9 Great Gifts That Are Experiences

People giving holiday gifts

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Save some gift wrap this year and give an experience instead of a thing

Research shows that when we spend our money on experiences instead of objects, the happiness we feel as a result is both stronger and longer lasting.

When you give a gift in the form of an experience, it includes not only the anticipation of the event and the event itself, but also a lasting memory to savor. Here are nine ideas for unconventional gifts that friends and family will treasure.

1. Tickets to a performance

Tickets to a movie, play, musical or comedy show can be a great gift for recipient of any age. It’s also a way of spending time doing something fun together. If you really want to splurge, consider season tickets to your favorite performing arts organization. 

2. Massage or spa services

Perhaps you know someone who is often stressed and always working. A gift certificate for a massage or facial is a wonderful way to help that person decompress this holiday season and enjoy a little self-care.

3. Overnight getaway

If you want to get something very special for yourself and significant other, or for another couple such as your parents, a weekend or overnight at a boutique hotel or B&B is a thoughtful and generous gift.

4. Dance class

Give a friend or loved-one a kick by signing them up for dance classes. Maybe it’s something they’ve had in mind but have not gotten around to doing yet. There are so many kinds to choose from, from ballroom to ballet.

5. Cooking class

Cooking lessons of all stripes are available these days at places like Whole Foods, Sur la Table and elsewhere. Sign up for yourself and a friend—that way you can experience the fun together. Then get together later and try to recreate the meal at home. (It’s a gift that keeps on giving.)

6. A National Parks pass

Do you have friends or family who love trekking to National Parks? You can purchase a year pass of full family access to America’s national parks, wildlife refuges and forests for just $80. 

7. Guided tour

If you know someone who just moved to a new city or town, consider buying them a guided architectural tour of the downtown, or some other tour special to that city, such as a food tour or factory tour. Heck, why wait until someone moves? Most of us would love to learn more about the place we live, even if we’ve been there for decades.

8. Personal chef

Who wouldn’t like a professional chef to drop by at the end of the day and whip up a home-cooked meal? You can give the gift of an at-home date night for someone too busy to cook; there are even websites that help you find local chefs' contact info.

9. Adventure

It's no simple task to give the gift of adventure. But consider buying a class or lesson for someone who would never buy it for themselves—something a little wild, like surfing, or swinging from a flying trapeze a la Cirque du Soleil. You might give someone a thrill, or even a new passion in life.