Gift-giving can be a stressful experience, especially if the recipient has picky taste. The last thing you want is to spend time picking out a thoughtful present, only to have it shoved in a closet or regifted to someone else.
That’s why the best gifts can’t be found in a store. An experience gift can be much more exciting and meaningful than anything material. Plus, the memories will last much longer.
Here are 15 experience gift ideas, which range from budget-friendly options to more extravagant adventures.
1. Sports stadium tour
Sports buffs can get a peek behind the scenes of their favorite stadiums through guided tours, which are usually offered in both group or private options. If your gift recipient lives near a famous stadium such as Notre Dame, the Rose Bowl or Wrigley Field, they’ll be thrilled to take a tour of the home of their favorite sports legends.
2. Online guitar lessons
If you know a budding musician who could use some help getting past their basic chords, online guitar lessons make a welcome gift. The best part is they can learn from anywhere, including at home. Sites such as Jam Play and Guitar Tricks offer lessons from seasoned pros for a wide range of abilities and musical styles.
3. Pour and plant
Boozy painting classes are so 2018. In case you haven’t heard, plants are all the rage these days. Gift your favorite millennial an evening of learning to arrange Pinterest-worthy succulents, with drinks included to get those creative juices flowing. Check out companies such as Yay Maker and The Sipping Plant to find a local event.
4. National park annual pass
If you know someone who loves to spend their time outdoors, an America the Beautiful pass offered through the United States Geological Survey makes a great gift. The pass is good for one year and grants the holder free entrance to more than 2,000 national parks and federal recreational lands. You can bring up to three accompanying adults over the age of 16 for free, too (there’s no entry fee charged for kids 15 and under).
5. Animal sponsorship
A serious animal lover would love nothing more than to know an endangered penguin or panda is safe thanks to a generous donation made in their name. Many wildlife organizations offer the opportunity to sponsor an animal. In some cases, you can purchase an entire adoption kit that includes items such as an adoption certificate and plush toy that represents your animal. You can also opt for a virtual donation only, which maximizes your contribution’s impact and doesn’t include any of the extras.
6. Personalized perfume
Perfume can make a great gift, but everyone has unique tastes and preferences when it comes to the scent. So why not gift the fun of crafting a signature smell? Companies such as Waft allow you to create custom scents online, or you could purchase a ticket to a local “blending party” like the ones offered by KleanSpa in Los Angeles.
7. Sushi-making class
Sure, cooking classes are fun and useful. But learning to be a sushi-making pro will really take your loved one’s kitchen skills to the next level. These classes can be found at local culinary schools, as well as through sites like CourseHorse.
8. Fermentation workshop
If your friend or family member loves all things pickled, a truly unique culinary experience you can gift them is entry to a fermentation workshop. These courses provide a hands-on opportunity to learn about making kimchi, miso, kombucha and other fermented foods at home. Google local workshops in your town to find one.
9. Vinyl subscription
Old-school vinyl is making a major comeback, even for albums by new artists. If there’s a big vinyl buff on your gift list, consider giving them the gift of discovering new music by signing them up for a subscription service such as VYNL or The Retro Store. These services send a specially selected album each month based on their music preferences.
10. Comedy show
Liven up date night with your S.O. (or for a couple you know) by skipping the typical dinner and drinks and surprising them with tickets to a comedy performance. Some of the most fun shows are the ones that feature several comics who do shorter sets, often with surprise celeb appearances in between. Tickets tend to be budget-friendly too, at $20-$40 apiece, depending on who’s appearing.
11. Indoor skydiving
If you’re looking for a gift for the thrill seeker in your life (but don’t want to be responsible for endangering theirs), consider giving them a day of indoor skydiving. Participants spend about two hours with a group, taking turns floating atop a high-powered wind tunnel with an instructor. Companies like iFly even have gift packages available for the holidays that include photos.
12. Dance lessons
Another great gift for couples, dance lessons can be a fun way to get out of the house, meet new people and learn to cut a rug. You can usually find lessons for around $100 per session (for two people), for everything from ballroom to salsa. Check with local dance schools to find out what’s available, or browse sites such as Xperience Days or Groupon.
13. Choose your own adventure
Airbnb is known for its wide breadth of local lodging options, but it also allows travelers to get a taste of what various communities have to offer through Airbnb Experiences. Described as “one of a kind activities hosted by locals,” a gift card for Experiences could cover a beginner surf camp retreat in Malibu or a mole cooking class with an indigenous cook in Mexico City.
14. Hot air balloon ride
Few things are as romantic as a ride in a hot air balloon. For a couple hundred dollars (or much more if you want), you can set a loved one aloft in a hot air balloon overlooking the water, wine country or city skylines. Just be sure they aren’t afraid of heights.
15. Cameo recording
Do you have a friend or family member known for their celebrity obsession? Cameo lets you hire a celebrity to record a custom video message for a loved one, with pricing depending on their level of fame. You could pay Brett Favre to wish your dad a merry Christmas or really splurge on a “happy holidays” message from Caitlyn Jenner to your sister.