Holiday Gift Ideas to Get the Whole Family Outdoors!
December 2, 2015 | Emily Moeschler
With the holidays just around the corner, gift ideas are likely on most parents’ minds. And while few kids would object to material goodness like video games, character toys or a wardrobe update, here at Avid4 Adventure, we have a special place in our hearts for the kinds of holiday gift ideas that get the whole family outdoors and that encourage family togetherness. At the core of our mission is the idea of empowering kids and removing barriers to getting active outdoors. And we think with a little planning, this can carry over into the holiday gift-giving season.
So we’ve put together a different kind of gift list: one designed to get the whole family making new memories together. The best part? Every gift on this list is either low—or no—cost, and none require a trip to the mall.
Explore a National Park!
Did you know our great 50 states contain 59 national parks? Here in Colorado, we’ve got the majestic Rocky Mountain National Park at our doorstep, and California boasts some of the most well-known parks in the country. Below are a few gift ideas for each state:
- Colorado: Consider the gift of a park pass to Rocky Mountain National Park. At $50 per year, the cost pays for itself in just two visits, and provides visitors with activities year round. Not in the budget? Print out a list of free days and fold it into a handwritten card. Some of our favorite activities in the park are:
- Drive on Trail Ridge Road. Known as the highway to the sky—the road is only open from late Spring through early Fall—and provides views all the way to Wyoming on a clear day. Passengers are rewarded with a drive that takes them through Aspen groves, subalpine forests of Fir and Spruce, and finally the wind-beaten alpine tundra – where no tree can grow! There are also plenty of spots to stop and hike along the route.
- Hike Bear Lake. A relatively easy loop around a mirror-calm lake, it’s no wonder Bear Lake is one of the most popular hikes in the park. Usually open year-round (call ahead in winter though just to make sure!), the lake offers plenty of breezy sunshine in the summer months and picturesque snowshoeing in the winter.
- California: Between Death Valley, Joshua Tree, and Yosemite, Californians have no shortage of world-class parklands. Our favorite for our friends in Northern California? The tree-lovers forest: Muir Woods! Plan a day for the family and create a handmade “coupon” that kids can cash in for a day of fun! At $7 per adult (FREE for kids 15 and under), included in the $80 America the Beautiful National Parks Pass, or totally FREE for everyone 9 days out of the year, here’s why we love it:
- Hiking Trails for All Abilities and Lengths of Time. Only have 30 minutes to spare? Have 90 minutes free? Want to spend the entire day exploring these majestic Redwoods? Muir Woods literally has something for everyone. Explore or print out the map!
- A Long List of Family-Friendly Events. From an after-dark walk requiring the use of all five senses, to a sunrise tour with a park ranger, complete with tall tales and legends of ancient forest inhabitants, the park calendar has events worth checking out all year long.
Visit Winter Animals at a Nature Preserve!
For the animal lover’s in your family, it can be a total joy to learn about the kinds of animals that come out when temperatures dip. From coyotes and foxes in Colorado, to bald eagles and elephant seals in Northern California, plan a fascinating trip around spotting the critters that only come out this special time of year. Consider packaging up an “Animal Lovers Gift Box” to include things like a guide to local wildlife, children’s binoculars, and a handmade I-O-U for kids to cash in! Some of our favorite places include:
- Buffalo Herd Nature Preserve: While this is little more than a stop off I-70, you’re almost guaranteed to see buffalo, along with scenic views and excellent photo opportunities. Consider a hike on nearby Lookout Mountain!
- Aiken Canyon Preserve: This preserve, just south of Colorado Springs, features a 4-mile loop and loads of birds and wildflowers (maybe even a fox or two!)
- Año Nuevo State Park: Located an hour outside of San Francisco, this is known as THE place to see elephant seals breeding. Consider reserving tickets in advance; between December and March is your best bet for seeing the massive bulls clash over mating privileges, or pregnant seals coming assure to have their pups. Tours consist of a scenic 3-mile walk.
- Pacific Grove’s Monarch Grove Sanctuary: Each Winter, thousands of monarch butterflies travel great distances to reach this town. This “museum” even offers a list of activities for kids of all ages to engage and learn about these beautiful creatures!
Hit the Slopes!
Whether you’ve never strapped on a pair of skis, have only begun to venture off of the bunny slopes, or you’ve mastered black diamond bowls, skiing can be a fantastic way to physically challenge the whole family. While these ideas are certainly more of a weekend excursion than a day trip, we think they’re worth the effort: few things teach a kiddo confidence like learning to master a brand new sport!
Mark a date on the calendar and start a family countdown to build up the excitement! Write out a handmade I-O-U for kids to hold on to. Colorado and Northern California are both hotspots for skiing, and we’ve collected a list of free or low-cost ways to jump right in:
- Kids 12 and under ski free all season long at June Mountain in California (just make sure to pick up your complimentary kids lift ticket at the ticket office the morning of!).
- Kids 4 and under ski free and kids 5-12 can take advantage of $35 lift tickets at Mammoth Mountain in California.
- Kids 6 and under ski free with a paying adult at any Lake Tahoe resort in California.
- Kids 12 and under ski free with the purchase of 2 nights lodging at any Keystone Resort property in Colorado (No blackout dates!).
- 5th and 6th graders in Colorado can sign up for a ski passport courtesy of Colorado Ski Country, good for free skiing and boarding throughout the state!
- Visit Crested Butte in Colorado during the early season (Nov. 26 – Dec. 18), and kids 12 and under ski free.
Give the Gift of Camp!
Obviously we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the gift of lifelong memories, newly formed friendships and freshly learned skills that come with summer camp at Avid4 Adventure. We’re big proponents of gifting “experiences,” and we think our single and multi-sport day camps fit the bill! Has your kiddo ever been interested in learning stand-up paddleboarding? Would you love to see the kids go from rock-climbing that plastic structure at the sporting goods store to repelling an actual rock face? With our Super Early Bird discounted registration opening up December 1st, they can do all that and more with Avid4 Adventure’s Day Camp offerings!
What would you add to this list? We’d love to know! Share with us in the comments below, or check out some of our other tips on the blog now for getting outdoors as a family all year long!