20 Only-in-Philly Experience Gifts for Everyone on Your List

Anyone can give sweaters or pajamas for the holidays. Give them something they’ll really remember.

philadelphia experience gifts

Instead of giving stuff, take inspiration from this list of Philadelphia experience gifts. Wrapping paper by Paul Carpenter. Photograph by Claudia Gavin

Have the ultimate overnight.

You know how everyone is talking about the new Four Seasons? Join the convo: Book two nights at the city’s swankiest hotel (actually, we’d go as far to say it’s one of the swankiest Four Seasons anywhere) and get a $100 credit toward food and the spa. Trust us — it’s easy to spend 48 hours here and never leave the premises. 1 North 19th Street, Center City.

Get arty (and dirty).

Spend a few hours at the potter’s wheel at the Clay Studio. On Friday nights, couples can learn the basics of wheel throwing and make some pieces that will get fired, glazed and shipped out to you; on Saturdays, take a 2.5-hour “Intro to Wheel” class for more one-on-one instruction without the full commitment of a series. $40 each; 139 North 2nd Street, Old City.

Be enlightened — again and again.

John Kerry, Bob Woodward, Gloria Steinem, Jeb Bush — these are just a few of the unbelievably impressive thought leaders the Philadelphia Speakers Series has nabbed for its Kimmel Center events. Subscription options (no individual tickets are sold) start at $315 for seven talks; snag a spot for the 2020-’21 series now, because they usually sell out in advance. 300 South Broad Street, Center City.

High-five super fans.

For those who have been exceptionally good this year, how about a package of 10 box-seat tickets to cheer on the Sixers? You’ll get access to a bar, a private bathroom, and first dibs on playoff tickets. (Have faith!) Prices start at $1,860. 3601 South Broad Street, South Philly.

Give good skin.

Heyday Skincare, a beloved New York facial bar, has opened up a Rittenhouse location, offering Philadelphians a chance to get in on membership, which provides expert monthly facials (some are quickies, if you’re busy!) and discounts on products. Starts at $76 a month; 1735 Chestnut Street, Rittenhouse.

Coax out that inner Martha Stewart.

On Wednesdays at the Argyle Bouquet in Haverford, your creative side will learn how to select, trim and arrange the perfect grouping of flowers. More targeted workshops (wreath making; centerpieces) are also on offer. $50; 346 West Lancaster Avenue, Haverford.

Customize the Orchestra.

This Broad Street institution lets you make your own packages: Pick four shows that appeal to you — perhaps a little Bach led by Yannick, a Brahms piano concerto, some Porgy and Bess — and bundle them together into one perfect series. Comes with a deal on parking, too. Prices vary; 300 South Broad Street, Center City.

philadelphia experience gifts

Feed a giraffe at the Philadelphia Zoo. Photograph by Albert Yee

Feed a giraffe.

The Philadelphia Zoo offers a variety of animal encounters that get any aspiring conservationist or vet behind-the-scenes and cozying up to the residents. Some options: Pet the friendly tortoises, toss fish to the otters or penguins, brush the rhino, and feed a giraffe some greens. $45 and up; 3400 West Girard Avenue, West Philly.

Keep up your golf game all winter.

Topgolf isn’t just a place to swig and swing; you can get a private lesson from a PGA-certified pro, complete with high-tech analysis of your swing in one of the heated outdoor bays. $59 to $89 per hour; 104 Centerton Road, Mount Laurel.

Get a private tour of the Barnes.

There are more stories about the man (Albert Barnes) and his Impressionist collection (one of the most lauded in the world) than you can imagine. Book a one-hour docent-led private tour, and you can focus the experience on specific artists (Matisse, Renoir, Cézanne) and themes, then wander through it all again on your own. Up to six people; $60 per person; 2025 Ben Franklin Parkway, Fairmount.

philadelphia experience gifts

Get the VIP treatment at The Met. Photograph courtesy Live Nation

Go big at the Met.

This new-ish arts venue on North Broad is historic, stunning and intimate, and it’s been pulling in an all-star roster of artists from Bob Dylan to Lizzo. For your loved one’s favorite act, book the VIP experience; you’ll get premium seats, clutch parking, private bathrooms, access to a swanky lounge, and a waiter to deliver your drinks so you don’t have to miss a minute. Prices vary; 858 North Broad Street, Spring Garden.

Go wine-tasting in Chester County (seriously).

Va La Vineyards is garnering national recognition (Condé Nast, Wine Enthusiast, Craig LaBan) for its sophisticated, organic small-batch offerings. Grab a group of six or less, reserve your spot in the picturesque 19th-century-barn tasting room, and order by the glass, flight or bottle. An on-site expert will host the evening. (Consider spending the night in a nearby B&B if you go the bottle option.) Tasting prices start at $8 a glass; 8820 Gap Newport Pike, Avondale.

philadelphia experience gifts

Sit on the sidelines for a Union game. Photograph courtesy Philadelphia Union

Sit on the field at a Union game.

Think you’re not a soccer fan? You will be after you take in the game from the grass. Go all-out on one of the 17 home matches with a seat right on the field, plus all-you-can-eat food and beer. Get there early to catch warm-ups. $133 per ticket; 1 Stadium Drive, Chester.

Train for a road race.

Give any aspiring runner or someone looking for a better PR one-on-one coaching from Kasey Manwaring-Loos of Goals Fit. She offers a variety of race training programs to get your superstar ready to tackle a 5K, a full or half marathon, or the Broad Street Run. Just need some general how-to-start guidance? She has offers online sessions for that, too. Packages start at $50; 110 Levering Street, Manayunk.

philadelphia experience gifts

Take a mural tour. Photograph by Adam Wallacavage for Mural Arts Philadelphia

Explore the murals.

Mural Arts has “Love Letter” train tours ($23 per person) and two-hour private walking tours ($395 for up to 20 people) that operate all year. These are must-do’s for any Philadelphian; you’ll not only see awe-inspiring public art, but also understand our city in a whole new way.

Get Gritty-ed.

At the Wells Fargo Center’s new Gritty C.O.M.M.A.N.D. Center, fans can get Flyer’d up to varying degrees, starting at face paint ($5) and culminating with the “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Gritty” total makeover ($100). Reserve ahead. 3601 South Broad Street, South Philly.

philadelphia experience gifts

Learn to cook with Vetri Cucina chefs. Photograph by Steve Legato.

Learn to cook (or pretend to learn to cook).

Pay attention to Vetri Cucina chefs as they mix, roll and stuff their award-winning pastas. Or sit back in your counter seat, nibble and sip, and just take it all in. Prices vary; 1312 Spruce Street, Midtown Village.

Go all coffee-geek.

The bean nerds at Elixr Coffee Roasters will give you the Japanese omakase tasting experience, but for joe. At their beautiful roastery, they’ll present six different coffee “courses” and explain the variations between bean types, styles, and preparation methods. $20 per person; 315 North 12th Street, Callowhill.

Get some anger out.

For a pal with a frustrating job, forgo gifts of self-care for Rage Philly. Here, a room stacked with breakable items is waiting for you to get your smash on. Options range from the five-minute, $25 “Fast ’n’ Furious” to the 25-minute, $45 “Savage Beast Mode.” 845 South 55th Street, number 223A, West Philly.

Act like a mixologist.

Elevate your nightly cocktail into something worthy of being sold at a downtown bar with the help of Jennifer Sabatino, the well-versed manager of Manatawny Still Works’s South Philly tasting room. She’ll teach you how to properly measure, pour, mix and garnish everything from manhattans to sours with Manatawny’s excellent, locally distilled liquors. $65 per person; 1603 East Passyunk Avenue, East Passyunk.

Published as “All I Want for Christmas” in the December 2019 issue of Philadelphia magazine.