19 Fun + Meaningful Experience Gift Ideas in Boston

Tall clock tower and exterior of Quincy Market at night with Christmas lights

Experience gifts are some of the best gifts to receive, and to give—whether you need a last-minute gift idea, are looking to reduce waste from physical gifts, or want to spend time with your loved one. Lucky for you, there are several experience gift options in Boston for people of all ages.

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1. Challenge yourself at Boda Borg’s escape rooms ($24-36)

Boda Borg in Malden offers a variety of escape rooms, or “quests,” ranging from physical to mental challenges. You must go in groups of at least 3, making this a great gift for a group of friends or a family. You can purchase a 2-hour or 4-hour pass, and you can try as many rooms as you want during that time.

2. Go off-grid in Getaway House’s tiny cabins ($170+)

If you want to escape from the city and disconnect for the weekend, Getaway House has cozy cabins 1-2 hours outside of Boston, which the closest outpost at Bear Brook State Park in New Hampshire. Each cabin has 1-2 beds, a lockbox for your phones, running water, and a small kitchen.

3. Get creative at Muse Paintbar ($35+)

Whether you’re new to painting or more experienced, going to a painting studio is a relaxing way to spend the evening. At these paint nights, an instructor guides everyone step-by-step through a preselected painting. There is food and drink available for purchase.

Muse Paintbar is an especially good location as it’s in Assembly Row, an outdoor mall. Grab a bite to eat at the many restaurants, or go shopping once you’re done painting.

Painting of a gradient sky from teal to coral with silhouettes of trees and the sky reflected in the river. Snowflakes pepper the landscape, and there's a large crescent moon. Painted at Muse Paintbar

4. Go skiing at the Blue Hills or Wachusett Mountain ($70-100+)

You don’t have to go far from the city to go skiing! The Blue Hills are only a 20-minute drive, while Wachusett Mountain is accessible by the Commuter Rail in about 2 hours (there’s a free shuttle from the Fitchburg station during ski season).

5. Skate at the iconic Frog Pond or the public indoor rinks ($6-18)

From December through March, you can go skating at Frog Pond at the Boston Common. If you want to feel especially festive, go in the evening to skate against the backdrop of holiday lights.

You can also skate at several locations across the city run by the Department of Conservation & Recreation. Skating itself is usually free, but rentals are a small fee.

6. Find thrifted gems at the Garment District

The Garment District is known for its $2/pound used clothing selection. If you’re looking for adventure (and aren’t too afraid of germs), you can sift through mounds of clothing of all sizes and styles. If you prefer a more curated selection, they also offer vintage styles on your traditional clothing racks, but at a higher price point.

A huge pile of used clothes in the Garment District. The room has light pink walks. A woman is digging in the center of the pile.

7. Visit the Mapparium ($0-6)

Located in the Christian Science Center, the Mapparium is 3-story-tall globe built in 1935. You can enter the globe on a guided tour and see how much the world/map has changed after all these years. Even if you aren’t a history buff, the globe itself is beautiful and worth a visit. Tickets for kids under 17 are free, while they cost $6 adults; you must reserve in advance during this time. While you can’t take photos of the actual globe, there is a backdrop in the lobby that you can use.

8. Go on a sunset cruise ($23+)

While you’ll have to wait until the warmer months, the anticipation is worth it! There’s nothing like seeing the city skyline at the golden hour from the water. This would make for a lovely gift for couples or friends.

9. Spend the afternoon at a board game cafe ($10+)

Hunker down with your friends or family and see who can win the most rounds of your favorite board games. Knight Moves Cafe is a cozy classic, with locations in Brookline and Somerville. Choose from hundreds of games and treat yourself to some comfort food.

Tavern of Tales in Mission Hill has a more modern feel, and has a smaller selection of specific games.

10. Go bouldering or rock climbing ($30+)

Bouldering and climbing are exhilirating full-body workouts. There are several locations across the city via Central Rock Gym (North Station and Cambridge) and Brooklyn Boulders (Somerville). These spots welcome both beginners and experienced climbers.

bouldering wall at Central Rock Gym near North Station

11. Try a new or old restaurant

Going to an old favorite can allow you to celebrate a special milestone or memory, but trying something new is always exciting too. For some plant-based recs, check out my post on my favorite vegan restaurants in Boston.

flatlay of vegan hot plate, vermicelli, rice, and soup at Grasshopper vegan restaurant

12. Go on a staycation

If you want to stay in the city but need a change of pace, consider doing a staycation. You can browse Boston’s top-rated hotels or even stay in a houseboat on the harbor.

13. Paint pottery at Clay Room ($20+)

Whether you want a hands-on activity for kids, a group outing, or a relaxing evening, Clay Room allows you to get creative and take home a useful piece of pottery.

14. See a concert

Being a major city, Boston has concerts by big names throughout the year. See if your loved one’s favorite group will be in town, and surprise them with tickets.

15. Go on a day trip

Because of the Commuter Rail, there are several nearby cities that you can access without a car. And, on the weekends, you can take unlimited train rides for $10! Popular destinations include Salem, Providence, Rockport, and Gloucester. You can plan your trip easily with my guide to day trips from Boston by train.

16. Go hiking at Middlesex Fells or Blue Hills

Get a great view of the city skyline and challenge yourself at these popular parks outside the city. Both the Fells and the Blue Hills has a Skyline Trail, with distances of 8 miles and 15 miles, respectively (though there is a shorter Skyline Loop of 5.4 miles at the Blue Hills). Bring good shoes and be ready for some elevation gain.

The view of the city skyline at Wright's Tower at Middlesex Fells during the golden hour in the fall

17. Try axe throwing ($30+)

Axe throwing has become a trendy activity over the past few years, with gyms popping up in major cities. Boston is no different, and you have the choice between two locations: Urban Axes in Somerville and Revolution Axe in Everett.

18. See a movie at Coolidge Corner Theatre ($12-14)

Enjoy an indie film in the plush red seats of this Brookline theater. Make it an evening and eat at a nearby restaurant, or browse the local shops.

19. Visit one of the many museums in the city

Whether you like science or art, there’s a museum for you in Boston. Some popular options include:

  • The Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum (art museum in the style of a Venetian palace with a lush courtyard)
  • Institute of Contemporary Art, which overlooks the Boston Harbor in the trendy Seaport neighborhood
  • Museum of Fine Arts
  • Museum of Science
  • Boston Children’s Museum

Isabella Stewart Gardner museum courtyard with lush green trees and plants

If you have any more ideas, drop them in the comments for other readers. Have a lovely holiday season or celebration!

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