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14 Experiences to Gift People This Holiday Season

Give the gift of adventure

Give the gift of adventure

Holiday shopping for the adventure-loving people on your list is tough. Many either already have all the outdoor gear they need or are too particular to let anyone else shop for things like skis or running shoes. Instead of one more pair of wool hiking socks or yet another headlamp, how about giving an outdoor experience? Nowadays, you can find gift cards for things like cool guided trips, credit toward campsites and off-the-beaten-path vacation housing, or a chance to learn a new skill.

For Foodies

Need a gift for someone who loves food and travel? Check out Conscious Course. On its guided backpacking trip through California’s Sierra Nevada foothills ($400), a wilderness chef leads you on farm tours, serve up multicourse meals, and do cooking demonstrations on hand-built backcountry stoves.

Or give an Heirloom Mail subscription ($25 per month) from the Recipe Hunters. Every 30 days, a box will arrive containing one surprise ingredient from around the world, along with stories, traditional recipes, and cooking techniques.

For Hikers and Campers

The National Park Service may be increasing entry fees to some of the country’s busiest playgrounds starting next summer, so a gift card to enter national parks isn’t a bad idea to help loved ones offset the price spike. An America the Beautiful pass ($80) lasts an entire year and gives access to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites, including all national parks. Or pick up a gift card to Hipcamp (from $75), and friends and family will be able to book unique campsites on private and public land around the United States.

For World Travelers

Give the gift of travel by starting with an Airbnb gift card, which recipients can use to book lodging in any corner of the globe. For full-service trips, REI Adventures leads everything from rafting in Costa Rica to kayaking in New Zealand to hiking through Arizona’s Sonoran Desert. You can purchase an REI gift card to cover all or part of any of those adventures. For the women on your list, consider a trip with AdventureWomen a mother-daughter-run company that leads all-female trips like biking in Chile, trekking in the Himalayas, or skiing in Montana. Give yourself peace of mind with a Medjet membership (from $99), which offers travel protection for medical emergencies that’ll ensure your loved ones get transportation to a hospital, no matter where in the world they are.

For Water Lovers

For the surfers or aspiring surfers on your holiday list, score a gift certificate in any amount to Tofino, British Columbia’s Long Beach Lodge Resort, a plush waterfront hotel with a surf school in Cox Bay that offers instruction and surfboard rental. Or spring for an OARS gift card (from $25), which can go toward more than 100 guided river trips, from Green River to Grand Canyon.

For someone who has always wanted to learn to scuba dive, you can now give an online course that marks the first step in completing the dive certification process. PADI’s eLearning program (from $179) can be taken at any time and any pace. Once the recipient is certified, you can start chipping in for dive trips to places like Tahiti, Thailand, or Hawaii.

For Skiers

Nothing beats freeskiing, so consider a Liftopia gift card, which can be redeemed for lift tickets at more than 250 ski resorts across North America, including spots like Aspen, Snowbird, Jackson Hole, and Big Sky. For a gift no skier or snowboarder will ever forget, purchase a pass good for one run of heli-skiing at Colorado’s rugged Silverton Mountain ($179), or splurge for a full day of six runs of heli-skiing ($999). As far as heli-skiing goes, that’s about the most affordable you’ll find.

The Winter Nights and City Lights package at Denver’s upscale Crawford Hotel (opened in 2014 inside the city’s restored Union Station) is ideal for folks who want to stay the night before jumping on Amtrak’s Winter Park Express for direct service to the base of the ski area. The offer includes accommodations for two, two winter-themed cocktails, breakfast credit at Snooze, and two travel coffee mugs ($269). Buy a Crawford Hotel gift card to cover the package.

Filed To: Travel / Holiday / Denver / National Parks / Apps / OARS / British Columbia / California / Chile / Colorado / Big Sky / Biking
Nicolas Henderson/Creative Commons )

San Marcos, Texas

Billed as the world’s toughest canoe race, the Texas Water Safari, held each June, is a four-day, 260-mile jaunt from the headwaters of the San Marcos River northeast of San Antonio to the small shrimping town of Seadrift on the Gulf Coast. There’s no prize money—just bragging rights for the winner. Any boat without a motor is allowed, and you’ll have to carry your own equipment and overnight gear. Food and water are provided at aid stations along the way. Entry fees start at $175 and increase as race day approaches.

The Ring

(Courtesy Quatro Hubbard)

Strasburg, Virginia

The Ring is a 71-mile trail running race in early September along the entire length of Virginia’s rough and rocky Massanutten Trail loop. To qualify, you need to have run a 50- or 100-mile race before the event and win a spot through the lottery system. Entry is free. Complete the run and you’ll become part of the tight-knit Fellowship of the Ring and be eligible for the Reverse Ring, which entails running the trail backwards in the middle of winter.


(David Silver)

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Each spring, competitors gather in Santa Fe’s historic plaza with a simple goal: be the first to reach 12,308-foot Deception Peak, 17 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation gain away. Competitors run or bike the first 15 miles to the local ski area before transitioning to their waiting ski-touring setups for the final push to the top. Time stops only when they’ve skied back down to the tailgate in the resort’s parking lot, which is funded by the modest entry fee of around $25. To add to the sufferfest, some participants sign up for the Expedition category, in which they strap their skis, skins, boots, and poles to their bikes for the long ride up. Start dates vary depending on snow conditions, but look for the event page to be posted on Facebook in late March or early April.

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