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Photograph: Chase Dorsett

The best Austin experiences to give as gifts

From beekeeping to a bartending masterclass, here are the best Austin experiences to give as gifts this year

James Wong
Written by
James Wong
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When it comes to a gift for the loved one who has everything, your best bet is going to be an experience. After all, for long-time companions, there are only so many electronics and fragrance sets that can be gifted and enjoyed...before they’re relegated to the back of the closet. It’s no wonder the world’s gone all Marie Kondo and folk are only keeping Facebook for Marketplace.

Thankfully, Austin has a ton of stuff to see, do, eat and drink. So why not spark joy with a cherished memory instead of an overpriced trinket? Whether you’re looking for something adrenaline-fueled for your best bud, a relaxing spa day for your newlywed cousin, a cultural treat for your neighbor, or a class to keep your parents busy, we’ve got you covered. Here are all the very best Austin experiences to give as gifts – you can purchase them for birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and holidays in Austin, Texas.

Recommended: The best things to do in Austin

Best Austin experiences to give as gifts

How can you release stress in Austin for a fraction of the price of therapy? Step forward rage rooms. Unchartered Adventures hosts indoor smashing and rage room sessions whereby guests can break all kinds of items…bottles, dishware and even printers, in a safe and controlled environment. Our go-to is the Angry Pirate Smash Adventure ($58 per person) which includes two crates (20-30 items) of breakable items each, safety gear, water, gift and bluetooth speaker use, so you can hum Hit Me Baby One More Time while you go at it. Optional go-pro to film the madness can be purchased at registration, and the venue also offers axe throwing and splatter paint for those who still have tension to release.

Fitness fanatics will go gaga over Restore Hyper Wellness, an Austin-born center full of all the cutting-edge health and wellness treatments that half of the Olympics (and Hollywood) communities swear by. Cryotherapy is a blast of sub-freezing temperatures which soothe pains, reduce inflammation and basically, will leave gym bunnies ready for another weights session right away. Restore has futuristic double chambers meaning you can freeze alone or with a buddy. Then at the other end of the spectrum, there’s Infrared Sauna Therapy, which uses infrared light to heat the body rid of toxins, cleanse the skin and increase circulation. Again, it’s good for two (date night, anyone?). The center was formed by local triathletes who wanted to bring such experiences to the public at an affordable price point. The South Lamar studio also does IV Drip Therapy, Compression Therapy, Cryoskin Therapy and Oxygen Facials, to name but a few ways to let the wellness adventure continue. Prices vary, gift cards are available.

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For the Austinite who’s done just about every water activity possible on LBL, why not treat them to dinner on the water one sunny evening? Virgin Experience Gifts offer an awesome private dinner cruise on Austin’s most scenic downtown lake, and by private we mean private. There’s no captain on board—this is a self-navigating experience whereby boats are electric and easy to maneuver, so guests can enjoy such special occasions without small-talk. Simply take the e-voucher (no expiration date), select a choice of entrees (deluxe fajitas or cajun rice), book…and you’re good to go! For those who are more comfortable with a captain, check out the sunset sailing cruise on Lake Travis instead. Starts at $130 per person for two hours.

If acrophobia is not one of your relationship issues, then this is absolutley for you. Treat your beloved to the longest and fastest zipline in all of Texas. Lake Travis Zipline Adventures hosts Adventure Island day tours consisting of five awesome ziplines (which progress in speed, height and sights) by the group. Adventures include all the necessary equipment, boat transportation to the island, and bottled water throughout. There’s even a secret bar to reward yourselves at the end. In the summer, their sister company, Waterloo Adventures adds a water park to the mix. Gift cards start at around $150.

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Enter the sweetest spot in Texas when you book a tour, class or tasting at the delicious Two Hives Honey ranch. The team there manages all their own hives with sustainable beekeeping practices alongside multiple acres of fruiting trees, pollinator gardens and ponds. Could an escape from the city bee any greater? Events are seasonal (check the website for dates), and private sessions to make gifts extra special are also available. All up-close experiences include all the protective gear. Group Tours start at $35 for kids and $45 for adults.

Does your partner know good camera angles when they see them? Or perhaps they appreciate well-written dialogue? Then sign them up for a year’s membership with a GLIFF (All Genders, Lifestyles and Identities Film Festival). The organization’s mission is to create positive and visible film programs relevant to the lives of the LGBTQIA+ community, via a host of fabulous events throughout the year. Membership includes access to their monthly screening series, members-only screenings, and unlimited PRISM 35 film festival content (that’s a lot of movies). Plus a swag bag with t-shirt to wear with pride. Membership starts at $300 for the whole year.

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  • Health and beauty
  • Spas
  • price 3 of 4

Treat someone who deserves to be pampered (and maybe tag along yourself) with a package at Viva Day Spa. Their wide selection of rejuvenating spa treatments includes Swedish, hot stone and deep tissue massages; facials; body wraps; manicures and pedicures; scrubs; pregnancy treatments—you name it. Viva Day Spa has three locations across the city, conveniently in North, Central and South Austin. And they’re all very romantic settings. Speaking of which, their Delicious Duet Spa Package is the ultimate way to say ‘I love you’ via a blend of massage, body wrap, exfoliation, scrub and soothing treatments. But the standard massages are equally lush. Couples massages start at $240 per couple.

Nobody does a ranch better than a Texan, and the best of the bunch near Austin is Blue Hills Ranch. Here live all your four-legged favorites from bison, horses and deer to zebra, giraffes and camels; many of them are rescues so be sure to ask the team for stories that'll warm your hearts. They all have a ton of space to roam free, so much so that the best way to see them is via Grand Safari, whereby you’ll jump in the ranch vehicle and zoom out to hang with (and feed) the animals with a private guide. Alternative encounters include bottle feeding baby giraffes and swimming with otters. Upgrade the visit with an overnight stay—on-site cabins (starting at $200 a night) are themed to safaris and pirate ships, and yes, you might just be greeted by one of the (herbivore) residents in the morning, so bring your camera with that cup of Joe. Grand safari encounters are $75 per person (minimum two) for a private drive.

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Does your friend have a home worthy of spectacular dinner parties? Then it’d be a shame not to throw a private chef into the mix. Sushi master John Gocong (who has worked with the likes of Nobu and Uchi, no less) whips up the ultimate omakase tasting experience—a journey of 15-23 courses composed of a mix of crudos, nigiri, and yakitori, finished with a seasonal dessert and option for sake pairing. Expect the finest cuts money can buy delivered anywhere within Austin (including Cedar Park, Round Rock and Dripping Springs). Simply reserve in advance, let him in 30 minutes before dinner time, and let the magic happen. From $250 per person.

If you’re buying for a Texan, chances are they enjoy a tipple or three on the regs. Celebrate this with a master class at classy downtown boudoir, The Roosevelt Room. Their lessons focus on a different spirit each time and are geared towards cocktail connoisseurs with a real passion for learning. This isn't an excuse for a knees up (save that for post-lesson), but more an education in the cocktail ingredients and the making of the perfect drink. Of course, there are plenty of tastings too, so you needn't have your hand on a notepad and pen the whole time. Classes are held once a month and must be purchased in advance on Eventbrite for $75.

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Why fly to Manhattan for a musical, when the musical can come to you? Broadway in Austin puts on all the greats from the big apple at the grand and gorgeous Bass Concert Hall, part of the University of Texas. Over the years it has hosted Wicked, Hamilton, Cats and The Phantom of the Opera, and the current 2022 slate includes The Lion King, The Donna Summer Musical, Mean Girls and Hadestown. Tickets sell out fast, but those who sign up to their free eCLUB can gain presale access. Ticket prices vary. As you'd expect.

Get all the perks of an actual private jet (separate terminal, sexy lil’ plane, food and beverages galore, etc) but um, share the cabin. JSX offers an almost private experience from Austin to Dallas at a cost that’ll make your eyes pop. Wait for it…$199 each way. If you know someone who has been slogging it on the Greyhound to see their mom in the Big D every weekend, this is the upgrade they’ll never forget.

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  • Hotels
  • West Oak Hill

Just around 10 miles outside of the city is one of the most popular places to golf in the entire state—and what Golf Magazine claims to be one of the best golf resorts in the Southwest: Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa. At this serene Hill Country getaway, there are four different championship courses comprised of challenging holes and scenic views. If you’re already thinking of someone who would find all of this absolute heaven on Earth, peruse their four different golf packages to find the perfect fit. Starting at $120.

  • Things to do
  • Mckinney

Give the gift of the great outdoors—or at least free access to the great outdoors—with a Texas State Parks Pass. The $70 pass grants unlimited free entry to 89 parks across the state for the cardholder and their guests, not to mention additional discounts on camping, store purchases and equipment rentals. The great thing is that your recipient won't have to travel very far outside of Austin to make the most of their new gift with McKinney Falls State Park, Pedernales Falls State Park, Inks Lake State Park, Colorado Bend State Park and others all less than a two-hour drive away.

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  • Things to do
  • Camp Mabry
  • price 1 of 4

If you're scratching your head thinking of what to buy for your creative, artistically minded pal come holiday season, consider an art class at The Contemporary Austin Laguna Gloria. Their Art School welcomes kids as well as adults, and the wide-ranging classes include painting, drawing, pottery, photography, mosaics, jewelry and more. The courses are kept small to maximize the amount of one-on-one interaction students have with their talented group of credentialed faculty members, and the beautiful 12-acre grounds of Laguna Gloria serve as some great artistic inspiration. Classes cost between $65 and $204.

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