The clock is ticking. And not to make you feel bad after all that gift-purchasing you’ve already done, but studies show possessions do not make people happy. Experiences make people happy. So consider bringing back that expensive gadget that will inevitably just add stress to your loved one’s life. Give them adventure and fun instead — for as little as $3. Plus, if you buy your sister dinner and a ski trip, she’s going to want to bring you … right? Make your presence part of your presents. Plus, most of these gifts will come as gift certificates, which helps us procrastinators.
This gift might be best for your friend who loves wine, but isn’t quite an expert — or maybe your aunt is always starting sentences with “One time, I heard on NPR …” Or, maybe dad loves scotch, but doesn’t usually treat himself. Wine Wise Events leads walking tours around Portland. January and February tours include tastings of scotch, white and red burgundy and wines from Napa Valley.
For the beer lovers in your life, The Maine Brew Bus and Maine Beer Tours both have relaxing, boozy rides to distilleries, breweries, pubs and sometimes to Maine Mead Works. Riders learn about the processes, meet the brewers and get to try all of the different drinks – and sometimes snacks. The Maine Brew Bus has a tour “Pours and Pirates” where you tour three breweries in Portland and then get dropped off at a hockey game. The ticket is $35 per person and includes the drinks, the tour and the ticket to the game.
$25 | Jefferson, Maine | hvnc.org
Now, this isn’t for Grandma (unless you have a very cool, fit grandma), but maybe your best friend who is up for anything: A biathlon. The Liberal Cup Biathlon’s participants don’t need to know how to cross-country ski or shoot a gun — you can learn both once you show up on Sunday, Jan. 25. They’ll also give you equipment to use. You just have to register, pay up your $25 and go early to attend safety training. In this biathlon, you ski a 1K loop, then shoot five targets, then you ski another loop, then shoot five targets. But for every target you miss you must ski an extra 1K penalty loop. The event is hosted by a brewery, so bring our ID and some cash if you go … and, as always, drink after you shoot the gun.
$15+ | Many locations
The holidays are all about family, giving, love and …. stress. You can’t force your friend to relax, but you can get a gift card for yoga or meditation classes. Go with her to make it more fun (and because you probably could use some quiet time to breath and treat yourself well too). You and your friend don’t have to be athletes to take a “how to meditate” class, which is $20 at Greener Postures in West Falmouth. Lila East End Yoga in Portland offers “restorative” classes for beginners, which focuses on deep relaxation of body and mind. Similarly, in Portland’s west end Whole Heart Yoga has restorative and gentle classes. Soakology in downtown Portland has massages, tea and footsoaks starting at $20. Soma in South Portland has acupuncture ($50), massages starting at $20 and meditation classes.
$3-$200 | various locations
Even the Mainers on your list will like this. Maine is a bit larger than Ireland. Imagine that. There is no way you (or your friends/relatives) have seen it all.
For $50 you and your friends/family could rent a tiny wood stove-heated cabin at the Hidden Valley Nature Center in Jefferson (about an hour from Portland). You can snowshoe or cross county ski into the cabins or the yurt, which are anywhere from a quarter-mile to two miles from the parking lot. You can then spend the weekend skiing or hiking around the property. Similarly, Maine Huts and Trails in Kingfield (2 hours from Portland) has heated full-service huts with miles of trails for people to ski and snowshoe. Those start at $90 a night in the winter.
For a cheap, fun and adventurous gift, consider signing yourself and a friend/family member up for a winter camping and snowshoeing trip. The Appalachian Mountain Club Maine chapter is hosting a free (well, you’ll need $3 for the state park fee) seminar and camp-out for the Great Maine Outdoor Weekend on Saturday, Feb. 14. That day happens to also be Valentines Day, so this gift might be best for either your single friends or your significant other (although s/he might accuse you of using one gift for two holidays … clever or cheap? Make it up to him/her with a fancy Camden brunch the next day, maybe).
You could also set your loved ones up on on a sailboat in South Portland for $75 a night. If you’re willing to pay extra, someone will bring you on a sunset sail as well. You can reserve it now, but your friends/family can’t get onboard until summer. A catamaran in Portland will set you back $200 a night. You could also set up a stay in a lighthouse or airstream trailer, but it might cost you a bit more.
$60+ | Feb. 6, 7 and 8 | Camden | camdensnowbowl.com
Now, this can be a whole gift package: register your friend/husband/dad and yourself for a two-person team at the U.S. National Toboggan Championships and there’s a guarantee that you’ll also get some chili at the event’s annual chili contest, but also samplings at the Maine beer tent. You don’t need your own toboggan to race down the chute. To fancy-up this gift, you could add in a night’s stay at a hotel or drinks at 40 Paper. There are also three- and four-peron team categories, if you want to bring both your brothers.
$90 + $18 ferry ticket | July or August | North Haven | turner-farm.com
Farm table dinners are delightful: You eat freshly farmed foods on a beautiful table, usually in field or barn. Now, add sea-salted air and an ocean surrounding you. Paradise. North Haven island’s (off Rockland) Nebo Lodge is selling tickets to its barn suppers, which are served Thursday nights in July and August. So, it’s a long way off, but it will also be one unforgettable meal. The food all comes from the farm (including farm-raised meats, cheeses and vegetables). The meal includes beer, wine and seasonal cocktails. Finding a ferry back in time might be a challenge, so consider also making a hotel reservation or AirBnB’ing it. Flanagan’s Table is also offering some winter and spring dinners at Nebo Lodge and other venues ($110+).
$80+ | Kennebunk or Scarborough
If you’ve never surfed in the winter, it may sound miserable and terrifying. It’s not. A good dry suit will probably make you sweaty even if it’s snowing over the near-freezing Maine ocean. Plus, surfing is one of those great sports that you can (sort of) get the hang of in a one-day session. Aquaholics in Kennebunk gives private lessons for $110 or two people for $170. Surf Camp Maine in Scarborough charges $80 for group lessons. Call ahead because winter surfing lessons are less common than summer ones.
$49-95 | (207) 233-7485 or mainefoodietours.com
I don’t know your mom, but I bet she’d love this. A tour guide will lead her through the Old Port tasting little samples of lobster and pie and the like, while telling mom about the history of the area. Maine Foodie Tours guarantees that mom will get to try food and drink from at least seven shops and restaurants. Winter tours include the Old Port tour, a happy hour tour in Portland and the “first-class food sherpa tour.” But if you buy a gift certificate for this adventure, mom could save it until summer when there are more tours (like ones all about seafood and one in Bar Harbor).
$40 for both you and your loved one | Sunday, Feb. 8 | snowmanadventure.com
The Snowman Adventure Race is a two-person deal. This gift will be a sort of promise that you and your friend/family member will have at least one awesome adventure in 2015. One of you needs to bike the Back Cove trail (4.5 miles total) and the other one needs to run 2.25 miles by the Eastern prom before you both sled down a hill together. Then after it’s time for pizza and beer. Guaranteed fun day — now that’s a gift.
$35-$100+ | Various mountains
Ski and stay: This gift is for the person who, at Thanksgiving always says, “I’ve always wanted to learn to ski, but …” or for anyone else in your family that loves tearing up the slopes. Saddleback and Sunday River both have deals where you can ski and stay in their resorts for $69 a person per night. Sugarloaf has a $99 per person per night deal. Sunday River also has a $79 (per person per night) learn-to-ski weekend package.
Eat and ski: Camden is an adorable little seaside town. How about a life ticket at its town-owned mountain ($20-40 depending) and dinner at one of the best thai food restaurants in New England (Long Grain, about $15 entrees)? Camden Snow Bowl also had a beginner’s deal where less-stable skiers or snowboarders pay $60 for a lesson, their rentals and lift ticket.
Similarly, snowboarding at Shawnee Peak ($40-63 lift tickets) and lunch at Standard Gastropub ($13 entrees, plus a great beer selection) would make a pretty nice day. Those pairings aren’t neatly packaged by the ski mountains, so you’ll need two gift certificates.
$225 for hiking or $300+ for climbing | Acadia National Park or Clifton (by Bangor) | acadiamountainguides.com
This could be the gift of a lifetime: Your friend or family member could learn to ice climb. Acadia Mountain Guides will teach you how to scale rocks and mountains safely. If you don’t want to scale the earth at such a steep incline, the company also offers winter hikes up Katahdin for $225.
$12-$18 | Many locations
This one is for the kids. And all your friends and family that has kids. There are a bunch of tubing hills in Maine, but here are some that have a tow (because it’s exhausting to hike up a mountain that many times):
Don’t buy your tuber his or her own tube because many mountains require that tubers use theirs.