7 Smart Ways To Give The Gift Of Experiences, Not Things

From language lessons to virtual reality, here are some suggestions for experiential gift giving this holiday season.

7 Smart Ways To Give The Gift Of Experiences, Not Things
[Photo: Unsplash user Kari Shea]

Time and again, science has proven that experiential gifts bring far more happiness to people than a traditional gift. To aid your gift giving, we’ve put together a list of some experiential gifts you could dole out this holiday season. Happy shopping!

Fluent City offers language and culture classes.[Photo: courtesy of Fluent City]

1. The Gift Of Language And Culture

For your city-dwelling East Coast friends, there’s Fluent City, an education startup that offers private and group language classes. It has recently expanded to include other subjects, like a Bloody Mary mixology class and a four-week French cultural immersion course. Sign your friends up before December 20 and get $50 off.

2. The Gift Of Virtual Reality

Ah, what a year for virtual reality to make its commercial debut. And while giving someone this particular experience as a present does require the purchase of a thing in the form of a VR system, it’s the virtual-reality journey itself that will make the lasting impact. If you’re seeking a top-of-the-line model, go with the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive (provided you have the means). For something a bit more affordable, there’s always Sony’s PlayStation VR.

3. The Gift Of Travel And Discovery

Airbnb recently introduced Experiences, a program that offers guided tours and multi-day outings led by locals. Treat your friends or family to, say, a taste of the burlesque scene in London, a hiking excursion in San Francisco, or a three-day music immersion in Havana. If you’re searching for a gift for a friend traveling through Asia, there’s also BeMyGuest.

4. The Gift Of Personalized Lipstick

Usually, gifting lipstick would fall squarely in the “gift of things” category. But at the Bite Beauty Lip Lab (currently only located in New York City, Toronto, and the Bay Area), you can create a lipstick from start to finish, customizing it to get exactly the shade and finish you want. Bite Beauty’s lip products are handmade and all-natural—so much so that you could eat your lipstick (though we’re sure you would rather wear it).

5. The Gift Of Dine-In Cinema

At the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (in various U.S. locations), moviegoers can dine in style as they watch films: The theater’s servers come to you, and its full menu stocks cocktails, craft beer, flatbread, and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. Plus, Alamo Drafthouse has strict rules about people not using their phones in the theater—perfect for family time.

6. The Gift Of Boozy Music Lessons

This one’s for your friends who are New Yorkers and music aficionados: With boozy music lessons at Bantam Studio, students can learn the violin, guitar, ukelele, or mandolin between sips of beer and wine.

[Photo: Flickr user Omid Tavallai]

7. The Gift Of Baking

Learn how to make the famed birthday truffles—or, if you prefer, the crack pie or grasshopper cake—whipped up by Momofuku Milk Bar chef and founder Christina Tosi. For better or worse, you can take home everything you make at the end of the class. (Maybe also give the gift of SoulCycle classes while you’re at it.)


About the author

Pavithra Mohan is a staff writer for Fast Company.