Best Experience Gifts to Give in Richmond

With Christmas just around the corner, you probably fall into one of three groups. You’ve either a) had all of your shopping done since June, b) you’ve gotten a start but are struggling with those hard-to-shop for folks on your list, or c) you’re quickly spiraling into a blind panic because Christmas is less than three weeks away and you have yet to buy the first gift. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of Christmas preparedness or what your shopping experience has been, chances are you’ve thought what most of us think at least once during holiday shopping: “Do we really need all of this stuff?

While even the Scroogiest of Scrooges can’t deny that there’s something special about unwrapping and enjoying the “perfect” gift on Christmas morning, many of us find ourselves overwhelmed by the influx of “things” during the holiday season. Whether we feel that our kids have too many toys already or we know that we really don’t need  anything new, it can be hard to find the right balance when it comes to gift giving.

With that in mind, we’ve turned to an increasingly popular category of gifts – experience gifts. Experience gifts are those that offer an opportunity to do, rather than have, something. Although experience gifts don’t offer the immediate reward of a tangible gift on Christmas morning, they do promise the excitement of a new or favorite activity, provide anticipation for days or weeks to come, and create lasting memories for the recipients.

Experience gifts allow you to tailor your gift giving, both in cost and experience, based on the personalities of people on your list – without long lines or desperate searches for the right size or color. These gifts can range from inexpensive items like movie tickets, mid-range items like concert tickets, or more elaborate things like a family trip or getaway. And best of all, they can be planned for the holiday season – or anytime throughout the year.

If you’ve been considering experience gifts this year, or have some last-minute gifts left to find, then you’re in luck. Richmond offers a wide variety of experiences perfect for individuals or the whole family. To help you get started, we’ve put together some of our favorite experience gifts for the Richmond, with ideas for dads, moms, teens and tweens, kids, and families. Best of all, many experiences can be found at a discount on sites like Groupon or Cloud 9 Living.

To make our list, each of the following ideas had to meet certain criteria, including:

  1. Local (or relatively local!) availability or access
  2. A unique activity (i.e., not something you would do every day)
  3. A chance to make memories or learn a new skill

Take a look at our favorite Richmond experience gifts below, and if you have an idea that you think should be added to the list – let us know! We’d love to hear about it at!


Experience Gifts for Dads

NASCAR experience
NASCAR Racing Experience / Facebook

Driving Experiences

Give dad (or anyone!) on your list the ride of a lifetime with a chance to ride along or even drive a real racecar or other exotic car at the Richmond International Raceway. With a wide range of pricing options available, the lucky recipient of this gift will be able to get up close and personal with high-speed cars, drivers, and all of the behind-the-scenes excitement. Here are some options:

NASCAR Racing Experience
Dream Drive Exotics
Richmond Raceway Driving Schools


Fishing or Fly Fishing Excursions and Lessons

Whether you’ve got an experienced angler on your list or someone who would just enjoy a day out on the water, fishing can be a fun, relaxing activity for anyone. Thanks to an abundance of prime fishing spots along the James River and other nearby bodies of water, this is a great gift that offers opportunities year-round. Options are available for everything from fly-fishing lessons to chartered boat excursions, allowing you to customize the experience from start to finish. Take a look at these local options:

Knot the Reel World Fly Fishing (lessons and guided trips)
Fish Unlimited (catfishing charters)
James River Fishing School (lessons and guided trips)


Brewery Tours

Sure, it’s a stereotype to say that dads and beer automatically go together. But truth is, it might be nice to give the man in your life a chance to kick back and relax. And there’s no denying that Richmond has its fair share of great breweries to choose from. Whether you want to do a larger tour for a group or maybe even turn the experience into a date for you and your special someone, here are some awesome choices:

RVA Trolley Brewery Tours (includes three stand-up comics on the trolley!)
Drink Richmond (includes tours at breweries, distilleries, or cideries)
Richmond Brewery Tours (offers a variety of group or private tours)


Experience Gifts for Mom

Spa Experience
Scents of Serenity / Facebook

Spa Packages

This needs no explanation. As parents, we all deserve a little pampering now and then, but most moms will refuse to treat themselves, because of the time, money, or feeling that it’s just “too much.” So take the decision out of her hands and give her what she deserves! To find the best spas and spa packages here in Richmond, take a look at our Best Days Spas in Richmond list for ideas!


A Night (or Nights!) at the Theater, Ballet, or Symphony

As moms, much of our life is spent in athleisurewear, work clothes, or any other odd combination that we can scrounge together between school drop-offs, soccer practices, and last-minute trips to the grocery store. So why not give mom a chance to dress up a little and enjoy some culture other than that three-day old squeezable yogurt she just found in her purse? With an incredible range of artistic and cultural opportunities in the Richmond area, it’s easy to treat mom (or the whole family!) to a one-time experience or a full season of theater, dance, or music. Here are some great places to start your search:

Broadway in Richmond
Virginia Repertory Theatre
Richmond Ballet
Richmond Symphony


Wine and Paint Nights

Just like dads and beer, there’s the classic stereotype of moms and wine. And while that’s not a “thing” for every mom, every mom does deserve a chance to get out – on her own, with her special someone, or with her girlfriends. This year, consider giving mom a chance to express her creative side while enjoying a relaxing glass of wine. Wine and paint nights have become increasingly popular everywhere, and Richmond is no exception. Here are just a few of the great choices available in the Richmond area:

Wine and Design
Muse Paintbar
Spirited Art


Experience Gifts for Tweens and Teens

Treetop Experience
Treetop Zoofari / Facebook

Ropes Courses and Zip Lining

Oh to be young again, right? The endless energy, the sense of invincibility, and the constant desire for adventure are often trademarks of the adolescent years. So give your tweens or teens a chance to experience a little adventure – with a safety harness, of course. Ropes courses and zip lining adventures offer a great outdoor activity and can be given as a single gift or offered as a package for your child and their choice of guests – or even the whole family. Here are some local(ish!) opportunities:

Treetop Zoofari Zipline and Adventure Park (at the Metro Richmond Zoo in Mosely, VA)
Go Ape! (at Freedom Park in Williamsburg, VA)
Sandy River Outdoor Adventures (in Rice, VA)


Rock Climbing

Especially during the colder winter months, outdoor activities can be limited – but that doesn’t mean your kids energy is. Let them get out and move while learning an incredible new skill with one of Richmond’s climbing centers. They can not only learn safety and skill with experienced instructors, but they might just develop a hobby that lasts a lifetime. Try one of these premier facilities or instructors to get started:

Triangle Rock Club (indoor instruction and climbing)
Peak Experiences (indoor instruction and climbing)
RVA Climbs (outdoor instruction and climbing)


The Freedom of Expression

The teen years are all about figuring out who you are and finding a creative outlet can be one of the best ways to do it. Fortunately, the Richmond arts scene is vibrant for youth, as well as adults. Perhaps your tween or teen is of the dramatic variety, fancies themselves a future rock star, or aspires to the visual arts– whatever their bent, let them explore it with a workshop, after school program, private lesson, or camp. Below are some amazing local arts programs available throughout Richmond:

SPARC (theater and drama for youth)
CharacterWorks (Christian-based theater for youth)
Bach to Rock (music lessons, as well as opportunities for Rock Band or Glee Club)
School of Rock (rock n’ roll lessons, bands, and performances)
Visual Arts Center of Richmond (classes and camps)
Cultural Arts Center of Glen Allen (classes and camps)

Of course, this just a small sampling of all that is available, so be sure to visit our Guide to After-School Activities in Greater Richmond for even more fantastic programs that are not only available after school, but also for private lessons, workshops, and camps.


Experience Gifts For (Younger) Kids

CMOR experience
Children’s Museum of Richmond / Facebook

Membership to a Kid-Friendly Museum

Kids love to be hands-on no matter what they’re doing. And hands-on learning proves to be not only effective, but fun for most kids. Of course, when that hands-on learning involves permanent marker drawings on your living room couch or a self-taught make-up tutorial with your one fancy lipstick, it’s not so great for you. So give your kids a chance to touch, feel, learn, and explore OUTSIDE THE HOME at one of Richmond’s kid-focused museums. A membership or annual pass to one of these places will provide you with constant access to fun, learning, and a chance for your kids to leave fingerprints that you won’t have to clean up. Plus, chances are, you’ll both have a lot of fun along the way.  Try one of these incredible museums, both of which offer single-visits or annual passes, as well as special events all year long:

Children’s Museum of Richmond (four Richmond area locations)
Science Museum of Virginia

Cooking Classes

It’s a fact – kids love to cook. Maybe it’s the fact that it makes them feel more grown-up, maybe it’s the fact that they get to make a mess without repercussions (and they will make a mess), or maybe it’s just a natural form of creativity. Whatever it is, it usually ends up requiring a lot of supervision on your part and way too many extra dirty dishes in the sink. So take that experience out of your kitchen and put it into the hands of a professional with one of Richmond premier kids’ cooking experiences. Not only will kids as young as three love it, but they might just learn some tricks that will help them become more independent down the road. Here are some great local options:

Young Chef’s Academy (classes, camps, and workshops)
Mise en Place (select classes for kids and/or families)
Edible Education (select classes and camps)


Music Classes, Dance Classes, Art Classes – and More

Just like tweens and teens, younger kids need to express themselves creatively. Richmond offers a virtually limitless supply of classes, camps, and workshops to satisfy kids’ need for creativity – through movement, sound, and educational experience. Take a look at our suggestions for Tweens and Teens Creative Expression experiences above (most offer classes for younger kids, as well), plus be sure to visit the following links to find opportunities in your area:

Guide to After-School Activities in Greater Richmond
Guide to Music Lessons in Richmond
Guide to Dance Classes and Studios in Richmond


Experience Gifts for the Whole Family

Segway of Richmond experience
Segway of Richmond / Facebook

City Tours

Sometimes we take the things that are right under our nose for granted – whether its history, attractions, or simply the local scenery. Living in Richmond, or the Greater Richmond area, affords us incredible opportunities that we sometimes overlook. With one of the richest histories of any city in the nation, not to mention beautiful landscapes and architecture, Richmond is a treasure trove of discovery. Make sure your family knows all that Richmond has to offer with a fun, educational city tour. From competitive city-wide scavenger hunts, to walking tours (or even ghost tours!), to Segway tours, there’s no limit to ways you can uncover all that Richmond offers, while spending time together as a family. Here are some of our favorite ways to explore the city:

Segway of Richmond (guided segway tours – ages 14 and up)
RVA on Wheels (guided tours on electric bikes, trolleys, segways and gem cars)
Discover Richmond Tours with The Valentine (walking, biking, and bus tours)
Operation City Quest – Richmond (self-guided smart phone scavenger hunt)
Richmond Rides (bike tours)
The Richmond Tour Guys (FREE walking tours!)


Escape Rooms

We all want to do a family game night – but getting everyone in the same room on a regular basis? Well, that can prove a near-impossible task. So make “game night” a special event and try an escape room! Escape rooms are interactive, live puzzle games that require participation, communication, and engagement from every member of the family. With a one-hour time limit (typically), this is a great gift that won’t take much time, but will create memories that last. Keep in mind that some escape rooms have age restrictions, and themes sometimes change, so be sure to call ahead or check online before you book. Here are some of our local favorites:

Escape Room RVA
River City Escape Rooms
Key Quest Escape (located at LaserQuest…so make a night of it!)


Train Rides

In our fast-paced world of cars and planes, we sometimes forget how enjoyable it can be to sit back on a train and watch the scenery. Richmond was once one of the nation’s leading railroad cities and in the 1800s, had as many as five railroad lines fanning out of its hub. While the railroad industry has faded from its former glory, remnants can still be found throughout the area at places like Main Street Station downtown or Ashland’s historic downtown station, both of which are working Amtrak stations. So this Christmas, consider taking the family for a day on the train, from open-car countryside tours to quick trips just for the fun of it. Here are some local and regional options:

Amtrak (with routes to DC, New York, Philadelphia, and more)
Richmond to Ashland (as low as $13/person)
Old Dominion Excursion Trips (open-car rides starting in Dilwyn, VA)


No matter how you choose to give this holiday season, the most important thing to remember is that it’s not about the money you spend, but the love you share. We hope you’ll consider some of these amazing Richmond experiences – not just over the holidays, but throughout the year and anytime you have the chance to give.

For more great family-friendly attractions, resources, and events in Richmond, be sure to visit our complete Best of Richmond series!