Gift-giving season is here. It’s great if you’re the kind of person who enjoys giving and receiving gifts. But if you’re like me, then this time of year can be stressful and actually kind of annoying.
I have never cared much for physical gifts. Anything I want, I enjoy the satisfaction of getting it for myself or else saving up to do so. For others, I give them food or else my time. Food is useful—y’all gotta eat—and time is valuable, so I don’t give it to just anyone.
Both of these things highlight what I really love giving and getting from people—experiences. Experiences, and their subsequent memories, connect me to that person in a way that I appreciate above anything else. They are personalized and fun and fortunately, we live in a city that overflows in unique ways to spend your time.
For of those of you who love experiences, or for those of you who want something different this year, here’s my list of my favorite holiday experience gifts in San Francisco this season. Do you have any unique experiences you’ve received as a gift? Let me know!
REI outdoor adventure tours: They offer a ton of classes from kayaking to camping to whale watching. Pick what’s best for you and enjoy a cool way to experience Bay Area’s nature.
Hot air balloon ride in Napa: I’ve never actually been in a hot air balloon so this is top of my list cuz it looks so cool (for anyone who might be reading 😉 )
Weekend in Mendocino: It’s 4 hours away via Highway 1, but it’s worth the drive for this gorgeous, cute little town. It’s packed with amazing views, cute Airbnbs, and easy hikes for a relaxing long weekend.
Cooking class at SF Cooking School: They’ve got all levels of classes that are really fun to try your hand at. The instructors are well-known chefs, and the kitchen space is serious goals.
Day trip to Sebastopol: Instead of Napa, try the wines in its neighboring town. It’s a little sleepier, but that also means less tourists and a more personalized experience. I particularly love Emeritus Vineyards.
Wood working class: Making a cutting board is way harder than you think, but it’s fun to walk away with someone you made. Wood Thumb has great classes to offer.
Pottery class: I am 100% not good at pottery, but I really enjoyed learning and trying it at Clay by the Bay. You might find you’re a natural on your first try!
Onsen: This Japanese bath and restaurant is a gem of a place to relax in and get a good meal. The bath runs over 100 degrees for your sauna pleasure, and afterwards enjoy the restaurant for a lovely evening.
Dinner + wine tasting at Rich Table: Still my favorite tasting menu with wine pairings in the city. It’s more affordable than most tasting menus (although still not cheap by any means), and completely worth it.
Dance classes at Dance Mission: For those of you who like to dance or are interested in it, Dance Mission offers packs you can buy. They’ve got everything from hip hop to salsa, and each class feels like a workout and a party at the same time.
Visit a national park: California is home to tons of national parks, and it’s close to many more. I visited Zion this year and was blown away; I cannot recommend it enough.
Bikes and wine tasting in Alameda: Did you know Alameda has got lots of wineries and breweries and it’s only a ferry ride away? Make a day trip here and get great views of the city while sipping. I recommend renting bicycles for the day so you can explore the space more in between tasting rooms.
Go car rentals: Those wacky little yellow cars around the city look so dumb but I promise you they are so much fun. Rent one for the day and go on your own tour of SF.
Museum Hack: Ever look at some (ok a lot) of the museum art and have no idea what’s going on? Museum Hack gives you a tour of the weirder sides of the art in SF’s main museums that are full of fun and relevant facts that make your visit more than just milling about a museum.
Photo: Beschell Photography