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Give the gift of New England experience

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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.

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
) 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
) does group walking tours around the world. But the company doesn’t forget its home base. Two popular options are Vermont: Fall Foliage and Maine: Acadia National Park. Both are 6-day, 5-night journeys into the heart of New England beauty.

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
). They line the Mount Washington Valley of New Hampshire (and nearby Fryeburg, Maine). Similarly, the eight properties of the Kennebunkport Resort
(800-573-7186, www.kennebunkportresortcollection
) 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.)

Hint strongly if you want to tag along.

Contact Patricia Harris and David Lyon at harrislyon@gmail.com.