Give the gift of New England experience

Windjammers at anchor with low sun.
Billowing sailsWant to look really clever? Order a gift certificate from the Maine Windjammer Association (800-807-WIND, www.sailmaine coast.com) and it will arrive tucked into a bottle sealed with a cork. Your recipient will be able to select from a fleet of eight majestic wind­­-jammers for a cruise of two-11 days, mostly around the spruce-tufted archipelago of Penobscot Bay. New in 2018, one four-night July cruise on Ladona (a 1922 racing yacht) focuses on bar craft and cocktail-making. Sense of belonging Giving a gift membership is a great way to support some of the nonprofit organizations that preserve and protect what makes New England special. Few organizations have fought harder for the Bay State’s environment than Mass Audubon (781-259-9500, www.massaudubon.org). Members get free access to the 57 wildlife sanctuaries around the state and a slew of other benefits. Individual memberships are $48. Massachusetts also enjoys the preservation leadership of the Trustees of Reservations (978-921-1944, option 6, www.thetrustees.org). The group oversees more than 100 places throughout the state, including working farms, historic homes, and miles of hiking trails. Members help fight the good fight and get free or reduced admission to the Trustees properties. They’re also eligible to purchase a Crane Beach parking permit. Individual memberships are $47. Placing more emphasis on the great New England indoors, Historic New England (617-227-3956, www.historic newengland.org) maintains 38 properties covering most of New England. Members can time-travel through four centuries of life in the region by visiting them all. HNE also hosts almost 100 free events annually for its members. Individual membership is $50. If your recipient is more focused on the lifestyles of the rich and famous, open the doors to the nine mansions and the Green Animals Topiary Garden of the Preservation Society of Newport County (401-847-1000, ext. 111, www.newport mansions.org). Buy a standard $55 individual gift membership in December and the recipient gets a free Plus upgrade (normally an extra $35) to bring a guest to any of the Rhode Island properties for free.

There’s always one troublesome person on everyone’s gift list who “has everything.’’ But “thing’’ is the operative word. Your parent/sibling/BFF might be so burdened with possessions that a hoarding intervention is imminent, but there’s no such thing as too many experiences. So this year keep your gift money circulating in the local economy while celebrating some of the things that are so great about New England. Unless otherwise noted, you can buy gift certificates in any dollar amount. You don’t have to buy the whole windjammer cruise or B&B getaway, though siblings have been known to chip in on a once-in-a-lifetime biggie for Mom and Dad.

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New England on two wheels

Bicycle touring is the perfect combination of speed and immersion in the environment. There’s no need to roll down the windows to see things clearly, and the camaraderie of pedaling in a pack makes the excursion a social event. Massachusetts-based Great Freedom Adventures(508-545-1864, www.greatfreedom adventures.com) offers bike tours that touch all the New England states except Maine. They range from the upcountry challenges of the hills of New Hampshire and Vermont to the flatland farm-country pedaling of the Coastal New England Wine Trail in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. For Vacationland cycling, Portland-based Summer Feet Cycling (866-857-9544, www.summerfeet.net) is a Maine specialist. Weekend and week-long trips tend to focus on coastal routes. If your gift recipient is just getting into cycling, Summer Feet also offers several day trips, including one that visits five lighthouses.

Step by step

There’s an art to walking. While cyclists zip through the landscape, walkers move at a more contemplative pace. Vermont Inn to Inn Walking Tours (802-875-4288, www.vermontinntoinnwalking.com) is exactly as described—a four-day adventure of self-guided walking from one property to the next in southern Vermont while someone else schleps the luggage. Also based in Vermont, Country Walkers (800-234-6900, www.countrywalkers .com) does group walking tours around the world. But the company doesn’t forget its home base. Two popular options are Vermont: Fall Foliage andMaine: Acadia National Park. Both are 6-day, 5-night journeys into the heart of New England beauty.

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Kitchen skills

For those who prefer cooking to mixology, the hands-on classes at King Arthur Flour (800-827-6836, www.kingarthurflour.com) in Norwich, Vt., range from decorated cakes and savory pierogi to flaky croissants and hearty whole grain breads. Gift cards are available in denominations of $25 to $200. Last-minute shoppers can score e-gift cards in denominations of $5 to $1,000. The demonstration classes at the York, Maine, cooking school of Stonewall Kitchen (800-826-1752, www.stonewallkitchen.com) almost always feature the menu for an entire meal — which students get to eat. Each class is themed around an ingredient, a cookbook signing, or a regional cuisine. Gift cards and e-gift cards range in denominations of $25 to $100.

Great escapes

If your recipient needs to — or maybe just deserves to — get away from it all for a few days, give the fresh perspective of a new location. The members of New England Inns & Resorts (603-964-6689, new englandinnsandresorts.com) run the gamut from intimate and rustic B&Bs to posh spa resorts in all six New England states. If the 280 choices might paralyze your recipient with indecision, try the 10 inns of Country Inns in the White Mountains (800-338-1356, www.countryinns inthewhitemountains.com). They line the Mount Washington Valley of New Hampshire (and nearby Fryeburg, Maine). Similarly, the eight properties of the Kennebunkport Resort Collection (800-573-7186, www.kennebunkportresortcollection .com) cluster around south coastal Maine’s favorite destination. They range from waterfront inns to the glam cabins in the woods at Hidden Pond.

New adventures

Just being outdoors in New England can be pretty special, but the thrills increase when seen through the lens of a new outdoor skill. Ski Vermont (802-223-2439, www.skivermont.com) has a nifty $129 gift called the “Take 3 Beginner Package.’’ Your recipient gets three beginner ski or snowboard lessons, rental equipment for the day, and lift access to the beginner terrain. The lessons can be redeemed at one or more participating slopes. Classes through the L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools (800-441-5713, www.llbean.com) run the gamut from basic map and compass skills to kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. One popular option is the outdoor photography class, offered frequently in Freeport, Maine, and in Dedham. Gift and e-gift cards of $5-$500 can be applied to class fees. Vermont’s own Orvis Fly-Fishing School (888-235-9763, www.orvis.com) addresses a range of skill levels with classes in Vermont, Rhode Island, and on Cape Cod. Gift certificates are available in any amount. (And if your recipient gets hooked, so to speak, you can buy fly-tying materials every holiday hereafter.)

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Hint strongly if you want to tag along.

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