A Minimalist Christmas to Remember: Making Memories, Not Clutter


Last Christmas my husband and I decided to cut back a little. In fact, we said no gifts for anyone except our children, and our nieces and nephews. We felt the holidays had gotten a little out of control, and when you look at the national spending average for the holidays, it’s hard not to agree. This year’s National Retail Federation holiday survey shows that the average consumer plans to spend $967.13 this holiday season.

One of the most important things we realized in our venture for a minimalist Christmas, is that the gifts really don’t matter. We spent quality time with our families and friends, and no one really missed the presents. Our boys were both young (10 months and 2 years) at the time, and didn’t know what to expect. Quite frankly, they’d have been happy with a cardboard box. Not to mention, we’ve set a standard for their holiday receiving now, one that’s within reason and doesn’t put our family’s financial welfare in jeopardy.

Child reaching for Christmas ornaments on Christmas tree
Who needs presents when you can play with the shiny gold balls on the tree?

So this year, I’m approaching the holidays with the knowledge that the presents don’t matter (as much). It’s the memories we make that are most important – the time we spend together, and the meals we share, and for those few presents that I still need to buy, we’ll keep it simple. Meaningful gifts that will create memories forever, instead of plastic junk that will be broken by January 1st. So if you’re looking for ideas, enter…

The 2017 Holiday Experience Gift Guide, Pittsburgh Style

My holiday experience gift list for kids (and their parents). If you’re stuck on that child in your life who seems to have everything, or your just tired of tripping over toys, your sure to find something here to suit your little one.

The Zoo

What child doesn’t love the watching the animals at the zoo? Get a Pittsburgh zoo membership that can be activated during the recipient’s first visit, and it’s good for entire year of animal fun! Members are also invited to participate in special events throughout the year, many of which are free or at a discounted cost.

Living Treasures Animal Park near Moraine State Park also offers animal encounters a bit farther North. Visitors to the park can buy carrots to feed some of the animals, arrange to bottle feed the giraffes, ride camels, ponies, and horses, or simply take a stroll through the park to meet its inhabitants. The best news, Living Treasures is currently offering a discount on season passes for the holiday season!

Children’s museum pass

Oh those long Pittsburgh winters that seem to never end. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could take your kids somewhere indoors where they could blow off some energy for hours on end? A Pittsburgh Children’s Museum membership gets you unlimited access to the museum, year round, and access to scheduled and special events. Exhibits are constantly rotating, so there’s always something new to explore. Ready for some water fun? Don’t forget to take your bathing suits for hours of fun Waterplay.

Child playing with water fountain at the Pittsburgh Children's Museum
Waterplay at the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum


A day at the trampoline park

Need another fun indoor activity during the winter? Gift the jumping bean in your life a gift certificate to one of the trampoline parks local to the Pittsburgh region. Get Air in Zelienople, Urban Air in Cranberry Township, and Sky Zone in Monroeville all offer affordable prices for a few hours of fun. Prices for an hour or two of jump time average about $25 per child.

A day of indoor climbing, skating, arcade games, and fun

For those of you closer to the city, this one might be a bit of a drive, but for us Northerners, Olympic Fun Center in Hermitage is a great place to burn off some steam. Olympic Fun Center features awesome special events, like character meet and greets with characters from The Lion Guard, Paw Patrol, and Trolls. For $7 per child, you get 2+ hours of play or skate, an envelope of arcade tokens, AND a kids meal. Not to mention time for the kids to hang out with their favorite characters. Can you say bargain?

Small child high-fiving cartoon actor
High-fiving Cat Boy at Olympic Fun Center’s “Meet the PJ Masks” event.


Sports tickets

Have a favorite Pittsburgh team? Buy your little sports fan tickets to a Pirates, Pens, or Steelers game. Don’t forget to throw in their favorite player’s jersey. They’ll obviously need something awesome to wear to the game and to hang in the closet to remind them of their upcoming trip.

Movie passes

Looking for something a little less active? No problem. Why not treat the little ones in your life to a night at the movies? When you go to purchase your gift certificate, don’t forget to add a little extra for the popcorn and Milk Duds. Nobody likes to watch a movie without snacks.


I hope you were able to find something for the hard to shop for littles on your list.  Have other “experience” gift ideas? Add them in the comments below – let’s keep the conversation going!