If you’re looking to buy someone a present for Christmas, a birthday, anniversary or other special event then an ‘experience’ could make a welcome change from perfume or a pair of socks. From a day of driving racing cars to a year of expert education, here’s our selection of great ways to give your loved one the gift they’ll always remember.
Afternoon tea at Bletchley Park
Price: £38 per person
What’s better than afternoon tea with a loved one? Afternoon tea while visiting the historic site of Bletchley Park! If the name sounds familiar it’s because this was where Alan Turing and his team of codebreakers cracked the Nazi communiques and handed the allies a hugely significant advantage during World War 2, as depicted in The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
Visit the actual huts where the codebreaking took place, wander the beautiful grounds of the country estate, then head to the Mansion tearoom for sandwiches, cakes and scones with lashings of tea or coffee.
Price: £89.99 for 3-month access or £199 for a year
Some experiences last a day or even just an afternoon but signing someone up for a year of Masterclass membership gives them access to some of the best teachers in the fields of writing, cooking, music, sports and several other disciplines. If you think they’d enjoy Steve Martin honing their comedy skills, Jodie Foster and Martin Scorsese revealing the secrets behind filmmaking, or Gordon Ramsey teaching restaurant-grade cooking then Masterclass has all this and more.
Membership grants access to all the courses on the site, which number over 60 at the time of writing, and could be the inspiration your loved one needs to take a step into a new career or hobby.
Distil your own bottle of Gin
Price: £115 for one £145 for two
Gin is all the rage now, with a huge variety of specialist blends appearing on the shelves of supermarkets and bars across the land. If you fancy having a go at making your own, then the 45 Gin School can guide you through the process in its Leicester-based distillery.
Learn which botanicals make up the classic Gin flavours, and experiment with your own blend from over 100 floral, citrus, herbal or spicy ingredients. Then sit back and enjoy a complimentary G&T as you monitor your mini-still until your creation is ready. When the distillation process has finished, you’ll be able to take home your new brand of Gin in a 70cl bottle replete with a handmade label.
Learn glass blowing
Price: £250 for one day, £700 for four days
If you fancy something really out of the ordinary, Jonathan Rogers runs day-long glass blowing courses at his studio in Leicester where you can learn the basics of this fascinating art-form. Throughout the six-hour session you’ll be taught how to use molten glass in a furnace that runs at over 1000°, add colours to the clear glass, and create various items that you’ll then be able to take home to impress your friends.
Drive cars from TV and movies
Price: £99 (50% off)
Track days are a long-time favourite for Experience gifts, but whereas the normal offering are supercars this one lets you get in the driving seats of famous cars that have appeared in movies and TV shows.
Choose up to four models from a list that includes the A-Team van, General Lee (Dukes of Hazard), a Trans-Am Firebird (Smokey and the Bandit), Trans-Am Pontiac Turbo (Knight Rider), and others.
Fly in a classic plane
Price: From £99
Classic Wings offers a range of options for those who want to experience the thrill of flying in a vintage airplane. From Biplanes like the Tiger Moth to the legendary Spitfire, you can ride in the passenger seat and take in the breath-taking beauty of classic aviation. Depending on the one you choose there might also be a chance to take the controls.
Chocs away, Biggles!
An escape room with cocktails
Price: £29.99 - £34.99
Escape rooms are a great way to spend a few hours, working with a small group of friends to solve the clues and open the exit door. The Grid, in London, takes this idea and adds some role-play and booze into the bargain.
Guests play as activists trying to infiltrate the powerful technology complex of Neosight by posing as programmers. Once there you must defeat the Artificial Intelligence, save the world, all while using your chemistry skill to mix futuristic cocktails. Just about as much fun as you could possibly hope to cram into 90 minutes.
Fight off the Zombie apocalypse
Price: £115 per person
If your friend or family member is more action-orientated, why not test their skills and see how they'd do in a zombie apocalypse? Set in Bunker 51 in London, you're trained to use lifelike airsoft weapons and defend yourself against the incoming zombie apocalypse in a two-and-a-half-hour story-driven experience that'll require brains, as well as brawn, to complete.
What are you waiting for? The walkers are coming!