Your guide to experience gift ideas for families in the Clearwater-St. Pete area.
Looking for fun experience gifts to give to your kids? We’ve got you covered! Below you’ll find 50 experience gift ideas specifically for families in the St. Pete-Clearwater area.
Basically every list I’ve found for experience gifts are not specific for locations. These are helpful lists but what I personally want is a more specific list that I can forward to the grandparents.
I want a list that says “get a membership to the Tarpon Aquarium or Great Explorations Children’s museum,” instead of a vague “get an attraction annual pass.”
So we’ve decided to make that list for our area. We are two local moms with kids ranging from toddler to elementary school ages. Plus, we both grow up in Pinellas and were Pinellas kids once ourselves.
Below you’ll find experience gifts for the whole family, and ideas by age group. We also include free ideas specific to our area to help you save money.
Let’s check out these Tampa Bay experience gifts!
Why experience gifts are great
Experience gifts are gifts where the gift recipient can have an experience instead of getting a physical gift.
Experience gifts are great, especially for kids because:
- Make memories: I know I remember experiences a lot more than I remember the random gift I received for Christmas when I was 9.
- Less clutter: clutter is overwhelming for kids as much as it is for parents. An experience gift is one less toy clogging their toy bin.
- More environmentally-friendly: every new item has an environmental cost and likely is destined for the landfill one day
- Model less materialism: if we want kids to grow up with a healthy relationship with things, we can teach that early by being less gift and stuff focused
- Save money: we include lots of free ideas on this list to save you money!
Family Experience Gifts for All Ages
1. Cooking class
Cooking classes are so fun and also teach kids an important life skill & love of food.
Here are some places you can find local cooking classes:
- Dunedin Fine Art Center’s “Food Art Workshops”
- Young Chef’s Academy in Seminole
2. Hotel night
My kids love staying in a hotel. Since Clearwater is a tourist destination, we have no shortages of hotels and you can find deals during the off-season.
3. Fancy dinner
Take your kids out to a fancy dinner to experience great food and also learn how to navigate a nicer meal.
Here are some restaurant ideas:
- Bern’s Steakhouse Dessert Room
- Bon Appetit in Dunedin
- Black Pearl in Dunedin
- Salt Rock Grill in Indian Shores
- Il Ritorno, St. Petersburg
4. Aquarium visits
We love an aquarium and we’re lucky to have so many aquariums nearby. Here’s our list of 9 aquariums near Pinellas to give you ideas (psst.. we really love Tarpon Aquarium which is one of the cheapest on the list!)
5. Miniature golf
Being a beachy community, we have have no shortage of mini golf around. Here are some ideas:
- Congo River Golf
- Celebration Station
- Smugglers Cove
6. Family vacation
Do a kids-favorite vacation, be it a beach trip or another visit to Disney. If you’re heading to Disney, don’t forget to pick up these Dollar tree Disney essentials.
7. Kayak trip
Take advantage of all our beautiful waterways and go kayaking. Don’t have a kayak, here are some rental spots:
- Dunedin Causeway to kayak to Caladesi Island
- PADL Kayak rental stands in Philippe Park
8. Theme park tickets
I mean come on, you can’t live this close to so many theme parks without them making the list.
We recommend grabbing theme park tickets and annual passes during Black Friday deals to save some money.
9. YMCA membership
YMCA’s have so many community services, but one of our favorite parts is the childcare included when you go to their gyms.
Bowling is a great family activity and there are alleys scattered throughout Pinellas, including:
- Maple Lanes
- Seminole Lanes
- Sunrise Lanes
- 10 Pin Lanes
11. Dinner & a movie
Do a classic date night with the whole family. You could go to a separate restaurant and theater, or check out Gigglewaters in Safety Harbor which is a small theater-restaurant combo.
12. Trampoline park
Trampoline parks give me old school DZ Discovery Zone vibes that I wish I went to more as a kid.
- Catapult Tarpon Springs (more a fun zone: bounce-house obstacle course, slides, ball pits, etc)
- Sky Zone
13. Meal kit box
Cooking with kids is a great life skill and getting a week of meal kit meals can be a fun way to add novelty. Letting kids pick the meals for the box is an extra way to get buy in, especially if your kids are leery of new foods.
14. Annual passes and memberships
The msot recommended experience gift for families with kids is memberships to places like zoos, aquariums and children’s museums. Here are some ideas in our area:
- Dunedin Fine Art Center for their awesome Dunedin Children’s Art Museum
- Great Explorations (here’s our Great Explorations review)
- Clearwater Marine Aquarium (here’s our guide to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium)
- Tarpon Aquarium – cheaper than a lot of other memberships
- ZooTampa (here’s our ZooTampa guide & write-up of some member events like Creatures of the Night)
Free Experience Gifts for Kids
15. Chase fireflies
Don’t be fooled by people saying there aren’t fireflies in Florida. When I was at UF, one of the best classes I took was on fireflies and we took field trips to hunt fireflies in the Florida wild.
Seeing our 2-year-old run around in awe in a field of fireflies was a peak parenting experience for me. I highly recommend taking your kids out on a firefly expedition. You can find a map of firefly sightings here, including ones in our area.
16. Beach trip
We’re Floridians, the beach is basically in our DNA. It is easy to take for granted beaches when they’re all around us. Give the gift of a special beach trip by going to a special beach. Here are a few ideas:
- Caladesi Island that you can only access by boat
- Fort de Soto Park where you can take your dog to the beach
- Honeymoon Island to hunt sea horses
17. Screens-All-Day day
Spend a whole day watching movies, TV shows or playing video games. The kids will think its cool but the real gift is the break that parents get while the kids are entertained.
18. Camping trip
Do a family camping trip. You do it in your backyard or on a beach at Fort de Soto.
Our family has done the family camp out nights at Folly Farms and had a great time — it’s perfect for kids. They take place in the cooler months between November and February.
19. Scavenger hunt
Organize a family scavenger hunt. Need ideas of scavenger hunts? We’ll be dropping scavenger hunts of local spots for kids very soon!
20. Host a sleepover
Let your kid host a bonus sleepover party that’s not their yearly birthday celebration.
Being surrounded by water means there are so many spots to go fishing in our area. Here are just a few ideas of easy fishing spots that are kid-friendly
- Safety Harbor Pier
- Honeymoon Island
- Pier 60
- Anderson Park (Tarpon Lake)
22. Forage fruit
I’m not sure who had a better time foraging raspberries on a summer hike, me or the kids as they scarfed them down. Fruit foraging is fun for kids and teaches them about cultivation.
Find foraging places using this community-sourced map. You can find mangos, berries, loquats, citrus and more in our area.
23. Skip-chores vouchers
Just like how a housecleaning is a much appreciated gift for adults, kids also enjoy getting out of chores sometimes too.
Make a book of vouchers for their chores that they can redeem when they “just can’t even.”
24. Yes Day
A Yes Day is a day where parents have to say yes to their kids requests, like staying up late or having ice cream for breakfast. Having a Yes Day can be a free experience gift if you set the parameter that you’ll say “yes” to anything that doesn’t cost money.
25. Free-only Disney trip
Disney is an easy day trip from our area. If you’re used to going to the parks, you may be missing out on all the fun free things you can do around Disney. Doing an “only-free” Disney day can help you appreciate these often overlooked attractions.
Here are a few ideas:
- Dig dino bones at Disney Springs’ T-Rex Cafe
- Visit the Cars characters at Art of Animation hotel
- Ride the Skyliner and boats
- See the giraffes at Animal Kingdom Lodge
Experience Gifts for Toddlers
26. Visit a farm or petting zoo
My kids love a good farm visit. We have a few farms and petting zoos in the area, such as:
- Old McMicky’s Farm (here’s our Old McMicky’s review)
- Horsepower (only $5 on the first Thursday of the month)
- ZooTampa petting zoo
- Raprager Farm
27. Music or art class
Music and art classes can be a gift for both a toddler and a parent who desperately needs to occupy their toddler for the afternoon. Here are some ideas in our area:
- Library toddler story time
- Painting in the Park at the Rigsby Center
- Dunedin Fine Art Center Children’s Museum
28. Pet toy donation
You can gift your kids some pet supplies and toys, then go together as a family to donate them at the animal shelter. This is win-win-win because it is an experience gift, models charitable giving, and you may even see cute animals too.
Here are places where you can donate pet supplies:
29. Monthly car wash pass
A drive-thru car wash is such a fun cheap thrill for kids. Many car wash places now offer monthly passes so you can go hog wild on car washes for a month. Bonus: this is a good activity when it is way too hot to be outside.
Local car wash places:
- Big Dan’s (they also make out list of Pinellas birthday freebies because they give you a free car wash on your birthday!)
- Tidal Wave
- Main Street Express
30. Dolly Parton Book Club or PJ Library
My kids are deeply thrilled to receive mail addressed to them. They’ve been registered with a free monthly book club since they were little and it’s the best.
The Dolly Parton book club recently came to our area! You can sign your kid up to receive these free monthly books here.
If you’re a Jewish family, you could also register to receive a monthly free book from the PJ Library, which is a similar program to Dolly Parton’s but the books focus on Jewish values and culture.
31. Shopping spree at Dollar Tree
Give your toddler $5 and let them buy whatever they want at Dollar Tree. Toddlers love some autonomy, and you get the joy of watching what weird things they pick out. Plus, it is a good early lesson in budgeting!
32. Touch-a-Truck Day or Monster Truck Rally
Our toddler is singularly focused on trucks, and based on the number of views on TwentyTrucks youtube videos, he not alone. Give your toddler the gift of trucks with a touch-a-truck event or with tickets to a Monster Truck Rally.
- Largo Touch-a-Truck Day: Jan 20, 2024 event page
- Monster Jam: Feb 10, 2024 @ Raymond James Stadium
- East Lake Fire Department Touch-A-Truck Program
33. Train ride
There are a few ways to take little kids on train rides in our area, some of which are free!
- Largo Central Park miniature steam train weekends
- HorsePower farm train rides
- Countryside Mall train
- Amtrak from Tampa to Orlando
Experience Gifts for Kids
34. Water park/water slides
It’s Florida, clearly we need some experiences on this list where you can cool off. Water parks and water slides are fun for everyone and we have a lot in our area.
The Highland Family Aquatic Center is probably the best mix of “water park-like” and “very budget-friendly” out of these options below:
- Adventure Island
- Highland Family Aquatic Center in Largo
- Splash Harbor Water Park
- Tradewinds hotel in St. Pete
- Epperson Lagoon in Wesley Chapel
- Small splash pad water slides at Kiwanis Sprayground (our guide), Oldsmar Cyprus Forest Splash Pad (our guide), or Tarpon Splash Park (our guide)
35. Arcade night
Giving an “arcade night” is fun because you can wrap up a bag of quarters or tokens for your kids to open as a present. There are many arcade options in our area, including some that are actually bars or restaurants for parents:
- Celebration Station
- Cici’s Pizza (that’s why it makes our list of kid-friendly restaurants in Pinellas)
- Starlight Arcade
- Fun Zone Arcade
- Southern Lights Brewery (its arcade games earned it a spot on our kid-friendly breweries list)
36. Special summer camp or day camp
Maybe your kid has really wanted to do a day camp at Astro Skate. Or, perhaps there’s a special summer camp that they’d love. Gift it as an experience gift!
37. Dessert crawl
Bring back the bar crawl, but give it a family twist. Do a dessert crawl or go to a restaurant and order only a “tasting” of their desserts. Here are some dessert crawl ideas:
- Do a ice cream head-to-head at the Safety Harbor Dairy Kurl & Stratchan’s (they’re across the street)
- Hit a few places on our local donuts in Pinellas list
- Taste test all the baklava on the Sponge Docks (it makes our list of things to do at the Sponge Docks!)
- Go do the ultimate dessert moment at Bern’s
38. Ice skating
Remember walking around malls with your friends was cool? I spent a lot of time at Countryside Mall as a youth, which meant I spent a lot of time coveting going ice skating at Countryside mall.
Surely other parents born and raised here can relate. Plus, ice skating is even more of a novelty in Florida. Here are some ice skate places run by Tampa Bay Skating Academy in our area:
- Countryside Mall
- Oldsmar North Rink
- Clearwater Ice Arena
39. Celebration Station
Speaking of activities I coveted in my youth, Celebration Station also makes the list. Be a hero and take your kids to Celebration Station other than for a birthday party.
Celebration Station has arcade games, laser tag, miniature golf, go-karts, batting cages and more.
40. Foodie grocery adventure
Go explore a more unique grocery store or market in our area and let them pick out a sampling of foods. Letting them pick things out is also a good strategy to garner buy in from picky eaters too.
Here are some great ones in our area:
- MD Oriental (their hot bar food is so good and really affordable too)
41. Strawberry Festival ride coupons
Give your kids vouchers for tickets to the Strawberry Festival or State Fair. Malena and I would go to the Strawberry festival together every year so we have a soft spot for it.
42. Minor League Baseball
Minor league baseball games are a lot of fun and cheaper than tickets to be a bigger sporting event. In Pinellas, you can catch games of the Dunedin Blue Jays and the Clearwater Threshers.
Experience Gifts for Teens
43. Gas gift card
Really, what does a teenager want more than freedom to move without their parents? Once a kid is driving, a tank of gas is like giving them the world
44. Vertical Ventures rock climbing
Vertical Ventures is an indoor rock climbing gym in St. Pete. Rock climbing gyms are fun and great for older kids.
45. Safety Harbor Spa treatments
Give a teen a certificate for a facial, massage or manicure at the Safety Harbor Spa. Each treatment comes with access to that day too the spa too including the pools.
46. Gym membership or fitness classes
Gym access can be a great place for teens because they’re fun, a space to be independent and promote a healthy lifestyle. There are lots of gym options throughout Pinellas. Planet Fitness is the go-to budget option as a starting point.
47. An investment
Start teaching your kid about financial literacy while they’re still living at home. Gifting a stock, fund or other investment is a great way to learn about the power of saving and compound interest.
48. Bring a friend on family vacation
Getting to invite a friend on family vacation is a great gift for a teen. Plus, it has the added bonus of parents getting to spend quality time with kids’ closest friends.
49. Tickets to a concert
Managing to land coveted concert tickets is a feat of strength today. Plus, concert tickets today are probably out of the budget of most teens so tickets would likely be a much appreciated gift.
50. Take a trip to Weeki Wachee
A Florida childhood isn’t complete without a trip to see the mermaids of Weeki Wachee. It is a perfect level of weird yesteryear Florida.
Looking for more fun things to do with kids? Check out our list of kid-friendly Safety Harbor.