The Gift of Experience

Sometimes the best gifts are the ones that can’t be wrapped. Whether that means signing your reluctant friend up for singing lessons (they have to go when it’s a gift) or buying a family a membership to the zoo, gifts that come in a flat envelope don’t have to be boring. From experiences that will make you want to pull out your phone and brag, to experiences that are all about forgetting your phone exists, check out the following ideas for standout presents.

Go Float! We All Float Down Here.

Flotation therapy has been making its American resurgence and Float, which opened this year in Warwick, brings the decades-long practice into Rhode Island. Flotation tanks — originally known as “sensory deprivation tanks” — were invented in 1954 by a neuroscientist who was researching the effects of lack of physical stimuli on the human consciousness. Today, they’re used at spas and wellness centers to achieve states of relaxation deeper than sleep. At the cost of $50 for a first-time floater, visitors to Float put in earplugs and enter a pod filled with body-temperature, concentrated salt water. Once inside, the visitor lays back and floats in total darkness. With a new year upon us, a gift certificate for the sensation of zero gravity could be the perfect way to reset and come back to earth.

Recommended For: Your family member who desperately needs the gift of doing nothing or the friend who wants to take a “trip” into the deepest recesses of their submerged self.

Chart Your Own Crawl.

Giving a gift card can feel impersonal, but planning an evening — and drawing a map — around a series of small gift cards to different bars and restaurants is a great way to turn ye ol’ restaurant gift certificate into meaningful time together. Rank your favorite cocktails with stops at the East End, the Rosendale and Durk’s. Wrap a roll of quarters with ribbons (standard rolls are in $10 increments and some bars have the games set on free play) and plan a night of old school gaming at Shelter, Black Sheep, Biergarten and Free Play. Be brave and choose your favorite doughnut, once and for all, with marathon visits to Knead, PVDonuts and Allie’s.

Recommended For: The person you wish you had more time with.

Turn Your Weeds into Edibles.

For the foodie who likes the convenience of services like Hello Fresh, West Greenwich’s Conscious Cuisine offers cooking and foraging classes that use hyper local products — and show you the convenience of cooking with what’s around you rather than what’s delivered by box. Classes offered in the winter make a multi-course meal using sea vegetables; milder weather classes use wild plants and begin with a short “weed walk” where founder Brett Mayette covers the basics of plant identification. If you aren’t sure what a dinner of sea vegetables entails, courses include dishes like miso soup with kombu, alaria (wakame) and arame, soaked and cooked in a combination of carrots, collard greens, and scallions and served over winter squash. (“The sweetness balances the sea vegetable flavor,” Mayette explains.) Prices range from $45 – $50 per person or $80 – $90 per couple. You can schedule a time with Mayette through consciouscuisineri.com, a website that astutely observes, “Most people won’t eat a dandelion root unless it’s washed, chopped and cooked in front of their eyes.”

Recommended For: Adventurous eaters and the loved one who would appreciate a gift with a truly minimal eco footprint.

Spend a Night in Goatopia.

Tucked in Tiverton, the barnyard goes boho at the Goat Cottage. The whimsically decorated vacation home is a renovated dance studio with large windows equipped to fight seasonal blues and a wall of artwork left by former guests. (And art supplies for you to leave a piece of your own.) But really, we’re burying the lede here because the true attraction of the Goat Cottage are the four-legged tenants who live outside the eclectic home and give the rental its name. Spend a weekend feeding goats and take part in The Goat Trail Show, facilitated by Barbara Donahue, the cottage owner. Set to music, guests can follow goats along 10 different stages of a trail, eventually leading to a view of the Sakonnet River. Book your stay through Homeaway.com and race to Barbara’s Instagram (@derecktor) to see clips from the goat ballet she produced this summer. “The goats are waiting to meet you,” says the Goat Cottage and we are so sold.

Recommended For: Animal lovers, nature lovers, artists and anyone who would be tantalized by the promise of a musical “goat show.”

Check an Item Off Their Bucket List.

Skydiving consistently ranks as a top 10 most-coveted experience on people’s wishlists. Sometimes you just need a little nudge to actually hurl yourself off the plane. Boston Skydive Center operates out of North Central Airport in Lincoln and offers packages for solo divers and groups in the range of $210 – $225 per jumper. If you, as gift giver, would prefer to keep your feet on the ground, you can still join in by bringing a grill or food (Boston Skydive encourages a post-jump hang sesh) and watching your friend descend from the picnic tables adjacent the landing area.

Recommended For: Thrill-seekers and the special someone in your life who is ready to leap into a cloudy future.

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