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Classic Harbor Line
Photograph: courtesy Classic Harbor Line

Unforgettable 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

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver

For the person who has everything or is just over having "things," themed socks and evergreen-scented candles won't cut it for gifts this holiday season. Instead, consider giving them an experience they can only have in New York City. 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.

13 best experience gifts in NYC

  • Things to do
  • City Life

Riding around the city in a motorcycle sidecar sounds like something you’d only see in an old gangster movie or the Batman television series from the ‘60s, but you can now give your loved one the trip of a lifetime in one of these babies. Dapper Tours is a local tour service that provides guided tours of Gotham from an old-timey sidecar. The vehicle in question is, in fact, a vintage Ural motorcycle, a model that has a fascinating history involving reverse-engineering by Russians in the 1940s. You can't get much cooler than that!

  • Art
  • Art

Shake it up with an art show underneath Chelsea Market that explores New York City’s past and potential future with trippy digital art that unfolds all around you. "Machine Hallucination: NYC" by Refik Anadol uses artificial intelligence and the latest technology to map a massive dataset (more than 100 million publicly available photographs of New York’s iconic architecture and urban landscapes without people) and shows AI re-imaginings of NYC set to "awe-inspiring" sound design by Berlin-based composer Kerim Karaoglu who used New York’s sound archives with machine intelligence. Even cooler? Visitors to the show will also be able to order a cocktail at the XR Bar and scan their cocktail on the ARTECHOUSE app to bring it to life with augmented reality.

  • 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 $244 per person


Classic Harbor Line has fun 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 beverage. Choose from new cruises like Cocoa and Carols holiday cruise ($96 per Adult for groups of 4 or more, $124 for 2-3 Adults) and the Holiday Brunch Cruise ($124 per Adult for groups of 4 or more, $142 for 2-3 Adults, $72 per child 3-14) or one of the classics: Statue & Skyline Holiday Cocoa Cruise ($48-$64 per adult, 1.5 hours); Sunset & Holiday Cocoa Cruise ($86-$96 per adult, 1.5 hours); and the Holiday Live Jazz Cruise ($96-$124 per adult, 1.5 hours).

It also does dazzling New Year's Eve cruises in case you'd like to surprise them with a swanky night out!

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.

$99 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! 

From $62

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 include stops at McSorley’s Old Ale House, The Brooklyn Brewery, Transmitter Brewing and That Witch Ales You Brewery. 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.

From $20


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.

From $250

Looking for more Christmas gift ideas?


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