The Best Gifts Are Experiences – Find One for Everyone on Your List

Holiday gift-giving is always tricky. You want your present to feel personable and unique, and you hope they’ll actually use it, too. This year, rather than elbowing your way through a department store full of stuff, why not opt for something you can’t find on a shelf? We’re talking about experience. 

We’ve rounded up the best travel experiences for all of the loved ones in your life: the thrill seekers, the curious minds, family members old and young, your fabulous jetsetter friends, and everyone in between. Think cocktail tastings in Elizabeth Taylor’s old penthouse, Texas barbeque and underground spa treatments in Dallas, a long weekend getaway to a surprisingly cool, under-the-radar city, and family beach vacations in a tropical paradise. These are holiday gifts they’ll remember for a lifetime. 

Best of all, we have a gift for you, too! Now through November 30, you can save up to 40% on your travel gift during our annual Holiday Sale! Explore our top picks for the best travel experiences across Independent Collection Hotels & Resorts, and let the festivities begin.


Friends having fun on sailboat and enjoying summer days

Whether you’re shopping for an adrenaline junky or an aunt who loves to try new things, these adventure-packed experiences offer all the thrills, in some of the world’s most beautiful destinations.

At Parrot Key Hotel & Villas in Key West, Florida, thrill seekers can pair their island getaway with exhilarating water sports conveniently available on-site at the resort. We’re talking full-throttle jet ski tours around the Florida Keys, parasailing over crystal clear waters, and epic snorkeling through Florida’s Coral Reef, the only coral reef system in the continental U.S.

Or how about learning to sail with the masters in America’s sailing capital? At Annapolis Waterfront Hotel in Annapolis, Maryland, adventurers of all ages can help steer an incredible 74-foot wooden schooner boat with an expert sailing crew. First, mates-in-training can learn the ropes — literally — and navigate Annapolis’ historic waterfront, or cheer on their captain during an exciting sailboat race through the Chesapeake Bay. 

Is your adventure lover also an animal lover? Gift them a larger-than-life experience in Monterey Bay, a beautiful coastal city in central California known for its jaw-dropping scenery, national marine sanctuary, and the magnificent creatures that call it home. With The Sanctuary Beach Resort’s new Nature Watch package, your giftee can get up close to aquatic giants like gray whales, humpback whales, orcas, dolphins, harbor seals and others during a private whale watching tour led by local marine biologists.


Group of friends having a beach party together and celebrating with sparklers in the  twilight

At Independent Collection, we know one of the best parts of travel is the element of surprise. This holiday season, give the gift of discovery and open their eyes to surprising destinations they’ll want to visit again and again.

Of all the cities likely to surprise you, Minneapolis, Minnesota is probably at the top. The cosmopolitan sibling of the Twin Cities, Minneapolis has award-winning restaurants, world-class museums, historic theaters, tons of craft breweries and, yes, those famous Minnesota lakes. But perhaps the most exciting discovery of all lies inside Rand Tower Hotel, a dazzling Art Deco hotel with not one but three new restaurants by acclaimed Minneapolis chef Daniel del Prado. A gift card to Rand Tower opens the door to adventurous French food, craft cocktails with golden lions, and exotic French island rhums you didn’t know existed, all within reach of the city’s best experiences.

Always in a state of reinvention, Brooklyn, New York is one of those cities you can visit 100 times and still find something new. Gift them a stay at NU Hotel Brooklyn and head out to explore everything the city has to offer, from Williamsburg’s hipster shops and breweries, to Buschwick’s famous nightlife, to Dumbo’s buzzy art galleries and picturesque views. 

While Boston is hardly a new attraction – it’s one of America’s oldest cities, after all! – there’s still so much to discover in old-meets-new neighborhoods like the West End, located between historic Beacon Hill and the North End’s famous eateries. With The Boxer Boston as your home base, uncover new pockets of culture and culinary hotspots in one of the city’s most unique neighborhoods! 

Curious about a totally different cultural experience? No need to dig up your passports. Instead, head south and journey to El Paso, Texas. Known for its incredible desert landscapes and unique DNA of Native American, Spanish, Mexican and Western cultures, El Paso is also home to some incredible hidden gems like The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park, a local landmark that dates back to the late 1800s. Elizabeth Taylor once lived in the penthouse, but these days you can sip craft cocktails in her fabulous former digs overlooking the Rocky Mountains. And downstairs at Ámbar Restaurante, Michelin-starred chef Andres Padilla serves up insanely delicious wood-fired Tex-Mex with your choice of 800 agave spirits — the biggest collection in all of North America!


Couple watching the sunset in a convertible car

Quality time together is one of the most thoughtful gifts you could give. Up the romance and make memories together in a place as exciting and unique as your love!

For those who enjoy the finer things in life, treat them to a lovely long weekend at The Joule, a luxurious Forbes Four-Star hotel in Dallas, Texas with a world-class art collection, spectacular interior design, boutique shops, buzzy bars and restaurants, and an award-winning spa that’s hidden underground.  

A surprise getaway to The Rittenhouse in Philadelphia is also a fabulous gift idea. Book your stay at this Leading Hotel of the World and revel in a deeply relaxing couples massage, followed by dinner overlooking the famous Rittenhouse Square. 

Or how about a couple’s escape to California wine country? Gift your lover a trip to Santa Barbara and pair your local wine tastings with Spanish architecture at Hotel Milo. A West Coast Christmas sounds lovely, too, doesn’t it? Make it a full-on California road trip and add Santa Monica to your itinerary! With The Ambrose Hotel as your base, you two can explore L.A.’s famous streets, picturesque beaches and locally-loved restaurants, then return to a secluded hideaway for cozy evenings by the firepit.

Of course, few places compare to New York City during the holidays. Those twinkling lights, towering trees, and contagious holiday cheer bring out the romantic in all of us. Celebrate the season with Independent Collection’s wonderful NYC hotels — Hotel 48LEX New York and Aliz Hotel Times Square — and let the holiday magic lead you to your most memorable vacation yet.


Father, son and their dog riding a cargo bike in nature

Whether you’re looking to celebrate the holidays together or surprise the lot with an epic summer vacation, Independent Collection has you covered with fun-filled experiences perfect for the whole family — even those hard-to-please teens!

Set on 24 acres of Florida Keys paradise, the Islander Resort in Islamorada is equal parts exciting and relaxing, making it an ideal destination for multi-generational families. There’s something for everyone here: paddleboards, kayaks, beach volleyball, multiple pools, kid-friendly arts and crafts, and even an outdoor grill for dad! Tell your aunts, uncles and cousins, too. The Islander’s sister property, Bayside Villas by Islander Resort, has plenty of spacious, waterfront villas to accommodate the whole family.

For a memorable holiday vacation with a bit more flair, consider gifting them a stay in sunny Miami Beach. Our three exquisite Miami Beach hotels — Blue Moon, Winter Haven, and Cadillac Hotel & Beach Club — offer all of the tropical fun in the sun you seek, plus a dose of Latin culture, award-winning restaurants and chic shopping districts, wow-worthy street art and world-famous Art Deco architecture. 

Of course, you can’t go wrong with a quintessential summer vacation in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Make the most of your time together at Sea Crest Beach Hotel, Upper Cape Cod’s only beachfront hotel, where you and your family can enjoy a private beach, indoor and outdoor pools, on-site watersport rentals and arcade games, and endless scoops of ice cream at Sea Crest’s classic ice cream parlor.  

Give the gift of travel this holiday season and enjoy up to 40% off on bookings at all of Independent Collection’s one-of-a-kind hotels and resorts across America during our annual Holiday Sale! Explore our properties and start planning today.