12 Ideas for Gifting Experiences Instead of Material Possessions

Research has shown that experiences, rather than material possessions, make some people happier. For recipients who firmly believe that the most meaningful gifts are not material objects but experiences, here are 12 ideas:

1. Paintball

The ultimate catharsis/workout/strategy exercise. Indoor Extreme Sports in Long Island City is New York City’s only indoor center for paintball, ReBall, laser tag. Good for parties. A 3-hour session runs $36–$42 per player. 

2. Culinary classes

The Institute of Culinary Education offers the nation’s largest selection of hands-on cooking, baking, and wine courses. Classes are offered day and night 355 days of a year. Your gift recipient can choose from knife skills to pasta 101 to more unusual cuisine classes in Chinese Buddhist Vegetables to Cuban Surf and Turf. 

3. Hot-Air Balloon, Skydiving, Ziplines…

For the thrill seeker, consider a reservation to any of a variety of exhilarating activities all across New York state. FunFix lists providers of sky diving, helicopter rides, scuba diving, race car driving, and hang gliding—a small sample of fun things to do. 

4. Arts Membership 

Know someone who frequents their favorite cultural institution so much that they should become a member? You can buy them a gift membership, which will give them access to different perks and events depending on the level. The Met Museum, for example, has different levels of membership costing from $70 to $20,000 per year. Gift memberships to be delivered by Dec. 25 must be ordered by Dec. 10. Also consider Carnegie Hall, the Met Opera, or any of the botanic gardens in the city.

5. Take Aim: Archery 

Queens Archery, New York’s largest indoor archery range, offers lessons and equipment for target shooting and hunting. Coaching is free with first equipment rental ($20) or with bow purchase. Ideal for Hunger Games fans. 

6. Shen Yun Performing Arts

World-renowned dance company Shen Yun Performing Arts returns to Lincoln Center Jan. 10–19. Shen Yun brings to life 5,000 years of Chinese history with classical Chinese dance, an East-meets-West orchestra, and colorful costumes. Tickets $80–$300. 

7. Skiing 

There are great weekend ski packages available in Vermont and Utah. For locations closer to home, consider Hunter Mountain or Windham Mountain Resort, both in New York state. 

8. Golf Lessons

Every golfer can improve his or her skills. Golf & Body NYC offers instruction, golf simulators, golf-specific fitness training, and even acupuncture in their facilities near Penn Station. Also consider Golf Manhattan and Chelsea Piers.

9. Pottery Lessons

La Mano Pottery in Chelsea offers hand-building and wheel classes—$300 for 8 weeks or a 2.5 hour intro workshop for $75. In small, intimate classes, adults can learn to make cups, vases, pots, and more. 

10. Gentlemen’s Grooming

Truman’s Gentlemen’s Grooming offers “The Professional,” a $75 package that includes a consultation, haircut and style, manicure, and shoe shine. For the man who needs some serious year-round pampering, go for the $1,050 Gold Passport that gives him unlimited access for a year. 

11. Dance Lessons

Gift a lifetime of suave. With classes suitable for the absolute beginner, teens, as well as the seasoned dancer, Broadway Dance Center offers ballet, jazz, theater, tap, hip-hop and more. Class packages range from $80 for 2 weeks to $160 for 8 weeks. Gift cards are available. 

12. Giving a Gift That Gives

For the altruistic person who is so generous that he or she is impossible to shop for, consider making a donation to a charity in his or her name. Heifer International, for example, allows you to buy livestock or crop seeds for families in developing countries so they can achieve self-reliance. A harvest gift basket is $72; a goat $120. 

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