5 Experiential Gift Ideas for the Friend Who Has Everything

​WRITTEN BY: Priscilla Pittman

It’s the time of year for ribbons, bobbles, and credit card debt (or however that Christmas song goes 😂). When it comes to gifts though (and credit card debt for that matter), we prefer experiences. You get to share it with your loved one, make lasting memories, and up your ‘gram game. 😉 What’s not to love?? We believe three things go into the perfect gift experience and throughout this article, we’ll be calling it “THE CHECKLIST.” The Checklist is: atmosphere, taste and feeling. Without further ado, here are Top 5 Experiential Gift Ideas in Knoxville, Tennessee:

Gift Idea 1: Holiday Tea

This luxe and elevated  high tea experience is hosted by East Tennessee’s premier luxury hotel, The Tennessean. Teas are sourced from highly esteemed tea purveyor Rare Tea Cellars located in Chicago, Illinois (and casually served at many Michelin-starred restaurants around the country🤯).

Will gifting this lock you in for favorite family member? Why, yes. Yes it will.


Y’all, the Tennessean delivers on every single item on my checklist: atmosphere, taste and feeling. Tea is served in the Drawing Room of the hotel which boasts great views of downtown Knoxville. As far as ambience, seating is intimate and comfortable in the Drawing Room. Think leather couches, elevated art and high wing back chairs. The place settings are festive with fine china and specially made French holiday linens. No, really – don’t miss the small details from this experience, all the way down to the linens featuring a map of Knoxville embroidered in gold thread. Ooh👏La👏La👏

Holiday Tea Gift Idea at the Tennessean in Downtown Knoxville


The Gingerbread tea feels like Christmas morning in a cup. Pair it with one of the freshly baked scones with chef prepared lemon curd and jam preserves. The presentation of these (and so many more) delicious treats elevates the experience even more. A true high tea experience🤩

If you’re like me, you pretend you’re in a Hallmark Christmas movie for the whole month of December. Imagine this Christmas movie scenario: I’m meeting my partner or fiancée’s family for the first time and don’t know them well enough to get them gifts yet. I charm them with a high tea experience where the tea feels like a warm hug. We banter and laugh; they tell me embarrassing stories of my partner’s childhood while we sip tea so good that we all collectively hum after each sip. We have a fabulous time and I win the affection of the family with my delightful charm. When they think of me they think Gingerbread tea and warm pastries.

Who is this for? The Bridgerton lover, the 18th century romance book reader who doesn’t need another book, your mom or mother-in-law, your partner who loves tea, the cozy-seeking friend… or your partner’s parents 😉

JC Holdway in Downtown Knoxville

Gift Idea 2: Fancy Shmancy Dinner

A great gift that won’t collect dust or create clutter in someone’s home is a really, really great meal. I come from a Cuban family and sharing a meal with someone is an experience that communicates care, intimacy and attention. I recently gifted my foodie best friend a night out to J.C. Holdway and we still talk about this meal. If you’ve got a foodie in the fam, this is the place to take them.


If the weather is fair, sit out on the patio, the warm lights on Union Avenue come on and the sights and sounds are just perfection. You *almost* forget you’re in Knoxville. Indoor seating is just as comfortable and full of ambiance as well. Remember to take this meal slowly and genuinely catch up with your loved ones. With the smell of wood-fire in the open kitchen and the overall rustic warmth, this place delivers on atmosphere with the smell and coziness alone.

But it’s not just a great atmosphere – the food does not disappoint. From appetizers to main courses, it’s all decadent and tasty (but you’ll be sad if you don’t pair your meal with a side of warm skillet-style cornbread. You’re welcome.).

All in all, this experience checks every box on the must-have experience list. Pro-Tip: Make reservations as this James Beard award winning chef usually books out, especially during the holidays. Also, maybe it’s just me but I love it when someone has a reservation – it always makes the experience feel even more intentional 💛

Who is this for? The foodie, a romantic night out with your partner, a family member, a best friend, or anyone with working taste buds.

Old City Performing Arts Center

Image from @thesparrowseye


Gift Idea 3: A Night at the Theatre

>Next on the list is a night at the theatre for the story/arts enthusiast in your circle. Grab tickets to the ever popular and folksy retelling of the Christmas Story, The Unusual Tale of Mary and Joseph


This experience gift scores high on the feeling and atmosphere side of the scale. It’s a family friendly show – a whimsical and comedic retelling of the traditional Christmas story, tucked in an intimate venue in the Old City neighborhood. I love this gift for families or for someone looking to set a tradition in lil’ ol’ Knoxville. Hot chocolate at Awaken, a stroll through the candycane lit sidewalks, and a folk musical to boot? Sign me up.

Pro-tip: This is a Knoxville holiday tradition for many so book your tickets soon! 

Who is this for? This is a great experience gift for someone who enjoys live theatre and the arts, or for the kiddos on your Christmas list!

Gift Idea 4: Igloo Under the Stars at The Five Thirty Lounge

THIS IS NOT A DRILL. Yes, you read IGLOO! ❄️☃️ Reserve an igloo overlooking downtown on the rooftop of the Hyatt for you and your friends this holiday season!


The Five Thirty Lounge has igloos for reservation now through the end of the winter season. From inside your personal igloo, you have the full beverage and food menu at your disposal. Did we mention the Christmas themed cocktails yet? I’m personally ordering a “FRA-GEE-LAY” and a “Clark W. Griswold” for sure!

The Hyatt has also decorated their rooftop into a Christmas wonderland with fire pits, blankets and even snow?! (*pause to scream from happiness*) This gets a 100 on the experience scale👏👏👏 Feels, taste, and atmosphere are firing on high Christmas cheer at The Five Thirty Lounge.

Pro-Tip: These igloos require both a reservation and food/beverage minimums, so plan ahead!

Who is this for? This would be a great twist on a holiday party between friends, family, or co-workers – or a special twist on date night. Hosting out of town guests? This would easily be the highlight of the trip!

Gift Idea 5: Pottery Class

Rounding out the list is a Friday night out at Mighty Mud in North Knoxville! Although this doesn’t necessarily shine in the taste category, you can always book a Wine Night event and pick up a bottle to sip on while throwing clay.


This experience does, however, score high on both atmosphere and feeling. It’s got that local pottery vibe, taught by people who go out of their way to make you feel comfortable even if it’s your first time. As far as the feeling category, the excitement of trying something new definitely checks the list! This is promised to be a fun night with a small keepsake to boot.

Pro-Tips: Dress comfortably and in clothes/shoes you don’t mind getting muddy water splashed on. If you book a wine night, come prepared with your wine! Finally, book in advance as these classes are well attended and often sell out.

Who is this for? The crafters, the hobbyists, and friends who are always up for a Girls Night Out would all love this!

Why Gift Experiences?

All in all, gifting experiences allows you to create connection, make lasting memories, (avoid dusting more things) and enjoy exploring the cutest lil city in the south all in one fun swoop. 10/10 better than underwear every time 😉 Let us know what unique experiences you end up gifting this season!

FREE Craft Coffee Tasting at Five & Hoek EVERY First Friday from 1-2 PM!

Taste coffees from around the world with Five & Hoek owner, Tyler, every first Friday of the month from 1-2 pm. Learn what you like about certain coffees, how coffees are selected & how quality is maintained from roast to roast & cup to cup.

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