When I was little, I used to include the exact page and item numbers from the Toys R Us Catalog in my gift lists to my parents so there was no mistaking what I was asking for. Not sentimental, but effective. But the older I get, and the more cluttered my house gets, the more I’d rather do something than have something — to have a one-of-a-kind experience that stays in my memory, not in my closet.

The following gifts offer the chance to explore the best of what the area has to offer, around Baltimore and beyond. There are things to drink and eat, wonders both natural and artistic to behold, and opportunities to do absolutely nothing at all.

The Spa at The Ivy
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The Spa at The Ivy

Price: Starts at $225

Located on the second floor of the luxurious Ivy Hotel, once a spacious mansion, the spa offers all sorts of services, from facials to massages. Afterward, one can sit in a fluffy robe near a terrace overlooking the city. If you close your eyes, you could imagine it’s your terrace in your mansion. And if you’d like to linger longer, The Ivy offers spa packages to combine all the pampering.

Where to buy: The Spa at the Ivy, 205 E. Biddle Street, Baltimore

Scone from Afternoon Tea at Reynold's Tavern
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Tea at Reynold’s Tavern

Price: Starting at $24 per person

Nestled into a cozy traffic circle just steps from the Maryland State House and the scenic cobblestone streets around City Dock, this historic tavern offers a delicious tea service. The choices start with the traditional Afternoon Tea for $24 per person and veer into intriguing additions like champagne and an artisanal cheese plate. And the setting? A proper parlor with romantic plates and drapes. It’s all very fancy.

Where to buy: Reynold’s Tavern, 7 Church Circle, Annapolis

Clam Bake for Two at Phillips Seafood
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The Clam Bake for Two at Phillips Seafood

Price: $129 for two

It turns heads when it passes you, like a supermodel or a celebrity. And honestly, if there was a supermodel of seafood, this steaming silver bucket of clams, shrimp, mussels, snow crab clusters and one-pound lobsters would be on the cover of all the magazines and get its own verse in a RuPaul song. Also available for one, if you want to keep all the yummy to yourself.

Where to buy: 601 E. Pratt St., Baltimore

A view from the waterfront at the Inn at Chesapeake Bay Beach Club.
(Leslie Gray Streeter/The Baltimore Banner)

The Inn at Chesapeake Bay Beach Club

Price: Rooms start around $179

Drive over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, turn a corner or two and there it is, your new home away from home. Just 15 miles from Annapolis, this resort is a sophisticated yet rustic oasis. In the summer, there are heated pools and outdoor yoga, and other times, there’s a fire pit and a tranquil walk at the Inn’s nearby waterfront property. And the warm, inviting accommodations range from guest rooms to private cottages. I have personally gifted relatives getaways there, to eat at the Knoxie’s Table restaurant, shop at the market or just sit and read a book.

Where to buy: 180 Pier One Rd., Stevensville

Urban Pirates
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Urban Pirates

Price: Family Adventure Cruises start at $14 for kids two and under, and $25 for riders three and up; BYOG Cruises are $30 per person. All prices are plus tax.

Sail the mild seas of the Inner Harbor on two types of cruises. There’s family-friendly day time excursion for you and the little scallywags that includes silly pirate singalongs and manning the water canons against a not-at-all-fake attack by marauding pirates. And in the evening, for your more mature pirates, there’s the Bring Your Own Grog cruises. No arrrggh involved. Reservations required.

Where to buy: 911 S. Ann Street, Baltimore

Great Frogs Winery in Annapolis
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Great Frogs Winery

Price: Wine club membership, depends on the price of selected wine.

A reminder that you don’t have to board a plane to visit wine country. This Annapolis winery features live music, tastings, and wine club membership, which gets your giftee complimentary tastings for them and a plus one, exclusive events, discounts for wine, early access to newly released wines and quarterly allotments of either four, six or twelve bottles. Membership is free and just includes the price of the wines you choose.

Where to buy: 3218 Harness Creek Rd., Annapolis

Reginald Lewis Museum
(Leslie Gray Streeter/The Baltimore Banner)

Reginald Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture

Price: Starts at $25 for students, $50 for individual adults and up

Give the gift of history this holiday season with a membership in the city’s 82,000-square-foot cultural center. The permanent collection covers 400 years of the story of Black people in this state, from enslavement to state office, with a rotating series of thoughtful exhibits. There are moments of agony and uplift — and ultimately triumph.

Where to buy: 830 E. Pratt St., Baltimore

Charm City Aviation helicopter
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Charm Aviation

Price: Starts from $159 per seat

Give a bird’s-eye view of the city, Annapolis, the Eastern Shore and more, with a gift certificate for a ride in a the company’s Bill 206 aircraft, which accommodates up to four passengers. Taking off daily from Pier 7, tours start from $159 per seat. And through January, Charm Aviation features the Christmas Lights Tour, dashing through the skies over the lights of Hampden, Mt. Vernon and more, starting at $199.

Where to buy: 1800 S. Clinton St., Baltimore

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Price: $75 per person

Chef Nancy Longo wants you to know that this is not a casual drinking session masquerading as a cooking class. “This is a real lesson,” she says. “There is a drink with the meal, but you can’t be drunk holding a knife.” What she’s offering is a three-hour plus lesson with 8-11 recipes, with themes ranging from sauces to Italian to brunch. Pierpoint offers two to eight classes a month, and also has private classes for those who want to keep their culinary learning among friends.

Where to buy: 1822 Aliceanna St., Baltimore


Leslie Gray Streeter is a columnist excited about telling Baltimore stories — about us and the things that we care about, that touch us, that tickle us and that make us tick, from parenting to pop... 

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