Seattle Culture

The Gift of Experience

Think activities, not things

By Heather Lowenthal November 10, 2023

Boats sailing on Lake Union.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2023 issue of Seattle Magazine.

I’m reminded at this time of year to slow down and reflect on my life with gratitude. But the official Thursday of thanks ends abruptly, overshadowed by the frenzied Friday that starts the holiday shopping marathon. This is a dizzying prospect that you may also dread, so I offer an alternative: Consider the idea of buying nothing, at least nothing material. That means nothing that requires wrapping, packaging, or shipping. Instead, consider giving an experience, perhaps even one you can share. Seattle has all kinds of opportunities to experience something new or lean into a personal passion. Here are five suggestions for gifts that offer fun, inspiration, and even excitement without the frenzy, beyond the fleeting moment of holiday unboxing.


GIVE INSPIRATION with an annual membership to the Seattle Art Museum. Your recipients can visit as often as they like, access special exhibits, go to member-only events and enjoy a variety of perks. If visual art isn’t the right fit, consider one of a range of museums in Seattle like MoPOP and MOHAI or the Pacific Science Center.  All have membership rates at a fraction of the one-time-visit rate. Plus, it’s a fun way to pass the time of gray in Seattle.


GIVE GROWTH with lessons at Seattle Glass Blowing. A group session or an individual class can lead to a new creative skill, new friends, and possibly new synapses. Who doesn’t want more of those? If that’s not the right medium, Seattle has schools and studios offering classes in a variety of creative pursuits, from painting and writing to photography and ceramics. Whatever the artistic yearning, give it a Google and you’re sure to find an expert who teaches it in the Pacific Northwest. 


GIVE GIVING by volunteering using the United Way of King County’s Volunteering Opportunities search tool. It’s easy. Choose a nonprofit that fits your interests, skills, and availability, whether it’s stocking shelves in a food bank, delivering meals to people in need, or restoring a park with your family or friend group. You’ll be ahead of the curve, as volunteering together is about to become the new book club.


GIVE ADVENTURE with a sailing lesson at the Center for Wooden Boats on Lake Union. Seattle is a city built in between and around bodies of water. Why not give a series of sailing lessons to someone who has always wanted to enjoy the view from a boat rather than a car? If not water, consider land-loving activities like backpacking, mountain biking, or Nordic ski lessons. If it needs to be closer to the knife’s edge, consider an afternoon of axe throwing. Perfect for that thrill-seeking great-aunt.


GIVE CATS to someone who’s kitty-cuddle deprived at Neko Cat Café. Visit for an hour in a room designed for cat comfort with carpeted surfaces and cat toys. Or enjoy a coffee in a space meant just for humans (or dog people) while you watch your cat-person through a glass partition. Space is limited, so make a reservation. All cats are rescue kitties and available for adoption. Locations in Seattle and Bellingham

Get kitty-cuddles at Neko Cat Café.

Photo by Angie Burger

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