You might think experience gifts are out this year, with the pandemic is still raging, but I’m here to tell you they are very much in. They’ve just gone virtual. And yes, I realize we all have serious Zoom burnout at this point, so if you’re looking for a cool virtual experience gift idea, know that I’m sharing only the ones that really justify another hour or so in front of a screen.
Spoiler: Some of these involve wine. And chocolate.
Plus, the great online migration has made some opportunities available that would never have been possible for so many of us, like courses from experts in big cities you never would have traveled to, or never could have afforded in-person.
In addition to these ideas, also be sure to search in your own local community. It’s important to support our local businesses, and you might be surprised who’s teaching private voice lessons, foreign language lessons, offering a cooking class, or a marital arts master class, all online.
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Virtual experience gifts for food and drink lovers
If you’re looking for an experience gift for someone with an affinity for wine or another treat, consider a virtual tasting — and hey, grab one for yourself if you want to share the experience. These online events typically include a shipment of the goods for tasting, plus a guided discussion while you all taste along. I think that trying the same wine at the same time — is that a note of truffle and peppercorn? — is a creative way to feel more connected than your average FaceTime call.
Unfortunately for Schitt’s Creek fans Herb Ertlinger doesn’t offer one yet, but I’m betting wine lovers will still enjoy this virtual wine tasting from Brooklyn Winery. You can also check out the options from Priority Wine Pass if you want a cool group gift — schedule it for January, so you have something to look forward to.
Tired of regular online school? Try this chocolate tasting class from Theo Chocolate. Who could say no?
If you’re buying for someone who’s a lifelong learner (at least when it comes to dairy products), take a look at these amazing cheese classes and tastings from Murray’s Cheese.
If you’re looking for a great gift for a whiskey fan (as in every guy I know), consider this online whiskey flight and tasting from Wanderback (above).
Virtual experience gifts: Online classes. So many classes!
Has the person you’re buying for always wanted to learn woodcarving? Curling? How to make traditional dim sum? Whatever it is, you can bet there’s an online class for it.
First, check out our list of resources for online learning since so many of them feature fun classes in addition to the more textbook-y educational stuff.
Next, I’ve been eying a Masterclass subscription ever since I saw that Margaret Atwood teaches writing. But the platform offers SO many courses in categories like food and wine, music, business, sports, tech, community and government… can you imagine giving your favorite home cook home cooking lessons from Alice Waters? Or helping a Queer Eye fan out with his closet, thanks to Tan France’s style for everyone class?
They also have offerings for kids and teens — skateboarding with Tony Hawk, or independent filmmaking with Spike Lee perhaps. And right now, they’re offering a special limited-time 2-for-1 membership offer, so you can take a class together with someone you love.
A budding musician would probably love a class from Fender Play where they can learn to play guitar, bass or ukulele.
Or if you know a teen or young woman who’s kept you laughing throughout the quarantine, consider online standup and storytelling classes at Gold Comedy—founded by the incredible Lynn Harris. Take advantage of their 50% off rates until December 31, 2020.
Speaking of kids, Kidpass is a genius site filled with all kinds of live, online classes for kids ranging from private music lessons for a new violin or keyboard, martial arts for kids, and for tweens, a TikTok improv choreography class. So 2020!
If you’re buying for a kid who needs to burn some energy and connect with other children, think about one of these kids’ stand-up comedy classes over Zoom from Kids N Comedy, which normally is limited to kids in the NYC area. Or check out this triple threat (singing, dancing, acting) class with Hamilton’s Nick Negron, through Broadway Teaches Kids on Outschool.
If you want an experience gift for crafters, I’m considering this crafting with Santa class, also on Outschool, for my 3-year-old son, but there’s really something for every interest if you visit the site. Another option for crafters and makers: Michaels, which offers free online courses.
I’m particularly interested in live online cooking classes, like this Chinese and Japanese cooking class from An Appetite for China, or any of the offerings from League of Kitchens. Sur La Table offers virtual cooking classes too complete with prep packets so you’re all set before your lessons. These ideas also happens to be a terrific way to help support folks in the culinary world who may be struggling due to shutdowns.
And if you want something a little more academic but still fun, the list of online course series from The Great Courses is overwhelming. Select categories of interest like history, fine arts, philosophy, language, literature, and take it from there!
Virtual experience gifts with a celebrity
While 2020 has really hurt the performing arts, cancelling too many concerts, plays, and musicals to count, it’s nice that celebrities are available to perform at fun virtual events or arrange visits for fans. Sometimes even to raise money for a great charity.
Earlier this season we covered ways to ways to virtually meet Santa, including a virtual story time hosted by the big guy himself (he’s kind of the ultimate celebrity, anyway). What a cool gift for a kid who can’t get to see him in person this year.
If you’re looking for an experience gift for a musical theater fan, Airbnb offers the ability to sing Broadway songs with a Broadway star, which, wow! Above, you can se Stephen Carlile, who currently plays Scar in The Lion King and by all accounts is a fabulous, fun teacher. What a cool way to support Broadway actors until the Great White Way goes bright again.
Liz is raising two theater kids, and a few years back, she gifted a master class in musical theater with the cast of Broadway’s Mean Girls through Broadway workshop. Now they’re offering those classes online, so check out the calendar — you can still jump in on the waitlist for the Broadway Day with the stars of Hamilton (or hope they add a second session, which they often do).
[Editors note: We can no longer recommend the biggest website for celebrity videos until they remove avowed bigots, internet trolls, and white supremacists off their platform. Which sucks for the really decent celebs there who are often raising money for great charities — but hey, hatred isn’t part of the Christmas spirit. ]
If you’ve got a reality show junkie to shop for, there’s a Kardashian home Christmas tour, hosted by mama Kris herself. Surely your’e dying to know just how they’re decorating their house this year. (If it’s not already all over Instagram.)
Virtual Experience Tours for Travelers
If you’re looking for a cool virtual experience gift for someone who’s a little stir crazy at home these days — I know, that’s all of us — it might be cool to plan a virtual tour of the Louvre or another museum, and send them some authentic French macarons to enjoy while they browse the great works. Which is something they can’t do in person, come to think of it.
For a fee — often a small one — airbnb has tons of virtual experience gifts for travelers. under their history and culture category. Spend a day in France with a Parisian, experience Irish culture and history right from Dublin, get your own private tango concert with an Argentinian Grammy nominee, take an online tour of Tokyo for $16 a person…which is about the price of a cup of coffee there, right?
Great Courses is another option, with so many virtual courses taught by experts in history, culture and more. A francophile on your list may love this 24-course series on the history of France, for example. Or help someone learn Italian online in preparation for a real trip in 2021.
Know anyone who’s missing NYC? Liz has shared her favorite food gifts from New York eating institutions, but consider a virtual experience gift that feels like you’re there, too. These I think Friends fans from teens to Boomers will love this Virtual “Friends” tour AKA “The One Where Friends Comes To Your Apartment,” thanks to On Location Tours. They’re known for in-person tours of locations from shows like Ms. Maisel, The Sopranos, and Sex & The City, so it’s cool they’re offering this tour virtually.
Top image: Dollar Gill on Unsplash