LOCALPittsburgh – Gifts: Giving Experiences Instead of “Stuff”


If you’re still looking for the perfect gift or are a procrastinator when it comes to holiday gift shopping, we’ve got you covered.  In addition, you don’t have to worry about the right size, model or color still being in stock.  The popularity of the Marie Kondo’s best seller “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, fascination with tiny houses, and mounting concern for our environment are all encouraging the accumulation of less “stuff.”  Even if you use the justification that you can donate unwanted clothing and items to charity stores, the reality is they are usually able to sell less than half of what they take in.  For these reasons and more, consider giving an experience gift instead of a material one this year.  The added benefit is you can also participate in the experience with the recipient and give the most valuable gift — the gift of your time.  When so many are glued to technology and cellphone communication has replaced face-to-face interaction; meaningful conversation, and the gift of your attention and time are priceless.  Here we scratch the surface with some ideas for experience gifts that, in many cases, are just a click or phone call away.  Can you even remember the gifts you received last holiday season??  Time together at a cooking class, spending a weekend at a cabin in a State Park or creating a work of art alongside a friend or loved one will be an experience long remembered after the the bows are removed and the boxes placed at the curb.


For the Foodie



CRAFT Workshops a Chatham College:Eden Hall —- Part of Chatham’s sustainability campus in Gibsonia (6035 Ridge Road), CRAFT (Center for Regional Agriculture and Food Transformation) offers one day/evening, hands-on classes to those in the community on subjects such as Indian cuisine, sourdough bread baking, sausage making, cookie decorating and more. Cost for each classes ranges form $50 to $65.   A list of current classes and registration can be viewed on the CRAFT web page.


The Enrico Biscotti Co. (2022 Penn Avenue, Strip District).  While this spot in The Strip is popular for their delicious biscotti, some many not be aware they also offer classes in bread and pizza baking.  Classes cost $85 and include a meal of brunch or dinner, depending on the class time.  Gift cards from $10 to $170 are available on their website.

Gaynor’s School of Cooking (309 East Carson Street, Southside). This is a traditional cooking school offering classes lasting one evening or a complete series of classes.  They also have a popular couples cooking class/meal ($165/couple), as well as classes for kids.  Current class offerings include topics such as desserts, sushi, Cajun, bread baking, pasta, knife skills and more. Most classes are $99. Gift certificates are available.

Crate (1960 Greentree Road, Mt. Lebanon) Crate is a kitchen shop and cooking school in the South Hills which offers a wide variety of classes, and includes some popular topics such as plant-based foods, Paleo, macaroons and more.  Most classes are $70.  They also have a “Lunch & Learn” program with a cooking demonstration and lunch on most Wednesdays from noon to 2 pm for $30 – $40. Gift certificates available.

Phipp’s Conservatory  (One Schenley Park, Oakland). While primarily know for its botanical gardens. Phipp’s also offers classes in culinary arts, horticulture, botanical crafts and green living.  Most classes are in the range of $50 -$80, with 4-part series classes being $185.  Gift certificates are available.

Chop, Wok & Talk (5404 Penn Ave.) – This cooking school specializes in hands-on ethnic cooking classes/dinners.  If your recipient has global taste buds, they are sure to appreciate the classes ($80 & BYOB) offered here. Current offerings include the Indian, Tuscan, Amalfi Coast, Thai, Hungarian, Argentinian, Vietnamese and French.  Gift certificates are available by phone (412-362-0679)


For the Craft Beer and/or Spirits Enthusiast


Copper Kettle Brewing Company/Hough’s Taproom (563 Greenfield Avenue, Greenfield). Give the beer lover in your life the opportunity to be their own brewmeister. Copper Kettle’s website states they are “the only place in Pennsylvania where you can brew your own beer.” Cooper Kettle will supply all the equipment and ingredients to create a beer to match your pallet. Sessions are only offered 3 days a month and cost $180.

Bierport (4115 Butler Street, Lawrenceville) – While this shop is know for its wide assortment of beers to purchaser by the bottle, they also offer beer classes on occasion.  This month they held a Barrel-Aged Beer School ($40) and are having a Bacon Flight Night in January.  Check out their website for upcoming events.


Wigle Whiskey Distillery (2401 Smallman Street, Strip District) – If your gift recipient is more into spirits, then perhaps a class at Wigle Whiskey is in order.  Their cocktail classes ($30) include a whiskey flight, guided cocktail class and light snacks.  If you are shopping for a whiskey lover, the distillery also offers in-depth classes one Sunday a month as part of their “Whiskey School” ($25).  View all classes offered and registration on the Wigle website.

Palate Partners School of Wine and Spirits (3401 Liberty Avenue, Downtown) – Classes on many varieties of wine are offered at Palate Partners. For example, in January they are holding a classes on South African Pinot Noir, and a Bitters & Infusions Workshop.  Most classes are $45 and gift certificates are available on their website.



For the Athletic, Outdoorsy Type


Pennsylvania State Parks (DCNR) – Few realize you can purchase a gift certificates through the DCNR (Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources) for use at one of the Pennylvania State Parks, to be used to rent a cabin, campsites, and picnic pavilions, as well as bike and watercraft rentals.  Give the gift of nature here.

Venture Outdoors Pittsburgh – A membership to this active organization would be a welcome gift for anyone who enjoys the outdoors.  They offer organized hikes, kayaking, fishing excursions, biking trips and more. Gift memberships for individuals are $20 -$35. Gift certificates  for kayaking sessions and stand up paddle board sessions are also available.  Check out all the amazing activities this organization offers on their website.


Allegheny County Parks – For winter sports enthusiasts, you can purchase gift certificates for ice skating at North Park and South Park, and skiing and snow tubing at Boyce Park.  There are also certificates for summer activities (swimming, golf), if your recipient can wait a while to reap the benefits of your gift. More information about County Park gift cards can be found here. They can be purchased at any of the park offices or by calling 412-350-7275.


Ascend (2141 Mary Street, Southside) Help an experienced rock climber hone their skills or introduce a newbie to the challenge of climbing.  Classes, as well as timed climbing sessions are offered.  Gift cards can be purchased on their website.


Wheel Mill (6815 Hamilton Avenue, East Liberty). This 80,000 square foot indoor biking/ BMX track allows participants to enjoy the thrill of BMX and mountain biking during all the seasons.  Bikes are available for rent for both kids and adults.  It’s also a great place to check out the incredible abilities of experts doing amazing tricks.  Beginners and experienced riders are sure to get a workout and have some fun. Gift certificates can be used for timed sessions, classes, lessons, camps or bike accessories, etc.


For those with a creative spark


Union Project (801 N. Negley Avenue, Highland Park) The feel of clay in your hands can be both a creative and therapeutic experience. The Union Project offers a variety of pottery classes, both hand building and throwing on the pottery wheel. Check out their class offering here.


Fireborn Studios (2338 Sarah Street, Southside) – This independently-owned pottery studio and gallery offers day and evening classes for those wanting to learn to throw pots, mugs, vases, etc.

Pittsburgh Center for the Arts (1047 Shady Avenue, Shadyside) The Center offers a wide variety of art classes, including drawing, painting, clay, fiber arts, jewelry making, photography and more.  A full catalog of classes can be viewed here.


Pittsburgh Glass Center ( 5472 Penn Avenue, Garfield) – If fire sparks some excitement, then perhaps a gift of a class at the Pittsburgh Glass Center fits the bill.  One day classes in jewelry, glass ornaments and paperweights, etc. are offered along with multiple-day sessions to learn more in-depth techniques and create larger projects. There are lots of glass classes to choose from and gift certificates are available for gift giving.

Board & Brush (3802 Rt. 910, Gibsonia) and AR Workshops (6511 Robinson Centre Drive, Robinson) These workshop studios are relatively new on the scene in Pittsburgh, so chances are pretty good this would be a new and exciting experience for your recipient and one that results in a customized decorative or functional piece for their home.  Check out their websites and see the variety of projects offered, from seasonal wooden signs to lazy susans personalized with a last name. A fun evening – a personalized item and both studios are BYOB!

For Culture Seekers


Pittsburgh Cultural Trust — Broadway shows, concerts, dance and magic await!  A Pittsburgh Cultural District-wide gift card can be used to purchase tickets for Pittsburgh Cultural Trust events. as well as any event taking place in the Cultural District including those presented or produced by August Wilson Center for African American Culture, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Pittsburgh CLO, Pittsburgh Opera, Pittsburgh Public Theater, and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Learn more about their gift cards here.


Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh – One membership covers four Museums:  The Carnegie Museum of Natural History, The Carnegie Museum of Art, The Warhol Museum, and the Carnegie Science Center.  Gift certificates for individual memberships are $75, while you can give a gift membership to an entire family for a year of fun for $150.


These are just a handful of places offering experience gift possibilities.  There are many more out there. Time is ticking! Get shopping and thinking out of the box (pun intended) for an experience gift that will be remembered long into 2020 and beyond.