Give the Gift of Hands-On Experiences This Holiday Season

Forget the ties, the socks, and the Christmas sweaters they’ll only wear once. This year, give gifts of adventure and education with these local experiences.
Detroit Vineyards
Cork Town: Detroit Vineyards’ tasting room offers wines, meads, and ciders by the glass. Like it? Grab a bottle to take home.

We all have enough Christmas sweaters and trinkets. This holiday season, give your friends and family hands-on gifts of adventure and experience, providing memories that will last a lifetime.

For the Foodie

Detroit Vineyards Tours and Tastings

Finally, the gift they actually need after holiday family parties — more wine. Private tours at Detroit Vineyards take participants through the former Stroh’s ice cream factory, which sat idle for about 10 years until last May. Visitors to what is now a winery and tasting room will learn about the equipment and process behind the spirits from the only winery in Detroit. General manager Chris Southern says it’s unlike anything else in the area. “Guests have the chance to step behind the curtain at a full-production winery,” he says. The best part? The tour ends in a tasting with a winemaker and a flight of the guest’s choice. $45. Detroit Vineyards, 1000 Gratiot Ave., Detroit; 313-784-9726;

Fustini’s Interactive Cooking Classes  

Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach him to broil it to perfection with butter and garlic, and he entertains in style for a lifetime. With four locations across Michigan — Ann Arbor, Holland, Petosky, and Traverse City — the gourmet oil and vinegar specialists at Fustini’s offer a smorgasbord of gift-worthy classes, including Winter Harvest, Appetizer Party, and Comfort Foods Fustinified, a how-to on hearty dishes to warm up cold days. Ann Arbor classes are taught by resident chef Nikolas Bardt, who has more than 17 years of culinary experience. “We change our classes every season,” says Jill Gardner-Bakewell, the store manager for Fustini’s Ann Arbor location. “They’re a lot of fun and you can enjoy all the food.” That’s an easy sell. $70. Fustini’s, 407 N. Fifth Ave., 2nd Floor, Ann Arbor; 734-213-1110;

For Kith and Kiln: A Pewabic workshop offers time with loved ones and a keepsake decorated tile to remember it by.

For the Crafty

Pewabic Pottery Workshop 

Friday Night Out is a two-hour workshop that gives participants a peek at the inner workings of Detroit’s historic Pewabic Pottery. Lauren McCoy, Pewabic’s onsite manager, says the workshop is a particularly popular gift for adult children to give to parents. “It’s something that they can do together and have that shared experience,” she says.  As a keepsake of that time together, participants will glaze and take home one of the studio’s iconic tiles, the likes of which adorn such edifices as the Belle Isle Aquarium, Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. $45. Pewabic Pottery, 10125 E. Jefferson Ave., Detroit; 313-626-2000;

Plan to be Pampered: Towels and lockers are included in admission at the Schvitz, but it’s BYO robe.

For the Over-Worked

Private Party at the Schvitz Health Club

The most wonderful time of the year? Says who? With all the shopping, cooking, decorating, and party-hopping — not to mention endless renditions of “Last Christmas” — the season can take a toll. Give the gift of rejuvenation — and a trip back in time — with a private party at the Schvitz, the only remaining historic bathhouse in the city. The Schvitz (Yiddish for “sweat”) has shed its steamy rep as a one-time swingers haven, and now offers such modern spa mainstays as deep-tissue massages and radiance facials. But for a truly old-world experience, try a traditional platza, a 10-minute scrub with an oakleaf broom. “It’s a form of exfoliation … that the Schvitz offered for almost 90 years,” says owner Paddy Lynch. $750+. The Schvitz, 8295 Oakland Ave., Detroit; 313-724-8489;

Detroit Kid City
Imagination Station: Detroit Kid City’s Imagination Classes include youth yoga, story time, and a dance party.

For the Kids

Detroit Kid City

With a mock auto factory, music studio, art center, schoolhouse, and other settings, Detroit Kid City gives kids ample opportunity to use their hands and minds in ways no screen can match. Kids and their grown-ups alike can let their imaginations run wild, using various props, toys and dress-up items. Fresh-roasted coffee and healthy, vegan-friendly snacks are available to fuel hours of creative and energetic fun. When you gift a day at this elaborate, electronics-free playscape, the little ones will love you for the lively, interactive fun, and their parents will thank you for not adding to the growing collection of Legos and stuffed animals on the living room floor. $10. Detroit Kid City; See website for locations; 248-443-5300;

Heaven Scent: Make your own or — if you’re more grab-and-go than DIY — snag one of Sfumato’s signature fragrances.

For the Luxe-Lover

Sfumato Fragrance Classes

Pretty much everyone has unwrapped a department store perfume or cologne, but few have been gifted the opportunity to craft a scent of their own. During a two-hour fragrance creation class at Sfumato, participants will create a unique scent tailored to their preferences and made from natural ingredients. Recipients of this gift will learn about the science behind fragrance, take home a bottle of their custom creation, and get the chance to try scented spirits from Sfumato’s sister cocktail bar, Castalia. The gift of a Sfumato experience also offers something store-bought scents don’t: a chance for fellowship. “The class is great for a couple or a group of friends and family to do together,” says co-owner Jane Larson. “Scent often leads to sharing memories.” $65. Sfumato, 3980 Second Ave., Detroit; 313-305-1442;

Magnum Helicopters
Higher Calling: Don’t like the passenger seat? Magnum Helicopters also offers flight training for budding pilots.

For Thrill Seekers

M1 Signature Driving Experience

Money may not buy everything, but it can fund some unforgettable thrills for the auto enthusiast on your list. Put your favorite speed freak behind the wheel of a serious performance machine with a driving session at M1 Concourse in Pontiac. Equipped with a state-of-the-art, 1.5-mile track known as the Champion Motor Speedway, M1 offers motor enthusiasts and amateur thrill-seekers alike a chance to test drive some one-of-a-kind race cars: the M1 Performance Fleet vehicles, created in special partnership with Dodge. “It’s for someone who wants to get behind the wheel and feel what it’s like to drive a high-performance car,” says Ken Cox, M1’s marketing and media director. Price upon request. M1 Concourse, 1 Concourse Dr., Pontiac; 866-618-7225;

Magnum Helicopters Tours

Magnum Helicopters’ tour options include flights overlooking various local cities, lakes, and other landmarks, but perhaps the best selection for a loved one at this time of year is the Rochester Tour. This winter-exclusive night flight will take flyers over Main Street — a popular holiday destination where each building is lit from sidewalk to shingles with brightly hued Christmas lights. The view from above is stunning, but co-owner Alan Bradstreet says the tours have another benefit, too. “Flyers can view the magnificent lights of downtown Rochester without ever getting stuck in traffic.” $290+. Magnum Helicopters, 6544 Highland Rd., Waterford, 248-666-2600;

Boston Tea Room
In the Cards: Boston Tea Room offers a variety of mystical methods, including tarot cards, which are perfect for gifting.

For the Spiritual

Boston Tea Room Readings

The dawn of the new year is approaching, and who wouldn’t want a sneak peek at what lies ahead? Ferndale’s Boston Tea Room has sated such curiosities for 35 years,
offering an array of psychic services, from 15-minute Mini Readings to deeply explorative Intuitive Counseling sessions and interactive Couples’ Readings. Visitors can choose from 15 readers, all of whom have different specialties and reading methods, including tarot, mediumship, crystal ball, tea leaves, palmistry, and Lenormand, among others. Readings are available at several price points. $30+. The Boston Tea Room, 1220 Woodward Heights, Ferndale; 248-548-1415;