50+ Awesome Experience Gifts for Families and Kids Instead of More Toys

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Is your house overflowing with toys and games? Why not choose kids gift experiences instead of more stuff. Besides there’s so much talk about supply chain issues and product shortages this holiday season, choose an experience as a gift.

As well as supporting businesses hit hard during lockdown, these experiences provide family bonding and create lasting memories for kids. And after the year it’s been, it’s time to make some great memories.

You can also encourage grandparents and extended family to choose experience gifts and even participate in specific activities with kids.

Here are 50+ ideas for Newcastle & Hunter gift experiences for all budgets and interests that both kids and parents will love, plus a few from Sydney.

Zoo or wildlife park membership

Does your family love animals? Buy tickets for a zoo outing. If your family is super keen, purchase an annual pass to Oakvale Wildlife Park, Taronga Zoo, Hunter Valley Zoo or Australian Reptile Park. If you purchase an annual Taronga pass, you can use it for Taronga Zoo in Sydney as well as Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo.

Kids cooking classes

This is a win for everyone. Kids get to learn how to cook and the family get to enjoy a meal. The Essential Ingredient offer kids cooking classes.

Passes to a pool or waterpark

Have some water fun at the aquatic playground at Lambton Pool or Maitland Pool. Or spring for tickets for Raging Waters in Sydney.

Subscription to a kids magazine

A subscription to a kids magazine is a great gift as it lasts all year. It’s exciting for kids to receive something through the mail addressed to them. And a bonus is that they can be fun or educational like National Geographic Kids, CSIRO’s Double Helix or Kookie (a girl-led award-winning print magazine for 7-12+).

Get back to nature

Become a member of Hunter Wetlands Centre and receive unlimited entry for you and your school-aged kids or grandchildren accompanying you. It’s a great spot to walk, cycle or bird watch. You can also go dipnetting in the creek.

Go to a farm

Get out of the city and enjoy a farm stay like Telegraph Point Retreat in Port Macquarie or do a day trip to Purple Pear Farm or Farm Visit in Dungog.

Put together a jigsaw puzzle

Buy a jigsaw puzzle and enjoy some family time together putting it together. There are loads to choose from depending on the age of your kids. For little ones, choose small wooden puzzles or floor puzzles while older kids can enjoy more complicated puzzles including 3D ones. Clementoni puzzles are especially great as the pieces fit together really well.

Try geocaching

Sign up for a year of geocaching challenges. It will get your family out and about searching for hidden caches using your smartphone.

Go to the theatre

There’s loads of great family theatre shows that are great to take kids. And there’s something magical about live entertainment. In Newcastle, take advantage of family subscriptions to Civic Theatre. They always feature a few high-quality family shows each year. In 2022, choose from The Teeny Tiny Stevies or Sleeping Beauty presented by Moscow Ballet. There’s also Hunter Drama, Young People’s Theatre and ATWEA who regularly present family productions.

If you feel like heading to Sydney, check out the Sydney Capitol Theatre and Sydney Lyric Theatre as they have family productions including Mary Poppins, Cinderella and Hamilton playing in 2022.

Buy a bookstore gift voucher

Instead of gifting a kids book, give them a voucher so that they have the experience of choosing a book at their favourite book store.

Enjoy some eats

Does your family have a favourite place to eat or want to try somewhere new? Buy a cafe or restaurant gift certificate for a local dining spot. It’s a great way to support local places that have done it tough this year.

Enjoy a family trip away

Get away for the weekend or longer and head to another destination like the Hunter Valley, Sydney, Central Coast, Seal Rocks, Blue Mountains, Port Macquarie, Dubbo or Coonabarabran.

Get out of an escape room

Experience the adventure of an escape room with your kids. For those unfamiliar with escape rooms, these are a fully immersive experience where teams of 2 to 6 players are “locked” in a room and must solve a series of challenging puzzles to escape a movie-themed set in just 60 minutes. Newly opened, Escape Reality offers a family-friendly pirate-themed escape room suitable for players as young as 6. There are also other rooms that could make great experience gifts for tweens and teens.

Get up close to sharks and stingrays

Pat sharks and stingrays on a date at the Irukandji Shark & Ray Centre. Change into a wetsuit and climb into one of four pools to get up close to these critters.

Swing through the trees

Buy tickets for TreeTops adventure park. It’s a fun yet adventurous activity that gets participants climbing, crawling and ziplining in the tree tops at Blue Gum Hills State Park. There’s a separate TreeTop Adventure course for kids up to 9. Or if your kids are older, you can do a family excursion on the main adventure park course. There are also courses on the Central Coast, Coffs Harbour and Western Sydney.

Go sandboarding

Sandboarding in the dunes of Stockton with Sand Dune Safaris is a great activity for the whole family. This involves sliding down a massive slope on a nylon board. You’ll also enjoy a 4WD tour of the dunes to get there the giant sand bowl.

Go toboganning

Don’t feel like sandboarding. How about tobogganing down a 1km track? Experience excessive family fun at Toboggan Hill Park in Nelson Bay. Enjoy a toboggan ride, giant maze, rock climbing, bumper cars, mini golf, hot ice skating and jumping castles.

Stock up on camping supplies

Want to go camping with your family? Buy a tent and camping supplies and get away. Here’s a list of camping spots within a three-hour drive of Newcastle.

Buy bikes

Once the whole family has bikes, you can get out and explore the many bike trails around Newcastle.

Ride a Segway

Experience the thrill of riding on a self-balancing Segway through Hunter Wetlands with NSW Segway. Ride your Segway through pine forest, over boardwalks and around diverse bush tracks and trails in Hunter Wetlands.

Buy seed packets & gardening supplies

Give the gift of nature and get your kids planting and caring for a garden. You can choose from a variety of seeds including herbs, veggies or flowers.

Support your local sports team

Buy a family pass to support Newcastle Knights rugby league team or the Newcastle Jets soccer team. 

Buy a board game

Enjoy some unplugged fun and play some board games. You can host a game night for your family or invite other families along to participate. Here’s a list of family-friendly board games for your next game night.

Attend a kids concert

Do your kids love live shows? Buy a family pass for an upcoming show. The Wiggles and PAW Patrol Live are touring Australia in 2022 with dates in Newcastle.

Enjoy a National Parks membership

Explore some of NSW’s most beautiful national parks. Motor vehicle entry fees are charged at 45 of over 870 NSW national parks and reserves including Myall Lakes National Park, Munmorah State Conservation Area, Sydney Harbour National Park and Hat Head National Park. You can buy an annual pass which makes it affordable to revisit national parks.

Buy an Oxfam Unwrapped gift card

Buy your kids a charity gift card in their name from Oxfam Unwrapped which goes to help a family in another country. You can buy a variety of animals including goats, chickens and pigs as well as clean water, veggie garden and seeds.

Go to the movies

Give the gift of a new release movie with a movie card from Event Cinemas, Reading Cinemas or Hoyts Cinema. Or splurge and enjoy Gold Class option at the movies.

Get some new beach stuff

If your family loves going to the beach, buy beach gear to make your beach day the best it can be. E.g. beach tent, esky, umbrella, new beach towels (like sand-free towels from local company Fashion Fish), beach toys, snorkels, boogie boards, etc.

Learn how to surf as a family

 Learn how to surf with Newcastle Surf School or try the trendier stand up paddle boarding with Newcastle Stand Up Paddle School.

Spot dolphins and whales

 Go on a dolphin or whale watching trip on Coast XP, Nova Cruises or Moonshadow Cruises.

Enjoy Hunter Valley Gardens all year round

Buy a family annual pass for Hunter Valley Gardens and enjoy events like Christmas Lights Spectacular, Snow Time in the Garden and more.

Take a walking tour of Newcastle

Explore the eclectic streets between the harbour and the sea, find hidden houses, art and laneways, and check out exciting local businesses with a 2 1/2 hour, easy 2 kilometre Newcastle Afoot walking tour. Your family will discover Newcastle’s most interesting hidden historic sites and architecture, beautiful beaches, and new creative hubs.

Help someone else

Through the organisation Kiva, your child can fund a small business owner in a developing country. The minimum loan amount is $25 and Kiva makes microloans to entrepreneurs around the world. You and your child can browse through loan requests and choose a project. When your loan is repaid, you can choose a new project to fund.

Give the gift of music

Buy a guitar, keyboard or ukulele and give your kids the opportunity to make music. Or pay for a term of music lessons at Hive Kids Creative Studios, Julie Logan Music or the University of Newcastle’s Music Conservatorium with classes in Newcastle and Maitland.

Expression through art

If your kids enjoy art and crafts, give them a gift certificate for a term of art classes at Art Mania Studio, ART House Studios or Hive Kids Creative Studios. If you have school-aged kids, use your Creative Kids Voucher to get $100 off the cost.

Enjoy a high tea with your Kids

Enojy some tea and goodies at a family high tea. The Novotel Newcastle Beach, Rydges Newcastle and Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley regularly hosts Kids High Teas.

Organise an adventure backpack

Get kids excited about an outdoor adventure by assembling an adventure backpack. This can include binoculars, magnifying glass, hardcover journal and pencils, a compass and a map.

Discover science together

Enjoy some family time playing with STEM science kits. National Geographic has a variety of fun kits that you can enjoy with kids. They range from dinosaur fossils, glow in the dark crystals, volcano science kit and slime kits.

Buy a few frisbees and play Frisbee Golf

For a fun and free family activity, buy a selection of frisbees and play on frisbee golf courses at Jesmond Park and Rathmines Park.

Name & spot a star at a private viewing

For a truly memorable gift, name a star. Sydney Observatory lets you name a star visible in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere. You can also book a private viewing of your star through the Observatory’s telescopes for an additional fee. Each individual Name A Star gift is non-refundable and fully tax-deductible, with your donation helping to fund Sydney Observatory’s maintenance, heritage and collection programs.

Getaway with a hotel gift card

Gift a stay in a hotel. Have your kids help choose a destination for your mini-break or book a staycation at a local hotel like the Novotel Newcastle Beach, Rydges Newcastle, Kingsley Hotel, Noah’s on the Beach or Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley.

Adopt an animal

No, we’re not talking about adopting an actual animal but rather adopting an endangered animal through Taronga Zoo. You can adopt Sumatran tigers, Tasmanian devils, Asian elephants, meerkats, red pandas and bilbies for an entire year. All adoption packages include a welcome letter, personalised adoption certificate, animal fact sheet and quarterly email updates about your adopted animal.

Join a toy library

Instead of buying lots of toys for your kids, buy a membership to a toy library and let kids borrow toys all year long. You can purchase a gift certificate for the Newcastle & Hunter Toy Library.

Buy a children’s book by a local author

The Newcastle area is full of talented local kids book authors and illustrators. Buy a book from a local and get them to sign it at a book launch or kids book event. It’s a great treat for kids to meet the person who wrote or illustrated the book.

Learn a new sport

Buy a pack of kids lessons for them to learn a new sport like surfing, sailing, skateboarding, rock climbing or ice skating.

Get on an animal

Try horse riding or camel riding at Port Stephens.

Get up high

For an epic adventure, go on a hot air balloon ride with Balloon Aloft in the Hunter Valley. It’s suitable for kids 7 and up who are at least 120cm so they are able to see out of the basket.

Get active

Try a new activity. Buy a gift voucher for an activity your child hasn’t tried before like mini-golf at Holey Moley Charlestown Square or Newcastle Supa Putt, go-karting, laser tag at STRIKE, Ninja Parc, Revolution or Inflatable World. Lots of fun and plenty of memories to be made.

Have some fun at a shopping centre

Buy an Entertainment Pass from Charlestown Square and enjoy a day of fun for a fraction of the cost. Enjoy a movie, bowling, food, games and more. Westfield Kotara offer Rooftop Kids Pass which provides a movie, ice cream, arcade games and a burger.

Explore a museum

Buy an annual MAAS Membership for entry and member benefits at Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Observatory and Museums Discovery Centre.

It also gives you reciprocal benefits at partner institutions across Australia and New Zealand including free entry to Melbourne Museum, Immigration Museum and Scienceworks in Victoria, National Museum, Questacon and National Gallery in Canberra.

Explore different Merlin attractions

A Merlin Annual pass which gives entry to all of the following attractions – SEA LIFE Aquarium in Sydney and Melbourne, WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo, Madame Tussauds Sydney, Sydney Tower Eye, and Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures.

Do something iconic in Sydney

Do BridgeClimb in Sydney (ages 8 and up and 1.2 metres in height or taller) and see Sydney from the top of the Harbour Bridge. Or go behind the scenes on a Junior Adventure Tour at the Sydney Opera House. You can even catch a kids show at the Sydney Opera House.

Stay overnight at a zoo

Go behind the scenes and enjoy a Roar and Snore experience at Taronga Zoo or stay at Zoofari Lodge at Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo.

Experience the Kids Room at Swissotel Sydney

For an unforgettable experience, treat your kids to the Kids Room at Swissotel Sydney. Kids get to enjoy a specially decorated room with bedding, toys and books. It’s the ultimate family weekend away combining a fun kids stay and a luxurious parents’ retreat. Read Newy with Kids review of the Kids Room.

If you book an experience, tell them you found it on Newy with Kids!

Photo credit: TreeTop Adventure Park

Do you want experiences specifically for teenagers, check out our 40+ Activities for Teenagers Around Newcastle guide.

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