Local experiences that make easy, last-minute gifts

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      In the final countdown to the holidays, the last place you probably want to be is the mall, where slow walkers, stroller-toting folks, and screaming children are all obstacles between you and the dozens of presents you’ve promised your loved ones this year. If you haven’t got a concrete to-buy list, however, there is an alternative: gifting one-of-a-kind, invaluable experiences that, luckily for you, require zero wrapping and can be purchased from the comfort of your own home.

      From kombucha-making workshops to sweaty Beyoncé-inspired dance sessions, here are some of our favourite local experiences to surprise friends and family with this year.


      Learn the ins and outs of making kombucha at a DIY workshop at Kitsilano's O5 Tea House.
      Getty Images/Daniel Bruno

      For the health nut

      Know a lover of the ’booch? Save ’em a few bucks a week—and a lot of glass jars—by sending them to a kombucha-making workshop at Kitsilano’s O5 Rare Tea + Kombucha Bar (2208 West 4th Avenue). There, the lucky recipient will learn the ins and outs of how to craft the fermented tea, which is popular for its supposed gut-friendly and energy-boosting benefits, from scratch. (Don’t worry: the process involves only three ingredients at its most basic level and is very forgiving.)

      Gift cards for $15 can be purchased online, which cover admission to a class where teas and discounted starter kits are also available.


      A trained instructor walks attendees through the art of axe throwing at Surrey's Bad Axe Throwing before letting them loose at a wooden target.
      Bad Axe Throwing

      For the adrenaline junkie

      Those who enjoy the occasional walk on the wild side will get a kick out of urban axe-throwing at Bad Axe Throwing (109–8132 130 Street, Surrey).

      More exciting than your typical bowling or escape-room outing but less intimidating than, say, an indoor gun range, the decidedly lumberjack sport is led by a team of trained professionals, who teach attendees the proper way to toss an axe before letting them loose at a wooden target. If anything, it’s a fun way to release some bottled-up anger or any lingering stress from the holidays.

      Gift cards are $44.25 each online and covers one person for a private booking, two people for a one-hour walk-in session, or one person for a two-hour walk-in session.


      Break a sweat getting down to some of Beyoncé's biggest hits at a dance class conducted by RSVP33.

      For the Bey fan

      Give the gift of shedding holiday calories with an entertaining activity: dancing. RSVP33 (54 East 4th Avenue and 677 Davie Street) offers fun and no-experience-needed dance classes for individuals who want to have a good time. Its signature class, Beyoncé, teaches students choreography to some of Queen Bey’s biggest hits (“Crazy in Love”, “Formation”, “Lose My Breath”). Each class starts off with a group warm-up and stretch to upbeat songs, before students learn the dance routines.

      Gift cards ($105 for a six-week workshop) are available through MindBody on the RSVP33 website.


      SNL alum Sasheer Zamata is one of many comedians appearing at JFL Northwest 2018, which runs from March 1 to 10.
      Just for Laughs

      For the culture vulture

      Some of the city’s best fests hit town early in the new year, making tickets and packages a good last-minute bet. For comedy fans, check out the lineup at JFL NorthWest, where Saturday Night Live fans can see faves like Sasheer Zamata ($22.50) or Jay Pharoah ($39.50), and Daily Show regulars will get a kick out of Ronny Chieng ($26.50). The fest runs March 1 to 10 at various venues; three-show passes are a deal at about $91 (including fees) online.

      If their tastes run more avant-garde, surprise your edgy arts fans with tickets for buzzed-about interdisciplinary spectacles from as far away as Ireland and Australia as part of the PuSh Performing Arts Festival (from $12, January 16 to February 4). And the Vancouver International Dance Festival is offering 20 percent off holiday orders till Friday (December 22); the dance aficionado on your list will appreciate rare offerings like Shen Wei Dance Arts or White Wave Young Soon Kim Dance Company from the U.S. (around $25 to $30, up to $65, March 1 to 24 at various venues).


      Clay workshops at 4Cats offers attendees the chance to make mugs modelled after owls, cats, and more.
      4Cats Arts Studio

      For the creatively inclined

      There’s nothing quite like the muddy, tactile nature of pottery: the process is little talk and a whole lot of walk, making the DIY task an ideal experience for those who prefer to learn by getting their hands dirty. Depending on your budget—and what handcrafted vessel your recipient would like to take home—there are a number of studio sessions around town that you can pop under the tree.

      A $53 gift certificate from HiDe Ceramic Works (2368 Alberta Street; available online) is good for a drop-in class where one can make a bowl, vase, or plate, for example, while a $25 cash card for one of 4Cats’ Metro Vancouver locations (available online) may be redeemed for clay classes, where adorable mugs modelled after cats, sloths, and unicorns are born.


      Michael Bublé is slated to host the 2018 Juno Awards, which take place in Vancouver on March 25.

      For the melomaniac

      Vancouver is hosting the Juno Awards for the first time since 2009 on March 25, 2018, giving you the opportunity to bless a music lover—or staunch supporter of Canuck tunes—with a seat at the show. Taking place at Rogers Arena, the 47th annual ceremony will be hosted by Burnaby-born crooner Michael Bublé and should be one for the books, given that everyone from Arcade Fire and Drake to Mac DeMarco and Daniel Caesar has released albums this year. Tickets start at $59 at the Ticketmaster website.


      Treat a wannabechef to cooking lessons at the Dirty Apron, where visitors learn how to prepare dishes from Thai, French, and other cuisines.
      Joey Armstrong

      For the culinary whiz

      Treat a food lover to one of the highly enjoyable and interactive cooking classes at the Dirty Apron (540 Beatty Street), where one can learn to cook Thai, Hawaiian, French, Italian, and more. Students will be schooled by engaging chef instructors, teaching hungry learners basic cooking skills and the steps required to cook delicious dishes.

      After preparing and plating the culinary creations, students will gather at the school’s communal dining table and enjoy the fruits of their labour with a glass of wine. The most important part is that the staff will handle all the dirty dishes. Gift cards ($178.50 per person for a four-hour class) can be purchased online.


      Macaron-shaped candles are one of many objects visitors can learn to make—and take home—at Soigne Jewelry, Art & Crafts.
      Soigne Atelier

      For the devoted DIY-er

      From how-to indigo dyeing and metalsmithing to jewellery-making classes that upcycle bicycle inner tubes into edgy earrings and necklaces, East Vancouver’s Soigne Jewelry, Art & Crafts (393 Powell Street) offers a little something for everyone. Gift cards start at $50 at the Soigne online and may be used toward over 30 DIY sessions—many of which include all the necessary supplies—that teach skills like knitting, enamelling, and soap-making and that run regularly throughout the year.

      Looking for more gift ideas? Check out the Georgia Straight's 2017 holiday gift guide here.