loved one a good spring (or winter, fall, summer) cleaning!  We all need it and soon people will be asking themselves, ‘So that rug was white the whole time and not an intentionally chic eggshell?’ or ‘You mean to tell me that was a red wine stain and not just a piece of abstract modernism?’

I recommend using the handy yelp.com to search for a local maid service near you.


YGGBE (your guest gift blogger extraordinaire)

Feature image from Collin Anderson.

Museum Memberships

This Monday’s idea is particularly awesome because it actually inspired me to add some items to my CheckedTwice wishlist.  I often end up at the free museums in my town (which are fabulous) because I’m fundamentally cheap.  But what if someone got me a museum membership as a gift?

museum membership gift

I would love it!  And I would totally use it! So here are some ideas for museum memberships you can buy your favorite cultured person (or perhaps favorite person-in-need-of-culture):

  • Art Museum
  • Children’s Museum
  • Natural History Museum
  • Science Museum
  • Zoo
  • Aquarium
  • Botanical Gardens

Memberships often include free admissions plus perks like holiday party invitations, exhibit opening parties, discounts at museum stores, and free guest passes.

And the list I gave above was just the generic list of museums you can find in many towns – don’t forget all the fun local options you may have:

  • National Museum of Funeral History – Houston
  • Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio – Chicago
  • National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame – Fort Worth
  • Cartoon Art Museum – San Francisco

And finally, remember that these memberships support the museum financially and make it possible for them to keep operating.  So you should feel good and so should the recipient.

Feature image from digital cat.

Build Your Own Fort

The CheckedTwice Gift Blog has focused too much on the adults, and not enough on fun ideas for the kids. So this week will be all about the youngins. And we’ll start off with an experience gift that won’t get the kids out of the house per se, but it just might get them out of your hair for a few hours!

This Monday’s suggestion is the gift of building your own totally awesome play fort. No adults allowed.

indoor play fort

This is a gift with infinite options: both for the recipient and for the giver as far as what to include in the fort building kit.  My forts as a child always involved moving around the furniture in our basement and draping blankets over it, often with pillows propped up for walls.  My sister and I would have separate forts, and from them we’d stage epic battles throwing pillows back and forth.  That was awesome.

But the gift idea really comes in if you’re a creative Home Depot shopper.  Here are some ideas:

  • Suction cups with hooks: Super handy for hanging sheets from windows
  • Top Sheets: To hang from said hooks, perhaps themed based on your child’s interests
  • Rope: Helpful for holding up sheets
  • PVC Pipe / Connectors: For more permanent tents and ambitious kids
  • Flashlight: Because what fort is complete without a flashlight?
  • Clips: Large clips that can be used to hang the sheets – clothespins work too
  • Signs: Throw in some paper so they can make signs for their fort (e.g., No Adults Allowed, Blanketsburg Rules, Down With Pillowtown)

And then I’ll throw this out there as an idea, but I remember HATING to clean up my forts.  They took so much time to build and they were such works of art.  So perhaps part of this gift is letting the fort-builder leave the fort up for some acceptable period of time.  Or maybe it’s agreeing to help them take it apart.  Just something that makes the whole thing end on a good note.

Feature image from Guy.

Post image from willholmes.

Date Night!

My sister Susan is an awesome giver of gifts. Every year she manages to go out of her way to give a personalized, themed, wrapped box of awesome. I look forward to it every year.

And this was one of her ideas. #SusanHaydenHallOfFame.

A few years ago, my wife Catherine and I moved to a new city. For Christmas, she got us a date night kit. Here’s what was in it:

date night gift

We opened our stocking and found chocolates for dessert, warm-up whiskey bottles for pre-dinner cocktails, and a wide array of personal hygiene items (though I’m not sure what she was trying to say with those).

But the pièce de résistance was a gift certificate to a local restaurant and a movie theater. And that was a great way to get us off the couch and head out in our new town.

If somebody you’re gifting has recently moved to a new area, get on yelp and find a good restaurant in their area for which you can get them a gift certificate. Then, fill out it out with some little, fun, stocking stuffers for a great gift!

Well, I don’t know about the personal hygiene products… 🙂

Feature image from Derek Key.