Don’t get us wrong: we think that presents wrapped in crisp paper, tied with colorful bows, and stowed in a stocking or under the tree during the holidays are the stuff of Christmas-cheer dreams. However, we’re here to make an argument for the gifts you can’t see. These experiences may not require any unwrapping, but the memories, photos, and stories that they will yield are invaluable.
Whether it’s a chef-curated train ride across the countryside in Dublin; a night under the dancing Northern Lights in a traditional lavvu in Norway; or a dinner for two at one of the very best restaurants in the entire world, these experiences will make memories that last a lifetime. If you want to have some extra fun with these ideas, pick a small, inexpensive gift to wrap and give to the recipient, and help them guess their way to the final surprise!
For the Outdoor Aficionado: Glamping Under the Northern Lights in Norway
For the traveler who loves to spend time in the great outdoors—and appreciate learning about cultures when traveling to new destinations—an overnight at Tromso Lapland will be the experience of a lifetime. Guests arrive to Tromso Lapland, about an hour from the city of Tromso, to a working reindeer farm run by a family of native Sami reindeer herders. Guests spend the night on a reindeer sleigh ride under the northern lights, learning about the storied Sami culture, and then curl up in a traditional tent (lavvu) for a snuggled sleep next to a warm fire.
For the Foodie: A Five-Star Dinner
We’ll leave the restaurant up to you, but make your way to the World's 50 Best Restaurant list, and spend some time considering what the recipient in mind strives for in a good meal—and in a destination. A lover of timeless New York? Eleven Madison. Someone who pines for Scandinavian decor and dishes? NOMA. For the Francophile: Septime. Of course, keep in mind that these restaurants are the hardest reservations to get—but we can assure you the wait is worth it, and so is the trip.
For the Romantic: Hot Air Ballooning in Vermont
Nothing says romance like a gentle hot air balloon ride over stunning Vermont, finished with a picnic and champagne toast. This option is ideal for a special someone—and we recommend that you opt for summer or peak foliage season.
For the National Parks Nut: National Parks Annual Pass
If there is someone on your list who loves nothing more than exploring America's varied national parks, surprise them with the America the Beautiful annual pass, which grants entrance to over 2,000 federal recreation sites.
For the Wine Connoisseur: A Pre-Planned Sicily Trip
Anyone who loves wine and the culture that comes with it is going to be floored upon receiving an expert-curated itinerary for a trip courtesy of luxury travel company Scott Dunn. Opt for the Highlights of Sicily trip, which consists of seven days’ worth of sampling local wines, exploring villages, and even climbing Mount Etna.
For the Ski Bunny: The EPIC Pass
Whether they stick to the New England slopes, or head all the way to Australia to shred some powder, your favorite skier is going to flip out when he or she sees the list of resorts available on this truly epic pass.
For the Artist: An Annual Museum Membership
Maybe it’s After Hours at the Louvre or a membership to the Met, Portland Art Museum, or Museo del Prado. Whatever the art-lover in your life deems their favorite, it’s likely that you can secure an annual membership (or special experience) and give them the gift of free entry to peruse their favorite pieces at the drop of a hat.
For the Reader: Private Tour of a Famous Library
A love for literature and libraries often go hand-in-hand, so we’ll bet that the book-lover on your gift list this holiday season will be thrilled to have a special tour of their favorite library. (Check out private tours of Boston Public Library or tours of the famous Book of Kells exhibit at Trinity College Library in Dublin for some inspiration).