The spring and summer gift season is upon us, and between Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, engagement parties and weddings, buying gifts for people is not always stress-free and easy. If we want the gift to be a surprise, we can’t ask the recipient. But will they like the way that outfit fits? Do they already have one of those kitchen appliances? Will they even use that gift card? For many, these concerns can make the gift-giving process much more daunting than it needs to be.
One solution is to opt for an experience instead of an item. It’s thoughtful, creates valuable memories, and is most likely going to be more personal and original than something you can order online or find on a store shelf. This doesn’t have to mean booking an extravagant vacation: there are plenty of options right here in New York City and surrounding areas that are easily accessible by car or public transportation. Here are nine experiences that could be the next gift to “wow” your loved ones.
1. Set Sail on the New York Alive After 5 Cruise
This two-hour boat cruise on the Hudson River boasts stunning views of the city, cocktails, food and other beverages from a fully-stocked bar available for purchase, and a live DJ. Choose from a variety of sailing packages starting at $49.00 for General Admission. The Hungry Sailor package includes admission aboard and food including pasta, tex mex and more; Walk the Plank includes admission, food, and two beer, wine, or soda drink tickets; amp it all the way up with the Fully Overboard package for admission, food, and two premium drink tickets.
2. Experience a Variety of Live Entertainment
This one may seem obvious, but in reality, there is so much more in the way of live entertainment than what Broadway has to offer, and some options are relatively inexpensive. Head over to LOL Comedy Lounge in Times Square, or the Broadway or Greenwich Village Comedy Clubs for a night of laughs. Or venture over to the famous New World Stages for quality performances of popular productions like “Jersey Boys” and “The Play That Goes Wrong.” Not into plays or musicals? Looking for something younger family members can enjoy too? Check out the notoriously fun Gazillion Bubbles Show, or head to the Orpheum theater to be thrilled by the critically acclaimed Stomp.
3. Embark on a Glamping Getaway
It only takes a couple of clicks to research the best glamping experiences right outside of the city. If you’re an animal and nature lover, you might try the Yurt on a Horse Farm (which also includes a wood-burning pizza oven). For a closer-to-home option, check out a retreat on Governors Island and stay in an outlook shelter featuring floor-to-ceiling views of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyline, or a tent equipped with air conditioning. This quick but private getaway is sure to be worth the trip.
4. Sightsee From the Sky on a Manhattan Helicopter Tour
If you’d rather see the sights of the city from the sky than sea, take the leap and embark on the high-flying adventure of a Manhattan helicopter flight for a bird’s-eye view of the Empire State Building, One World Trade Center, the Chrysler Building, Statue of Liberty and other historic New York landmarks. Starting at $209 per person and offering 15-minute tours all throughout the day, the Liberty Harbor tour starts at the Pier 6 Helipad and flies past the 9/11 Memorial, One World Trade Center, Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, and Times Square and Central Park.
5. Deep-dive Into History with New York Catacombs by Candlelight
Take the history-lover in your life on a tour of the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Lower Manhattan. Starting at $37 per person, you can spend an hour-and-a-half with a personal tour guide venturing into the catacombs and other parts of the building typically closed to the public. You’ll meet your guide at a central meeting point and set off for the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Lower Manhattan, an iconic landmark since the 1800s. Along with your tour group, you’ll learn about the church’s history, as well as the famous names who once frequented it (and who still rest in its catacombs), including the first resident bishop of New York City.
6. Wine and Dine at City Winery
City Winery’s 32,000-square-foot space at Pier 57 in Hudson River Park just opened in October of 2020 and boasts waterfront views including Barry Diller’s Little Island, and a wine menu featuring at least 1,200 different bottles from 20 different countries. Make reservations to dine at The Barrel Room Restaurant where you’ll enjoy “Cuisine meant to be paired with a great glass of wine,” and enjoy a live music or comedy show on the main stage for the full experience.
7. Satisfy Your Taste Buds on the Foods of New York Tour
This 20-year-old famous food and culture tour company lets you choose from seven different food tours among different NYC neighborhoods while also indulging in the city’s history. Options include the Heart & Soul of Greenwich Village ($68), Chelsea Market & The High Line ($68), The Original Greenwich Village ($68), Flavors of Chinatown ($69) and Nolita & Little Italy’s Secrets ($68). Take it up a notch outside of Manhattan with The Best of Brooklyn ($139) or the Food & Farm Tour Hudson Valley ($149).
8. Relax and Rejuvenate at the Montauk Salt Cave Downtown
A luxury spa experience at the Montauk Salt Cave allows you to get away from the city without actually leaving it. The East Village-based experience offers a range of relaxation remedies from crystal singing bowls, salt therapy and sound healing to yoga, reiki, psychic and tarot card readings, and guided meditation. All services and sessions are guided by a trained healer or practitioner (sometimes two) and take place within a serene cave. Take advantage of specials like Wellness Wednesdays ($20) or the Intro Standard Session Special ($25) for a 45-minute session. A standard single session is $40. Also available is a 3 pack standard ($105), a 5 pack standard ($150), and a 10 pack standard for $250.
9. Get Cycling on the Brooklyn Bridge & Waterfront Bike Tour
Pedal past New York City’s iconic attractions and neighborhoods on a two-wheeled, two-hour tour for $45. The guided tour from Unlimited Biking offers the highlights of the Brooklyn Bridge, sights from skyscrapers, the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyline, Battery Park and Wall Street, to scenery along the Hudson River path throughout a steady, leisurely uphill bike ride. The tour includes a comfort hybrid bike rental, helmet, and bottled water, and your group will stop throughout the ride to learn about the history, take in the scenery and capture photos.