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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

15 Experience Gifts for Everyone on Your List

Skip the mall and forget trying to figure out what size to buy everyone. Experience gifts are the fun, smart alternative to traditional presents.

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

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Couple on top of the mountain looking at beautiful landscape Friends enjoying time together on hiking trip. Father and daughter enjoying vacation. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, USAmargaret.wiktor/Shutterstock

Something to remember

These experience gifts will wow everyone on your list with special opportunities to make memories, be pampered, or step out of their comfort zone. The recipient will be thanking you long after the holidays are over, and, best of all, no one will ask for a receipt or even think about returning these amazing alternatives to traditional gifts. For more ideas, check out this gift guide based on Zodiac signs.

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The most unique personalized gift

Starting at $5

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Blow their minds with a celebrity video greeting from the unique digital celebrity message service Cameo. Choose from hundreds of well-known celebs and influencers; you can even get Bethenny Frankel of RHONY to call and say “Merry Christmas!” Too much? How about Shangela from RuPaul’s Drag Race or Kyrie Irving from the Brooklyn Nets? You’ll get infinite swag points for the completely personalized celebrity shout-out and you sure don’t have to worry about anyone else getting your recipient the same gift. These 30 other personalized gifts also go the extra mile.

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traveling spoonvia

The tastiest present for foodies

Starting at $50

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For friends and family that love to sample unique foods, meet new people, and explore and eat their way around undiscovered areas, Traveling Spoon is the perfect gift. The online service pairs adventurous foodies with knowledgeable local guides in destinations around the globe. Experiences range from oyster tasting in Ireland to balsamic vinegar making in Italy to cooking classes in India to a multi-course gourmet dinner in a private home in Bangkok. All are unique, and uniquely delicious. Pair it with one of these gifts for jet setters for extra points.

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the scandal roomcourtesy The Watergate Hotel

The ultimate overnight for scandal-loving history buffs

$2,500 per night

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For the history buff on your list, The Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., has unveiled a unique “Scandal Room” package that pulls back the curtain for a look into the major American political scandal. The “Scandal Room: Arrested at the Watergate” package includes the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn all about the scandal from the two arresting officers at the Watergate complex that night, John Barrett and Paul Leeper. Guests get to enjoy a whiskey flight with the retired officers for up to two hours at the hotel’s “The Next Whiskey Bar.” After drinks, head back to Room 214—used in the 1972 Watergate break-in—which has been decorated in collaboration with Lyn Paolo, the costume designer from the TV show Scandal, with period touches such as binoculars, a manual typewriter, a reel-to-reel tape recorder, and a curated book collection. You’ll want to add these 18 other one-of-a-kind adventures to your bucket list.

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Our favorite one-size-fits-all gift

Starting at $100

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Who doesn’t want to spend a night in a swanky hotel where a housekeeper picks up your wet towels and makes the bed and you can get breakfast delivered right to your room? Make everyone on your list happy with the gift of a night at a hotel on the date and location of their choice. HotelTonight is the most affordable option to pick up the tab; it connects users to unsold rooms across the globe, many of them at swanky boutique and independent hotels, for an average 17 percent less than other booking sites. They may want to consider using it at one of these best hotels in every state.

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shelbourne hotelvia

The ultimate treat for DNA detectives

$200 for consultation

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For anyone trying to discover their family’s heritage, there’s plenty of online resources to choose from—DNA tests, ancestry web sites, digital family tree builders—all of which make fine experience gifts. However, for the ultimate roots-finding experience, get them a meeting with the world’s only Genealogy Butler at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin. It’s ground zero for anyone looking for their Irish roots, and the level of expertise and detail that goes into the personalized reports makes it feel like you hired a private DNA detective to find their roots. Treating them to a weekend at the iconic hotel could truly put this gift at the top of anyone’s bucket list, too. We get experience gifts can get a little pricey, so here are some meaningful holiday gifts that don’t cost a thing.

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courtesy Sky Zone

The best for getting their bounce on

Gift cards from $10; memberships from $25 per month

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Sky Zone, the world’s first indoor trampoline park, lets bouncers of all ages try a multitude of gravity-defying, wall-to-wall trampoline attractions that include Ultimate Dodgeball and Ninja Warrior courses. You can get your giftee a one-time visit to try out the jumping fun, or treat them to the new membership program that provides unlimited jumps and unlimited fun at their 200+ locations nationally and internationally.

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broadway show ticketsvia

The no-fail favorite experience gift

Starting at $25

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We think tickets to a show or concert makes the perfect gift for anyone on your list. Coming to the New York area? Get them tickets to a Broadway show from Telecharge—from hits like Come From Away and Dear Evan Hansen to buzz-worthy upcoming shows like Six and Jagged Little Pill. Telecharge also has gift certificates, so they can choose their own theater night, too. Suggest they check out these 15 NYC hidden gems while they’re in town.

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indoor skydivingcourtesy ifly

Take flight

Prices vary by location

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For daredevils who want to skydive without the risk, there’s iFly Indoor Skydiving. After a quick lesson, instructors set you loose to soar in a wind tunnel. Those who have tried it say there’s really nothing else like it in the world. Adrenaline junkies will also love these 11 epic vacation destinations.

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christmascourtesy ama waterways

The most festive way to get in the holiday spirit

Starting at $2,100 per person

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If decking the halls in gorgeous global style is on your giftee’s list, then consider a trip to the wondrous Christmas Markets of Europe on a river cruise with AmaWaterways. These magical journeys immerse guests in the timeless traditions of Europe’s Christmas markets in Budapest, Vienna, Strasbourg, Nuremberg, Regensburg, and Cologne. They’ll thank you as they sip a cup of hot mulled wine, watch the twinkling lights overhead, and take in all the romantic sights of a perfect European holiday.

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weber grill classesvia

The ultimate treat for the grill-master in your life

$60 to $100 per person

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Give the grill-master in your life a chance to get fired up with the Weber Grill Academy. Led by the Weber Grill Masters and chefs, guests get hands-on with Weber charcoal kettle or gas grills with themed classes that include Surf & Turf, Grate Grilled Pizza, Smoking, Backyard Classics, and American BBQ, among others. And if they want to leave the grilling to someone else, they can use your gift to indulge at a Weber Grill Restaurant instead. Here are more gifts for men that will make you look like a hero.

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The most relaxing experience gift

Starting at $115

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We’re all for gifting a day of spa pampering. However, you can also give them the gift of complete relaxation right in their home with a Soothe on-demand massage gift certificate. When they’re ready to relax, the on-demand massage service will deliver a licensed, insured massage therapist to their home, office, or hotel within 60 minutes of their request. Soothe is happily available in 70 different locations, so a massage is never too far away. As an alternative, these 11 most luxurious spas in the world can’t be beat.

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View over the south and north rim part in grand canyon from the helicopter, USAAmineah/Shutterstock

The best way to see the USA


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Here’s one they’ll be thanking you for all year: An America the Beautiful National Parks Pass is the ticket to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites across the country. It covers admission fees to perennially popular national parks such as the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone not only for the recipient, but for everyone in the car of the up to four pass holders (up to four additional people at walk-up attractions also get in free as well). Bonus: Children age 15 or under are always admitted free, so the whole family can go along.

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francecourtesy B Signature Hotels & Resorts

The perfect Francophile gift

Starting at $1,195

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For that friend or family member who drops mais oui and ooh la la into every conversation while sighing about the romance of the Seine, set them up with a three-night stay at Hotel de Sers, steps away from the Champs-Élysées. With terrace views of the Eiffel Tower and easy access to the river, your giftee will be swooning about being in the heart of the City of Lights. Go a step further and book skip-the-line, insider tours to Versailles, the Louvre, or Notre Dame through City Wonders. Learn more about skipping the line at major destinations.

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land rovercourtesy Jaguar Land Rover

The most revved-up experience gifts

Starting at $275

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Fill their driving dreams of race cars and off-road adventures with a day of behind-the-wheel adventures. Across the USA, you can find spots to test drive everything from race cars to Lamborghinis on special tracks. Or, if they’ve always wanted to get off-road and hit the dirt, so to speak, give them a unique Land Rover experience where they can try hill climbs, log crossings, side tilts, and rock crawls for a day of driving they’re sure to remember.

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The ultimate smorgasbord of experience gifts

$50 and up

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Too many amazing experience gifts to choose from? We feel you! How about letting them choose from a wide range of experiences for themselves with a Cloud 9 Living gift card? Cloud 9 rounds up experiences perfect for gifting around the country—everything from skydiving to white water rafting, cooking lessons to guided city tours—for easy one-stop shopping. For more inspiration, read on for 101 Christmas gifts for people who are impossible to shop for.

Melissa Klurman
Melissa is an intrepid explorer and award-winning travel journalist with more than 25 years of experience. She covers topics ranging from family travel and Disney to honeymoons and romantic beaches, and everything in between.