Whether your friend lives there or is just visiting for the weekend, New York City has a lot to offer. Whether s/he’s into wine tastings, dessert tours, sailing or learning to fly a helicopter, New York really does have it all.
There’s a reason it’s called the City that Never Sleeps. With so much to choose from, though, how do you ever know which gift experience to choose? Hopefully, this list of 30 of the best NYC experience gifts will help you make up your mind.
30 New York City Experience Gift Ideas
Wine on the River: Wine Tasting Sail, Manhattan, NY
This gift is perfect for the friend who loves nothing more than sailing on the open water with a delicious glass of wine in her hand. All the wines have been hand-selected to ensure she has the most exquisite taste experience possible as she glides over the Hudson River with a captivating view of New York City in the distance, including the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
There will also be a local wine expert onboard to talk about all things wine- and vineyards-related, as well as a delicious selection of the best cheeses and charcuterie money can buy.
Tour the City Like a Millionaire: Private Limousine Tour of New York, Manhattan, NY
New York City is gorgeous no matter how your friend experiences it, but it’s even more beautiful when experienced as it was meant to be experienced – from the back of a swanky limousine rolling through the city.
The guide/driver is a native New Yorker who can provide your friend with all kinds of information about the culture and history of some of NYC’s most fascinating and historical areas. On the drive, he’ll get to see the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, the West Village, SoHo, Little Italy, TriBeca, Chinatown and more.
For The Friend with a Sweet Tooth: Chocolate Making Class, Brooklyn, NY
For the chocolate lover in your life, eating delicious chocolate is always a pleasant experience, but learning to make delicious, gourmet chocolates that she can enjoy herself at any time is even better.
This private class will find her learning the art from a third generation chocolatier. She’ll receive a step-by-step introduction to all things chocolate, including how to buy the best ingredients, how to taste for quality and tempering, coating and decorating chocolate.
Whether she’s a total beginner at making chocolate or has done it countless times before, this class will still expose her to something new.
For the Aspiring Martial Artist: Private Ninja Lesson, Yonkers, NY
This is one of the more unique gift experiences on our list. With this experience package, your friend will actually receive a private martial arts lesson that’ll teach him many of the ancient secrets of ninja masters throughout the ages.
The lesson is given at one of New York’s oldest Bujinkan schools, a school affiliated with the Bujinkan Hombu Dojo of Japan for over 30 years. He’ll learn many of the most effective methods of self-defense, including how to best use a situation to his advantage, from a true Shidoshi master.
He’ll also learn a lot about the philosophy, traditions and history of this ancient order.
Feed the Foodies: Historic Brooklyn Food & Drink Tour, Brooklyn, NY
Although there are a lot of great things about New York, one of the things that makes it number one on many people’s travel lists is the food, and there’s no better place to experience true New York cuisine than Brooklyn.
With this package, your friend will be able to tour the best kept secret of Brooklyn – the Bensonhurst neighborhood, which is known for its delicious and diverse culinary arts. It’s a three-hour walking tour that includes a lot of sampling of some of the best Bensonhurst has to offer, such as handmade dumplings, Mexican tostadas, roast duck and various Italian desserts.
The drinks menu is just as exciting and yummy.
Get Them High on Life: Learn to Fly a Helicopter, West Harrison, NY
Although this one’s about an hour outside of NYC, if your friend has the time and the inclination to drive out of the city proper, this is one of the coolest experiences on the list. This is no mere helicopter ride around New York.
On this trip, your friend will actually get to learn to fly a helicopter! There aren’t many people out there who haven’t dreamed of being able to fly at some point or other. If you have a friend like that, now’s his chance.
He’ll be flying one of the most popular helicopter models in the world, the Robinson R-44 with an FAA Certified Flight Instructor for the ultimate flight experience.
For the Aspiring Actor: Improv Classes, Manhattan, NY
Whether your loved one is a master at improv and comedy or has never acted a day in her life, this experience is one she can enjoy. The classes are broken into three different levels: Intro to Improv, Beyond the Basics and Advanced Scene-work Techniques.
All classes are taught by knowledgeable instructors who’re part of New York’s longest running comedy revue, which has been entertaining and teaching improv for the last 24 years in NYC. It’s a great way for your friend to express her bottled up creativity, and she can do so in a safe, encouraging environment free from judgement or ridicule.
For the Creative Mind: Museum of Natural History Art Safari, Manhattan, NY
This is a private tour of NYC’s famous Museum of Natural History, but it’s also so much more. The cost of the package includes entrance into the museum and all the drawing supplies he’ll need. Your friend will be paired with an artistic guide to show him around the safari exhibits of the museum, allowing him to view and sketch some of Africa’s most beautiful, exotic animals.
The instructor will teach him all kinds of important techniques including shading, perspective, dimension and line quality. He’ll also be able to experiment with different types of paper, drawing utensils and more.
For the Bud Who Loves a Good Brew: Virtual Homebrew Lesson, Any Location (Remote)
This is a great gift for anyone who’s ever wanted to learn to brew his own beer or turn his kitchen into a true brewery. The home brew essentials kit will be delivered straight to your friend’s front door, and he can use it whenever he decides the time is right for him.
He’ll log on for a three-hour session about how to make the perfect brew. Best of all, after the initial experience, he’ll hopefully have the knowledge to keep making delicious home brews that he’ll choose to share with you!
For the Golfer: Playing Lesson with a PGA Pro, Yonkers, NY
If you have a friend who’s a big golfer looking to improve his game, this could be the gift for him. With this gift, you’re buying him a two-hour, private playing lesson with PGA professional Todd Bordonaro.
Together, your friend and Bordonaro will discuss tips and tricks, practice real-world scenarios and just overall improve your pal’s game. Covered topics include short game creativity, shot selection, maintaining sing rhythm and balance, distance control and navigating different terrains and course conditions.
A Unique Experience: Glass Blowing Classes, Brooklyn, NY
This one seems to be one of the more popular options for things to do in New York, perhaps because it’s such a unique experience. Glassblowing has become a very uncommon art in the U.S., with very few people ever having experienced the pleasure of this delicate, intricate art.
Help make sure your friend can say she’s had the amazing opportunity to experience this firsthand by buying her one of the two available glassblowing packages. You can buy her either one or two classes, all two hours apiece, with a talented instructor who has over 25 years of experience in the art.
Both classes discuss the history and process of blowing glass. With the single class option, she’ll be able to make her own paperweight. With the double class option, she’ll be able to make her own drinking glass.
Food with a View: NYC Gourmet Sightseeing Lunch Cruise, Manhattan, NY
If your friend’s looking for something a little more classy and upscale, this could be the perfect gift for her. This lunch cruise comes with some of the most delicious gourmet food in Manhattan, live music from the ship’s baby grand piano, a fully stocked bar and a first-class seat to some of New York’s greatest sights.
After her meal, which could include a savory dish of glazed chicken with potatoes and chives, followed by New York’s famous cheesecake, she’ll have the option to take a stroll on deck for an unobstructed view of the Brooklyn Bridge, Ellis Island, Lady Liberty, the Colgate Clock and more.
A Casual Experience: Craft Cocktail Tour, Manhattan, NY
If you’ve ever watched Sex and the City, you already know you can’t do New York correctly without a cocktail or two. This gift package will take your friend right to the middle of Manhattan’s cocktail culture, taking her to the most popular cocktail bars in the city.
Not only will she get to sample different cocktails at each bar, she’ll also learn a bit about the history of each and even get a look at their “secret recipes” for making the best cocktails in Manhattan.
She’ll also get to learn a lot about prohibition in the city when she visits the sites of former speakeasies.
Bring on the Sugar Rush: NYC Dessert Tour, Manhattan, NY
If you’ve got the kind of friend who likes sweets more than he likes alcohol, he’ll love taking the New York City Dessert Tour. It starts out in Chelsea, where he’ll get to sample some of their famous half-pound cookies and visit the site of the original Oreo factory.
He’ll be treated to some delectable hot chocolate or some Italian gelato before heading into the meatpacking district and the West Village for more tasty treats.
For the Houdinis: Escape Room, Manhattan, NY
With five different scenarios from which to choose – Playground, Prison Break, the Heist, Gold Rush or Special Ops: Mysterious Market – your friend will have the ultimate Escape Room experience at this Manhattan location.
This is also a great one for you to choose if you want to buy an experience the two of you can do together. Together with up to seven other people (11 for the Playground scenario), your friend will search for clues, solve riddles and puzzles and try to make it out of the room before the timer runs out.
A Romantic Night for Two: Date Night New York Dinner Cruise
If you’re looking for the perfect gift for your partner or the perfect gift for a special couple in your life, you can’t beat the Date Night New York Dinner Cruise. The ship’s beautiful, and your friends (or you and your partner) can take a stroll around the deck, enjoying the gorgeous New York Skyline by night, before dinner is served.
Drinks are available for purchase, but the grand buffet meal is included in the cost of the package. Some of the delicious options on offer include numerous different pasta dishes and casseroles, salads, seasonal vegetables, oven-baked fish, short ribs, pork loin, glazed chicken, various sides and a wide selection of different desserts.
After dinner, the two can enjoy a cocktail or a nice hot cup of tea or coffee as they drift past many of New York’s most famous sights or head out to the dance floor.
A Picture Perfect Day: Private Photo Tour of NYC, Manhattan, NY
This is a great way for your loved one to tour all the best New York has to offer and also get some high-quality, professional photos of the experience. The photographer is a native New Yorker who’ll also act as her tour guide, giving her information on the history of all the places she visits.
She’ll have up to three hours to visit numerous different spots for her own private photo shoot. She can choose from Central Park, Times Square, the Theatre District, Rockefeller Center, Chinatown, the Brooklyn Bridge and more.
For the Aromatherapy Nuts: Custom Perfume Design, Manhattan, NY
With over 2,000 ratings on TrustPilot (mostly 4- and 5-stars), this is another super popular option. This is a 100% personal, custom design experience that’ll allow your friend to create her very own signature perfume with perfumer Sue Phillips.
She’ll join the ranks of such stars as Jamie Foxx, Snookie, Zendaya and Katie Holmes in using Ms. Phillips to create her perfect scent. The perfume will be bottled in a one-ounce spray bottle for women or a men’s canister.
She’ll then name it and receive a certificate of registration for it as well.
For the Escape Artists: Escape the City Adventure, Various Locations (Custom)
When you first check out this experience, you’ll see it lists the location as Richmond, Virginia. However, this company is a mobile company that’ll come to your city to create the perfect “escape the city adventure” for your friend.
Each experience is tailored specifically and uniquely for each individual. You can plan this event for your friend’s special day or event, and you can invite as few or as many people as you want to participate.
With this experience, you can literally turn New York City into a real-life role-playing adventure for your friend.
A Very Scenic View: Fall Foliage Helicopter Tour of the Hudson Valley, Westchester, NY
Although it’s a little outside of New York City proper (a little less than an hour away), this is a great gift for anyone who needs a little more beauty in his life. This helicopter tour starts at the Westchester County Airport and will fly your friend over the gorgeous Hudson Valley.
The flight is about 30 minutes long and will take him over some of the most gorgeous fall foliage imaginable. He’ll be able to see Castle-on Hudson, the Hudson River Palisades, Sing Sing Prison, the Rockefeller Estate (Kykuit), Tappan Zee Bridge and more.
A True Adrenaline Rush: Indoor Skydiving, Yonkers, NY
If you have a friend who’s always wanted to try skydiving but is a little too scared to go jumping out of planes, this is the perfect solution. This skydiving experience takes place indoors and will allow your friend to free fall without any plane or parachute, but it’s also risk-free.
The chamber is a state-of-the-art vertical wind tunnel that’ll allow her to float on a cushion of air, hanging above the ground. This is the closest to true flight a human can experience.
For Those Who Are a Little More Active: Brooklyn Bridge Bike Tour, NY
The Brooklyn Bridge is a New York staple and one of the most easily recognizable landmarks in the whole state. Even if your friend has visited it before, though, there’s nothing quite like visiting it on a bicycle.
It’s a two-hour trip on his bicycle, and he’ll have a knowledgeable tour guide along for the ride to give him all the history of the bridge, Manhattan and the City Hall area, which he’ll also pass while riding.
From the bridge, he’ll be able to see sights such as the New York Harbor, Staten Island, Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty and even more. The long coast down the other side of the bridge is just as breathtaking as the uphill ride is challenging.
For the Aspiring Chefs: The Chef & The Dish Private Virtual Cooking Lesson, Various Locations (Remote)
This is another great option for the friend who wants a nice experience but doesn’t really want to leave the house to get it. Much like the virtual brewery lesson listed above, this is a private, virtual cooking lesson given online by a gourmet chef.
She’ll be able to master some of the most popular dishes from around the world, all while learning in a private, one-on-one chat with world-renowned chefs.
For the Outdoorsman (or Woman): Kayak and Wine Adventure, Manhattan, NY
Water, rowing and wine – it doesn’t get much better than that. Your friend will start out the day by meeting his guide in Manhattan, and together they’ll travel a gorgeous, scenic route to the Delaware River Valley, where he’ll have the option to choose a single or double kayak as he wishes.
The kayak trip lasts between two and two and a half hours. Afterwards, he’ll have a nice picnic lunch before loading up for a trip to either the Warwick Valley Winery or the Crossing Vineyards & Winery, where he’ll have a great wine tasting or a full glass of his favorite wine.
Fun on the Water: New York Jet Ski Adventure Tour, Jersey City, NJ
Technically, the location for this one is listed as New Jersey, but Jersey City is only about 15 minutes away from NYC, and the actual jet ski tour allows your friend to tour New York, not New Jersey, so it made the list.
Your friend will have her own personal jet ski (or can share a jet ski with you if you decide to go together) and will enjoy the ride on it as much as she enjoys the sights. The tour guide will give her an overview of the history of each sight she sees.
Included sights on the tour are the Brooklyn Bridge, Yankee Stadium, Chelsea Piers and more.
Give Them a Night In: Cooking Party in Your Home, New York City, New York
With this gift, you can choose to go one of two ways. You can either host the private cooking lesson in your own home and invite your friend over as your guest, or you could surprise her by buying the package for her and allowing her to host the lesson herself in her own home.
The lesson for cooking the gourmet meal will be taught by renowned chef Mark Tafoya, who has been featured in the New York Times, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal. Chef Mark will meet with your friend before the meal and talk about what types of food she’s most interested in learning to cook, and he’ll tailor the lesson around her interests.
At the end of the party, everyone will get to eat all the delicious food they’ve made together.
A Little Bit of Culture: Greenwich Village Food and Drink Tour, New York City, NY
If your friend loves food but doesn’t want to learn to cook it himself, this Greenwich Village food and drink tour might be a better option than a private cooking party. The tour is a walking tour of the village that takes about three hours in total.
He’ll get to taste numerous different signature New York pizzas, including New York-style pizza, the famous New York bagel, a Reuben and more. The drinks are equally delicious and very New York. He’ll also see a lot of Greenwich Village’s most famous sights.
The tour guide will discuss local traditions and how the cuisine came about and has evolved over the years.
Head Back in Time: Mad Men Cocktail Tour, Manhattan, NY
This three-hour guided tour of Madison Avenue and other parts of Manhattan is for the friend who wants to skip the food and get right to the drinks. She’ll enjoy a true blast from the past as she gets to experience New York City as it must have been in the 60’s.
She’ll learn a little about the ad industry of the era while stopping at three different hot spots for 60’s-themed cocktails. She’ll also learn a lot of great trivia about AMC’s Mad Men and enjoy playing dress-up as well.
For the Couple in Love: Romantic Painting Class, Manhattan, NY
This last experience gift is the perfect choice for your own partner or for any of the couple friends in your life. It’s a romantic evening of painting, wine and a lot of great fun. You and your partner (or the couple for whom you purchase this package) will be paired with your own private art instructor who will help the two of you create one single, cohesive masterpiece.
You can choose to bring your own drinks and enjoy the music, candles and warm ambiance of the studio. All art supplies and canvases are included in the price, and the two of you will be able to take your painting home when you leave.
Finding the Perfect Experience for Your Friend
Finding the perfect experience gift for someone is actually incredibly easy most of the time. That’s because most people enjoy experiences so much more than they enjoy material things. So as long as you don’t get them a gift package that terrifies them (i.e. – a skydiving experience for someone terrified of heights), they’re probably going to love whatever you choose.
Try to pair them up with experiences you think they’d actually enjoy though. You can do this in one of two ways. First, buy them a gift package that aligns with interests you already know they have.
For example, if your sister loves biking, you know giving her the chance to take a Brooklyn Bridge Bike Tour is probably something she’ll really love. You can’t really go wrong with giving someone the opportunity to experience something s/he already loves in a new and exciting way.
The other way to choose the perfect gift is by giving them an experience they’ve always wanted to try but have never had the opportunity to do so. For example, if your best friend has told you for years that one day, he’s absolutely going to learn to fly a helicopter, or if every time you guys pass under a helicopter flying overhead he says something like, “Man, that would be so cool to be able to do,” then chances are he’d really enjoy an experience package that allows him learn to fly a helicopter.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to find the perfect experience either. Most experiences, as long as they aren’t terrifying, embarrassing or otherwise unpleasant, are going to be enjoyable for most people. Don’t necessarily assume you have to buy the most expensive gift either. There are experience gifts out there. Just buy them something nice, and they’ll be sure to love it.
Has anyone ever bought you an experience as a gift? Have you ever given someone an experience gift yourself? What types of experiences do you think make the best gifts for single people? For couples? For children? Let us know all that and more down below in the comments section, and don’t forget to like and share our article!
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