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Classic harbor line Holiday Cocoa Cruises
Photograph: Courtesy Classic Harbor Line

Epic experience gifts in NYC for adventurous people

Wow your friends and family with one-of-a-kind experience gifts in NYC, from helicopter rides to salt caves and private tours

Written by
Shaye Weaver
Annalise Mantz
Rheanna O’Neil Bellomo

When themed socks and evergreen-scented candles just aren't cutting it for gifts this holiday season, an experience you can only have in New York City is key to a memorable gift exchange. Giving an experience is more personalized and fulfilling and caters to your loved ones' interests. Book a tour that offer behind-the-scenes access to the top New York attractions for your history buff dad or snag tickets to the new Fotografiska museum for your art-loving bestie. Better yet: join them and share the experience together! And if you really can't resist wrapping something up, you can always pick up a few stocking stuffers.

RECOMMENDED: See the full holiday gift guide 2020

16 best experience gifts in NYC

Seamore’s x Bucket Listers Mixology Class
Photograph: Courtesy Seamore's

1. Seamore’s x Bucket Listers Mixology Class

Seamore’s Brookfield Place is hosting an eight-week mixology series with its master mixologist who teaches how to create three craft cocktails. Each week offers a new theme and three entirely different cocktails, including Apple Picking Buzz (Bourbon & Apple Cider), Zombie Punch (Overproof Rum & Falernum) and a classic hot toddy.

$90 per person (includes three cocktails and an appetizer)

  • Things to do
  • Schools and universities
  • Battery Park City

Is someone you know struggling to cook delicious meals while staying at home this year? Help them take their culinary skills to the next level with a class. An introductory Knife Skills class would give them all the technique they need to mince, julienne and chop with precision, or they could indulge their dumpling desires virtual dumpling-making course.

Starting at $25 per person

Even lifelong New Yorkers have never seen the city quite like this. Board a helicopter after dark to spend half an hour soaring high above the glittering skyline. The Empire State Building, One World Trade Center, the Chrysler Building and countless other NYC landmarks will be on full display in all their glittering glory. The helicopter flight ends with a loop around the Statue of Liberty for one final moment of New York City pride.

From $204 per person

  • Theater
  • Theater & Performance

Voyeur: The Windows of Toulouse-Lautrec is a live, site-specific theater piece created by Mara Lieberman for Bated Breath Theatre Company. While most theater has been forced by the shutdown to retreat into virtual form (or even virtual reality), Voyeur is one of the few shows in New York City that is being performed in person for live audiences, who move through blocks of the Village wearing masks and observe staged vignettes at multiple locations, mostly outdoors. The cast of 18 is larger than its audiences: Groups of eight spectators take the tour every half hour. (Masks are worn by everyone, including the performers, and audience members get their temperatures taken at the start.) Adapted from Lieberman’s pre-pandemic immersive play Unmaking Toulouse-Lautrec, the show offers sketches from the world of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the short-lived artist whose depictions of the Parisian demimonde in the late 19th century have helped shape our collective image of the period. 

$75 per ticket.

Holiday Cocoa Cruise
Photograph: Courtesy Classic Harbor Line

6. Holiday Cocoa Cruise

Classic Harbor Line has four new holiday cruises for those who'd like to enjoy sailing around the city in style. The motor yachts are decked out with holiday flair and lights and each guest gets one complementary holiday-themed beverage (a Mistletoe Manhattan, Gin & Tidings, Italian amaro-spiked house-made hot cocoa, beer, wine, or sparkling wine). Non-spiked cocoa and soft drinks are also offered. The cruises are lightly narrated by the expert captain and holiday music is piped in over the surround-sound stereo. There is a Sunset & Holiday Cocoa Cruise ($86 per person), a Statue & Skyline Holiday Cocoa Day Cruise ($64 per person), a New York City Lights Holiday Cocoa Cruise ($86 per person) and more.

  • Art
  • Photography
  • Gramercy

The Fotografiska gallery in Stockholm, Sweden has opened a New York Branch in the heart of the Flatiron District that features three floors of exhibition space as well as Verōnika, a dining room and bar operated by award-winning Philadelphia restaurateur, Stephen Starr. Named for the patron saint of photographers, Verōnika is being helmed by executive chef Robert Aikens and will offer a menu inspired by cuisines from Northern France, Austria and Eastern Europe, all served up with a side order of seasonality and sustainability. The gallery itself mounts temporary exhibits featuring photos from “grand masters and emerging talent” that range from “easily accessible to hardcore conceptual.”

$24 per ticket.

Digital Photography: An Introduction

If you someone who's picked up a DSLR this year, give them a set of photography lessons to help make the most of his new toy. Start with the three-hour introductory session at the Art of Intuitive Photography, where the expert instructor will cover all the basics—including exposure, white balance and depth of field—and help the class decode all the complicated buttons and modes.

$150 per person


You can fly! Or at least get the sensation of soaring through the air during a flying trapeze lesson. For an hour and a half, your instructor will teach a 10-person class how to latch onto the bar with your legs, release your arms and fly across the field to a catcher. If you've ever dreamed of running away to the circus, now's your chance! 

$130 for two people

We’ve all got that friend who seems to run on caffeine and nervous energy. And that friend who swear by the power of crystals, salt lamps, and burning sage. Gift either (or both!) the chance to relax with a 45-minute session inside Montauk Salt Cave in the East Village. The Himalayan pink salt lining the room is purported to have anti-inflammatory benefits ranging from healing respiratory illnesses to reducing anxiety. Whether or not the treatment is scientifically valid, it’s a good excuse to unplug and close your eyes for the better part of an hour.

$45 for 45 minutes


Any suds lover would jump at the chance to taste beer from three New York City breweries. Treat the beer snob in your life to an afternoon tasting tour that traverses three boroughs on a quest to find the best craft beer in the city. Your day will begin at Eataly's La Birreria, and continue to Brooklyn Brewery and Singlecut Beersmiths before ending at Spuyten Duyvil for your final rounds and a charcuterie board. Tickets include all booze, bites, and transportation during the 5-hour tour.

$125 per person

One-on-One Makeup Class

Know a budding make-up artist? Give her a private, expert-led session to help take her skills to the next level. With more than 10 years of experience in industry, instructor Shara Strand knows all the tricks of the trade—from basic contouring and shadow skills to mastering a strobing palette. Plus, your bestie can purchase any of the brushes, kits, and skincare featured in the one-hour class.

$125 per person


New Year's Eve Dinner Cruise

Snag some of the best (and most romantic) seats in the city for you and your boo on New Year's Eve. During this five-hour cruise you'll enjoy an open bar, and nosh on complimentary hors d'oeuvres and delicious buffet-style dinner, while dancing the rest of the year away. On deck in New York Harbor as the clock strikes midnight, your unrivaled view of the fireworks bursting above the twinkling skyline will be one to remember for years to come.

$86.85 per person

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