Minnevangelist’s Epic Minnesota Gift Guide: Experiences

Shvitzing, metalsmithing, and virtual everything

So you waited until the eleventh hour to do your shopping — high five! ✋You now have two choices: (1) Run around town searching for last-minute presents or (2) gift your loved ones an experience they’ll always remember.

Here, we’ve rounded up a couple dozen ideas for creative, fun, experiential gifts, most of which can be enjoyed virtually or with proper social distancing. (The rest can be cashed in at your giftee’s discretion in the second half of 2021.) And good news for all you procrastinators: Everything outlined below may be purchased online and/or by phone and printed out at home or issued as an IOU in a hand-written card. Happy holidays, y’all!⁣

1. An annual membership to a Minnesota museum is the gift that gives all year long (yes, even during a pandemic, thanks to beaucoup online programming). Our favorites include the Walker Art Center (from $65), American Swedish Institute (from $25), The Museum of Russian Art (from $20), the Lake Superior Railroad Museum at Duluth Depot (from $40), Minnesota Historical Society (from $50), the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona (from $25), and the Glensheen estate in Duluth (from $40).

2. For families, there’s the Bell Museum (from $55), Minnesota Children’s Museum (from $139), and Science Museum of Minnesota (from $89). While a lot of museums remain temporarily closed to help curb the spread of COVID-19, many are graciously extending their memberships while continuing to bang out inspired online programming.

3. Classes also make terrific gifts. Foci – Minnesota Center for Glass Arts offers introductory courses in glass blowing ($495) and neon bending ($450), with groups currently limited to six participants and other COVID-19 protocol in place.

4. At Dock 6 Pottery, aspiring ceramicists can learn the basics of clay through a series of virtual classes (no potter’s wheel required). The January 2021 lineup covers pinched pot method butter dishes ($80) and coil method mixing bowls ($80). Gift certificates from Cry Baby Clay are another brilliant option: Starting at $25, your giftee can put it toward a clay kit for sculpt-at-home fun or use it in the online shop.

5. At Minneapolis’ Textile Center, our Reason to Love Minnesota No. 55, they can learn stitching, felting, dyeing, knitting, weaving, rug hooking, and more via virtual workshops or socially distanced in-person programming. (Among the center’s acclaimed instructors: Annabella Sardelis of Indigo & Snow.)

6. At the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, our Reason to Love No. 31, your gift recipient can log on to a host of live virtual workshops for adults and families. Topics run the gamut, from binding and box making to paper making and marbling. Plenty of teen-friendly ‘zine-making classes too.

7. Bowl turning, spoon carving, cabinetry — they can learn it all at Women’s Woodshop. The current offerings include a virtual open shop, which may require makers to have some equipment at home. (Note: Many of these classes are open to women and non-binary makers only.)

8. Is your giftee curious about pysanky, the traditional art of Ukrainian egg decorating using wax and dye? Hook ’em up with a class at the Ukrainian American Community Center in Minneapolis.

9. The Somali Museum of Minnesota, our Reason to Love No. 29, holds classes in kebed (traditional finger-weaving) and introductory workshops on Somali culture.

10. Registration for the winter/spring session at Minnetonka Community Education Center is still open, and many classes are operating virtually. No matter how mainstream or offbeat their interests (watercolor painting, coding, keeping backyard chickens), they can learn more here.

11. The Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center is South Minneapolis’ go-to learning hub for blacksmithing, welding, jewelry fabrication, enameling, and encaustics. Winter 2021 classes are scheduled to begin in February.

12. Classes at the American Swedish Institute, our Reason to Love Minnesota No. 37, are among the most popular in the city. From the safety of their own home, your gift recipient can learn how to bake limpa, carve a Nordic spoon, or knit a pair of Faroese house slippers—all pandemic-friendly activities if you ask us.

13. Lesser known but still buzzworthy (get it?!): online courses in the art of beekeeping in Northern climates, hosted by the University of Minnesota’s Bee Lab and the Minnesota Beekeepers Association.

14. Up in Grand Marais, you can’t beat an immersive course at North House Folk School, our Reason to Love Minnesota No. 129. Their teachers cover every skill under the sun, from boatbuilding and bead embroidery to mozzarella making and chainsaw maintenance. Many indoor courses will remain virtual until it’s safe for in-person learning to resume.

15. For a memorable winter adventure, how about a guided dog-sledding trip with Chilly Dogs in Ely, our Reason to Minnesota Love No. 35? We’ve also heard wonderful things about Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge, one of the nation’s oldest and most respected outfitters. The Ely-based adventure lodge books dogsled camping trips and day trips.

16. For the nature lover, the International Wolf Center in Ely (our Reason to Love No. 22) runs winter wildlife photography workshops, multi-day dogsledding adventures, and wilderness survival workshops for women. Its facilities are temporarily closed due to COVID-19, but they have a host of on-demand webinars for about $15 to $20 a pop. Sample topic: “The Wolves and Moose of Isle Royale with Rolf Peterson.”

17. How stoked would you be if someone booked you a private session at the year-old Cedar + Stone sauna in Duluth? This Nordic beauty queen has panoramic windows and a front-row seat to Lake Superior.

18. Know someone who’s been stressing all year long? (Like, um, everyone?) Treat them to a 90-minute private float session ($45) at Awaken For Wellness in St. Paul. The facility’s COVID-19 protection protocols are outlined here.

19. Long walks among beautiful flowers are another foolproof way to ease the mind. Memberships to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska, our Reason to Love No. 79, start at $60. Note, however, grounds and buildings are currently open by reservation only due to COVID-19.

20. For the classically inclined: You can’t beat a gift certificate to a future performance by the inimitable Minnesota Orchestra, our Reason to Love No. 183. Just imagine the euphoria of your first post-COVID concert! This gives ’em something to look forward to.

21. For the movie buffs, we recommend a gift card or tickets for future screenings at Trylon Cinema in Longfellow or Heights Theater in Columbia Heights. You can read about the theaters’ coronavirus safety policies here.

22. Surprise your favorite Prince superfan with a $25, $50, $100, or $250 gift card to Paisley Park. Though tours and events are currently on hold, certificates can be applied toward future dalliances with Le Purple One.

23. For the craftiest crafter in your crafty-craft orbit: a membership to the mother-daughter–run B+D Monthly Craft Club (from $35). Each month, DIYers will be presented with a new at-home craft challenge from a Minnesota maker—plus all the materials and instructions they need to pull it off. On the docket: candle making, resin arts, alcohol inks, calligraphy, and cheeky embroidery.

24. In a similar vein, ArtStart has a host of live virtual art studios and creativity kits, providing all of the materials you need as well as detailed instructions on making a masterpiece (or some approximation thereof). This is a fantastic idea for kids, as you can sort kits by target age group and theme.

25. Got a pal who loves following #plantstagram accounts but can’t keep a philodendron alive to save their life? They need a one-on-one plant concierge session (starting at $50) with Shayla Owodunni, the joyful and charming founder of The Plant Penthouse and our Reason to Love Minnesota No. 165.

26. Score them a spot in one of Forest to Fork‘s three 2021 Wild Mushroom Identification Classes ($99-$250), led by Gentleman Forager Mike Kempenich. In each three-hour class, your little mushroom lover will learn to positively identify at least four species of wild Minnesota fungi.

27. Dream gift for a foodie: a beautifully packaged gift card (starting at $20), good for any of Chef Shigeyuki Furukawa’s three incredible properties: Kado No Mise, Kaiseki Furukawa, or Gori Gori Peku Japanese whiskey bar. If your recipient isn’t comfortable dining in yet, they can order curbside pickup or delivery or reserve a shokado bento to-go.

For more inspired restaurant gifts, check out Hai Hai‘s country-themed Boxes of Joy, Union Hmong Kitchen‘s holiday gift kits and family meals, Grand Café‘s gift cards and meal kits, Young Joni‘s dining packages and cocktail kits, Kieran’s Kitchen‘s gift boxes and holiday boards, and Spoon and Stable chef Gavin Kaysen’s roster of live and on-demand home cooking classes.

28. Dream gift for the sentimental Luddite: a COVID-conscious tintype portrait session ($90-$300) with Blkk Hand studio in St. Paul.

29. Lastly, for stir-crazy travelers who can’t take one more day of being cooped up at home: Whisk them off on a sweet (socially distanced!) weekend getaway to Hotel Pikku in Duluth, Poplar Haus on the Gunflint Trail, the new Cantilever Distillery + Hotel near Voyageurs National Park, True North Basecamp in Crosby, the Lilla Norr A-frame in Mora (co-founded by the fabulous Arlee Park twins), the gorgeous Mossy Hollow Cove cabin in East Cook, or these super-cool converted grain bin Airbnbs in Alexandria. Heck, we’d be stoked just to have a staycation at Alex Roberts’ beautiful Alma Hotel + Restaurant in Minneapolis. Swoooon!

Still shopping? Check out our other holiday roundups, including…
Minnevangelist’s Epic Minnesota Gift Guide: Art + Home Goods
Minnevangelist’s Epic Minnesota Gift Guide: Jewelry
Minnevangelist’s Epic Minnesota Gift Guide: Food + Drink
Minnevangelist’s Epic Minnesota Gift Guide: Kids
Minnevangelist’s Epic Minnesota Gift Guide: Pets
Minnevangelist’s Epic Minnesota Gift Guide: Clothing + Accessories
Minnevangelist’s Epic Minnesota Gift Guide: Beauty + Wellness
Minnevangelist’s Epic Minnesota Gift Guide: Sports + Recreation