14 L.A. gifts for “don’t want anything”
This is part of the L.A. Times 2022 Gift Guide. See the full guide here. If you make a purchase using some of our links, the L.A. Times may be compensated.
Some people just aren’t into physical gifts. Maybe they don’t need more clutter, or they have incredibly specific taste, or maybe their love language is quality time. Regardless of the why, these adventures around the L.A. area are great ways to show someone that you care about them.
Horseback ride through Griffith Park
While the location in Griffith Park is pretty no-frills (read: maybe don’t bring your influencer friend here for a photoshoot), LA Horse Rentals offers several lovely trails and two riding speed options: slow or medium. When you arrive, there’s free parking outside the barn and a check-in area where you’ll sign waivers and possibly be weighed (all riders must be less than 240 pounds). The Oak Canyon trail, which is the company’s shortest and cheapest, crosses the L.A. River into the park. The guides are pleasantly low-key, riding behind your group to point people in the right direction and ensure that nothing goes wrong.
$50 for a one-hour ride at LA Horse Rentals
AMC Stubs A-List membership
Movie tickets have become wildly expensive, but that will not stop the most enthusiastic film lovers from seeing anything and everything in theaters. AMC Stubs A-List offers members three movies per week for $24 a month (which, nowadays, is about the price of one movie ticket). Annually, this membership ends up being about $300, but if your recipient sees a few movies each month, it’s worth the cost. Seeing movies at AMC also means that you get to watch Nicole Kidman do her iconic monologue about how “heartbreak feels good in a place like this,” which, to me, is priceless.
$24 a month at AMC
Tour of Stahl House
You’ve seen the glass-and-steel cantilevered living room and pool of Pierre Koenig’s Stahl House in countless films, TV shows and advertisements. Julius Shulman’s photograph of two women sitting inside the Hollywood Hills home, with the glittering grid of Los Angeles as a backdrop, is one of the most famous images of midcentury L.A. Still, for the Midcentury Modern architecture buff in your life, there is nothing like experiencing the Stahl House, otherwise known as Case Study House No. 22, on a tour.
Yes, the house feels familiar, but it’s still surprising, especially the bathroom, which is covered in lime green shag carpet. Booking a tour is not easy (you’ll need to snag reservations months in advance), but once you are there, you are free to roam (except into one of the bedrooms), snap selfies in an Eames lounger and just experience the space. Tours are offered on Wednesdays, Saturdays and two Fridays a month. (Note the home will be closed for tours from Dec. 18 to Jan. 8.) —Lisa Boone
$35 to $90 (depending on the time of day) at Stahl House
Day pass at Wi Spa
For $30, you can spend a whole day (or night) at Wi Spa, the 24-hour Korean spa that offers various saunas, pools, treatments and food. When you arrive, there’s only valet parking (which is $3, cash only) and the check-in desk will give you a shirt and send you to your designated floor. The locker rooms and pools are split into women’s and men’s floors that each offer hot, warm and cold plunge pools, along with showers and steam rooms. The roof and jimjilbang are both mixed-gender spaces where you can use five different saunas, nap or grab a meal. If you’re interested in adding on body scrubs, massages or other treatments, I’d recommend booking those ahead of time since they’re not always available for walk-ins.
$30 at Wi Spa
Wine blending class at the Blending Lab
Have a friend or family member who’s wine curious? Half science experiment and half crash course in wine tasting, these guided wine blending classes are remarkably unpretentious and make the world of wine feel accessible and fun. For $75 per person, you get to try three kinds of red wine and explore why you may (or may not) like them before you start blending them however you please. And for an extra $35, you can take a bottle of your favorite blend home with you.
Finding parking near the tasting room is a bit tough, but the building is walkable distance from a Trader Joe’s and the Grove, which are both great places to go if you leave a little tipsy and need to sober up before driving home. Though if you’d rather try out the blending experience on your own at home, the Blending Lab also offers wine blending kits.
$75 at the Blending Lab
Tour of Phantasma Gloria
If you’ve ever driven down Lemoyne Street in Echo Park, you may have passed the glimmering, colorful installation that Randlett King Lawrence calls Phantasma Gloria. Towering above his home, the massive sculpture that he’s built (and rebuilt) over the last 22 years holds hundreds of colorful glass bottles, marbles and metal cutouts of various hands, bodies and faces. It’s completely free to visit (though there is a donation box to help fund his materials) and it’s easiest to coordinate a time to stop by via his Instagram (@randylandla), since he schedules tours most weekends about an hour before sunset. Though the installation is certainly stunning, half the fun of visiting the Phantasma Gloria is basking in the glow of King Lawrence himself as he excitedly explains light refraction and his ever-growing plans to expand and rearrange the magical project.
Free. Schedule a visit by sending a message to King Lawrence on Instagram (@randylandla).
A morning with the Los Angeles Breakfast Club
The Los Angeles Breakfast Club is a simple concept that has endured for nearly 100 years: Every Wednesday at 6:45 a.m., dozens of people walk into Friendship Auditorium in Los Feliz to eat breakfast together. It’s far more than just breakfast though, bringing together community members for singalongs, group calisthenics and speakers who answer questions as people eat and chat. The vibe is so purely whimsical that it’s hard to not love it there, and tickets can be purchased for one-off events several weeks ahead of time. The early riser in your life is sure to be enchanted.
$25 at the Los Angeles Breakfast Club
Ride on an LED-lit swan boat in Echo Park
Nothing says romance (or bestie vibes) like pedaling an LED-lit swan boat together. It’s $11 for an hour in the pedal boat — more than enough time to go in circles and look at the downtown skyline twinkling at night. An hour on the pond also offers passengers a (sometimes much-needed) chance to put their phones away and talk. The pedaling doesn’t require much effort, but if you’re going with one or two people who would rather not partake, they can always sit in the backseat. Though it’s simple, this is a special way to spend some quality time with people who you already see all the time.
$11 at Wheel Fun Rentals
Membership at the Huntington
The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens is one of L.A.’s most magical places — especially for the plant lover in your life. The Japanese Garden, with its high-arched moon bridge and koi-filled ponds, is beautiful enough to spend the whole afternoon in, though you’ll also want to sit and ponder life on the many benches in the sprawling Chinese Garden and its lovely pavilions. With 130 acres and 16 themed gardens, the Huntington definitely requires more than one visit, so a membership would be put to good use.
$159 at The Huntington
Indoor skydiving session at iFly
Have you ever wanted to fly near Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville? Well, you’ll be pleased to learn that that is what you get to do at iFly Hollywood, an indoor skydiving space located at Universal CityWalk.
The instructors enter the flight chamber with you and help you position your body correctly as you hover in the windy vortex. The lower flights hover just a few feet above the net, but the high flights (which require an additional fee) let you shoot up 10 to 20 feet in the air.
The most modest flight package is two flights for $74.99, but when I walked up for my appointment, they were running a special that added two extra flights for just $3 more (likely a perk of showing up on a weekday during work hours). iFly also provides free valet parking for first-time visitors.
$74.99 at iFly
America the Beautiful National Parks Pass
For anyone who loves road tripping and exploring, this annual parks pass offers access to all national parks for $80 a year. The pass covers everyone in the vehicle (or four adults at sites that charge per person) and works at more than 2,000 recreation sites. California itself has nine national parks, making weekends in the desert exciting and easy.
$80 at U.S. Park Pass
Jet ski to Catalina
This one isn’t for the faint of heart (or the motion sick) but it’s an unforgettable trip for your more adventurous loved ones. With guides at the front and back of the group, you’ll jet ski the 30 or so miles from Long Beach to Catalina Island, spend a few hours in Two Harbors, and jet ski back. The guides make the trip feel incredibly safe and, at its best, riding the jet skis feels like flying. You’ll also pass various ocean life, depending on the season, which can include seals, pods of dolphins and even whales. Sharing a jet ski also takes the cost of this gift down significantly, but each ski does have a weight limit of 400 pounds.
$399 (weekdays) at JetSki2Catalina
Broadway in Hollywood mini package
If you have a thespian in your life, take them to the theater — a Broadway in Hollywood mini package starts at $54 per ticket. In the new season, the Pantages will be showing everything from “Mean Girls” to Disney’s “The Lion King,” and the Dolby will have “Riverdance” and “Hairspray.” The array of options will have you and your companion standing up and yelling “brava!”
Prices vary at Broadway in Hollywood
This is a great gift for avid travelers. For $85 (and a bit of paperwork), they’ll be able to use expedited security lines at airports for the next five years. The process is quite straightforward: I’d just recommend setting up this gift with the person who you’re purchasing it for, since it requires personal information and a quick in-person appointment. The online signup form took me less than 10 minutes and there were dozens of available appointments the next day at a nearby Staples. The appointment itself took me less than five minutes and I was approved by the end of the following day, making me wonder why I had put this off for so long.
$85 at TSA