Holiday Gift Guide
Searching for the perfect holiday gift? We’ve investigated hundreds of superlative options and winnowed them down to the best of the best. You’ll find something here for everyone on your list, from the tech nerd to the thrill seeker to the person who has everything–or thinks he does until your gift arrives.
Coffee With Perks
Java aficionados will get a lift from Craft Coffee’s boutique club. A panel of tasters sips 50 premium varieties of coffee every month and chooses the three best in blind tastings. Club members then receive four ounces of beans from each of the three, plus taster notes and brewing tips. $19.99 per month for a one-year subscription, $24.95 for a one-month purchase.
The Sonos digital music system is a wireless network designed to bring music from your computer’s digital library to any room in your home. Start with a couple of Play:5 speakers with five digital amps, plus a bridge to wirelessly connect to your router. For bigger, deeper hi-fi sound, add a subwoofer. You can incorporate as many speakers into the system as you need; play different music simultaneously in different rooms; and control everything with a free iPhone app. Play:5 with bridge $448; subwoofer $699.
Have avid golfers on your list? Treat them to a visit to the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, near Charleston Executive Airport in John’s Island, S.C. Home to the 2012 PGA Golf Championship and dubbed “America’s toughest course” by Golf Digest magazine, the facility features more seaside holes than any other in the Northern Hemisphere. Players tee off on a barrier island, navigate strong coastal wind shifts and experience up to an eight-club difference on holes. The adjacent Kiawah Island’s Sanctuary Resort, located on a stretch of beach with bottle-nose dolphins, incorporates the Ocean House restaurant, one of only two Forbes four-star steakhouses in the U.S. Winter rates: Ocean Course $250 per player; oceanfront suites starting at $845.
Cycling at its Core
Stationary bicycles have come a long way since the clunky contraptions of yore, which typically had one speed and zero malleability. The Evo Fitness Bike, which debuted this September, is being billed as the latest evolution. The minimalist cycle replicates the feeling of riding a road bike, but without the gears and chains. The cycle features a sway frame, which builds core strength; pedals that accommodate cycling shoes and sneakers; hybrid seat positions; and a computer system that records RPMs, time and distance. The four-foot-wide steel frame comes in pearl or grey. $1,299.
Business travelers relish dual functionality, especially when it comes to electronics. The BookBook iPhone wallet offers a welcome solution–a smartphone case and wallet rolled into one. Crafted to look like a vintage book, the leather case has slots for credit cards, an ID and a bit of cash, as well as an open-faced iPhone pocket that folds back when you want to make or receive calls. One advantage: With your wallet mated to your iPhone, you can use Apple’s free Find My iPhone service to retrieve both if you lose them. BookBooks are available in classic black and vintage brown for iPhone 4/4S and iPhone 5. $59.95.
Thinking about sending chocolate? Ditch the predictable boxed assortment and log onto Chocri, a design-your-own chocolate site. Start with organic, fair-trade Belgian chocolate (dark, milk or white). Then choose from a whopping 100 additions, from Goji berries to genuine gold flakes. You can also personalize Chocri’s chocolate bars with a gift recipient’s name. The company donates 5 percent of revenues to DIV Kinder, an organization that supports children on the Ivory Coast. $6 and up.
Vegas, Full Throttle
If you know someone who’d like to zip around a track at warp speed like Mario Andretti, consider giving the Dream Racing Experience: Full Throttle. The package includes roundtrip private helicopter transport between the Las Vegas Speedway and the Las Vegas Strip for two, a classroom and 3-D simulator session and 36 laps around the track–three in a Ferrari 599 and the rest in a 430 GT with former professional drivers and co-owners of Dream Racing, Enrico Bertaggia or Ado De Micheli. Drivers don full gear–racing shoes, gloves, helmet, suit, the works–and are filmed as they race. $5,500.
Have an art lover on your list? Artifact's laser-cut wood puzzles are a fitting option. The ¼-inch-thick pieces, many with false edges or whimsical shapes, combine to create artwork from classic painters or up-and-coming contemporary artists. The 411-piece Piero di Cosimo Liberazione di Andromeda puzzle, a reproduction of the 16th century painting of the Greek myth where Perseus frees Andromeda from a sea monster, is one of the most challenging offerings, with several false-edge pieces, more than a dozen myth-themed whimsy pieces and connectors inspired by Greek architecture. $85.
Boot camp with the “other” CIA
Not sure what to give the foodies on your list? Help expand their repertoire with one of the Culinary Institute of America’s boot camps, which are held in New York, Texas and California. Choose a one-day program on everything from breads to bistro fare or a five-day immersion course. Chefs introduce cooking methods and ingredients, then it’s off to the kitchens, where participants prepare a variety of dishes. Boot camps in the first quarter of 2013 will be held at the CIA’s campus in Napa Valley, Calif., 26 miles from Napa County Airport. $250-$2,195.
Brahms Mount crafts its Coyuchi organic wool blankets in Maine and weaves them on antique shuttle looms. The ultra-soft, pure-wool blankets with a classic herringbone design and diamond weave come packaged in a cedar box–a nod to the company’s focus on nature. Coyuchi produces its products using fair-labor practices, natural fibers and a nontoxic production process certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard. Starting at $438.
Navigation to a tee
Playing a new golf course poses several challenges. Small maps or generic GPS systems provide little information about false fronts, hazards or slopes. Enter the SkyCaddie SGXw, a golf-specific, Wi-Fi GPS with details about every yard of the course. Mapped by experts who traversed every inch of the greens in the sizable database, the SkyCaddie details thousands of specifics, calculates distances and offers auto-zooms of each hole, all on a high-resolution color screen. $399.95
When Money is No Object
Have a really special person on your list and an outsized gift budget? Here are some ideas.
Maybe the Bond fan on your list already has an Aston Martin sports car but what about an Aston Martin bicycle? The LimitedEdition One-77 Cycle, like the One-77 supercar, is focused on performance and wired by the engineers of Formula 1 sports cars. $31,458.
Sips worth savoring
Scottish distillery Dalmore’s single-malt scotch whiskey, with labels like the stellar King Alexander III, is widely admired and available. But the company also sells vintages guaranteed not to be in your gift recipient’s cupboard. The Dalmore Constellation Collection consists of 21 rare whiskies created at the Highland distillery between 1964 and 1992. The Vintage 1964 sells for about $25,550. At 26 ounces, that's about $1,000 a shot, so your gift recipient would be well advised to sip slowly and savor. $2,550 to $25,550.
Forget the flannel pajamas. For the person who fully appreciates fine fabrics and sophisticated designs, consider Sophia Graydon’s new luxury loungewear, which debuted this year. The designer’s midnight-blue silk Grand Marais robe is a knockout–lined with Scottish cashmere and reversible. But given the price tag, your recipients might want to check out their drycleaners’ insurance policies before handing this over. $3,950.
Is someone you know too cramped in his or her business jet? Consider giving the Boeing VIP 747-8. Qatar Amiri Flight, which flies the Middle Eastern state’s royal family and government officials, ordered two this year. The 5,200-square-foot cabin offers eight bedrooms, a conference/dining room and more. $500 million.
Out of this world
Ever wonder what if would be like to defy gravity? Virgin Galactic, bankrolled by Sir Richard Branson, promises to ferry 500 passengers to suborbital space for several minutes of weightlessness as early as the end of 2013. The two-hour roundtrip ride is selling out fast, but seats were still available at press time. Current ticket holders reportedly include Stephen Hawking, Tom Hanks, Paris Hilton and Angelina Jolie - now that would be a reality show worth watching! $200,000.