NYC’s Experiential Gift Guide

Here are 17 giftable experiences that will take the holidays to the next level.

Good things come in small packages. But when it comes to gifts, the greatest ones come in no package at all. Instead, they offer the recipient an experience they’ll remember for years to come. A VIP beer tour, a denim jacket made to measure and even the chance to defy gravity—experiential gifts abound in New York City. The best part? These presents can be as much of a treat for you as they are for your loved ones.

PALATE-PLEASING PRESENTS

A cooking class promises to please any person with a discerning palate. The Institute of Culinary Education offers a large selection of hands-on classes for amateurs. They can help your loved one sharpen their knife skills, master the art of pizza-making or give sushi-rolling a spin. 

Beloved grocery store Fairway Market’s recently opened culinary school, The Cooking Place, has also cooked up some creative classes, including pie-making, handmade pasta and Spanish tapas. (And many classes include wine tasting!) 

Here’s an experiential gift that will thrill anyone who loves to bake: a cake-making class at Milk Bar. Guests learn how to make “MasterChef” judge Christina Tosi’s decadent layered creations topped with cake truffles.

SPIRITED EXPERIENCES

Skip the bottles and indulge your favorite spirits fan in a boozy experience they may (or may not!) remember long after the holidays are over. Inspired by the rustic cider houses of Spain’s Basque Country, Brooklyn Cider House invites guests to enjoy family-style prix fixe dinners and catch cider in their glass, straight from the barrel, in between courses. The good times keep flowing during the accompanying tour of the graffiti-covered cidery in Bushwick. 

New York’s craft beer scene has only gotten bigger and better since the first commercial brewery in America opened in Lower Manhattan 400 years ago. Give a brewhead a taste of local culture on a VIP beer tour with City Brew Tours. The tours include tastings of up to 12 styles at three hip breweries in Brooklyn or Queens.

Few experiential gifts have as much holiday magic as Ophelia’s Snow Globe in the Sky. The Midtown rooftop lounge is a winter wonderland, with thousands of crystals and snowflakes suspended above the bar and sheepskin-draped furniture—making it the perfect place for a romantic nightcap.

KIDDIE FAVORITES

The right interactive experience can top any toy under the tree for a kid. Pint-size travelers will love getting messy at the Sloomoo Institute, an 8,000-square-foot “sensory playground centered around slime.” They’ll customize their own slime, immerse themselves in slime-inspired art and even get doused by a slime waterfall. 

Help a little one live out their “Harry Potter” fantasies on a wizarding tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art with Fable & Lark Storied Adventures. The interactive gift gives kids a wizard’s perspective on the museum, taking them through spaces that evoke J.K. Rowling’s beloved stories.

For an experiential gift for the whole family, check out The Escape Game. You’ll be locked in a room and forced to put your heads together to solve puzzles and make your way out. 

ACTIVE ADVENTURES

We’re not sure what’s more fun—giving a loved one an active adventure for the holidays, or joining them for the ride. You both can get the once-in-a-lifetime gift of defying gravity at Trapeze School New York. The workshops offer an adrenaline-pumping introduction to circus arts—and the school’s skilled instructors are dedicated to making the experience a blast. 

For something more down-to-earth, head to Court 16, with its cushioned glass floor surfacing and LED lines. A gift of a private lesson or small group clinic will spark a love of the game in any recipient.


WELCOME WELLNESS SENSATIONS

Pampering might be the ultimate experiential gift (and perhaps a nice excuse to get a spa treatment yourself!). Book a bathing experience at Aire Ancient Baths. Even the most well-versed wellness lovers will be impressed with the space’s moody ambience. 

Nothing beats the gift of great skin, and HeyDay has you covered with its popular facial services. Give someone a quick 30-minute facial for a hydrating boost, or splurge on the 50- to 75-minute facials, which include deep cleansing, extractions and tons of personal attention. 

Haven Spa also has a new treatment. Its Harmony Massage includes sound therapy, soothing scents and an Ayurvedic rubdown that will leave anyone in a state of bliss. 

FABULOUS FASHION FINDS

You could find someone a cool garment or accessory for the holidays—or, better yet, let them design it themselves. Start at Qüero Shoes’ pop-up customization shop on Madison Avenue for made-to-order leather kicks for men and women. Customers can choose from the style and the sole to the details and materials (there are 40 on offer!). 

Then, get your loved one the perfect pair of jeans or denim jacket at Levi’s Times Square flagship store. Four on-site tailors and digital stations let customers craft pieces with images, art and text designed by local artists. 

Finally, give their athletic gear an upgrade at the SoHo Champion store. Customers create unique Champion garments and add NYC-themed patches that express their creativity, resulting in clothes they’ll never want to take off. 

Joni Sweet
About the author

Joni serves as the New York associate e...