Sweet, Kooky, and Custom Experiences To Gift Instead of Objects This Year


Sweet, Kooky, and Custom Experiences To Give Instead of Objects This Year

December 21, 2016

Day 25 of 30 Days of Thoughtful Giving: Make a day of it.

There's a couple who I know that almost exclusively gifts each other experiences rather than objects for the holidays and birthdays. I admire this kind of gift giving—it's thoughtful, exciting, extends beyond the immediate present. It's good for last-minute ideas because there's really no ordering and arriving on time involved—IOUs and cards will do just fine to inform your giftee what they're getting.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

Experiences, rather than material things, feel so much more intimate and personalized if you really consider the person you're giving one to, and it may even be something you can join them in so you can do it together. Here are 18 ways to make your gift into a whole day this holiday (and beyond).

for the baker

  • If your baker is new to the art, give them a starter kit and promise to be there for their first loaf. Here are some essentials:
  • Sign your giftee up for an introductory baking class or a series that'll give them more specialized knowledge in rustic, traditional breads, pastries, or yeast breads. If there isn't a cooking school near you, there's always Skillshare and Craftsy that offer online courses that you can stream right from the kitchen.
  • Do you happen to be an experienced baker and have a friend who loves your loaves? Take it upon yourself to give a personalized lesson.

for the film buff

  • If there's an independent cinema that offers memberships in your city, gift one! That way, you're supporting someone's movie habit and a local business that is probably really happy to have the repeat customer. There'll probably be free food, discounts on special events, and more for different levels of members.
  • If there are only big chains near your giftee, and they're a documentary or foreign film fanatic, give the gift of an online subscription like Mubi. Describing itself as "a curated online cinema bringing you cult, classic, independent, and award-winning movies," Mubi offers a rotating list of films that changes daily.
  • Filmstruck is a similar streaming service that is presented by Turner Classic Movies and The Criterion Collection—but there are 3 different pricing plans and a specific Criterion Channel that offers the largest selection of the acclaimed series to date.

For the Armchair Traveler

  • Is there someone in your life who really loves a specific part of the world, be it a country, a region, or a city? Prepare and gift a day of activities inspired by that place: Screen movies from that country, serve the regional cuisine, drink what its people drink, play its music, and have a language tutor come by for an introductory lesson.
  • Alternatively, secure spots in a full language course that you can take together (and daydream about the trip you'll take there after).
  • If you live in a city that has neighborhoods with distinct personalities and cuisines or drinks they specialize in, cobble together a tour of sorts: Dumplings, tacos, beer, noodles, etc. Log your favorites and then promise a full dinner at the one that takes the top spot.

for the home bartender

  • Organize a full day of mixology: Get the ingredients and supplies to make bitters, tonic, syrups, and cocktail cherries from scratch. Experiment with a few pre-made batches and work on a signature drink together.
  • Tote them to and from a cocktail class (so they can have as many drinks as they'd like) and then stop by a cooking or liquor store to upgrade their tools on the way home.
  • Stealthily acquire their keys from a roommate or friend (or if it's your significant other, just be home early) and make dinner and their favorite drink. Have the whole spread already cooking so when your giftee walks in they can't stop you.

For the Sports Enthusiast

  • Go for the quintessential sports gift: Pick up killer tickets to a game, splurge on big beers, and eat more than one hot dog. If you want to go all out, send a car to pick up your giftee to meet you there as a surprise.
  • Ask your person to play hooky during the week and make a leisurely, calming breakfast. Then, hit a fitness or yoga class at a fancy spa and take advantage of the sauna, steam room, and hot tub for a full day of relaxation.
  • If you live in an area that has great natural resources and parks, invest in a couple annual park passes so you can go hiking or camping with your giftee whenever they want, cost-free.

for the art and design nerd

  • Arrange an afternoon of doing DIYs together, and maybe with a big group—from holiday-specific to cozy winter kitchen additions to ones that look forward to warmer days. Everyone can bring supplies and the giftee takes home the best-crafted.
  • Give someone who's just moved into a new home or apartment a paint color consultation, like Sherwin-Williams Colorsnap In-Home Consultation.
  • Museum memberships are excellent gifts that support a great cause and let an art lover easily return throughout the year to see what's on view.

What kind of experience would you want to be gifted? Tell us in the comments below!

Food52's Automagic Holiday Menu Maker
View Maker
Food52's Automagic Holiday Menu Maker

Choose your holiday adventure! Our Automagic Menu Maker is here to help.

View Maker

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Windischgirl
  • DMStenlake
I love oysters and unfussy sandwiches.


Windischgirl December 21, 2016
We're on a tight budget this year so I had to be creative! Shhhh...don't tell but this is what I got my kids: one of my spare slow cookers for my oldest, who just moved into his first post-college apartment. For my 22yo man-about-town, I unearthed a vintage cocktail shaker from a back closet, polished it up, and found a 1950’s cocktail book for $1 (he spent this past summer mixing up G&Ts for us). I found a thrift-store hand-crank pasta machine--unused and in original packaging!--for my daughter, who has fed us homemade lasagne and ricotta-pea capeletti.
Everyone else on my list receives a loaf of homemade bread, some real-fruit fruitcake, or an assortment of homemade cookies...because we really have all the belongings we need.
Maybe Christmas dinner should be lemontinis and appetizers, followed by some slow-cooked ragù over fettuccini?
DMStenlake December 24, 2016
The best gifts are from the heart ❤️ and hearth! This sounds like a beautiful Christmas! We do what the author's friends do and give ourselves an adventure. Sometimes a new place but usually someplace we both enjoy. Away from the hustle and craziness of the city holidays. Just the two of us and the fur-kid. Merry Christmas 🎁🎄 and remember your blessings in the New Year! 🐾🐾☮️