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Holiday gift ideas for people who love experiences

Are you struggling to think of Christmas gift ideas for someone who seemingly has everything or is a minimalist? Stop wasting your money on products that will likely end up sitting in the back of a closet and surprise them with a gifted experience instead.  

We have gift ideas for everyone, from relaxing spas to fun-filled days at a museum. Here are 11 gift ideas where they can create cherished memories, with some specific examples of what you can buy in Ottawa and Northern Ontario. 

Thermal spa experience

Give the gift of relaxation and pampering to those who love to soak away their worries. You can purchase a gift card so they can spend the day at a thermal spa, enjoying hot tubs and saunas.

The largest spa in North America is Nordik Spa-Nature, less than 30 minutes from Ottawa. Ease aching muscles in the hot pool or one of nine unique saunas, then transition to the refreshing cold pool before resting in a hammock or by a crackling fire. You can also float in a cave salt pool and enjoy a meal at the on-site restaurant.

If you live in Northern Ontario, visit Touch of Heaven Spa and Retreat near Sudbury. The Mini Nordic Package includes access to a salt pool, hot tub and sauna.  

If you’re closer to Thunder Bay, enjoy a pancake brunch with your sauna experience. Kangas Sauna has different-sized saunas to rent, which you can follow up with a visit to their restaurant to indulge in a classic breakfast or burger.

Museum tickets

For the history buffs, the art lovers, the experience seekers, or the curious minds, why not give the gift of a museum trip? It’s a great indoor adventure day, especially during the chilly winter months in Canada.

Ottawa is home to seven of Canada’s nine national museums, including Ingenium museums (the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, and the Canada Science and Technology Museum).   

CAA Members can save 25% on single admission tickets at Ottawa’s Ingenium museums, plus 10% on museum memberships. Plan a set day to experience one of the museums together or gift an annual membership for continuous exploring. 

Cooking class

Serve up a hands-on experience this holiday season by giving the gift of a cooking class. There are classes for all levels, from notices wanting to learn the basics to at-home chefs looking to perfect their skills.

C’est Bon Ottawa offers a variety of cuisines to pick from, and single sessions are available for individuals and pairs. Learn knife skills, discover how to create new desserts or master basics from making tofu to sauces to cakes. If you’re unsure when your friend or family member is free to book a culinary class, you can purchase a gift certificate online for the ultimate flexible experience present. Plus, you can choose the denomination starting at just $5. 

Hockey tickets

Colorado Avalanche vs Ottawa Senators

Take the hockey fan in your life on a night out, cheering on your home team. From your little ones to your parents, the gift of watching the game together is a great way to spend some quality time.

CAA Members can save big on select Ottawa Senators home games. And if you want to fill their stocking with Sens Merchandise, Members also save 10% at the Sens Store. Or if the sports fan you’re shopping for prefers Junior hockey, you can save 10% on select home games and merch to see the Ottawa 67’s.

Theatre tickets

Gift tickets to your loved ones’ favourite show at a local theatre. There is everything from comedy, live music, and Broadway shows that they are sure to love.

The National Arts Centre (NAC) in Ottawa’s downtown has a full calendar throughout the year, including ballet dances and Broadway shows. Cirque España and The National Ballet of Ukraine will be performing at the NAC this January 2024, and in February, you can see Broadway Across Canada’s production of Disney’s Frozen.

The Sudbury Theatre Centre in Northern Ontario also features fan-favourite productions, including Jersey Boys and Romeo and Juliet in 2023.

Enjoy a weekend in Toronto and catch a musical, Broadway production or ballet at one of the Mirvish Theatres. These four major downtown theatres, including the historic Royal Alexandra Theatre, produce a variety of shows, such as Aladdin, Les Misérables, and Wicked, playing in 2024. CAA Members save 25% on select individual shows when buying online, as well as free coffee and coat check and a 15% food discount. 

Food and adventure tour

What better way to explore a new city or rediscover your hometown than with a guided tour? Uncover new places and secret treats of Quebec’s Outaouais region by booking a tour with Aventure Outaouais. Winter tours include dog sledding days and starlit snowshoeing, and they have food and drink tours throughout the year. The company picks people up from downtown Ottawa or Gatineau as they lead you on an adventure.

Surprise day trip itinerary

Do you have a friend who loves exploring locally and embarking on road trips? You can give a themed day trip with an itinerary from Guess Where Trips. The itinerary is full of surprises and detailed stops, which you can access via PDF version or sealed envelopes by mail. The best part is that this tour is entirely self-guided, so there is no need to book a specific date.

There are surprise road trip routes in multiple Canadian provinces and some U.S. states, including tours that leave from Ottawa. Explore hidden gems you may not otherwise visit with an itinerary such as ‘All the Pretty Things,’ ‘Brews Bites and Everything Nice,’ or ‘Quirky Adventures.’

Activity or sport pass

Has someone on your list been discussing how they want to try a new activity? You can give them ski passes to Calabogie Peaks or Camp Fortune, a skating gift card to Le Sentier du Petit Pingouin, a membership to Pure Yoga Studio, axe throwing admission at BATL Axe, a roller-skating session at 4 Wheelies, or a smash room booking with Vengeance Van.

Those living in Northern Ontario can buy ski hill passes for Laurentian Ski Hill in North Bay or Ski Mount Baldy near Thunder Bay, a gift card to Vinyasa Yoga Studio in North Bay, axe throwing gift certificates from Nothern Axperts in Sudbury and either a paintball or smash room booking from Paintball Mountain near Thunder Bay.

Afternoon tea

You can treat yourself and someone on your holiday list to the afternoon tea experience, including finger sandwiches, scones, desserts and your choice of tea.   

The most well-known and sought-after tea experience in the National Capital Region is at Zoe’s in Fairmont Château Laurier. This elegant historic venue has grand furnishings and towering windows offering a view of Ottawa’s downtown. Tea is available daily from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Canadian safari

Parc Omega is an excellent activity for anyone of any age, but especially the animal lovers in your life. It is a Canadian safari with a 12-kilometre driving route where you can spot native animals such as bison, wolves, bears and goats. Deer will come right up to your car window, where you can feed them carrots.

Have your CAA Membership nearby as you gift shop

CAA Members can save whatever they do, and Memberships start from just $30 a year. Save money when finishing up your holiday shopping at our 126,000 partner locations worldwide online. 

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