’Tis the time for gift buying again. That is, of course, unless you leave your shopping to the journey home on Christmas Eve (in which case this could be of particular interest to you, read on). Rather than trawling the rails this year, why not opt to go slightly more off-piste with your present options? Enter the realm of experiential gifts. From cultural memberships to culinary masterclasses, giving an experience means the gratification will last long beyond the festive season. (And, for those last-minute Christmas Eve chancers, what better than the most thoughtful and generous of presents that can be purchased online the night before and don't even require wrapping?) To make sure you are gift-giving goals this year, these are the best experiences to buy a loved one - or to ask for yourself.
Even the hardest person in your life to buy for probably hasn't done a life drawing course at a world-famous institution. Or a cooking retreat from a Michelin-starred chef. Or a beginners' improv class with award-winning actors. Whether you go for the practical (who wouldn't want to be able to whip up haute cuisine every night?) or the niche, giving the gift of a new hobby or awakening a surprising skill - and, at the very least, providing a good anecdote - is guaranteed to make you the most talked-about present bearer of the season.
For a gift that gives all year around, sign the recipient up for a membership to somewhere they love. To delight a culture aficionado, there are year-long film fixes or unlimited entry to galleries and exhibitions. Nature lovers can fill their weekends with an enrolment to the National Trust, which gives free access to the most spectacular scenery and historical sites across the UK. And, for the fitness enthusiast in your life, a subscription to their workout of choice should more than suffice.
Tasting experiences have taken on a new lease of late. From vineyards serving up masterclasses with wine experts and spirit brands offering tours where guests learn the art of distilling and mixology, to chocolate tastings and cheese workshops, a specialist sampling session is the most tantalising gift for any foodie or would-be connoisseur.
Securing some of the hottest tickets in town for 2020 is a sure-fire present win, as it ensures there will already be a date to look forward to in that freshly opened diary. On next year's culture scene, there are major retrospectives and exhibitions, a Broadway smash hit coming to the West End and Hollywood stars making their theatre debuts on the London stage. In short, a lot to get excited about. (Just don’t forget to get yourself a ticket too.)
There are few gift-opening experiences that feel quite as decadent as a beautifully presented treasure trove filled with delights of the food, drink and beauty varieties. Go further still by making it a monthly subscription, so there’s always something to anticipate arriving in the post.