The Experience Gift Guide: 7 Gifts That Can’t Go Under The Tree

experience gift guide
The Experience Gift Guide: 7 Gifts That Can’t Go Under The Tree
Presents are nice to unwrap, but an experience lasts a lifetime.

Sweaters, scarves and smartphones are nice gifts that can be wrapped up and put under the tree. But really, can they compare to g-forces, wolves and taking to the sky like Iron Man? We think not. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of experience-oriented Christmas gifts that’ll really earn you MFE status (most favorite elf) this year. We’ve checked it twice, and think you should too.

A close up of a fighter jet flying through a blue sky

Fighter Pilot for a Day


This experience gives a whole new meaning to the term getting high. After a full briefing session, you get to go up in an “aerobatic,” high-performance plane (in full flight suit, of course) and practice both attacking and evading enemy attacks through tricks like rolls and high and low yo-yo’s. Don’t worry, they don’t use real ammunition and you’ll of course be accompanied by a flight expert (most of whom are ex-military). Your experience will be filmed by three different cockpit cameras so you can relive your high-flying day whenever you feel grounded by the daily grind.

A close up of a wolf

Private Wolf Watch for Two


If you want to get all animal-like with a loved one for the holidays, this one’s for you. To experience it, you’ll have to travel to the wilds of San Diego (but who would have a problem with that?). Once there, you’ll drive about an hour east to the town of Julian and the California Wolf Center where just you, your companion and a guide will head out and observe two different wolf packs playing and living the true wild life. You also get to leave with a membership to the center which includes benefits like a wolf photo, biography and discounted admission to future tours and events.

Knife cutting through onion

Cooking Classes


If you live near a major urban area in the US and want to take some cooking classes, you should be able to find them. If you don’t however, finding a class that will improve your whisking, searing and flipping techniques can be as hard as getting stiff peaks in your whipped egg whites. Fear not, the world-famous Escoffier school offers online courses that’ll turn anyone into an Iron Chef in no time. Although you do have to ask yourself, if you give this as a gift to someone you see a lot, who’s the gift really for?

A man riding a horse on a beach

Working Ranch Vacations

Top 50 Ranches

Great landscapes, cool clothes, animals and … rope! There are few better gifts for a nature lover (or a city hipster who needs a dose of the great outdoors), than time spent working on a ranch. Top 50 Ranches offers you the chance to get saddled up and as sore as a hammer-struck thumb at ranches around the country and the world—from the 25,000 acre Bonanza Creek Country Guest Ranch in Montana to the 18,000-acre high-country Beaumont Station in New Zealand. The stays include lodging and meals, so you can rest up and refuel before you rustle.

A man flying through the air over a body of water

Flyboard and Jetpack Experiences

Xperience Days

We guarantee this is a gift your recipient won’t ever forget because it’s akin to giving him or her a super power! Jetpacks and flyboards use the power of water to let you basically fly over the top of water a la Iron Man. Xperience Days offers you the chance to partake in this crazy fun activity in a variety of locations around the country from Atlanta to Spokane with prices ranging from $104 to $278. Who knew becoming a superhero was so affordable?

A car driving on a race track

Rusty Wallace Racing Experience


If you know someone who regularly sits in traffic on his or her commute, this just might be the gift they need. Groupon is offering a discount on a variety of racing experiences that’ll let any workaday driver blow their frustration right out the tailpipe. All experiences are at Rusty Wallace tracks which can be found around the country (click here for a list) and include everything from 3-lap ride-alongs to 10-lap qualifying races.

A person holding a guitar

Naked Guitar Lessons


Ok, so this one’s not really advertised as naked guitar lessons, but being that the classes all take place online, who cares what you are (or aren’t) wearing? The point is, you can get your Hendrix on whenever you want thanks to over 650 online videos from Dangerous Guitar explaining how to work your axe. The Groupon deal makes it super-affordable too: it’s just $18 for a year of unlimited access, so it’s cheaper than those tickets to the Poison reunion tour. And once you play your first gig, you should just about get that cash outlay back. Right?

Michael Franco

Michael Franco has written and edited copy while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore and partying in Prague (not simultaneously). He's owned three giant poodles, knows how to keep iguanas out of pools and can make a mean muffin. Check out his work out at