As you take a look at your child’s Christmas list, do you ever say to yourself “More toys?? My kids already have TOO MUCH STUFF!”
Think back to your own childhood… although we all had our favorite toys (Cabbage Patch Dolls, Lite Brite, G.I. Joe, Caboodles and Roller Racers, anyone?), you’re probably much more likely to remember a family vacation, trip to a theme park, or other experience with your family. Creating a memory is priceless. Spending time as a family is essential.
If you are buying a gift for a child or family that “has it all”, consider this list of amazing experience gifts that don’t take up space. These are experiences that will bring smiles, build up families, and won’t end up in a donation bin.
We have provided links to the original sources where you can find the most current information for hours, showtimes and pricing.
Don’t miss our Ultimate Guide to Christmas Events + Holiday Activities for a full list of things to do this holiday season in Lakeland and Polk County including Christmas Light Displays, Santa Photos, Christmas Tree Lots, Christmas Parades, Holidays Concerts, Live Performances, Holiday Markets, Ice Skating, Toy Donation Needs, and more.
Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means we will receive a small commission when you make a purchase by clicking through our links. Thank you for supporting Lakeland Mom! We have done the research and only recommend deals we know will save you money.
Family Fun in Lakeland
I’d bet that if you asked a group of kids what makes a family happy, a common response would be “doing things together!” Pick one of these great local businesses and set aside a night for family fun. Purchase the kids a gift card for a Christmas gift, and then let them be in charge for the evening!
Family Fun Center – Fun for ALL ages. With Lazer Tag, Lazer Maze, Funtasia Soft Play, Miniature Golf, Arcade Games, and Redemption Games – you’ll find something for everyone at Family Fun Center. Grab a pizza or wings for dinner at Cap’s Pizza Cafe. Have kids that like competition? Challenge them to a round of mini golf or a Lazer Tag battle.
Skate World – When is the last time your kids saw you roller skate?? Being at Skate World takes me back to my childhood!
Explorations V Children’s Museum + Florida Children’s Museum – Our amazing local children’s museum provides 3 floors of kid-powered, hands-on exhibits and mind-stretching programs in the arts and sciences to celebrate the five senses. Offer to be the Publix cashier in the kids grocery store for a guaranteed smile! Explorations V is moving to Bonnet Springs Park in 2022 and will become the Florida Children’s Museum, you can get an annual membership now and it will be valid at both locations.
Escape Rooms – We’ve got both Lakeland Escape Room and Escapology right here in Lakeland. You’ll work together to find clues, solve puzzles, and decode locks that will free you from the escape room. Get ready for an hour of puzzle-solving, mind-bending fun!
Family Night at the Movies – Choose from Silver Moon Drive In, Cinepolis IMAX, Cinemark @ Lkld Square Mall, Cobb Theatre & IMAX @ Lakeside Village.
Spectator Sports in Lakeland
Hip hip hooray for the family that cheers together! Tickets to upcoming sporting events give everyone something fun to look forward to.
Lakeland Magic – Lakeland is home to the G-League affiliate of the Orlando Magic. Home games are at the RP Funding Center. Kids love Lakeland Magic games – enjoy 2 hours of action-packed basketball where every seat in the arena has a great view, a kids zone with basketball hoops, inflatables, fun music, dancing, and crowd engagement, post-game autograph session on the court and photos with Swish. Plus in 2021 there is a giveaway item at every single home game! Give the gift of Tickets to a Lakeland Magic Game.
Florida Tropics SC – Lakeland’s very own professional indoor soccer team is in the MASL which is the highest level of professional indoor soccer in North America. Games are at the RP Funding Center from December – April.
Detroit Tigers Spring Training – During February and March you’ll find the Detroit Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium. Single game tickets aren’t available for purchase just yet but you can always create a voucher for an upcoming game. View the upcoming Spring Training Schedule.
Purchase tickets to an upcoming show this winter or spring and surprise your family with the gift of a live performance. My two kids absolutely love going to see a stage performance and know it is a special occasion. Their first live shows were Beauty and the Beast at Harrison School for the Arts, and Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr. at Lakeland Community Theatre. We have some AMAZING local talent!
If you aren’t sure if your little ones can sit still or stay quiet during an entire show (often 2 hours or more), start with a local performance that is geared towards kids at Lakeland Community Theatre or The RP Funding Center where you’re guaranteed to find other kids (and understanding parents) in the audience.
Picked a performance but tickets aren’t on sale yet? Type up a flyer for the show you’re planning to attend and wrap that up as the gift!
Lakeland Community Theatre – Upcoming Shows for 2020-21 include It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, Sister Act, The Spongebob Musical, Madeline Joins the Circus, and Disney’s Descendants The Musical.
Harrison School for the Arts – This local performing arts high school is home to some of the most amazingly talented kids I’ve ever seen. Check out their calendar of events for upcoming shows. (My personal favorites are their musical theatre performances and jazz band. You won’t be able to keep your feet still!)
Lakeland Symphony Orchestra – The Imperial Symphony Orchestra is now the Lakeland Symphony Orchestra. If you’re looking for a gift for the music lover in your family, check their page for upcoming Lakeland Symphony events. For the holiday season, tickets to the Carol Symphony or Holiday in Brass would make a great date night or family night.
Tampa & Orlando
Although the Straz Center, Amalie Arena and Dr. Phillips Center are a 45-60 minute drive from Lakeland, they host some great kid-friendly live performances. If you or an older child love Broadway, the touring Broadway shows that come to these venues are worth the drive. Tickets for these shows are definitely a splurge, to save money consider making it a parent/child special outing instead of taking the whole family.
A holiday favorite – Trans Siberian Orchestra – is also coming to Tampa in 2021.
RP Funding Center Christmas Shows
You can get discount tickets for these upcoming shows on Groupon:
- Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis on November 19 at 7:30 p.m.
- Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s Wild and Swingin’ Holiday Party – December 11 at 7:30 p.m.
- Cirque Musica Holiday Spectacular on December 19 at 7 p.m.
- See all discount tickets for upcoming RP Funding Center shows including Scooby Doo and Broadway Shows
We also have a list of upcoming performances specifically for the Christmas season including performances of The Nutcracker Ballet:
Purchasing a class is a great way to have fun learning, and gives the recipient something to look forward to. While this list is not comprehensive it includes several of our favorites!
What’s Cooking Lakeland – What’s Cooking Lakeland offers cooking classes (camps, birthday parties) to further develop cooking skills and teach children about local foods, restaurants and our natural environment. Adult dinners, girls night out, and private parties are also available. The best part is you’ll always take a meal (or more) home with you!
Aprons Cooking School @ Publix – Did you know that Publix at Lake Miriam is home to one of only eight Apron’s Cooking School locations in Florida? Whether you’re a brand-new beginner or an experienced cook wanting to expand your repertoire, Aprons has classes that you’ll find entertaining and informative. Some that are hands on, and others where you watch the preparation and then enjoy a delicious meal (and wine!)
Polk Museum of Art – Our local Art Museum is a true gem in Polk County. In addition to FREE ADMISSION every day, they also offer Classes for Teens & Adults, as well as After School Art (ages 5+, registration not required, each class is separate)
Art Centric Studio – Art Centric is a studio space for adults and children offering a variety of paint along classes, Mommy & Me events, adult paint nights, open studio, camps, preschool classes, and much more. Check their website for upcoming opportunities.
Take your family to do something fun in Tampa or Orlando this holiday season. After all, we live where other people vacation! Visit our Holiday Day Trip Guide for information on Things to do for Christmas in Tampa and Things to do for Christmas in Orlando. A few ideas include Night of a Million Lights and Christmas at Gaylord Palms in Orlando, and Enchant Christmas Maze at Tropicana Field, Christmas in the Wild at ZooTampa, and Christmas Town at Busch Gardens in Tampa.
An Annual Pass is the gift that keeps on giving all year long! We are lucky enough to live within an hour’s drive of fun destinations that draw people come from all over the world. It’s kind of amazing if you think about it. Many of these attractions offer Annual Passes for less than the cost of two visits, so be sure to check out all pricing options before you purchase tickets.
Polk County Favorites
- LEGOLAND Florida (Groupon Discount) – TIP: if you’re local, an Annual Pass makes more sense!
- Safari Wilderness Ranch (they don’t offer annual passes but this drive-thru safari still a memorable family activity)
- Bok Tower Gardens
- Explorations V Children’s Museum
- Busch Gardens (Fun Card Deal – Purchase a 2022 Fun Card now and get the rest of 2021 FREE!)
- Florida Aquarium – Reciprocal Offers
- Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park – Reciprocal Offers
- Dinosaur World
- Glazer Children’s Museum – Reciprocal Offers
- MOSI (Museum of Science & Industry) – Reciprocal Offers
Orlando / Kissimmee Area
- SeaWorld Orlando (Fun Card Deal – Purchase a 2022 Fun Card now and get the rest of 2021 FREE!)
- Crayola Experience Orlando
- American Girl Store Orlando
- Orlando Science Center
- Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure
- Disney World
Bricks, Benches, + Membership at Bonnet Springs Park
While this isn’t a family activity, it is a great gift idea for someone that “has it all” or for a family that wants to be part of a legacy project for Lakeland and Central Florida. Bonnet Springs Park is being built in Lakeland, estimated to open in spring 2022, and will be an amazing new outdoor space for our community to enjoy, entirely free with no admission cost.
You can honor or memorialize someone with their name on a brick or bench at the park, or a membership to the Friends of Bonnet Springs Park.
- Bricks will be installed around the Hollis Family Welcome Center, they are $200 per brick with up to three lines of 18 characters each. Learn more about the Brick Campaign.
- Benches will be located throughout the park. They are $2500 per bench with Up to three lines of 25 characters each. Learn more about the Bench Campaign.
- Friends of Bonnet Springs Park Memberships are only $30 per family. Give the gift of a Founding Friend Membership and be part of the park from the beginning! Learn more about Friends of Bonnet Springs Park.
Call the Bonnet Springs Park staff at 863-413-0652 if you are purchasing one of these items as a Christmas gift and would like a certificate you can give to the recipient.
Christmas Events + Holiday Activities
Check out our Ultimate Guide to Christmas Events + Holiday Activities to find more things to do including Neighborhood Christmas Light Displays, FREE Christmas Events, Santa Photos, Christmas Parades, and more.