We Round up the Best Experiences to Gift Your Loved Ones So You Can Have a Minimal but Memorable Christmas

Words: Sophie Gargett, Gemma Cockrell
Illustrations: Natalie Owen
Saturday 09 December 2023
reading time: min, words

Christmas is touted as the most wonderful time of the year - full of sweet treats, endless gifts and dazzling decorations - and in the deep of December, we really do need a few lovely things to cheer us up. But pull back the curtain and it is also statistically the most wasteful time of year, too... 

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According to the Environment Agency, twelve million tonnes of plastic enter our environment at this time of year - the equivalent of a bin lorry load every minute. Top this off with the 50,000 trees felled to create wrapping paper and 41% of toys ending up in landfill, the festive period is calculated to emit thirty percent more waste than the rest of the year.

Okay, you may have a father with an unnatural ability to wear out socks, a mother who simply adores Boots bath sets, or an auntie who loves collecting ‘live laugh love’ mugs filled with cheap hot chocolate - but do you really need to contribute to their poor life choices?

This year, instead of looking at physical gifts, we’ve scouted some real life experiences offered by some of the city’s best businesses, so your friends and family can make memories and not trash…

For the beer lover…
A brewery tour at Castle Rock’s Vat & Fiddle
£15 per person

Rather than just buying your beer-loving friend a crate of tinnies from your local supermarket, why not give them the chance to learn more about their favourite beverage? Take a 45 minute guided tour around Castle Rock’s brewery, before ending back at the pub to sample their beers. You will even have the opportunity to pour your own pint of their award-winning Harvest Pale!

For the person that sends you cute animal videos…
Walking with alpacas at Oak Tree Farm
£25 per person

Trust us, it doesn’t get cuter than this. Treat your friend who is addicted to watching cute, fluffy animals through their phone to the real-life experience at Oak Tree Farm, where you can meet and feed their curious and friendly alpacas. They offer gorgeous experience vouchers, designed by their resident artist and printed on recycled paper, that can be gifted to others, making it the most adorable Christmas present around.

For the bibliophile…
A membership to Bromley House Library
£72-£144 per year

If there’s a bookworm in your life that doesn’t know about Nottingham’s secret library, this is the ideal gift for them. This Grade II listed building has operated as a library for the past 200 years and is complete with cosy armchairs, a walled garden, a coffee room, spaces to work, a delightful children’s library, plus curious features such as vintage tomes, ornate shelving and even a meridian line. Membership includes access to over 47,000 books, manuscripts, maps and other materials, plus there are friendly staff to aid with research and enquiries.

For your crafty friend…
A crafternoon at Debbie Bryan
From £30 per person

Perfect for solo crafting or for getting creative with your friends and family, join Debbie Bryan for a crafternoon, served with their popular Afternoon Tea service. With options such as plate painting, candle painting, glass painting and mini wreath making, there is something to please anyone who is into arts and crafts. On arrival, their team will share their skills and recommendations with an introduction to your chosen craft before leaving you to enjoy your creativity at your own leisure.

For the theatre lover…
Limelight tour at Theatre Royal
£12 per person

Guide of the award-winning Robin Hood Town Tour (along with several other bespoke guided walks) Ezekial Bone offers a glimpse behind the curtain of the oldest theatre in Nottingham. The Limelight Backstage Tours takes you behind the scenes at the historic Theatre Royal, which survived the reign of six monarchs and two World Wars, allowing you into areas usually hidden to the public to learn about the building's heritage and how the theatre operates.

For the person that just eats beige…
Cooking course at Vietcentric Cooking School
£55 per person

You may be thinking, ‘How will this person survive a cooking course?’ But you’ll be pleased to hear that this is for all abilities! It’s time to help that person who only eats beige discover food that isn’t just chicken nuggets and chips, and what better way than with this three hour course centred around Vietnamese culture and cuisine? They may be slightly apprehensive at first, but once they can prepare and cook a Vietnamese two-course meal, they’ll never look back.

For the person who likes an adventure…
Introduction to Paddleboarding course at National Watersports Centre
£30 per person

This is a water sport that anyone who loves adventure really needs to try! If you have ever seen someone paddleboarding, you will know how effortlessly impressive it can look when done correctly, and this two hour course will have your friends or family achieving just that. A qualified instructor will teach you how to stand, sit, kneel and even lie down on a paddleboard, and by the end of the session you will have gained the British Canoeing Start Award.

For the caffeine addict…
Barista School at 200 Degrees
From £59 per person

200 Degrees’ Barista School is the perfect gift for any caffeine addicts in your life. If they’ve never made a coffee on an espresso machine before, then the beginner class is the best fit, but if they’re already a bit of an expert and want to push their skills even further, then we recommend the intermediate option. Alternatively, if making their coffee look as aesthetically pleasing as possible is their goal, take a look at the Latte Art class, which promises to have you graduating from ''messy splodge'' to ''wow, that looks ace!'' in no time.

For the potter…
Beginner ceramics course at Nottingham Ceramic School
From £160 per person

Who hasn’t watched someone spinning clay and thought how therapeutic and satisfying it looks? At Nottingham Ceramic School you can take a six week class during the evening or daytime to learn the basics of pottery. Choose between two techniques: handbuilding or throwing on the wheel. Learn about stoneware and earthenware clays, how to create surface texture, and how to glaze. At the end of the course you will leave with a selection of your very own handmade pottery.

For the person always taking pictures…
Dark room membership at Make it Easy Lab
From £50 per person

With black and white, colour, and combined options, Make it Easy Lab’s Darkroom Memberships are perfect for anyone who is interested in analog photography. Whether they are an amateur or an expert, Make it Easy provides a space where people of any background can learn, share and practise their skills. Members get a massive fifty percent off darkroom hire, ten percent off one-on-one mentoring, workshops, and film processing, and opportunities to participate in social events and exhibitions.

For the person with a sweet tooth…
The Ultimate Bean-to-Bar Experience at Luisa’s Vegan Chocolates
From £65 per person

Advertised as ‘for die-hard chocolate lovers only’, this bestselling two-hour workshop led by Luisa takes you on a journey of cacao, from its origins in the volcanic islands, all the way to the finished products. You’ll have a chance to taste the chocolate, and have a go at some of the key processes in the bean-to-bar chocolate making process for yourself. In addition, you get to mould your own bars and truffles to take home with you to enjoy.

For the puzzle fiend…
Cave Escape
From £20 per person

After the gang at LeftLion HQ tested this one out a couple of months ago, we can definitely recommend it highly. Uniquely set in Nottingham’s famous subterranean caves (making it the world’s only escape room venue of its kind) there are three rooms for you to try: Carfax, Monuments, and Project Iceman. Each room will last a maximum of sixty minutes once the door closes behind you. When your time runs out, who knows what might happen…

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