13 Boston Experiences You Can Give as Gifts This Year

Your friends don't need any more candles, trust us.

The Yayoi Kusama Mirror Infinity Room “Love Is Calling” at the Institute of Contemporary Art. (Photo by Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Worried your big Christmas gift might get stuck on a container ship somewhere this year? Consider not relying on the supply chain at all, and opt instead for giving the gift of experiences you can find right here in Boston.

A walking tour

Give the gift of doing something shamelessly touristy by finally joining one of the Freedom Trail tours we’re always brushing past on the way to Beantown Pub. If your loved one is a little too cool for that, consider more refined experiences, like a walking tour focused on Boston architecture. Or perhaps a North End food tour, wherein they can enjoy free samples of arancini to their stomach’s content. So long as they work on their fake accent a bit, and tell the tour guides they’re from Memphis.

A night at a game bar

Boston is quickly becoming a drinking gamer’s paradise. So why not treat someone on your list with a night at someplace on the growing list of activity-based bars. A4Cade (arcade games), VERSUS (also arcade games), SPIN (ping pong), Flight Club (darts), and Tavern of Tales (board games) are all options worth considering. Or for something a bit more quintessentially Massachusetts, the many candlepin bowling alleys around Boston are also game bars in a way.

A cameo from a local celebrity

Sometimes you simply can’t spread holiday cheer as effectively as a famous local athlete can. That’s why you need Cameo, the app where you hire celebs to say nice things (or mean things, your choice!) to your friends. Bruins Marc Savard and Charlie Coyle are both hire-able for personalized holiday messages, as is former Real Housewife, current Shark Tank guest, and sometime Back Bay resident Bethenny Frankel.

Sailing lessons

You might be surprised how affordable it is to learn how to sail in this beautiful port city of ours. Consider signing a loved one up with Community Boating Inc., a beloved Charles River institution with a fascinating backstory that just celebrated its 75th anniversary. As a bonus to you, CBI lets members take guests aboard.

Golf lessons

Golfing is all the rage right now. Boston pros are embracing this trend in a major way, and most will encourage you to take a couple lessons before you start hacking away on the course—so give your pal a leg up with a gift card. The season’s just about over, but instructors simply move things indoors, like at Boston’s CityGolf, or to heated outdoor driving ranges, like at DeLisio in Salem.

A cooking class

Everyone can cook, as the famous Disney rat learns in the movie. And Boston’s overflowing with giftable cooking class options. The Milk Street Cooking School, America’s Test Kitchen, and Eataly each offer lessons—some online, and some in person. You’ll have to reassure your giftee that this isn’t a coded message about the quality of their holiday feasts, but that’s what properly worded cards are for.

A day in a cool car

Give your friend a break from the old beater they have parked on the curb, or reward a comrade who has abstained from car ownership for their good citizenship, and rent them an Escalade. Rental cars are a little harder to come by these days, but the app Turo has plenty of cars, some of them super-high-end, that are available to rent by the day.

A night in a house boat

Did you know Boston has a handful of rentable house boats floating in the water? Now you do! Send a loved one on a floating home in the Charlestown Marina, for instance. Or check out our guide to other houseboat rental options a little further away.

A suite at the Garden

Who doesn’t love Celtics/Bruins tickets? Especially if your giftee has yet to see the newly renovated Garden and Hub on Causeway setup, this is a no-brainer gift idea this year. If you want to go nuts and you’ve got deep pockets, suite rentals are always there for you. And word to the wise: The Garden’s suites are accessible via private entrance. Pretty sweet.

Membership to a museum

Museums haven’t had an easy go of it these past years, so give your art-loving friends the gift of free entry at any one of the city’s renowned institutions. For instance, gift memberships go for $75 at the ICA. Or if the experience you’d like to bestow is that of being an ICA “patron,” that’ll be $510.

A day of skating

Outdoor skating rinks, like the kind you’ll find at 401 Park or in Kendall Square, are all the rage right now. Consider paying for someone’s skates, and be sure to throw in a hot chocolate, or a beer.

A year with a local CSA

Fresh produce season may be way off in the distance this time of year, but it’s never too early to start thinking about delicious local veggies. Give the gift of more varieties of radish, and more vitamin-packed leafy greens, than your eyes have ever seen with a Boston-area CSA.

A subscription to Boston magazine

Can’t blame us for trying.