Welcome to The Golden Girl–a real girl approach to living your best life! (Because the internet needed a happy medium between real life and the highlight reel.)

learn more >

currently loving

shop all favorites

Gift Guide: 30+ Experiences + Out-of-the-Box Ideas!

Dec 3, 2020

Experiences Gift Guide

Happy Thursday! 

Excited to be back with another gift guide, perhaps my MOST requested gift guide of the year–experiences! 

Not only are experiences more memorable and special, they can also be WAY more affordable! I also love gifting an experience as a big present, along with a small gift or two to open to go along with it. I hope you’ll find lots of ideas in this guide to make someone’s 2020 holiday a special experience to remember! Read on for 30+ experiences and other out of the box gift ideas! 

Experiences Gift Guide

For the travel lover: 

Book an AirBnB Experience! 

AirBNB Experiences offer tons of really cool virtual experiences, and outside/socially distant experiences as well! Perfect for anyone who loves, well–experiences! You could attend a virtual Christmas drag show in Portugal, a Harry Potter experience in Edinburgh, Mezcal and Tequila masterclass from Mexico City, or an Irish Village, History, Culture and Craic experience with a Dublin tour guide and his dog! 

Food tour or wine tasting for a 2021 trip: 

These ideas are popular honeymoon gifts and for good reason- they enrich their vacations SO MUCH! I’ve never been steered wrong by google in trying to find a great food tour, but AirBNB Experiences is also worth looking into! They offer amazing activities, tours, tastings and more all over the world by local, experienced guides. I HIGHLY recommend Secret Food Tours (we took their tour in Barcelona but they have them in so many cities!) Eating Europe tours (we took their Taste of Testaccio food tour in Rome but they also have many European cities!) and if they’re going to Tuscany, a cooking class with Nonna Ciana!

Cook with Nonna Ciana live! 

Speaking of, when we visited Tuscany a couple years ago, we took a cooking class with Nonna Ciana, and it was one of the highlights of the trip. I was SO excited to discover that Nonna and her family are now offering virtual classes! This would make the best trip for anyone who loves Italy, or had to reschedule their Italy trip due to Covid! See more details here

Gift them a flight! 

Flightgift is a company that allows you to gift dollars toward any airline! Amazing for anyone who loves to travel, and a great time to book flights for the future, since prices are so low! 

Gift a virtual trip-planning class via Blonde Atlas: 

My friend Whitney is a very talented travel planner, but with Covid, she pivoted and started offering amazing online courses for planning your own trips! She has planning classes for tons of popular destinations, tailored to those who want to experience a new place like a local: South of France, Amalfi Coast, Ireland, Italian Riviera, Rome, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Portugal, Spain, and for anyone who really has the travel bug, “How to become a Digital Nomad.” You can buy gift cards good for any one course right here

City tour or adventure 

Similar to the above, if your giftee is a travel-lover and already planning their first post-covid trip, gift them a city tour, rent them Vespas (although, in hindsight, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend riding them on the narrow cliffs of Mallorca ????), or another fun add-on that will add a special touch on their trip that they might not have sprung for on their own. Viator is a good place to check out for this–we’ve booked many tours through them! 

Language lessons

Do they have an upcoming trip to France? Have they always wanted to learn Spanish? Get them some language lessons! I would absolutely LOVE this gift! I reccommend searching TakeLessons.com

Little Passports membership

For the kids and families who love to travel, I first heard about this company on NPR! Little Passports creates award-winning subscriptions for kids that inspire them to learn about the world. They have boxes of all different subjects and for all different ages!

National Parks pass 

Perfect for outdoor lovers and adventures seekers! The National Parks Pass is good for all of the National Parks in the U.S. 

A Flytographer gift card

This is seriously THE BEST idea ever. For anyone who loves to travel (or a family who is taking an upcoming vacation together!) get them a Flytographer gift card, so they can have a professional photographer capture beautiful memories for them at their next destination! They have pretty much every major city worldwide!

Art & Entertainment-themed:

Gift a few months of Audible or Libro.FM

I love both Audible and Libro.FM–the audiobook company that supports local bookstores! (Pretty sure it’s Bookshop.org’s sister company!)

Audiobooks are my favorite way to “read” non-fiction, and lately, my favorite thing to do has been to listen to books I love that I’ve already read because you get SO much more out of them!

It also allows you to “read” during times you aren’t able to read a physical book–like when you’re commuting, cleaning, etc! I HIGHLY recommend starting with some of my favorites–like Michelle Obama’s Becoming (she reads it herself!), Daisy Jones and the Six, Reese Witherspoon’s Whiskey in a Teacup, or Evvie Drake Starts Over

Buy tickets to the virtual Nutcracker: 

Okay, this will have to be an EARLY gift, but for someone who is desperately missing the arts, what cooler gift than purchasing tickets to a virtual Nutcracker? This article lists all the ballet companies across the country putting on shows! Plus, helps it keep local ballet companies up and running, and dancers employed! 

Record subscription

Neal’s high school friend started this awesome company called Vinyl Me, Please! They have a record of the month club of sorts–such a fun gift for the music lover! (If they need a record player to go with it, I recommend the brand Audiotechnica!) 

Rent their dream car for a day 

A fun idea for the car lover in your life! Gift them a spin in their dream car (whether that’s a speedy Porsche or an old-school classic) by renting on Turo or driveshare–and go for a day drive together! 

Package of lessons for a hobby

Whether it’s photography, painting, voice lessons, an instrument–whatever– investing in someone’s passions and interests is always a great idea! Whether they’ve been doing it for years and want to improve their skills, or they’ve always wanted to try something and never gotten around to it! 

Museum membership or private museum tour 

(Pending Covid restrictions, of course.) A great gift and a great way to support local museums. (We have a membership to the Art Institute and love it!)

This idea is also great for someone with kids––a membership to a Children’s museum! You can also up the ante by booking a private museum tour! Museum Hack offers private, personalized tours in New York, Chicago, LA, San Francisco and D.C. for an intimate, in-depth experience!

New York Times Sunday subscription

Pair this subscription with a cute mug and some cozy slippers that they can use while reading the paper each Sunday!


Food & Drink Themed: 

Adopt an olive tree and get your own olive oil! 

Reader Taylor suggested this one that she got for her mom via a company called Nudo! You can adopt an olive tree and then a year later, you get the olive oil from it! How cool!

Cocktail starters or experience with Pour Souls Chicago

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I’m always sharing about my friend Tim from Pour Souls Chicago, who makes the awesome cocktail starters! (All you do is add the booze!) Note, he doesn’t ship his starters, but you can pick them up at 1340 Beer Wine and Spirits in the West Loop! 

Not only do the starters themselves make awesome gifts, but Tim can also put together a totally customized virtual cocktail experience for your friends, your company holiday party, etc! More details right here! (How fun would this be to do with your family as a group gift?!) 

Wine club membership

For the wine lovers in your life, give the best small-production wines the country delivered right to their door! A Winestyr subscription includes four shipments of wine that isn’t available anywhere else! We’re members and we LOVE it! It also gets you access to their beautiful tasting space in Chicago, where you can set up a tasting anytime, FREE–and bring friends, too! **This is also a great gift for in-laws or parents who have everything!!** 

New York Times Cooking membership

A NYT Cooking subscription is great for anyone who loves to cook (or wants to learn!), especially someone who loves the New York Times! They have such great recipes, and a subscription gives you access to tons of how-to videos, guides, the abilility to organize recipes in your recipe box, write your own notes into your recipes, and more! Just $5 per month, or $40 per year! 

Cooking or cocktailing classes around the world! 

Any cook or cocktail lover loves to learn more about different types of cuisine! Again with the AirBnB experiences (I just think they’re so cool!) but they offer pretty much every kind of cooking or cocktail making class you could want to gift! And they’re SUPER affordable, too! 

Cooks Illustrated or America’s Test Kitchen subscription 

Anyone who wants to be a better cook should know about Cook’s Illustrated. They have the answers to EVERYTHING. A subscription to their magazine, or a one-month or one-year subscription to America’s Test Kitchen’s Cooking School would make such a cool gift! They have classes on EVERY kind of technique and topic you could ever want to improve in! 

A compost service subscription

For the home-cook who wants to be more sustainable, a creative, cool gift is a compost service! For example, my compost service, WasteNot, offers a gift package for $55 and includes 4 pickups (they supply the bucket) and a little countertop compost caddy! 

A virtual French wine class with Girl Meets Glass

I was introduced to Tanisha via my friend Whitney, when she lead a virtual wine class for our Paris trip group (which sadly had to be postponed, but we are getting there eventually!) Tanisha lives in Paris and shared so many fun, interesting facts–from how to order off of a menu, what kind of French wines you will like if you like X Y Z, how to learn what flavor profiles you like, and more–I learned SO much and it was so much fun! I can’t wait to attend one of her tours in person, but in the meantime, organizing a virtual experience with her is ALMOST just as great!

You will learn SO much about French wine. Get in touch to set up a private virtual tasting or tour, or you can purchase a gift card that they can redeem for any of her experiences. She also has an e-book with her 75 wine bars and wine experiences in Paris, perfect for any travel lover! 

Gift them their favorite hometown foods with Goldbelly

Have you heard of Goldbelly? I had never heard of Goldbelly before, I think I saw an ad for it on Instagram, but it’s the most genius thing ever. They’re kind of like a GrubHub but for restaurants to package and ship their specialties all over the country.

So you can say, get a dozen of your favorite New York Bagels from your favorite bagel shop, or your favorite Chicago deep dish pizza, Phillies from Philly–you get where I’m going with this. What an amazing gift for anyone who is homesick for a hometown comfort food, plus, an amazing way to support a restaurant from afar!


More ideas: 

Book a virtual face time with Santa from the North Pole! 

Okay this is the cutest idea ever for kids, and I just saw it because Danielle shared it on Instagram–you can book a live call with Santa himself via Santa’s Club! What a cute gift for any kid this holiday! 

Headspace membership 

I LOVE the meditation app Headspace so much, especially their Sleep Casts that I like to play before bed––it makes such a thoughtful gift that truly keeps on giving! (Would be really great paired with a little zen-like gift, like these essential oil shower steamers!) 

Fitness membership: 

Does your giftee like to work out? There are so many amazing options for online fitness memberships these days. If they have a favorite studio, chances are, they have gift certificates for online classes! Make sure you know what they currently have before you gift them something else (and that they would WANT to be gifted a fitness membership!) but some popular ones are the Peleton app, Sculpt Society, and my personal favorite, P.Volve (see my gift guide for the run-down on P.Volve!) 

Papersource Workshops

For Papersource lover, Papersource offers workshops in gift wrapping, gold foil, and hand lettering that would thrill any craft enthusiast! 

Masterclass membership

Have you heard of Masterclass? They offer more than 70 classes from the best experts in the world. From Neil deGrasse Tyson teaching scientific thinking and communication, to Spanxx creator Sara Blakely on self-made entrepreneurs, and Anna Wintour on creativity and leadership, there’s a class for everyone on your list!

Staycation or night out

Even though it will most likely be a FUTURE staycation, I think we could all use a break, right!? 

Perfect for new parents or let’s face it, anyone, because we all have cabin fever these days! Whether it’s covering the cost of a stay at a hotel near them or covering the cost of drinks, dinner and child care, giving the gift of a well-deserved night out is always a win! 

City Scavenger Hunt

For people who love a challenge or someone who just moved to a new city (or just loves exploring their own), a city scavenger hunt is a fun, personalized gift! Plus, since they’re outside adventures, they’re socially-distant, too! Let’s Roam has a library of scavenger hunts set up in cities across the U.S, and also tons of options for virtual experiences! (Whether that’s with coworkers, your family, or a date night!) 

Home video screening

A GG reader shared that she turned her family’s home videos into a DVD and had a viewing Christmas morning! Such a sweet idea! Printing and framing photos throughout the year or creating photo books are great options, too, especially if you don’t have home video footage!

Monthly date/activity ideas

This idea came from a GG reader who gave her mom 12 cards with “mom/daughter” date descriptions, such as walk at the nature preserve, movie night, mani/pedi appt, etc. How cute is this?! Would work for anyone, too- family members, friends and significant others, and such a personalized gift that keeps giving throughout the year! If you live in Chicago, I highly recommend checking out the book Secret Chicago for lot’s of great ideas! (More about it in this post!) 

Plan a family photoshoot 

As families grow and move apart in distance, time all together is so sacred! Make the most of it by organizing a family photoshoot! Book a photographer, scout a place and coordinate timing/outfits so the whole family can enjoy a big portrait and other family shots to commemorate your holiday together!

I hope this was helpful! What’s the best out-of-the box gift you’ve ever given or received?! Need more inspo? Check out my other gift guides for her and him!

Keep reading...