People I know who have received experience gifts — a museum membership, a helicopter ride — say they were some of their favorite gifts ever. The following are a few ideas for such gifts, along with related books for those who like to provide something tangible, too. I’ve provided links to some specific examples, but if any of these catch your eye you can look for similar options in other places.
If you plan to give an experience gift and there will be substantial additional costs involved (for tips or parking, for example), consider including some cash to cover those expenses or arranging a way to prepay them on behalf of your gift recipient.
Food and beverage tours
I’ve mentioned chocolate tours before, but you can find tours that focus on many different consumables. For example, you could give the gift of a pizza tour or a beer tour. To go along with those tours, you could get books such as Pizza: A Global History or The Comic Book Story of Beer.
Surfing, kayaking, and more
For the person on your list who would like to try something new, a gift certificate for kayaking, canoeing or surfing lessons might be perfect. There are private lessons and group lessons, and older children can take classes, too. For others, a gift card for equipment rentals might be welcome.
Possible books to go along with such a gift include One Inch Above the Water and Chasing Waves: A Surfer’s Tale of Obsessive Wandering.
Music and comedy
Lessons that teach someone to play an instrument can be great, but you can also consider a gift certificate for voice or DJ lessons. Comedy classes focused on improv and more could also be a fun gift for the right person. For someone who doesn’t want voice lessons but just wants to sing some karaoke, you might get a gift card for the use of a karaoke room.
Books that might be appreciated along with such gift certificates include The Art of Singing and Yes, And: How Improvisation Reverses “No, But” Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration. I was also intrigued by Turn Around Bright Eyes: A Karaoke Journey of Starting Over, Falling in Love, and Finding Your Voice.
Beyond the (basic) massage
A gift certificate for a massage is often a welcome gift, but you can also consider alternatives like the use of a hot tub or a Japanese soaking tub. Another option could be a gift certificate for a specialized massage: a scalp massage, a foot massage (for those without ticklish feet), a pregnancy (or pre-natal) massage, etc.
Body Work: What Kind of Massage to Get And How to Make the Most of It might be a good companion book.
Sponsor an animal — and go visit it
A number of nonprofit organizations allow you to sponsor or “adopt” an animal. And in some cases, one of the benefits is getting to visit the animal you sponsored. For example, you can do a gift adoption at Farm Sanctuary, which entitles the sponsor to a tour to meet the adopted animal.
Many zoos also have adopt-an-animal programs that include a free admission as one of the benefits. You could always do a zoo outing without an adoption, but knowing there’s an animal you’re sponsoring might make the visit extra special.
Books about animals abound, so finding one to go along with the gift should be easy. If you adopted a chicken from Farm Sanctuary — that’s the least expensive option — you might consider getting The Magnificent Chicken: Portraits of the Fairest Fowl.