An "experience gift" can't technically be unwrapped, but it might just open a new passion or a fun memory for the recipient. Help them enjoy an adventure they've never taken before through crafts, cooking, play, excursions and more.
“Experiences are so much better than a physical present,” says Melissa Gabrielsen, co-owner of VEME Studios, a workshop space that opened in Greenport last summer. An experience is "a gift that lasts forever in your memories." The shop hosts classes for kids and adults ranging from pottery to painting. "The great thing about doing an art workshop is you also get a piece of handmade art as well,” she adds.
For those who want to gift a little bit of nostalgia, consider retro gaming. “Each game is its own experience, and playing can be passed down from generation to generation,” says owner Josh Guskin, who launched Pinball Long Island last spring. “We get everyone from strollers to walkers in here,” he says.
Here are more activities and experiences to try across Long Island from arts and crafts to cooking to sailing:
Workshops at the studio include mug-making classes taught by Gabrielsen and are held regularly throughout the year. She'll lead participants through the process, from shaping to decorating and beginners are welcome. Once attendees complete their piece, Gabrielsen will fire and glaze the mugs. The process takes about four to six weeks and once they're ready, crafters can pick them up.
Cost Workshops are $80 and gift cards are available
More info 214 Front St.; vemestudios.com
Axe & Smash
Painters will be placed in a room with a 14-by-14-foot wall canvas and given squeezable paint bottles and mess-protective gear. Creators have 30 minutes to blast neon paint in any direction — at the canvas, the walls, floors and anyone in the room — and since the room uses black lights, it makes for a glowing experience. Participants can keep their canvas and a staffer is on hand to help with instruction or guidance in creating a piece of art.
Cost Sessions are $36 per person (which include the canvas, three paint bottles, safety goggles, shoe covers and a poncho). Solo and group sessions are available; gift certificates are available.
More info: 10095 Main Rd., Mattituck; 631-292-0020, axesmashli.com
North Fork Table & Inn
The American restaurant known for its signature cocktails and happy hour offers mixology classes open to parties of two to six. Sessions featuring gin, whiskey and rum are held regularly and participants will learn drink-mixing fundamentals and familiarity with spirits before building from scratch.
Cost Mixology classes are $140 per person; customized classes can also be arranged starting at $150 per person, as are wine tasting classes; gift cards for classes are available.
More info: 57225 Main Rd., Southold; 631-765-0177, northforktableandinn.com
A boutique bakery specializing in European pastries also offers cooking classes available to gift. Among the offerings are lessons in making and baking French macarons, which include instruction on creating the shells, meringue and the cream filling, as well as how to devise colors before taking home a box of what’s been baked.
Cost Open to all levels of experience; two-hour classes are $95 per person
More info 61 N. Ocean Ave., Patchogue; 631-627-8560, mademoisellepatisserie.com
Pinball Long Island
With close to 100 games, this arcade has machines ranging in era from the '60s to today, with themes focused on popular movies, bands and TV shows. "Each machine plays differently from the next, and each game goes differently, so you’ll never get the same game twice,” explains Guskin.
Cost Gift cards are available; $20; $10 for ages 10 and under covers an entire day of play
More info 48 W. Main St.; pinballlongisland.com
Bestea by Hitch
More than just an eclectic shop selling apparel, home décor, candles, jewelry and other accessories, this venue in Babylon also features a tea bar boutique called Bestea. The spot hosts a number of classes and workshops. Among the regular offerings are its candle-making sessions, where all the materials needed are supplied. Guests receive a free serving of tea and can bring in their own food.
Cost Classes are on monthly basis and run 90 minutes to two hours. Prices range $48-$148 depending on class.
More info 37 E. Main St., Babylon; 516-519-2494, hitchlongisland.com
Rage Room Long Island
Most experiences are about creating, but at this spot you’re able to wreck everything in sight. Guests 18 and over (or ages 10-17 with a parent/guardian) can release some stress by donning protective gear (provided) and using tools like hammers, wrenches, baseball bats and crowbars to destroy piles of junk and smashing it all to bits. The aftermath gets recycled. Sessions are open to solo participants or groups.
Cost Starting at $105 for up to two people for 20 minutes; extended times and larger groups are also available; gift cards are available
More info 978 Middle Country Rd., Selden; 631-880-7772, rageroomli.com
Graff Lab Studio
The studio specializes in family-friendly workshops where you can learn and practice the art of graffiti. Hosted by professional street artists, the 90-minute classes include over 100 stencils, more than 30 colors and participants will be given aprons and gloves to help stay paint-free.
Cost Gift cards start at $40
More info 1600 N. Ocean Ave., Holtsville and 12 Millers Lane, New Hyde Park; 631-265-6508, grafflabstudio.com
The studio hosts hands-on learning sessions for cooks of all skill levels. The Steakhouse Classics session teaches students how to make Argentinian steak with chimichurri sauce and French bistro filet mignon au poivre. Classes (approximately 2.5 hours) are held monthly at its cookshop.
Cost Classes are $115; aprons, ingredients and all necessary tools are included
More info 45 E. Main St., Babylon; 631-818-1100, babylonmercantile.com
Nest on Main
Nest on Main offers three-hour “chunky blanket” classes that include all materials, instruction and participants leave with a finished blanket.
More info 135 Main St., Northport; 631-651-9173, nestonmainmarket.com
Long Island Pickleball Pros
Pickleball is a hybrid of Ping-Pong, badminton and tennis that can be played indoors or outside — and if you’d like to get a friend or family member into the game, the Long Island Pickleball Pros company offers gift certificates for lessons. Professional Pickleball Registry-certified coach Frank Milillo, who teaches year-round at Rockville Centre Recreation, will be your guide.
Cost A holiday gift certificate covering a 90-minute pickleball clinic (for four people) is $120
More info 111 N. Oceanside Rd, Rockville Centre; 516-384-5124, longislandpickleballpros.com
Sail Montauk offers private, one-on-one sailing instruction (with the option to include as many as four people aboard) that can be given as gifts. All lessons are conducted by a licensed instructor aboard a 22-foot sailboat, and three-hour classes can cover everything from learning the basics of sailing to brushing up on skills. Students will be introduced to how boats operate, including rigging, docking and anchoring.
Cost Three-hour classes start at $375 beginning the second weekend in May 2024.
More info 478 W. Lake Dr., Montauk; 631-522-5183, sailmontauk.com
The Sculpture Workshop
For a unique artistic opportunity, sculptor Laura Rand Haleman, owner of The Sculpture Workshop, a teaching studio for stone carving located in Brookville, offers a gift certificate that covers 10 classes that will allow participants to create pieces from stones (must be purchased separately, starting at $75 for a small 40-pound stone; tools and stones are also available for purchase at the studio) and using tools that are available at the studio. Classes are held in groups but all will receive individual instruction.
Cost $625 for 10 classes
More info: 30 Ormond Park Rd., Brookville; 516-626-2926, laurahaleman.com