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The best L.A. experiences to give as gifts

Forget materialistic gifts and create memories instead with these unique and fun memberships, tours and tastings

Michael Juliano
Written by
Michael Juliano
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Stressing over the perfect gift? Whether it’s for a birthday or the holidays, don’t waste that last roll of wrapping paper or splurge on shipping. Instead, skip something material altogether and opt for a one-of-a-kind L.A. experience. Maybe we’re a little biased—after all, trumpeting L.A.’s best things to do is kind of our bread and butter—but we think something you can do is way more memorable than something you can unwrap. So the next time you’re searching for something for that hard-to-shop-for person, consider these museum memberships, outdoorsy activities and boozy tours.

20 L.A. experiences to give as gifts

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Horseback riding with Malibu Riders
Photograph: Michael Juliano

3. Horseback riding with Malibu Riders

Easily the most beautiful horseback riding trail near L.A., Malibu Riders operates guided rides across Malibu and Agoura Hills, including a 45-minute ride through Zuma Canyon and an hour-long one near Paramount Ranch. $100–$200

An American Cinematheque membership
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Emily Mathews

4. An American Cinematheque membership

Treat a cinephile to a membership from this beloved local film organization, which nabs you members-only access and $5 off screenings at the Aero, Los Feliz and (currently under renovation) Egyptian Theatres. $85

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A membership to the Seven Grand Whiskey Society
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

12. A membership to the Seven Grand Whiskey Society

Downtown L.A. bar Seven Grand’s whiskey membership grants access to a series of tasting events, starting with a welcome cocktail and three tasting-sized pours. $25

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Tickets for the Catalina Express
Photograph: Michael Juliano

15. Tickets for the Catalina Express

The most expensive part of a trip to Catalina Island? Getting there—especially since the retirement of the Catalina Express’s free birthday fares. If you’re gifting someone a round trip, opt for the commodore lounge upgrade for a comfier, quieter ride. $83.50 round trip; commodore lounge upgrade $40

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An outdoorsy parking pass
Photograph: Time Out/Michael Juliano

18. An outdoorsy parking pass

Know an avid hiker? Then consider paying for their parking. You’ll find a bunch of different passes throughout the county: The National Forest Adventure Pass ($30) is one of the most affordable and practical, and grants access to recreation sites in Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres and San Bernardino National Forests. Consider a state parks pass ($195) for beachy destinations or a pricey MRCA pass ($300–$450) for trails mostly in the Santa Monica Mountains. Prices vary by park organization.

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Membership to one museum that’ll get you in to a bunch of others
Photograph: Kilmer Media / Shutterstock.com

19. Membership to one museum that’ll get you in to a bunch of others

Alright, this one requires a little bit of an explanation: The North American Reciprocal Museum Association lets you use your membership at participating museums to get into some other institutions for free all over the contintent. Here in L.A., that means you can get a membership to the Japanese American National Museum, the Grammy Museum, MOCA, Craft Contemporary, the Autry, the USC Pacific Asia Museum, the Skirball Cultural Center or the Museum of Latin American Art and use it to get into all of the others. The only catch: Not all membership levels at each museum come with NARM benefits, so we suggest going with whichever home base museum would provide the most benefits for your gift recipient. Prices vary by museum.

A garden membership that’ll also get you into some non-local spots
Photograph: Courtesy Descanso Gardens

20. A garden membership that’ll also get you into some non-local spots

Similar to the NARM scenario, the American Horticultural Society’s reciprocal admissions program lets you use a membership from one botanical garden at dozens of others. But there’s a catch: You can’t use it at some institutions within 90 miles of your home base. So while a membership to either Descanso Gardens, South Coast Botanic Garden or the L.A. County Arboretum won’t get you into the other two, it will grant you access to other gardens in San Diego, the Central Coast and beyond.

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