Budget-Friendly Experiential Gift Ideas under $50

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By , December 2, 2015 3:50 pm

This is about the time of year that many of us start looking at our budgets and thinking about how much we have to spend on holiday gifts. Although the holidays often spark images of mass consumerism, there are certainly ways to give thoughtfully and generously with a minimalist mindset.

Experiential gifts are ones that value doing things over having things. They’re great for people who are trying to minimize clutter in their lives and not be bogged down by so much stuff. Experiences can vary greatly in price range, but there are so many great things you can try for the first time in your home city or while traveling.

These are a few of our favorite experiential gift ideas under $50.

Introduction to Belly Dancing Workshop

Belly dancing isn’t just a lesson in culture; it’s fun, flirty, and a great workout too. Give the give of our Introduction to Belly Dancing Workshop, which is in New York and features traditional Middle Eastern and North African dances and music. Your gift recipient will learn how to move her hips, torso, arms, and hands with graceful and enticing shimmy and traveling movements. It’s a great gift for anyone looking for a fun way to work out and experience different cultures. The workshop lasts two hours and runs daily.

Photo credit: Jeremy Brooks via Flickr

Photo credit: Jeremy Brooks via Flickr

Los Angeles Shore Excursion: The Queen Mary

This historic transatlantic ocean liner dates back to the 1930s is a great city break in L.A. There are several tour ticket options available, which run year-around. On our Los Angeles Shore Excursion, you’ll learn about the ship’s fascinating secrets and hauntings, as well as the art deco design and paranormal encounters. Tour options include an audio tour, behind-the-scenes tour, World War II tour, and ghosts and legends show. This is great gift for anyone interested in sailing, paranormal activity, or history.

Whitewater Tubing

West Virginia is a wonderful destination for whitewater enthusiasts, and the historic town of Harper’s Ferry is an ideal place to start. Our Whitewater Tubing experience is perfect for the 18-30 year old crowd and passes through Class I-III whitewater on the Potomac River. The experience takes place between May and September, so it’ll give your recipient something to look forward to when the spring season arrives!

La Jolla Coastal Bike Tour

La Jolla is nothing short of beautiful, and one of the best ways to experience it is on two wheels. Give the gift of our La Jolla Coastal Bike Tour and your recipient will enjoy panoramic views of the San Diego cliffs and Pacific Ocean. On this two-hour ride, you’ll get admission into the La Jolla Sea Caves and Store, see famous surfing breaks, check out sea lions, and visit the historic La Jolla Village neighborhood.

Photo credit: Anne and Tim via Flickr

Photo credit: Anne and Tim via Flickr

Seattle Pub Crawl

Going to the same bars every weekend can be a drag, so the gift of a Seattle Pub Crawl is a great way to discover new and legendary watering holes. The city has some amazing microbreweries, and your gift recipient can learn all about the brewing process and pubs that are steeped in history and fame. This is a great gift for anyone who’s new to Seattle or traveling there for the first time. The pub crawl lasts about 2.5 hours and runs year-around.

Gift-giving doesn’t have to break the budget. Each of these experiences is under $50 and will help your loved ones create memories that last a lifetime.

Just in Time for Thanksgiving: Reveal Your Inner Chef with Gourmet Gifts!

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By , November 17, 2015 1:04 pm

This is the time of year that everyone (not just foodies) starts thinking a little more about delicious food, favorite recipes, and unique twists on tradition.  Turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce might be the first foods that come to mind for Thanksgiving, but this is also a fun time to experiment in the kitchen with festive flavors and exotic spices.

Whether you’ve been looking to beef up your culinary skills for a while now or have an aspiring chef in your life, we can set you up with some exciting gourmet experiences that will change the way you look at food. Here are a few of our favorite cooking experiences…just in time for Thanksgiving!

Introduction to Baking

Holiday season is the prime time to get into baking, with so many parties and events just around the corner. Our Introduction to Baking Class is in the DC area and teaches students the basics of creaming butter and sugar, knowing when a cake is ready, and design techniques. The class lasts about two hours and is great for beginners!

Photo credit: Sugar Daze Cupcakes via Flickr

Photo credit: Sugar Daze Cupcakes via Flickr

Sushi Making Lessons

Do you love sushi but have always been too intimidated to try making it yourself? Our Chicago-based Sushi Making Lessons will teach you how to handle seafood, wrap sushi rice in nori, slice fish, and shape nigiri and maki by hand. This is a fun hands-on learning experience that lasts about three hours and will demystify one of your favorite foods.

Indian Cooking Class

Another delicious type of ethnic food that stumps many first-time chefs is Indian cuisine. Traditional Indian food involves pretty of spices and prep time, but expert Ayesha D’Mello will walk you through the basics in this Miami-based Indian Cooking Class. The recipes you’ll learn are easy and healthy, and classes run on Saturdays and Sundays for about three hours.

Photo credit: nAok0 via Flickr

Photo credit: nAok0 via Flickr

World Cuisine Cooking Class

If you can’t decide which type of cuisine to cook, why not sign up for a World Cuisine Cooking Class and try a bit of everything? This DC-area class features traditional foods from places like Mexico, Morocco, France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Vietnam. These 2.5-hour classes are split into demonstration and participation sections and end with enjoying a wonderful meal with wine.

Chocolate Making Class

Chocolate is pretty much impossible to resist any time of year, but especially when holiday season kicks in and sweet treats are all around us. Our New York Chocolate Making Class is designed for everyone who loves chocolate and wants to learn more about it. Students will learn how to make truffles, a ganache, and other treats with milk chocolate and dark chocolate. Techniques like molding, dripping, drizzling, and coating, as well as skills practiced by top chocolatiers, are also covered. This particular class is held in the Midtown West neighborhood and lasts about four hours on Saturdays.

Take a moment to browse our list of gourmet experiences in your city to find a fun and informative cooking class near you this holiday season!

Plan an Awesome Vacation with These Pro Tips

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By , November 3, 2015 11:04 am

Are you a “Type A” travel planner that organizes every last detail of your vacations and leaves nothing up to chance? Or are you more of a “Type B” traveler who prefers to “wing it” and leave plenty of downtime for spontaneity?

Aside from living with your friends and family members, traveling together is one of the quickest ways to get to know the people around you…for better or for worse. Within just a short amount of time, it’s easy to tell how “travel compatible” you and your companions are, from sleeping habits to sightseeing styles and food preferences.

But regardless of your travel personality and goals, there are a few things you can do to set your trip up for success. Keep these pro tips in mind to plan a better vacation for your next trip.

Strategically Use Technology

Vacation is a wonderful time to temporarily disconnect from technology and un-glue your eyes from the screens that you look at every day. However, smartphones are incredibly useful to look up directions, read reviews to decide on a restaurant, and make reservations on-the-go. Try to focus your device usage on essential travel planning only so you can live in the moment and be observant of your new surroundings. Forbes and Huffington Post have published helpful lists of websites and apps recommended for travel planning.

Photo credit: Mr.TinDC via Flickr

Photo credit: Mr.TinDC via Flickr

Agree on Key Points of Interest

Chances are that there are a few key sightseeing points that everyone in your travel group can agree on. Over breakfast each morning, identify a travel goal or two for the day and plan your day around those sites. Depending on your group size and how safe your destination is, you may be able to split up between or after must-do attractions. The important thing is to be realistic about how much you can see and do in one day and not stress out about it…it’s vacation after all!

Scope Out Discounts

Looking for discounts while traveling can be time consuming, but it makes a huge difference if you’re on a limited budget. You can often find student discounts and military discounts online before your trip, and you can use mobile apps to find deals between activities along the way. Consider checking out deals sites, like Groupon, while out and about to find discounts on things to do at your destination. You can also ask your hotel concierge for coupons or deal recommendations nearby.

Photo credit: Ben Seese via Flickr

Photo credit: Ben Seese via Flickr

Leave Time for Randomness

Even if you’re a hardcore “Type A” traveler, it’s important to schedule in some downtime and set some time aside for randomness along the way. Some of the most memorable experiences that come out of travel are the ones that aren’t planned. These are the times to open yourself up to casual conversations with locals, other travelers, and friendly staff that can help you discover new things.

Look for Local Experiences

Sure, you can float from one organized tour group to the next and check every item off the sightseeing list in a popular travel guide, but where’s the uniqueness and authenticity in that? Some of the best travel experiences are the ones that locals who actually live in the area would do themselves on any given day. Check out our list of experiences by city for activity inspiration, and pick up local newspapers to learn about events going on nearby.

What’s your best vacation planning secret? Happy travels!

Non-Touristy Ways to Spend a Day in Washington, DC

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By , October 21, 2015 8:24 am

As our nation’s capital, Washington, DC is known as a huge tourist hub. This can be kind of fun if you’re a first-time visitor, but a bit annoying if you live here or visit often. When you think of ways to experience DC, images of the White House, museums, and monuments come to mind. However, there are lots of other ways to spend time in this lively city and get a feel for what it’s all about.

So put away that map and those Bermuda shorts, because today we’re ditching the tourist circuit and trying some new activities. These are some of our favorite non-touristy ways to spend a day in and around Washington, DC.

Trampoline Jumping Class

Do you have fond (or painful) memories about jumping on a trampoline in your best friend’s backyard as a kid? Relive those memories and make some ones in a DC trampoline jumping class. But in this class you’ll more than just jump. You’ll learn how to do somersaults, twists, and other aerial/gymnastic skills while getting a great workout too! This experience runs year-around and lasts for about 1.5 hours.


Photo credit: Nico Aguilera via Flickr

Whiskey 101

If you work up a thirst from all that jumping, head to nearby Arlington, Virginia for a Whiskey 101 class. Here you’ll learn the basic differences between whiskey, bourbon, and scotch and how to sip and mix them at the DC School of Whiskey. This experience is also offered year-around, and you’ll be a whiskey pro in just an hour.

Personal Wine Class

But if wine is more your drink-of-choice, consider spending your day in a personal wine class to understand wine basics at a private club in Dupont Circle. Over an hour or two, you’ll get a personal lesson in wine from an industry professional and get the opportunity to ask as many questions as you want. Your instructor, Professor Laurent Guinand, is a wine expert that lectures about intentional wine business. Classes are often held conveniently after work hours and offered year-around.

Glassblowing Class

Another class definitely worth checking out in the DC area is a glassblowing class. Based in nearby Sperryville, Virginia, this class is made for students who have never been in a glassblowing studio before. You’ll learn the steps it takes to create beautiful hand-blown glass art through techniques like gathering, centering, blocking, marvering, and basic color application. Classes last for about two hours. You should wear a long-sleeve cotton shirt, jeans/khaki pants, and either leather or canvas shoes for your personal safety.

Photo credit: Trevor Smeaton via Flickr

Photo credit: Trevor Smeaton via Flickr

Beginner Belly Dancing Class

Have you ever watched belly dancing in a Bollywood movie and wondered exactly how they shake their hips like that? Well, you can find out for yourself in a DC belly dancing class designed for beginners. No experience is necessary, and you’ll learn the basic posture, shimmies, isolations, undulations, and traveling steps. Embrace the sounds of Middle Eastern music as you have fun and work your body in this friendly one-hour class. Stretch pants, close-fitting tops, and a hip scarf are recommended to wear, and you can dance barefoot or with ballet or rubber-soled jazz shoes on.

Get to Know Seattle with these Awesome Experiences

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By , October 7, 2015 10:34 am

Seattle is an outdoor lover’s retreat, a foodie’s dream, and a sightseer’s paradise. Although the city has a reputation for rainy days, the weather doesn’t get locals down because there’s so much to do at all times of year.

Whether you’re visiting Seattle for the first time, are just passing through, or are reuniting with old friends, there are some experiences that define a perfect stay in Seattle. These are some of our favorite local experiences to get to know the city in new and exciting ways.

Funky Fremont Experience

Fremont is an eclectic neighborhood in Seattle that’s worth a visit, no matter how many times you’ve been to the city. Take a Sunday morning stroll on our Funky Fremont Experience to learn about all the hot spots and take in the local culture. On this tour, you’ll get to see the Lenin statue, Theo Chocolate, and the infamous Fremont Troll. You’ll end your off-the-beaten track walk after about two hours at the Fremont Sunday Market. This tour operates year-around, regardless of the weather.

Photo credit: Roshan Vyas via Flickr

Photo credit: Roshan Vyas via Flickr

Seattle Boeing Factory Tour

Seattle is also known for being the home to the Boeing aircraft factory, so why not take a tour and learn more about its fascinating history and technology? The Boeing factory tour lasts about 1.5 hours and introduces you to 747, 767, and 777 planes that are flown around the world. Expect to spend a few hours at the factory, and this tour operates year-around as well.

Capitol Hill Food Tour

Another neighborhood worth checking out in Seattle is Capitol Hill, which is a favorite among foodies. Take a Capitol Hill Food Tour to sample the goods from some of the area’s best restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and cafes. You’ll get at least 15 food tastings, including delicious local favorites like pork belly mac ‘n’ cheese and spicy Korean-style tacos. This tour runs on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3 pm and lasts about two hours.

Seattle Craft Distillery Tour

Seattle also has a buzzing craft brewery and spirit scene, which you can learn all about on a Seattle Craft Distillery Tour.  Hop in a luxury Mercedes-Benz to visit three local craft distilleries in the area and learn about the process of distilling gin, vodka, and whiskey. You’ll get to sample over a dozen locally-produced liquors and a couple craft cocktails too. This is a great way to kick off happy hour in Seattle, starting at 3:30 pm Wednesdays through Sundays.

Snoqualmie Falls & Seattle Winery

The Seattle area also produces some top-notch wines, and you don’t have to travel far to find them. Sign up for a Snoqualmie Falls & Seattle Winery Tour for tastings at the Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia wineries. This is an ideal tasting tour for nature lovers because you’ll get to see the Cascade foothills, ranches and farms, scenic winding roads, Mount Si, and the Snoqualmie Falls. This experience lasts about six hours and operates year-around.

Photo credit: Blake Stearman via Flickr

Photo credit: Blake Stearman via Flickr

Yakima River Floats

To spend even more time in nature, join one of the Yakima River Floats, which offers breathtaking views of the Rattlesnake Hills, rock canyon walls, and the desert terrain of the Pacific Northwest. You can hop out for a swim near the Smiley Face cliffs too. This experience is family-friendly and only has an occasional Class 2 rapid. Visit Seattle between April and October to try out this float!

Best Ways to Enjoy the Fall Season in San Francisco

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By , September 23, 2015 9:46 am

As many of the locals will tell you, fall is the prime time to be in San Francisco. The crowds are fewer, the temperatures are comfortable, and flight and hotel rates are more affordable than in the summertime. This is a wonderful season to soak up the bliss of nature in the great outdoors, take a stroll through a new neighborhood, or try a random hobby that you’ve always been curious about.

These are some of our favorite ways to spend the fall season in San Francisco.

Paper Mache Mask Making Art Class

Masks aren’t just for Mardi Gras and Halloween! The Day of the Dead is on Sunday, November 1 this year, so get into the spirit by taking a Paper Mache Mask Making Art class in nearby Berkeley. You’ll learn about Mexican cultural traditions with internationally-acclaimed artist, Diego Marcial Rios, and make your own unique hand-painted masterpiece to take home. This experience lasts about two hours and is a great way to spend a creative afternoon.

Photo credit: Decaseconds via Flickr

Photo credit: Decaseconds via Flickr

Muir Woods Tour

San Francisco is situated in and surrounded by lots of stunning nature, and you can take a Muir Woods Tour through November to experience this area in an interesting and informative way. In addition to Muir Woods, you’ll get to check out the Marin Headlands and take a ferry cruise back to San Francisco at the end of the day. This relaxing tour lasts about 4.5 hours, and you should wear layers to be prepared for cool and changing weather conditions.

Animal Tracking Class

Another interesting way to get in touch with nature in the Bay Area is to take an Animal Tracking Class at Point Reyes National Seashore. This five-hour experience is just an hour from San Francisco but feels like a world away. You’ll learn how to read the ground, study animal behavior patterns, and tracking techniques. This is a great experience for the true nature lover wanting to get more out of hiking trips and learn more about the animals and plants in the area.

Learn to Knit

Fall is a great time to learn how to knit in San Francisco or wherever you are! This needle craft is relatively easy to catch on to, and you can make some really beautiful warm things for yourself or to give as gifts. Knitting classes will teach you how to make scarves, hats, and blankets in one-hour sessions. Classes are held on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays, and you’ll need to bring your own materials to class.

Photo credit: Sally via Flickr

Photo credit: Sally via Flickr

Mountain Biking Clinic

Mountain biking involves more than just pedaling around the streets of San Francisco, and a Mountain Biking Clinic can teach you all the basics of bike handling on steep, rocky terrain with tree roots and other natural obstacles. You’ll learn these skills on the beautiful trails in Marin County and the Santa Cruz Mountains on a moderate-level six-to-eight mile ride. This experience operates all throughout the fall and lasts about five hours.

Your options are without limits in the city by the bay, so tap into your adventurous or creative side to try something new this season!

Beyond the Perfect Weather: Our Favorite San Diego Experiences

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By , September 9, 2015 12:19 pm

San Diego is one of the best destination getaways in the U.S. because it’s easy to get to, the beaches are amazing, and the weather is pretty perfect year-around. There’s so much to see and do in this California city, even if you’ve been living there for years!

At FunSherpa, we’re passionate about introducing you to experiences that you might not have thought of before, and that (gasp!) might even take you outside your comfort zone. These are some our top picks for San Diego, whether you’re planning to visit this fall or really any time of the year!

Surfing Lessons

San Diego is synonymous with surf culture, and really no trip to the city is complete without hopping on a board. Designed for true beginners, our surf lessons are led by friendly and qualified instructors who’ll help you beat the frustration and learning curve. In fact, they promise that if you’re not standing on the board at the end of your lesson, your next lesson is free! Lessons are offered year-around and last an hour or more.

Photo credit: Nathan Rupert via Flickr

Photo credit: Nathan Rupert via Flickr

Stand-Up Paddle Boarding

These days, you can’t really talk about surfing without mentioning stand-up paddle boarding too. Once you get the hang of SUP, it’s actually a really relaxing water sport that challenges your balance, strength, and overall fitness. You can learn to SUP in an hour-long lesson any time of the year in San Diego.

America’s Cup Sailing Experience

Another great way to get in tune with San Diego’s maritime culture is on an America’s Cup Sailing Experience, which sets sail on famous competitive racing vessels. Soak up the San Diego skyline from this 80-foot boat and relax on your nautical adventure. Tickets to the San Diego Maritime Museum are included in the rate, and the year-around tour lasts for about 2 1/2 hours.

Sea Rocket Speedboat Ride

To satisfy your need for speed while in San Diego, consider taking a Sea Rocket Speedboat Ride, which offers a unique way to see the sights of the city. You’ll pass by landmarks like the USS Midway Museum, Cabrillo National Monument, and Point Loma Lighthouse on this 40-minute ride. Rides are offered every day between 10:30 am and 3:30 pm.

Catamaran Whale Watching Cruises

The water the surrounds San Diego is full of fascinating wildlife, and one of the best ways to see sea creatures is on a Catamaran Whale Watching Cruise. This is a two-hour experience on an eco-friendly boat that can hold up to 49 passengers and even has a full-service bar. These tours launch from nearby Dana Point and run between May and October.

Photo credit: Eric Neitzel via Flickr

Photo credit: Eric Neitzel via Flickr

Brothels, Bites and Booze: A Culinary Tour of San Diego’s Questionable Past

But after all those water activities, you’ve probably worked up quite the hunger and thirst. One of the most interesting tours you can take in the city is called Brothels, Bites and Booze: A Culinary Tour of San Diego’s Questionable Past, which introduces you to the historic and scandalous Gaslamp Quarter. you’ll get to sample foods and drinks from five amazing San Diego restaurants on this 2 1/2 hour tour, which typically runs on Fridays and Saturdays.

Weird & Wonderful Portland: Our Favorite Local Experiences

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By , August 27, 2015 8:35 am

There’s no excuse for having a boring trip to the Pacific Northwest when Portland is on your itinerary. Epitomized by the television show, Portlandia, this Oregon city is known for its bikes, beer, nature, local quirky shops, and eco-friendly vibe. No matter what time of year you visit, there’s always some type of unique event, show, or exhibition going on around town too.

Whether you live in the area or are visiting for the first time, check out some of our favorite local experiences to acquaint yourself with the city. These FunSherpa experiences also make great birthday gifts!

Waterfall Walking Tour

There are an astounding number of waterfalls in the Portland area, which provide wonderful hiking destinations and photo opportunities. Take a waterfall walking tour around the easily-accessible Horsetail Falls and the more secluded Ponytail Falls. This is an easy route that is about two miles long and gives you a taste of forests and natural beauty of Oregon. This experience lasts about 3-4 hours and runs on Monday mornings.

Photo credit: Alyssa L. Ochs

Photo credit: Alyssa L. Ochs

Columbia River Gorge Tour

To take your hiking skills to the next level, consider taking a Columbia River Gorge waterfall tour! This national park has several beautiful waterfalls, the most famous being the enormous Multnomah Falls. Your tour begins at the Columbia River Highway National Scenic Byway and also passes by Latourell Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Bonneville Dam. This experience runs daily at 9 am and 2 pm.

Portland City Bike Tour 

People in Portland love their bikes, and there really is no better way to see the city than on two wheels. Some of the sights that you’ll see on a Portland city bike tour include Pioneer Square, the rose garden, Washington Park, Twilliger Viewpoints, and maybe even a stop at Voodoo Donuts! This tour lasts about 3.5 hours and really gives you a sense of what the city is all about.

Pub Bike Tour

Portland is into craft beer in a big way, and the city has more breweries per capita than any other city in America! On a pub bike tour, you’ll get to sample some of the city’s best beers while learning about the brewing process and local breweries. The three breweries on this route are near each other and each have something unique to offer. This experience operates year-around and lasts about two hours.

Oregon 3 Day Coastal Tour

But to really experience the great state of Oregon, you’ll need to venture outside the city limits and explore the beautiful Oregon coastline. Our Oregon 3 Day Coastal Tour takes you on a wine tasting, to an aviation museum, outlet shopping, culinary school, and much more. You’ll get to spend time in the quaint coastal cities, like Newport, Lincoln City, and Depot Bay, while soaking up the beautiful ocean scenery.

Photo credit: Alyssa L. Ochs

Photo credit: Alyssa L. Ochs

Fishing Lessons

Another great way to take advantage of Portland’s coastal location is by taking fishing lessons from a pro. On an 8-hour guided fishing lesson trip, you’ll learn how to set your rod, choose baits and lures, and try different spots in the river to find fish. Your experienced and friendly guide will capture photos of your fishing experience and even gut your catch and bag it for transport home!

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