Unforgettable Gift Experiences for Kids: NYC + the Hamptons

As we hit the peak of holiday shopping season, it can be tempting to buy all the things for our loved ones. Parents want to give their children the very best, yet it can be difficult to sift through the massive amounts of consumer advertising to find that perfect gift ideas for kids of yours. Often well-intentioned gift-giving can lead to overwhelm as our children find themselves inundated with an overabundance of toys, devices, games. The initial excitement of those shiny, new toys too-quickly wears off and before we know it, they are collecting dust on a shelf or hidden in a pile of discarded or forgotten toys. What if we broke from tradition and gave our children experiences instead of things? 

In a recent article for Motherly, Ann Marie Gambelin outlines an array of scientific evidence pointing to the idea that giving children experiences rather than toys (or other things) boosts both their intelligence and happiness. One Oxford University research study mentioned demonstrated a parent’s involvement, presence, and attention is more important to a child’s social and emotional development than any toy or device. The same is true of a child’s academic success. Another study suggested giving experiences instead of things increases gratitude and generosity and researchers found happiness comes from experiences rather than physical objects. Gift experiences need not replace lovingly purchased physical presents entirely, but they could act as a much-appreciated variation from the usual pile of toys.

Gift experiences can include one-time tickets to a special event, registration for a session of music lessons, pottery classes, sports activity, etc., passes or a membership to a museum, and even travel plans to see someone/something special. If you’re sold on the idea of giving your child experiences over things, we’ve curated a list of some great experiences in the Hamptons and NYC area. We hope you enjoy your time together!


1.Swim with the sharks at Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center in Riverhead. This once in a lifetime shark-dive experience is for ages 12+ and puts you in a cage at the center of a 120,000-gallon exhibit filled with circling sharks and fish! If your kids are too young, or don’t have an interest in being quite so close to top aquatic predators, consider getting a family membership instead! The aquarium has many other exciting interactive experiences to choose from, including their behind-the-scenes tour, penguin encounter, coati connection, tour boat ride, and more!


2. Give the gift of play at the Children’s Museum of the East End! For each gift membership purchased (at a discounted rate!) CMEE will donate one membership to a family in need. As an added bonus, you can come visit iCamp at CMEE on Sundays and participate in our STEAM program!

kids with painted face

3. Look up at the stars with astronomers from the Montauk Observatory at the South Fork Natural History Museum on January 17th from 6-8pm. Consider a membership to the SOFO museum while you’re at it!

night sky

4. Join the Coastal Research & Education Society of Long Island (CRESLI) for a 1.2 mile seal walk at Cupsogue Beach to observe, photograph, and learn more about Long Island’s seals!



1. Spend a night at the museum! The American Museum of Natural History offers a unique opportunity for children ages 6-13, along with their parents or caregivers, to explore the nearly-empty halls after dark and sleepover!

Whale shape in museum

2. See a kid-friendly broadway show! Rick Riordan lovers will be thrilled to see The Lighting Thief: Percy Jackson Musical, which runs through January 5th. If your little one has been head over heels for the recently released Frozen 2, consider tickets to the Broadway production to reacquaint yourselves with the original Frozen tale.

Frozen tale show

3. Get an up close look at the world’s largest display of LEGO art at the NY Hall of Science (NYSCI)’s The Art of the Brick exhibition, which runs through January 26th!

Lego dinosaur

4. Grab tickets to the NY Botanical Garden’s unforgettable Holiday Train Show. Tickets are available through January 26th!

Botanical garden
Enroll now!