Gift your loved ones memories they won’t forget with these 17 California experiences

Christmas tree ornament illustration
(Roselly Monegro / For The Times)

This is part of the L.A. Times 2021 gift guide. See the full guide here.

What if you gave your loved ones an adventure — or at least an outing instead of stuff? They’d have a memory, and you wouldn’t have to worry about the global supply-chain mess. Unless we say otherwise, all prices are for the lowest available one-person adult rate.

Bungee America on the Bridge to Nowhere

 A bungee jumper does a backward plunge off the Bridge to Nowhere.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

First, you hike five miles to an isolated bridge in the San Gabriel Mountains. Then, you don a harness and jump from the span. Beyond basic offerings, you can do an overnight campout that includes “two jumps into the abyss of the night.” When done, hike five miles back.


Starts at $99 | 👉 Purchase here

California Dreamin’ balloon ride

A photo of hot air balloon ride with California Dreamin'
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

These sunrise rides float over Temecula’s wine country. California Dreamin’ is one of several companies that offer hot air balloon rides in the area. The price listed is the beginning price for one person on a weekday.

$188 | 👉 Purchase here

Catalina Express round trip

A boat in the Pacific Ocean
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

It’s about an hour’s trip to Catalina Island, and you might spot dolphins or perhaps a whale on the way.

$76 from San Pedro and Long Beach, $78 from Dana Point | 👉 Purchase here


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Catalina Zip Line Eco Tour

A woman zip lining.
(Catalina Island Co.)

This two-hour adventure gives you a chance to zoom over a eucalyptus-filled island canyon near Descanso Beach Club at a speed up to 35 mph.

$129 | 👉 Purchase here

Glen Ivy Hot Springs Club Mud

A pool at nighttime, surrounded by cabanas and palm trees.
(Glen Ivy Hot Springs)

These hot springs near Corona have been in use for generations. For newbies, the Club Mud package (which includes red clay mineral baths) is a mellow getaway. The mineral pools, mud, sauna and steam baths unfold on a chill-out landscape. You can add massages and facials, but the grounds alone are reason enough to go. Basic admission, which includes Club Mud and various pools, starts at $85 (Monday-Thursday). Gift certificates are available from $50-$200.

$85 | 👉 Purchase here

Gondola Getaway

A gondola cruise around Naples Islands in Long Beach.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Since 1982, Gondola Getaway has been taking people (mostly couples) on hourlong gondola rides through the canals around Long Beach’s Naples Islands. In December, when holiday lights twinkle, prices start at $160 per couple, departures from 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. (In other months, rides for two start at $100.)

$160 | 👉 Purchase here

Groundlings Improv for Beginners

People onstage at the Groundlings' Improv for Beginners class.
(Groundlings Theatre)

In addition to doing comedy shows, the Groundlings, which got its start in L.A. in 1974, offers Improv for Beginners classes. For now, they’re online; a 2 ½ hour session will sharpen your wits with individual and team exercises.

$45 | 👉 Purchase here


Hipcooks teachers preparing dishes.
(Lissa Hahn / Hipcooks)

Hipcooks classes teach people how to prepare everything from crepes to cavatelli. There are four locations in Greater Los Angeles. Upcoming classes include Oh, Brazil! (you’ll learn how to make two classics, caldo de feijão topped with vinaigrette and pao de queijo) and Hanukkah Sip & Nibble: Latkes & Thyme-Infused French 75. For now, the company is doing all of its teaching via virtual classes ($20-$95), but in-person instruction is expected to resume eventually.


Starts at $20 | 👉 Purchase here

Island Packers trip to Anacapa Island

A boat arrives at an island.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Island Packers, a concessionaire for the National Park Service, offers round-trip boat service from Ventura to tiny Anacapa Island (1 square mile, one 1932 lighthouse, many dramatic cliff-top views), which is part of Channel Islands National Park. The island is about 14 miles offshore. The quoted price is the round-trip day fare for adults.

$63 | 👉 Purchase here

K1 Speed Burbank

Go-karts racing indoors.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

These single-seat electric karts go up to 45 mph. Drivers go 12 laps on a quarter-mile indoor track. (Kids under 18 need a parent with them, and the height minimum is 48 inches. No driver’s license required.) In addition to the new Burbank location, there are locations in Anaheim, Irvine and Torrance. One race is $24.95; many people get the $59.95 package, which includes two races, a T-shirt and a membership.

$50 and up for gift cards | 👉 Purchase here

L.A. Conservancy downtown walking tours

A photo of a tour group inside an ornate old building.
(Kate Whitney-Schubb)

L.A. Conservancy is the city’s foremost architectural preservation group. Its docents lead several downtown Los Angeles walking tours on Saturdays. Among the topics: Art Deco design, historic downtown, the modern skyline and Union Station.

$15 for nonmembers, $10 for members | 👉 Purchase here

L.A. in a Day bike tour

A person standing next to an American flag.
(Bikes and Hikes L.A.)

This tour from Bikes and Hikes L.A., a West Hollywood-based outdoor tour company, covers 32 miles in about six hours and will have you riding to West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, UCLA, Santa Monica and Venice. This tour departs at 10 a.m. daily, according to Bikes and Hikes L.A.’s website.

$162 | 👉 Purchase here

Museum of Neon Art Neon Cruise bus tour

A gathering of people in Chinatown, lit up by neon lights.

The Museum of Neon Art, which is based in Glendale, offers Neon Cruise tours, which typically feature a double-decker bus. Driving tour dates for 2022 have yet to be announced. The museum also offers nighttime walking tours of prime neon cityscapes, including Glendale, Koreatown and Hollywood.

$60 | 👉 Purchase here

Skydive Perris

Two people skydiving.
(Skydive Perris)

Skydive Perris is one of the biggest skydiving centers in the U.S. Indoor jumps (simulations using a vertical wind tunnel) start at $65 (a Friday special). Beginner’s tandem jumps (from 12,500 feet) start at $219. Gift certificates are available.

Prices vary | 👉 Purchase here

Sunset Ranch Hollywood horseback rides

People riding horses under trees.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

You’ll be riding beneath the Hollywood sign in Griffith Park. All rides are guided and last one or two hours. Weekdays are cheapest. Evening tours are $125 each.


Prices vary | 👉 Purchase here

Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood

A man stands behind a cauldron that is glowing purple.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

This one is for cinephiles and TV geeks. Warner Bros. offers the only studio tour now running that isn’t part of a theme park operation. It’s an hourlong guided tour of the backlot area (by cart), followed by up to two hours of exhibit-browsing and eating. You’ll see props, costumes, music and backlot sets from “The Big Bang Theory,” “Friends” (Central Perk) and shows now in production. Tours are offered in English, Spanish and sign language. SoCal residents get a special rate of $57. You can read about the tour options through the link below, but to buy a gift certificate, you’ll need to call (818) 977-8687.

$69 | 👉 Info here

Windsports hang gliding lesson

A woman takes flight on a hang glider.

At Dockweiler State Beach near Los Angeles International Airport, Windsports’ hang gliding instructors take you to the top of 30-foot dunes from which you launch. In a Mini Beach Lesson of 2-3 hours, there’s time for four flights. Fliers must be at least 18 (or 14 with parental supervision and authorization). Windsports also offers tandem flight lessons at Kagel Mountain in Angeles National Forest. (Note: There’s a minimum height and weight of 4 foot 11 and 90 pounds, and a maximum weight of 230 pounds.)

$99 | 👉 Purchase here


Mary Forgione contributed to this gift guide.

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