We’ve all been stumped by the folks that seem to have everything they want or need. Or on the opposite spectrum, minimalists can be just as challenging to buy for. What if, instead of a physical gift, you gave them something that was much more rewarding? Research has shown that experiences bring us more happiness than material possessions. I can’t think of a better gift than that of the outdoors, be it a garden or the woods. This year, consider giving an outdoor experience to your loved ones instead of something they’ll soon forget. A membership to a garden or park is a great way to help them enjoy nature year-round.

Experiences Can Bring More Happiness Than Things

Moving into an RV, I had to give up much of what I owned. I emptied a three-bedroom apartment and squeezed into a 250-square-foot camper. My collections of plants, art, and books couldn’t possibly travel on the road with me. While it was difficult to purge in the moment, I haven’t regretted it since.

This isn’t surprising if you consider that research has shown experiences bring people more happiness than material purchases. For the last decade, Cornell University Psychology Professor, Thomas Gilovich has sought to better understand why experiences bring us more happiness than material possessions. His research discovered a few things:

  • We remember experiences but become accustomed to new possessions over time.
  • The anticipation of an experience also brings us pleasure.
  • Most experiences are inherently social, and as a result, they enhance our relationships.
  • Experiences form part of our identity and are a reflection of who we truly are.

Some of my fondest memories are from my travels, especially visits to parks and botanic gardens. Wherever I go, I  carry these experiences in my mind and heart. With that in mind, below are a few ways you can give great experiences to the nature and garden lover you know.

3 Ways to Give Outdoor Experiences

It can be difficult to see everything in one visit to a park or garden. They can sprawl across acres of land and include miles of trails and walking paths. A membership removes the pressure that you have to see everything in one day. If the recipient of your gift lives nearby, they can make visits a weekly ritual.

Botanic Garden and Conservatory Membership

As the seasons change, so do the display beds at your local botanical garden and conservatory. While there are permanent installations, many of the gardens are updated to reflect the changing seasons. Spring brings an abundance of bulbs, like tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths. In the fall, colorful trees and shrubs are complemented by mums, kale, and other cold-hardy annuals. And of course, glass conservatories are filled with poinsettias during Christmas. A membership to the garden helps them see all of these displays throughout the year.

give garden membership to gardeners

Each season brings something new to see at your local botanic garden. In early summer, lupines are showstoppers, while beds are bursting with dahlias in August. A membership allows you to enjoy the beauty year-round.

American Horticultural Society Membership

If they’re a frequent traveler, a membership to the American Horticultural Society (AHS) gives them access to more than 300 gardens across the nation. As a member, they’ll be able to participate in the Reciprocal Admissions Program (RAP). Each RAP garden offers unique admission privileges and discounts. With a membership card in their pocket, it’s easy to add a garden to their travel itinerary. AHS members also enjoy other benefits like a subscription to the award-winning magazine The American Gardener and discounts on educational programs.

give outdoor experience AHS membership

At 23 acres, you need more than a day to see all the beauty at the Denver Botanic Garden. With my American Horticultural Society (AHS) membership, I was able to spend several days touring the garden.

Annual Pass to State Parks or National Park System

Many state parks, like those in California, Floridaand Colorado, charge admission fees to enter. Help your loved ones get outside by giving them an annual pass. They’ll be able to visit parks near their home as often as they like. An annual pass might also encourage them to take trips to parks in other parts of the state. Check your state park website to see if they offer an annual pass.

give outdoor experiences America the Beautiful Pass Bryce Canyon

The America the Beautiful Pass is a great gift for the family. A pass covers “entrance, standard amenity fees and day use fees for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle at per vehicle fee areas.” Most national parks use vehicle fees, and a pass is the perfect way to get the family outside.

One last gift idea for the nature lover is the America the Beautiful Pass. This gives them access to all of the national parks and wildlife refuges. If you’re on the East Coast, there aren’t as many national parks, unfortunately. But in the West, many of the national parks are just hours apart. With admission prices rising, the America the Beautiful Pass helps them enjoy the diverse landscapes of our nation. They’ll be able to embrace nature and have memories that will last them a lifetime.