Experience gifts are #1 on our holiday list this year. After the years of online shopping (can't say we don't appreciate our impressive pile of leggings we've accumulated), is there anything else we really *need* to buy? (I mean, yes, probably—but that's not the point here.) After what feels like a decade of staying as close to home as possible, it’s time to get out and live again (as carefully as possible, of course). You may not be ready to book that post-lockdown vacation to New Zealand just yet or plan a pricey, splurge-worthy bootcamp at The Ashram, but there are virtual experience gifts and in-person experience gifts for men and women that will be so much more memory-worthy.
For the holidays, you may be ready to try a truffle class, learn to make Magnolia’s famous banana pudding, or book the family photo shoot you’ve been putting off for years (literal years at this point, we get it). Something new for the new year could mean escaping to a secluded cabin in the woods or mastering a new skill a la Masterclass. If you’re seriously craving adventure— join a city scavenger hunt, book a jaunt to Paris, or finally plan that quick-trip to Iceland.
Some of these experiences are great solo. Others are meant for you to grab a bestie or partner. A few are even for you and the kids. Bottom line, have fun, get outside your comfort zone, and do something exciting. Grow your mind, grow your circle of friends, grow your heart. And please have some fun for all of us!
Best virtual experience gifts
What are you doing next weekend? Don’t say “nothing” when there are virtual experiences like these to choose from. Starting at barely $25, you and your friends/family can learn all about how to read tarot cards, make truffles from scratch, create clay earrings, paint a portrait of your pet, learn astrology, and mix smoky cocktails. Plus too many others to list. All we’re saying is this is how to plan something fun, at home, and learn a new skill that you’ve always been interested in learning more about.
For anyone who has not yet tried Masterclass, get on it! This all-access pass brings you up close and personal with 100+ instructors who are each the best of the best in their field. You can get schooled in writing with Judy Blume, home design with Kelly Wearstler, conservation with Dr. Jane Goodall, songwriting with John Legend, cooking with Gordon Ramsay, and more.
Amazon Explore lets you travel the world virtually. But if you were hoping to get the gang all together for an adventure, guess what? You can! With Amazon Explore’s group experiences, you can use up to seven different devices to connect over incredible adventures like Empanada making in Argentina, learning about Mexican coffee from a traditional family roaster, learning about the city that inspired Harry Potter (Edinburgh), and getting up-close with wild animals in Costa Rica at the Toucan Rescue Ranch.
You’ve always wanted to be speaking a second or third language—well, here’s your chance to learn with a native speaker! Portuguese, Korean, Russian, you name it, can be learned by the hour during a 1:1 with teachers in 190+ countries. The levels of learning vary, and there is even an ‘instant lesson’ option if you’re ready to get started right now. (Some of us may be signing our partners and children up for this as we speak.)
Enjoy sipping handcrafted wines without leaving your home. These virtual wine tastings are customizable and hosted by winemakers, sommeliers, winery owners, and more to deliver a premium experience. Priority Wine Pass ships across the country and partners with small-production wineries, so you’re likely to try something new and delightful. There are also beer, cocktail, and non-alcoholic options.
Give the bookworms in your life the gift of reading, in audio form. Audible’s huge catalog includes fiction, non-fiction, biographies, romance, motivational books, and more, often read by the authors themselves (for example, Brene Brown narrating Atlas of the Heart). In addition to bestsellers, there are are also Audible exclusives and podcasts, and you can give one, three, six, and 12 months subscriptions.
Give the gift a personalized video message from a celebrity. Whether your giftee is a fan of Real Housewives, actors from iconic ’90s TV shows (e.g., Busy Philipps and Carlton himself, Alfonso Ribeiro), or even Fiona the Hippo, there’s something for everyone. You can even request selected celebs to show up in person to a special event.
When you need to get away, how good does a cozy cabin just a few hours drive (with no WiFi) sound? So, so good. Take that well-deserved getaway in an outpost near you. From NY, for example, there are outposts in the Eastern and Western Catskills in 2+ hours. From Seattle, you’ve got barely an hour plus ride. Getaway’s tiny, superchic cabins are full of the amenities we all need to rest and recharge. Leave your phones in the Cellphone Lockbox and just chill, for once.
We’re pretty sure the word “experience” came from Disney, and they don’t disappoint. In fact, to celebrate their own 50-year anniversary, they’re offering a 50th Anniversary VIP tour that takes a group (up to 6 people) on a behind-the-scenes tour of multiple parks including the all new Tri-Circle D Ranch. The magical experience is a must-do for die-hard Disney fans (admit it—you’re one of them!).
Think of anything you have ever wanted to do, and just do it, with Airbnb Experiences. If you want to do it remotely, you can try anything from a forest bathe in Kyoto’s Sacred Mountain to visiting a rescue goat sanctuary in NY State. If you’re ready to do an adventure IRL, the world is your oyster. Dog sled near Reykjavik, brave the waterfalls of Empress Canyon in Australia or hike the wilderness of Patagonia. These adventures are the real deal.
Live the life you always wanted to— for a few days, a few weeks, or even longer. Hobbit lovers, your treehouse in the Shire awaits at Lost Pines.
Ever want to try sky diving but are slightly scare of heights/jumping out of a moving plane? Grab your best gravity-defying friends and head to iFLY, where you don a flight suite and get a taste of sky diving in an indoor wind tunnel. The experience is great for groups and is also family-friendly, and an instructor will help guide you through your own flight.
You don’t have to go far to find some amazing scenery in the US. This annual pass gives you access to over 2,000 sites managed by the Forest Service, National Park service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and more. If you’ve been wanting to visit Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Zion, Grand Teton, or more, here’s your opportunity to make some travel plans.
Discover something unique, out of the ordinary, and immersive with an Atlas Obscura experience. There are on-demand and live online experiences, as well as in-person experiences in select locations, and you’re pretty much guaranteed a memorable time. Learn how to pick a lock, get an intro to spirit photography, walk through the streets of Georgetown with a former CIA officer, and more.
Holiday experience gifts
Commemorate any holiday trip, family gathering or special moment with real photos by a real photographer. Book a free 30 minute session at your nearest city and pay for only the photos you love. You make all the choices from a digital photo gallery just days later. Upgrades include custom sessions and retouching for photos that were *almost* exactly how you wanted them to look.
There are some places your family goes back to year after year— they are just that special.
One of our favorites is the oceanfront Coronado in San Diego where they do up the holiday experience! Ice skate oceanfront, watch holiday movies in the sand, and enjoy s’mores and bonfires. Other hotels we love for holiday tradition include the French Quarter Inn in Charleston, The Four Seasons in Maui (which was where White Lotus was filmed!) and The Breakers in Palm Beach.
Why not give the gift of delicious meals, right? We love the experience of making great, healthy dinners without having to plan it out, or even go food shopping. HelloFresh offers restaurant-worthy menu options in their Taste Tours category which brings food from around the world straight to your kitchen. Think Chicken Ramen in a Shoyu-Style Broth, Sweet Heat Shrimp Tempura Bowls, and Italian Sunday Supper.
There is nobody who won’t love the experience of custom curated wines. After a quick quiz (red, white, rose?), Winc will learn your taste (honey or currant?) and your preferred wine region and pack you up a box of select wines. They cut through the thousands of wine brands and types to suggest wines that pair up with your specific palate.
Does today feel like a HIIT or barre kind of day? Do you want to do it at home or in a gym? Should you scrap that and go for a massage instead? All those things can be booked through ClassPass. This app connects you to thousands of online and in-person activities in your area, all of which are booked by using credits based on your membership plan.
Fender is synonymous with guitars, and whether you want to brush up your skills or learn how to play the guitar, bass, or ukelele, Fender play’s online classes will help you learn wherever you go. There are bite-sized lessons led by instructors, where you’ll practice chords, get backing tracks, and be playing tunes from your favorite artists in no time. Subscriptions are available in six and 12-month options.
Experience gifts for men (and honestly, anyone)
Goldbelly is known for their amazing food boxes, but their new Live! series brings America’s most acclaimed chefs, pizza makers, bakers and more right into your home. Now who’s ready for a cook-along with Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern or Bobbie Lloyd of Magnolia Bakery? Open your meal kit, gather your basics, and join them in real time via Zoom to create a chef curated meal like none other.
Spend the day driving the car you always imagined yourself driving. Choices range from a 1957 Chevy Bel Air to a 1966 Mustang to a 1955 Rolls-Royce and everything in between. Just because these cars may not be practical for your lifestyle, doesn’t mean spending the day in them wouldn’t be so much fun!
Pick a city, pick a scavenger hunt! Learn about the city by running around, making discoveries and earning points. You can do it ‘couples style,’ with a group, or even as a team building activity. See the sights, solve riddles, answer trivia, learn fun facts, conquer challenges, and have a great time in your own city or one that you’ll be visiting soon.
Live out your race car driver dreams by taking a turn at the wheel behind Sprint Cup style NASCAR stock car. This experience lets you choose 8, 16, 24, or 32 minutes of racing (with or without a 3-lap ridealong) at over 100 mph on the Texas Motor Speedway. If you just want to be a passenger, there’s also an experience where you just ride shotgun and a professional driver will do the steering.
Fix that slice or just improve your form overall with a golf swing evaluation. In a 6-minute lesson, you’ll work with a coach and use GOLFTEC motion and video technology to get an analysis of your swing, talk about your goals, and create a custom plan to help improve your game.
See the Rocky Mountains from above. In this two-hour class, you’ll start your training on the ground by learning about aircraft systems, pre-flight inspection, the basics of controlling a plane, and more. Then, you’ll go up in the air with an FAA Certified Flight Instructor where you’ll get a chance to test out your new skills. You can do a solo lesson or bring along an extra passenger for the adventure.
Create something special to add to your home bar. With Designer Dram’s experience kit, you’ll everything you need to make your own bottle of whiskey, including samples of premium 5-10-year old barrels, a graduated cylinder, a copita glass, and a blending guide. Once you have your recipe perfected, you can select your desired ABV and create a label, and Master Distillers will make and send you a full-sized bottle of your whiskey.
Experience gifts for women
You don’t really need an excuse to book a spa appointment, but a SpaFinder gift card will give you one anyway. Treat yourself to a massage, facial, or other relaxing treatment at one of the spas in their network across the country, or pick up a few beauty products in the online SpaFinder shop.
Sometimes you just need a day off. On those occasions, take a daycation away from your house with ResortPass, which gives you access to all the amenities (like pools, private cabanas, and spas) at one of the over 600 partner hotels and resorts across the country. It’s an easy way to get some R&R without having to travel far.
We could all use a little more calm in our lives. With a Calm subscription (you can gift a year or a liftetime), you can enjoy a growing library of meditations, music, video lessons, nature scenes and sounds, and more, all designed to help you be present and get better quality zzz’s. Calm also has Sleep Stories, where you can drift off to dreamland while listening to the soothing voices of Harry Styles, Matthew McConaughey, Dame Mary Berry, Kate Winslet, and more.
pruce up your home with the help of some interior design pros. Havenly lets you choose a designer that works with you one-on-one to bring your dream space to life. Based on your goals and budget, you’ll get design ideas, a shopping list, and a final product that rivals your carefully curated Pinterest board. You can even design your own reading room (a partnership with Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club).
If you’re the type of person that is constantly standing in front of their closet complaining that they don’t have anything to wear, maybe Rent the Runway can help. For date night, special occasions, or just when you feel like wearing something bold but don’t want to make the full investment, you can rent designer items every month (4, 8, or 16 items depending on your plan). You can then keep the items for as long as you need/want, or if you really fall in love with something specific, you can buy them, too.
For foodies and anyone who loves to cook, YesChef partners with internationally renowned chefs to take you on a culinary journey. Each class includes around 12 video lessons and a documentary about the food and culture of the chef and location. Learn how to make Indian food with Asma Khan, California cuisine with Nancy Silverton, Jamaican cuisine with Kwame Onwuachi, and more. You’re bound to impress any future dinner guests.
Fill your home with gorgeous floral arrangements anytime you want. With a Petalled subscription, you’ll get a box every month, bi-monthly, or quarterly with seasonal stems, vase labels, measuring tape, and step-by-step instructions to create your own arrangement. Choose between petite (15 stems), mezza (25 stems), or grande (35 stems), because you can never have too many fresh flowers.
Get a little taste of Hollywood by exploring the backlots of Warner Bros. where television and movie are magic are created. The Studio Tour makes stops at the Friends fountain and Central Perk set, the Big Bang Theory set, interactive soundstages, and more. If you want to go more old school, the Classics Tour highlights the movies and TV shows that were filmed on the lot from the early days of the studio through the ’70s.
Picking the right hotel can sometimes take hours and days of research. Tablet has done most of the hard work by curating a list of boutique, luxury, and unique hotels with great ratings. Each hotel has a description that goes beyond just the room size and amenities, so you really get a good idea of what the experience will be. You’ll immediately have wanderlust with one glance through the hotels—a vintage trailer in Marfa, a surf hotel in Portugal, an overwater bungalow in Belize, and a castle in Italy, to name just a few.
You know all those fancy craft cocktails you love to sip on at bars? Now you can make your own at home. With a Shaker & Spoon subscription, each month you’ll get three recipes designed by mixologists and everything you need to make 12 drinks (alcohol not included). You’ll even get a playlist pairing ahead of time to ensure the happiest of hours.
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