When Socks Aren’t Enough—7 Mind-Blowing Experiences You Can Gift This Christmas

If you’re gonna go big this year, these are the best gifts you can give.    

Tangible gifts are great and all, but we hear that memories—and the experiences that fuel them—last a lifetime. This year, if you’re looking to reinvent the gift-giving wheel, consider buying your loved ones museum or theater memberships, or sign them up for cooking classes. Getting them out and about, learning new things and meeting new people—it leaves more of a lasting mark than, say, a new pair of socks.

With that in mind, we’ve rounded up six amazing experiences that you still have time to give and are each really freaking cool. The prices are pretty steep, but if your budget is ample this year, then these gifts—which take place in six major cities across the U.S.—are too rad to pass up. From glam sessions to balloon rides, these once-in-a-lifetime experiences will be the best gift your recipient gets this year (and, you can join them you want!). Did we say six experiences? Well, it's actually seven if you count that little trip to Nepal we decided to throw in at the last minute. Because who doesn't want to see the summit of Everest at sunrise? 

NAPA

Because when in Napa…clearly you want to go on a private hot air balloon ride for two! In all seriousness though, this is worth every penny, as the vineyard views are an incredible sight and the ride includes glimpses of Mount St. Helena and the Mayacamas Mountain Range. A sumptuous brunch after landing is the icing on the cake.

BUY FROM: If Only, $775/Person

NYC

If you know and love a foodie, this gift will blow their mind. The experience includes an afternoon apprenticeship at Barbuto, the famed NYC restaurant headed up by Top Chef Master alum Jonathan Waxman. Working alongside Waxman’s team, your gift recipient will learn to craft a rustic Italian meal, and then return later for dinner for two in the dining room.  A signed copy of the chef’s cookbook is also included—as are bragging rights for life.

BUY FROM: If Only, $3,000

BOSTON

The perfect gift for your favorite hostess, this experience is a design session with The Everyday Co. founder Katherine Yee to create a custom set of six linen or cotton napkins. Held in Yee’s Fort Point studio, the recipient will nosh on sweets from a local bakery while choosing from dozens of fabrics and edging colors to create the perfect set of personalized napkins for their home.

BUY FROM: If Only, $155

CHICAGO

For the glam girl in your life, this gift includes an in-home hair and makeup session with a Hollywood pro. The experience begins with a phone consultation with the stylists—all of whom have worked with A-list celebrities in the past—to discuss looks, and will culminate in the recipients home (or location of choice) and can be expanded (for a fee) to include up to four people in total.

BUY FROM: If Only, $1,200/Group of Two

SAN FRANCISCO

This is the bucket-list-worthy gift for the adventurists on your list—those who are not afraid to get up close and personal with some great white sharks, that is! Your recipients will be under the tutelage of marine biologist Jeremiah Sullivan (a.k.a. the guy who invented the armored shark suit!) as they take a boat to the Fallon Islands, where an abundance of sea lions and elephant seals make an ideal hunting ground. Under-water interaction with the sharks depends on the groups’ diving capabilities.

BUY FROM: If Only, $1,250/Person, $15,000/Group of 12

LOS ANGELES

Is there any greater gift than the gift of Snoop Dog? Hip hop lovers will appreciate this tour of Snoop’s Smoker’s Studio where they’ll see a live taping of his YouTube show, GGN (yep, that stands for “Double G News”). Past guests have included everyone from RZA and Kendrick Lamar to Seth Rogen and Paris Hilton—so you really never know which celebrity get they’ll get to see in person during the three-hour experience.

BUY FROM: If Only, $10,000/Group of Two

NEPAL

If money really is no object this Christmas, then clearly a hot air balloon ride over Mount Everest is in order for your nearest and dearest. This for-thrill-seekers-only package takes guests above the world’s highest summit to see Everest from a vantage that very few people in the history of mankind have experienced. The downside? Well, the price tag. And that month of physical training and skills training they’ll need to complete. Oh, and spending an indefinite amount of time in Nepal, awaiting the perfect weather window to open up. Like we said, it’s the perfect gift!

BUY FROM: If Only, $4.8 Million/Person

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Jonathan Waxman