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7 ‘experience’ gifts for architecture and design lovers

Great for the holidays or any time, really

hanging tree orb for rent
Book a stay at this hanging tree orb, starting at $135 a person per night.
Free Spirit Sphere

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in December 2015 and has been updated with the most recent information.

Research has shown that it's better to give someone experiences instead of things and it's not hard to understand why. An experience tends to produce longer-lasting positive emotions, feel more unique, and create opportunities for bonding.

While we're huge fans of highly-giftable products here at Curbed, we're also inclined to agree that seeing, feeling, and doing something in person is invaluable, especially when it comes to all things architecture and design. So, here now, just in time for Christmas but applicable throughout the new year, are a few ideas to get your creative gift-giving juices flowing.

Have another idea? Feel free to share in the comments.

Frank Gehry’s architecture class

Frank Gehry making a sketch Photo courtesy MasterClass

Yup, the one and only Frank Gehry has an online architecture course you can give as a gift for $90. What can the lucky recipient expect? How about 17 video lessons (covering everything from “design obstacles” to “materials and prototyping”), a downloadable workbook, and a chance to get critiqued by Gehry himself.

A design-forward retreat

The sky's the limit when you have some cash to spare on a holiday escape. Choose among iconic Hollywood homes, Frank Lloyd Wright creations, dreamy A-frames (like the one pictured above), all kinds of tiny homes, fancy Airstreams, tree orbs, yurts—you name it.

A house tour

But not just any house! The Glass House, Philip Johnson's modernist design in New Canaan, CT, offers print or digital gift cards that can be redeemed for tours of the iconic home and surrounding structures. For reference, the most basic option is a one-hour tour for $25, and the most deluxe program is a three-hour private tour for $250. Tours will resume in May 2018. For more architectural house tour ideas, check out this map.

A feast for the belly and the eyes

Leo’s Oyster Bar
Leo’s Oyster Bar in San Francisco.
Photo by Patricia Chang

It's true: Restaurants have some of the most spectacular interior design and architecture. Curbed's list of the most important restaurant decor of the last 50 years is great fodder for picking a sensory-stimulating spot in major cities around the country. Eater has more ideas for eye-popping and very Instagrammable spots here.

A dream bike tour of stunning nature and architecture

Trek Travel

Know someone who loves all things Palm Springs and midcentury modern? It’s time to take them to see it with their own eyes. On the five-day, four-night Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park bike tour, you’ll visit a river in the desert, hike the Pacific Crest Trail, and go on a guided tour of Palm Springs midcentury gems like the former homes of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, plus the iconic Kaufmann Desert House. At $2,999 per person, it’s a spendy but oh-so-dreamy winter adventure.

A land art road trip

This one is for the overachievers, but if you pull it off, it'll be memories to last a lifetime. In the past, we mapped nine essential examples of large-scale landscape architecture and environmental art across the country, including some of the most remote works. Who’s ready to get a-movin’?

The gift of seeing the world (kind of)

Straddling the realms of "object" and "experience," a pair of virtual reality goggles, like the simple Google Cardboard, can offer otherwise hard-to-attain adventures. For example, Google Cardboard supports Google Street View, which could be a totally fun virtual rabbit hole.