For many of us, the holiday season brings a frantic scramble to come up with a great gift idea for that certain person — the one who has everything or who is hard to buy for.
Instead of hitting the mall, how about giving the ultimate adventure to fit any personality type? Recent studies have shown that experiences make us happier than material things, and these six one-of-a-kind Austin gift ideas are sure to be a hit.
For the adventurous spirit
To get an in-the-air thrill of a lifetime, flying high above Austin in an old-fashioned, open-cockpit biplane is the way to go.
Austin Biplanes is relatively new to the area. Pilot Rob Whiteside purchased his gorgeous, sleek, red 2012 replica biplane in May of this year and began customer flights in July. Passengers can channel Amelia Earhart or Charles Lindbergh as they don bomber jackets and leather helmets before climbing aboard the Red Baron-style plane.
Sharp turns and rolls make for an exciting ride; and if your loved one is a real daredevil, Whiteside even offers an aerobatic flight that includes barrel rolls and full loops. Your entire experience is captured on the plane's GoPro cameras mounted on each wing, with a third GoPro in the front cockpit.
For the wine connoisseur
Hit the Hill Country wine road in style with a private limo tour. Fredericksburg Texas Wine Tours escorts oenophiles with knowledgeable drivers who are intimately familiar with the Hill Country and its wineries. A typical tour includes visits to Grape Creek Vineyards for a barrel room tasting, Compass Rose Cellars for a wine tasting and lunch on the patio, and Kuhlman Cellars for a sommelier wine pairing with gourmet bites.
It's the perfect gift for wine lovers, not only for the luxury of the private limo, but for the experience of seeing, tasting, and learning more about these vineyards and their wine-making processes. The driver/guide also helps expedite any lines and can manage purchases.
For the aspiring action hero
Millions of people dream of being in the movies, and the action hero is the definitive movie star. We ordinary folk can get a taste of the experience with the Action Hero Training package at Stunt Ranch, which lets the participant discover what it's like to free fall three stories and jump from a burning car.
This private, four-hour class with award-winning director and Hollywood special effects coordinator Steve Wolf offers a hands-on introduction to pyrotechnics, safety, rigging, rappelling, and taking bullets. Wolf and his staff can also demonstrate how mechanics, kinetics, optics, heat, computers, and safety techniques are used to create movie special effects on Stunt Ranch's 22 acres in Southwest Austin. It's the ultimate gift for any Bruce Willis or James Bond wannabe on your gift list.
For the romantic at heart
Create the perfect day of luxury and romance by starting with a seasonal couple's treatment at Hiatus Spa + Retreat. Escape together for a little holiday pampering with a 60-minute couple's retreat and side-by-side zero gravity spa pedicures. The warm, relaxing environment of Hiatus sets the mood for the rest of the day.
Afterwards, take a private sunset cruise along Lady Bird Lake in an electric, gondola-like boat from Capital Cruises. The intimate setting allows you privacy to take in the sunset and city skyline from the water, all while enjoying a catered dinner. You can bring your own special bottle of wine or drink, or arrange for Champagne on the boat ahead of time.
For the speed junkie
If your loved one is addicted to Formula 1 or NASCAR, and easily excites at the idea of racing, you can gift them the adventure of speeding along the track. Rusty Wallace, a retired NASCAR driver and former Winston Cup Champion, offers the opportunity through Race With Rusty, and one of the tracks is in Kyle, just outside Austin.
The Central Texas Speedway is a half-mile, oval-shaped asphalt racetrack. After some training from a qualified pit crew, you're on track to experience all the excitement of NASCAR racing. Packages are available that allow for three to 20 laps, and some include being fitted with a custom Rusty Wallace driver's suit made by Oakley. Your speed freak will have the thrill of a lifetime.
For the altruistic soul
Maybe the person you're searching for is the "save the world" type. For this person, there is no better gift than knowing that they have made a positive impact on the world. What better way to honor them than with a gift that provides a healthy life and future to a child in need?
Through Austin-based The Miracle Foundation, a gift donation in someone's name can provide a child living in an orphanage in India with things that will truly change their lives. You can browse the holiday Give a Miracle catalog for any number of items to choose as your donation — from medical care to schoolbooks. The Miracle Foundation will send an e-card with a description of the gift that’s been donated in his or her name. For donations of $100 or more, your charitable gift recipient will also receive a Miracle Foundation luggage tag, signifying them as a "Bona Fide Miracle Maker." Take it a step further and gift traveling to India as part of a volunteer team to visit the orphanage and meet the children.