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The California Experiences to Gift Instead of Things
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The California Experiences to Gift Instead of Things

Finding presents for everyone during the holiday season can be stressful, but gifting California experiences makes it so much easier.

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5 min read

September 28, 2022

Disclaimer: California.com is not receiving any type of compensation for reviewing any of the products or services mentioned in this article.

When the holiday season comes around it’s natural to start thinking about getting gifts for your friends and family. But deciding which California experiences to gift instead of things can be a better approach. While it might sound daunting to keep so many options in mind, adding experiences to the repertoire can make it easier to shop for the people in your life who don’t have wish lists. They might have everything they need, but there is likely something in California that they would like to do, so it’s time to get creative.

The only downside is deciding which experience to gift. California is full of opportunities, so the hardest part is focusing on what would be practical and enjoyable for your loved ones. From planning the perfect long weekend in Big Sur to scheduling a trip to Disneyland, to spending a weekend in South Lake Tahoe, to booking a rock-climbing experience in Malibu, there are no limits to what you might find. With the interests of your loved ones in mind and the never-ending options the Golden State provides, you’ll be able to plan the perfect experience gift in no time.

Enjoy the beauty of the City of Angels from up above with one of LA’s best helicopter tours.

Helicopter Tour of Los Angeles

Though they can be pricey, helicopter tours make for some of the best experiences in Los Angeles. For a great experience gift for couples, book a romantic sunset flight for you and your sweetheart or reserve a celebrity-home tour for your reality TV-obsessed bestie. Either way, your gift is sure to be a winner.

You can gift your loved ones a regular Universal Studios experience, or you can give them the VIP treatment.

Universal Studios Hollywood VIP Experience

If you’ve been searching for a really special Christmas experience gift idea this holiday season, look no further than Universal Studios Hollywood’s VIP Experience. Not only do your tickets include valet parking along with unlimited express access to rides and shows, but they also provide access to the exclusive backlot.

Here, you’ll tour some of the movie industry’s bustling sets and sound stages. You can hop off the trolley at any time and explore areas that aren’t open to the general public. Top off this star-studded evening and savor a gourmet meal in the VIP dining room. This is not your average day at one of the best amusement parks in California. But note that you’ll need to specify a date and time when you book (tours depart every 15 minutes or so starting at 8:30 a.m.) so it might be difficult to keep this one a surprise.

Just a simple walk through the streets of Downtown Palm Springs can prove to be therapeutic. Plan a weekend getaway and surprise your boo.

A Palm Springs Weekend

Relationships are a roller coaster of a ride, and you and your boo deserve a much-needed romantic Southern California getaway to renew the spark. A weekend getaway in Palm Springs sounds like the perfect plan. The best part is that you don’t even need to wonder how to spend the weekend in Palm Springs, thanks to the abundance of awesome things to do in the area.

Palm Springs biplanes take you on an unforgettable tour of the desert from up above, Sparrow Lodge allows you to connect technology-free as you lay down and relax, and the Purple Room Supper Club will allow you to have the best dinner while listening to awesome music. If a weekend in Palm Springs isn’t the perfect experience gift, then we’re not sure what is.

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique Beauty Services

Looking for the best experience gift ideas to surprise your little ones? Or are they your nieces and nephews? California’s Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique adds an extra special touch to any Disneyland vacation, offering an array of beauty services that will be loved by all young Disney aficionados (ages 3–12) and their equally enthusiastic parents.

Give the kids in your life the makeover of their dreams with a new hairstyle, makeup, nail polish, and a magical outfit before their keepsake portrait session. The whole family can enjoy watching the young royals rule and protect the kingdom as they explore the awesome rides in the park, and indulge in the best Disneyland food.

You can tour the Napa Valley vineyards on foot or you can tour them from the comfort of a hot air balloon approximately 3,000 feet above the ground.

Hot-Air Balloon Rides in Napa

While your friends might be familiar with Napa’s vineyard tours, they likely have not had the opportunity to experience a hot-air balloon ride overlooking the stunning landscape of the region. A Napa Valley hot-air balloon ride is truly a one-of-a-kind experience gift in California, and your loved ones will remember it for years to come. So go ahead and book them a ride and let them experience one of the best things to do in Napa.

Napa Olive Oil Tasting

Thanks to Napa Valley’s perfect Mediterranean climate this area produces many of California’s bountiful crops such as dozens of grape varieties and succulent olives. Expand your knowledge of the region and learn about olive cultivation, harvest, and processing methods.

For the best experience gift, book a couple’s visit to the Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufacturing Company in St. Helena, where you and your better half can sample the best olive oils beyond the Bay Area. Alternatively, opt for food and beverage pairings where you’ll learn how to evaluate the oils for quality and flavor.

Into the depths of Mendocino’s redwood groves you go for the experience of a lifetime.

Camping in Hendy Woods State Park

Northern California’s redwoods are a sight to behold and spending the day in their shade and the night under the California sky is the best experience to gift to a nature lover.  If you know someone who’d choose a weekend in the California redwood groves over any material gift, a getaway to Henry Woods State Park is the perfect gift for them.

Between hiking through the piercing redwood trees, splashing in the quaint swimming holes, and searching for the hidden hermit hut you’ll have your hands full during the day. Come nighttime 92 campsites welcome you to spend a tranquil night in the depths of NorCal’s forests. This is the type of gift a nature lover will appreciate.

The possibilities for experiential gifts are truly endless, but if you’re looking for more inspiration, consider: 

  • Sailing lessons on California’s awesome beaches,
  • SUP yoga classes are available across the Golden State,
  • Surfing sessions, because the Pacific Ocean waves beg to be surfed,
  • Kayaking tours at one of the breathtaking rivers in California,
  • Tickets to a concert at one of California’s top music venues,
  • Latte art or coffee roasting workshops.

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