Worldwide icon-chevron-right North America icon-chevron-right United States icon-chevron-right New York State icon-chevron-right New York icon-chevron-right The best New York experiences to give instead of holiday gifts
News / City Life

The best New York experiences to give instead of holiday gifts

School of Rock
Photograph: Matthew Murphy School of Rock

You’ve made your list, checked it twice and still haven’t figured out a gift for those hard-to-please loved ones. With just six days left until Christmas, it’s too late to order anything online, and braving the crowds at a mall doesn’t seem much better. Instead of settling for a lackluster tin of peppermint bark or some generic holiday socks, surprise your loved ones with tickets to an experience they’ll never forget. Whether you choose a luxurious spa treatment or a tour of an iconic city landmark, there’s an experiential gift for everyone on your list.

For the Broadway baby

Tickets to School of Rock

Your niece who already knows the Les Miserables soundtrack by heart will jump at the chance to see a real live Broadway production. Pick a show that’s fun for the whole family, like the musical version of the classic Jack Black movie. Tickets start at $108

For the globetrotter

Spanish for Beginners Course

Anyone struck by wanderlust will appreciate the chance to improve their language skills. Since more than 400 million people habla español worldwide, Spanish classes are probably a good place to start. $279 for a 10-week course

For the amateur shutterbug

Digital Photography I Class

Unfortunately, owning a DSLR camera doesn’t automatically improve the quality of your snapshots. Gift the aspiring photographer in your life a few introductory photography lessons—it will help them get out of auto mode and start shooting some really artsy images. $360

For the Lin-Manuel Miranda superfan

Tickets to Hamilton

Your friend worships the ground Leslie Odom Jr. walks on, signs off emails with “A.Ham” and has spent hours waiting in the cancellation line at the Richard Rogers Theatre. Surprise and delight them with a pair of tickets to the show that won 11 Tony Awards. Just be forewarned: you’ll have to select a date in fall 2017 if you want to keep the price under a grand. Tickets start at $350

For the IPA aficionado

Brewshop 101: Home Brewing Essentials

Enroll that special someone who’s always on the hunt for locally sourced craft brews in a hands-on workshop at Bitter and Esters. The suds experts will walk them through the entire home-brewing process—they’ll even prep a five-gallon batch right there in class! After all, it doesn’t get much more local than brewed in your own kitchen. $55

For the Banksy-obsessed

Manhattan Graffiti Lesson

Now’s your chance to pick up a spray can and go to town on a New York City wall—in a totally legal way. Treat a creative friend to a private lesson with a working graffiti artist. And since one session can include up to four people, why not tag along yourself?  $95 for up to four people

For the history buff

Ruins of a Forgotten City: Historical Manhattan Walking Tour

Parents obsessed with PBS, hipsters with a soft spot for all things vintage and grandparents looking to reminisce on the Gotham of days gone by will all enjoy this walking tour that promises to reveal the hidden, historical side of the city. Discover the forgotten red-light district, Gilded Age–era boutiques and more architectural time capsules. $35

For the Russian Lit major

Tickets to Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

Even the most pretentious culture vulture will enjoy this musical based on a section of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. It’s an immersive experience, and the Imperial Theatre has been redesigned as an opulent 19th-century Moscow salon for the occasion. Plus, it stars crooner Josh Groban in his Broadway debut as the melancholy Pierre. Tickets start at $80

For the friend obsessed with the dollar slice

Crosstown Pizza Walk

There’s more to a good New York–style pie than just cheese and pepperoni. Send the foodie of your set on a three-hour tour of some of the city’s finest pizzerias. After tasting all the best slices in Little Italy and Greenwich Village, Domino’s just won’t have the same appeal. $40

For the wannabe art collector

EmptyMet Tour

For a true VIP experience, give the art lover in your life a ticket to the EmptyMet Tour at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. When you remove the hordes of tourists snapping selfies, the artwork somehow seems even more powerful and awe-inspiring. Trust us: There’s nothing quite as magical as standing in front of the Temple of Dendur in utter silence. $125

For the urban hippie

Float Therapy

Your friend raves about the healing powers of coconut oil, meditates daily and somehow always has a green juice in hand. Book them the latest trendy wellness treatment: a floating session in a sensory deprivation chamber filled with salt water and submerged into complete darkness. The sensation of weightlessness is said to be healing—and at the very least, it sounds very cool. $69

For the perpetually stressed

Thai Massage

For those with especially stressful jobs—we’re looking at you, investment bankers, emergency room doctors, news reporters and moms of toddlers—to an hourlong therapeutic Thai massage. Working out those kinks hurts so good. $65