Another bauble for the holidays won't make life any richer—yes, even if it includes diamonds—so go for the intangible instead. Experiences as gifts are no talk and all action—whether it’s getting fit, breaking the ice on a new activity, soaking in nature and art, or freeing up time spent on tasks to focus on better things.
We put together a handy list of local experiences and services that will make you the most thoughtful gift-giver ever this year. So put away the ribbons and wrapping paper, because these moments can’t be contained in a box. An added bonus? You won't have to wait for these to ship to your door.
Dance and Movement
Many have dreamed of learning to dance but have been a wallflower instead. Break the ice for your loved one and book a group or private lesson at one of these local studios that offer both group and private lessons: Sara Dance Center for more traditional, ballroom steps; Fly Dance Fitness for dance fitness classes in a nightclub atmosphere; or Dynasty Dance Clubs, which has three locations and an introductory private class deal for first-timers. For Latin-specific steps, check out DK Dance Creations.
Pamper the Foodie in Your Life
Whether they're already a chef or a novice cook, these food delivery subscriptions save time and jumpstart creativity with new flavors and ingredients. SunCoast Meal Prep delivers gourmet meals to your door. You can also sign up a friend or loved one for a community-supported agriculture (CSA) box from a local farm for fresh, homegrown, organic vegetables and herbs, like this one from BlumenBerry Farms, or book an in-house, customized chef experience with Chef Anastasia here.
Book a Consultation With an Interior Designer
For the homeowner with a heap of design magazines who doesn't know where to start, check out local interior design mavens like Lancaster Interior Design, Trade Mark Interiors, Chic on the Cheap or Anne Folsom Smith Interior Design.
Give the Gift of Time by Signing Up for a Home Cleaning Service
Have a landscaper beautify their yard
Have they always wanted to turn the lawn into a sanctuary? Check out these local landscapers who will handle the dirt like pros: Landscaping on a Budget, Southern Roots Design or Sarasota Landscaping, Inc.
Stroll Through Incredible Gardens
Buy a membership or visit once. These gardens are loaded with awe-inspiring blooms and trees that make for the perfect day. Check out the Sarasota Garden Club or Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. They both host special events throughout the year, too.
Give Them a Green Thumb
Got a gardener on your hands, or someone who wishes they were? Enroll them in a hands-on class through the University of Florida at Sarasota County UF/IFAS Extension. (Beyond gardening, there's a whole roster of cool classes to check out.)
Help Them See the Future With a Psychic
No one has a crystal ball, so give the gift of future consulting with someone who might! Whether taken seriously or as a fun, creative thing to do, splurging on a tarot, palm or psychic reading will be a conversation starter for years to come. Check out Vivian's Psychic Boutique, Psychic Readings SRQ or Elysian Fields.
Book a Photoshoot
Skip asking the server to snap a pic and go pro instead with polished photos to capture moments forever. From family photos to portraits, check out Imageana, Lisa Clark Photography, Black Pineapple Photography or SRQ studio e.
Sign Up for a Knitting or Crochet Class
Since the pandemic lockdowns, the ancient art of knitting has experienced a resurgence. This isn't just Grandma making baby caps anymore. Check out classes that welcome starters or veteran knitters at A Good Yarn Sarasota, Castle Creek Fiber Studio or Needlepoint Studio.
Pamper Them With a Spa Day
Who doesn't want special treatment? And a spa day isn't only for the ladies, either. Do it as a couple, or send that special someone off for a relaxation session that's all about them. Book one at The Little Day Spa, BlueAloe Day Spa, The Ritz-Carlton or The Met.
Got a horse girl (or guy) in your life? Horse riding is a classic way to connect to nature and do something off the beaten path. Book groups or go as a couple. Try Florida Beach Horses, which marries the surf and water with riding; catch a sunset-on-the-beach ride at C Ponies; or check out Old Florida trails at Myakka River Trail Rides.
Book a Cooking Class
The thing with food is there's always something new to learn. Plus, who doesn't want to eat? Book a class as a group with Chef Mike, or have the pros come to you for a private lesson at home with Custom Cooking at Home. Get your sauce on with these Italian-centric cooking classes at Mazzone Olive Oil, which even offers a Limoncello-making class.
Hit the Water With a Kayak Tour
With so much water to work with, this little day adventure just makes sense. Spot dolphins and bask in the sun by making reservations with these outlets that supply everything you'll need. Try Kayaking SRQ, Sea Life Kayak Adventures, SURFit USA, or check out Clear Kayak Tours Sarasota, where the bottom of the kayak is clear, making it the best seat in the house.
What's more Florida than fishing off a boat? Book a group fishing day trip with one of these charters with captains who know just where the best catches are: Wild Mullet Charters, Sarasota Offshore Fishing, Captain Gregg Fishing Charters or Highclass Hooker Fishing Charters.
Sail the High Seas—That Is, the Gulf
Enjoy the magic of a sunset from the hull of a sailboat, minus the hassle of owning one. You're sure to spot wildlife like manatees and dolphins, too. Book a charter with Key Sailing, or travel beyond Sarasota with Island Time Charter or Latitude Sailing.
Buy a Membership to Explore the Local Performing Arts Scene
Make catching a live show a habit by buying a membership to one of the many music and theater destinations right in our backyard: Asolo Repertory Theatre, The Van Wezel, Urbanite Theatre, Florida Studio Theatre, Manatee Performing Arts Center, The Players Centre, West Coast Black Theatre Troupe or The Venice Institute for Performing Arts and Fogartyville Community Media and Arts Center.
Visit a Visual Arts Museum—or Even One for Cars
Check out a roster of unique exhibits that come and go alongside permanent collections that make Sarasota an arts destination. Go for the day or buy a membership for year-long access to see all the shows. Try The Ringling Museum of Art, The Sarasota Art Museum, Sarasota Classic Car Museum and Art Center Sarasota.
Help Them Be the Artist
Give the gift of creativity with these hands-on experiences that bring out the artist in anyone. Book a group or individual class at Art Paint Bar, MARA Art Studio + Gallery - Modern Contemporary Fine Art, or play with clay at Sarasota Clay Company.
Gift Them a Gym Visit, Boxing Class or Yoga Session
That New Year's resolution is around the corner, and sometimes it just takes a little support from a friend to get the ball rolling on making movement a habit. For future yogis, check out Get Bent Yoga Studio, Hot Yoga 4 You, or do it at the beach with Yoga on Siesta Beach. For those who want to hit harder with boxing, check out classes at Gulf Gate Boxing or Coastal Kick Boxing. Try out a gym at Circle the Sun Fitness or check out this handy list of local gyms we recently curated here. All accept walk-ins for first-timers.