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Why Do Experiences Make the Best Christmas Gifts?

kids with santa hats on boat

It’s that time of the year again! The time of year where you sport your favorite Santa sweater, the pair of tight toed booties you’ve been storing at the back of your closet, and that childlike grin you’ve been saving since your birthday. As the days inch closer to the most wonderful time of the year, you begin to realize how ill prepared you are for the gift giving. You begin bustling through your closets, hoping to find something with the tag still on it, thinking, “I could re-gift this. Yeah! This extra Katy Perry album from last year will be perfect for Gram-Gram!” Or maybe not?

So, you make a list of all the cheerful folks who have blessed you these few past months, and begin to realize how little to how much you may need to sport your favorite elf self. You bust out your piggy bank, and start budgeting for that cool pair of socks for Dad, and the big wheels for Jack. Well, what about something different this year? What if you could give something far more memorable, that will make more of a lasting impression, than a pair of snazzy socks, and a box of chocolates? What about giving something which science states is far more meaningful than “things?”

In a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, Cindy Chan and Cassie Mogilner revealed that experiential gifts, (events for recipients to live through), produce greater improvements in relationship strength than material gifts, regardless of whether the gift giver and recipient consume the gift together.

Hold your seahorses! Are these two wiz kids stating that the relationship with that eight year old, (the one who was sent away from the dinner table last night for blowing chocolate milk onto his sisters spaghetti), will actually be strengthened by giving him an “experience” for Christmas? Would it also cover the time you forgot your anniversary? We think so!

In fact, not only do experiences strengthen relationships, but they also provide more happiness. In a research study published in the Journal of Psychological Science, Matthew Killingsworth was able to show that experiences provide more enduring happiness than material possessions.

And who doesn’t want a little more happy-pappy in their life?

With individuals spending more than 2 percent of their annual income on Christmas gifts, it’s simply genius to spend that hard earned moolah on something memorable.

Plus! Fun adventures become a part of us, and thereby make us more, well, fun:

“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods … You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.” – Dr. Thomas Gilovich, psychology professor at Cornell University

Fun? Happy? We might as well wrap a big ole’ bow on this day, and call it good!

Here at Captain Dave’s, being fellow “happy-fun” fans ourselves, we’ve compiled a list of top experiences to give to your loved ones, that will be sure to out-cool, out-fun, and out-happy just about any pair of socks or big wheels, and be a bash for the entire family!


Cinepolis Luxury Cinemas

Craving an over-sized bucket of freshly popped popcorn drizzled with lip smacking yummy butta? How about a chocolate milkshake and a pepperoni pizza to go along with it? Spruce up an upcoming evening by giving the gift of the luxury cinema to your favorite movie loving compadre.

The Cinepolis Luxury Cinemas in Laguna Niguel, located right up the road from our favorite dolphins and whales, sports a real nice place to get your popcorn and big screen fix. With access to full reclining premium leather seats and at your side waiter service, you’ll be wishing you lived there. Enjoy the thrill of letting your eyes pop out with excitement as you indulge in the world of Hollywood, and enjoy a savory snack while you’re at it. And hey, who knows… Grandpa may get a jolly nap in one of them comfy recliners as well!

Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament

Hoping to elf it up with that pal who just can’t seem to get their mind off the past? Their knight awaits them in the exciting world of the middle-ages at Medieval Times. With medieval warriors on horseback, jousting for their chance at the queen’s champion, this show will be sure to ignite the royalty, or peasant within every guest, while leaving their bellies full of a four-course meal, fit for a king. Hold on to your helmet! The games within the stone castle will leave your history buff buddies wishing it was Christmas every day!

The Ceramics Studio

Tucking that tot into bed who just can’t seem to leave the play dough in the playroom? Maybe you’ve got a friend who dreams of one day painting the day away in a rustic cottage on the outskirts of Tuscany. We’ve got a gift that will quench that artsy friend’s thirst in a heartbeat! Pop into the Ceramics Studio, a quaint family-friendly studio spotted right off the I-5 freeway in San Juan Capistrano, California. With fun and creative activities for kids and adults, a morning, afternoon, or evening event spent here will allow the Picasso within to shine like the pretty and pink pot they’ll soon be sculpting. Visitors can paint, sculpt, and freshen up on those pottery wheel courses they attempted in middle school. Oh so fun!

Penny Pincher Park Getaway

Did your piggy bank sport a major slim-down diet this year? No worries! Perk up a pal’s holiday season by giving them a thrifty “penny pincher park getaway”. Pack up a fun basket full of inexpensive, yet super fun items, to help them enjoy a day with loved ones at a park nearby. Items could include a Frisbee, a six pack of fizzy-izzy drinks, several savory snacks like their favorite bag of chips, trail mix, or pretzels. A disposable camera for old school kicks and giggles will definitely deliver the feelies while they snap a shot of their senorita on the swing-set. It doesn’t take much to have a good time, and it’s the thought that counts, right?!

Scuba Diving Certificate

Got a bro who smells a little fishy? FINTASTIC! We’ve got a gift for him, and any other of your fishy folks. Give the gift of Scuba Diving certification. A fun and snazzy way to say, “Hey! I know you’ve always wanted to be a dolphin, why not start now?” Plus, it’s a gift that can be “dived” into over and over again. Don’t live close to the deep blue? No problem-o! Your amigo can sport up a scuba diving class at several+ locations all over the world, no beach required!

Sunny SoCal Whale Watching

With sunny SoCal weather, and magnificent wildlife sightings all year round, an intimate dolphin and whale watching safari aboard a high-tech, high-speed catamaran, a zippy zodiac, or several other rrrr-matey worthy vessels, will be sure to ignite the cetacean flame within even the most extreme land loving mate. Daily, year-round trips enable passengers on board to explore the beautiful waters of Dana Point as they trek out into the open ocean on a quest to spot nature’s most lovely dolphins and whales, along with so many more marine friendly pals. Whale watching gift cards which never expire, and are sure to please, are available to purchase online.

Ooh La La, Spa for Ma

Mrs. Claus may not be at the forefront of the Christmas holiday, but we all know she’s the brains behind the biz. So why not give your very own favorite Mrs. Claus a gift that will say more than “Merry Christmas!” but a big ole lovely thank you, too? Treat her to a special outing at your nearest spa for a day full of toe-tickling pampering, and yummy massages. Local to the Orange County area? We highly recommend the luxurious spa at Surf and Sand Resort, located in the picturesque city of Laguna Beach, right off the famous pacific coast highway. And don’t just save the gift of relaxation for mom, or that special lady in your life. We are quite certain that anybody would give two freshly manicured thumbs up for a spalicious “aaaaaah” day.

Ho-Ho-Hot Wheels!

Adrenaline junkie in the family? Or maybe Aunt Val has always wanted to vroom-vroom away in a fancy sports car, but them car seats always said nay nay? Well we’ve got a spicy treat for you! Rev it up by renting an exotic sports automobile for your speed hungry sidekick, and make their entire year in one super speedy car ride! Gotham Dream Cars, located in several cities across the US, will be sure to plaster a smile across the lucky face of whomever you choose to gift one of these fancy fine cars to.

Deck the Nature Halls

“I don’t want anything for Christmas this year. I just want to save the planet.” If you have that perfect child in your family, or the Greenpeace pal who simply can’t get any more hippie, we highly recommend a day out at your local nature center. Providing a place for people to fact up on nature and their environment, nature centers are a sure win for those who love our home here on earth. Several centers can be located in your friends area. Best part? Most nature centers are free to the public, so feel free to get a little clever and pack up a fun lunch, or a snack pack full of yummy munchies like jerky, granola bars, and dried fruit. Toss in a fun cap for an added bonus, plus they’ll look so supah snazzy! Check out a list of nature centers.

I’ll be in Class for Christmas

Do you have a friend, sister, or grandma who has always wanted to learn a foreign language? Is your uncle or friendly neighbor dying to take a cha-cha class? Maybe that cute face in your yoga group would love to green thumb it up when not busy with a bakasana pose? Be the star in their life this holiday season by giving them the gift of a community class in their local area. From language, photography, gardening, science and wizard math classes to dance and cooking courses, an evening or two spent sprucing up on their puff pastry skills will light up their world. Don’t be afraid to play up the buddy system as well. Everybody digs a fun friend to accompany them on their adventures. (Bakasana face won’t be around forever either…) Check out your local community college, institution, or city center for available classes in your area. Sporting a quick google search could do the trick as well.

Whale, there ya have it folks. A list of our tippy top favorite experiences that will spruce up your loved ones’ life in the days to come. We wish you the Merriest of Christmases and hope you will find peace, joy, and love in this beautiful and memorable holiday season. Happiest blessings to you all!

Gift an unforgettable dolphin and whale watching experience! With year-round whales, dolphins, sea lions, sharks, and more, any time is a great time for your recipient to enjoy their gift.

“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods…” – Dr. Thomas Gilovich