Travel Tips and More

An Experiential Gift Guide: Detroit & Beyond


There’s a time and a place for “stuff,” for sure. But this holiday season, the gifts that I’m craving (and the ones that I’m giving) are experiences, not things. You don’t have to be an avid traveler – or even an armchair traveler – to appreciate many of these, but several are geared toward the wandering type ;)

Likewise, you don’t need to be Detroit based to tailor many of the local suggestions below to your own hometown or region. The ideas, at their core, are all quite simple and absolutely replicable.

If you’re hungry for less things and more memories, then read on for a bit o’ inspiration in the spirit of holiday giving …



Audio Books: For the constant road-tripper or long-distance commuter, an annual subscription to audio book service Audible is worth its weight in gold. It’s easy as pie to purchase and you can gift a one-, three-, six- or 12-month subscription (starts at $15 for one month).

Tunes on the Go: Gift the perfect playlist. With gift cards for music services like Pandora or Spotify, folks only need an internet connection to have endless tunes at their fingertips, no matter where they’re roaming (available gift card amounts varies).

Monthly Inspiration: I’ve heard that glossy magazines are a thing of the past, but I’m a subscription hound. A year’s worth of travel magazine sounds heavenly on my part, and if I had to choose, I’d opt for one of these publications: Travel + Leisure or Conde Nast Traveler for the sophisticated traveler; AirBnB magazine for the eclectic traveler; Sunset magazine for the West-coast, design-loving traveler, or for the intrepid and thoughtful wandered, you can’t go wrong with National Geographic (prices and offers vary).


Scott’s Cheap Flights: Publisher of mistake fares, amazing deals and generally limited-time flight bargains, this website is a must for any travel type. But Scott’s Cheap Flights “Premium” service, which retails for $49 annually, offers even more custom tailored options and immediate alerts for those folks who are ready to hit the booking button at a moment’s notice. Know somebody who fits the bill? This is just the stocking stuffer.


National Parks Pass: A one-year pass is good for one vehicle’s entrance (including driver and up to three adults) into federally managed park properties. I especially love this idea for the retired folks among us – and senior pricing is available too! Just be sure to order the pass, which comes with a full kit and brochure, sooner rather than later as it will need to be mailed. (Annual pass costs $80 plus $5 handling fee.)


Funding the Itch: For some of us (hand raises), travel is just in our blood. There’s no question that 2020 will bring more adventure, more new places, more exploration. And for people like that, a travel-related gift card is almost always appreciated. Choosing a specific hotel chain can be dicey (but I’d vote Fairmont if I had to!), but a Delta gift card (or any other airline for that matter) or an AirBnB gift card – which can be used for lodging OR AirBnB experiences – is a safe bet for nearly any DTW-departing traveler.

Speaking of Delta, if your giftee is a loyal customer, and you’re willing to lay down the big bucks, you might consider an annual SkyClub membership, which will grant them access to all of Delta’s fancy airport lounges. (Annual rate is $545.)


DNA Decoding: It technically comes in a box, but I’m still counting it. Kits sold by Ancestra DNA or 23 and Me offer an accurate look into your personal DNA once you send back a vial of your saliva (ewww). Not only have we bought this gift for ourselves, we’ve gifted it to more than one family member!


Step Back in Time: How could Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum not make an experiential list? Memberships are fantastic family gifting ideas, but we’ve had a blast gifting our parents the Holiday Nights Dinner at Eagle Tavern each year – along with us – as a special and memorable (if not slightly pricey) way to celebrate the season.

Family Discovery: Metro Detroit families have some pretty impressive options for edutainment venues … a family membership to the Michigan Science Center keeps things fresh for the school-age kids (family memberships cost $75 annually); the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center is an often overlooked option downtown that’s practically a gas-free trip up north and has something for nearly all ages (family memberships cost $50 annually); and of course, the Detroit Zoo can’t be overlooked with its penguins, polar bears and reptiles (membership pricing starts at $56).

Rest & Recharge: If I had to pick one spa in our area for gifting purposes, I’d go with the MGM Grand Immerse Spa downtown, simply because it’s got plenty of space for leisurely lounging, like, all day. Start by the pool, step into the sauna, book a pedi, order some room service to be delivered poolside. You get me? (Gift cards available in varying amounts.)

Date Night: For the sophisticated audiophiles, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra delights. You can pick up tickets to individual shows on their website, or a membership that offers access to discounted tickets throughout the year. And the Detroit Institute of Arts, with its gorgeous setting and astounding artworks, offers something visually pleasing for every palate. (DIA memberships start at $65 for an individual.)

Wanna-Be Foodies: Royal Oak’s Holiday Market is home to the Mirepoix Cooking School and it’s a good one. Browse their calendar of class options or set up a private tutorial for a one-on-one session for your cooking challenged, or, ahem, interested family. Equally impressive but on the other side of town, you’ll find Zingerman’s baking and cooking classes (think “Bring on the Brioche”) in Ann Arbor, which range around $100 per person but offer thorough skills and typically, take-home decadence. You can even book a full weekend course, dubbed a “Bake-cation” focusing on pies, cakes, etc.

A Night On the Town: Sometimes, a splurge of a gift is in order for the in-laws. And if that’s the case, why not consider tickets to a show at the Fox Theater or Little Caesar’s Arena and an evening at one of Detroit’s newer hotels – I’d suggest The Siren (so cozy), Shinola Hotel (chic) or The Foundation (a historic little gem).


A Weekend Away: If your gift giving styles errs on the side of MEGA, then why wouldn’t you plan a weekend away for your partner/spouse/soon-to-be-wooed? Some of our favorite quick trips …

  • Langdon Hall: A boutique country hotel escape just a few hours away in Ontario, Canada (read our review here).
  • Traverse City: Wine sipping and Great Lakes views, with a pit stop at Sleeping Bear Dunes! Check out the area’s winery boutique hotel options or the new Hotel Indigo if you’d prefer to walk around town.
  • Grand Rapids: Throw back some brews in the state (and potentially, the nation’s) craft brew capital. Take in a show, visit Frederik Meijer Gardens and soak up the elegant, old-school vibes of the Amway Grand.
  • Mackinac Island: Think WAY ahead and book one of the summer’s hottest destinations, a room at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac. Filled to the brim with historic charm, this fascinating hotel is unlike any other in the area, and you get to dress up for dinner if that’s your thing. Summer weekends book fast, so really, now if the perfect time to lock in your dates.

1 thought on “An Experiential Gift Guide: Detroit & Beyond”

  1. Pingback: Departing DTW Blog

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