Ditch the quadcopter and send a raptor soaring through the sky. Trade the dive watch for a mermaid tail and go for a swim. For adventurers eager to explore the world’s most unusual places, or just purchase nifty gifts from them, Atlas Obscura has assembled a guide that features events from all over the globe and even space, and items from many points in between. Some experiences are worth all the gadgets in Santa’s workshop.
This is one part of Atlas Obscura’s eight-part 2015 gift guide. See the rest.
9. THE FRIENDLY SPIDER PROGRAMME
Don’t let your arachnophobia wrap you in a web of fear. At the ZSL Friendly Spider Programme, you and your spider-averse brethren can overcome your dread through conversation, hypnosis, and a meet-and-greet with one of the London Zoo’s affable eight-legged arthropods. It might sound daunting, but the folks behind the course say that more than 80 percent of past participants now keep their cool around arachnids.
8. HAWK WALK FALCONRY COURSE
Experience pure raptor power in this one-day falconry class. Throughout the lesson led by instructions at Sky Falconry and organized by the Obscura Society L.A., you’ll learn about the history of falconry, bird biology, and the importance of conservation. Then you’ll actually get to try your gloved hand at casting off a trained hawk and calling it back. Tickets are extremely limited, so grab yours now.
7. Ticket to Space
Is terrestrial life dragging you down? Are the stars calling you? Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic share your dreams of exploring the final frontier. One pretty big caveat: your personal trip to space likely won’t be happening soon. But there’s no harm in getting a head-start and planning a pre-flight ritual or two.
6. MERMAID CAMP
For those who never stopped dreaming of becoming Ariel, there’s a school in Spain just for you. At Sirenas Mediterranean Academy, you’ll take part in a 90-minute class where you and your fellow sirens will get a mermaid history lesson, learn how to use your shimmering tails, and participate in the “games of mermaids and tritons.” We’re not sure what that last part means, but it definitely has us intrigued.
5. BO SANG UMBRELLA
Bo Sang is a village in Thailand known around the world for its vivid paper umbrellas and parasols. Each umbrella is a handmade gem. Whether you are just looking for a colorful accessory or to keep the sun off your face, it might be the right time to get yourself a lovely paper umbrella.
4. NOVELTY COFFIN
Forget pine boxes. Why not have a coffin with some personality? At the Kane Kwei workshop in the coastal town of Teshie, Ghana, Eric Adjetey Anang and his team of ingenious carpenters create fantasy coffin masterpieces, known as abebuu adekai. Thanks to their skill and inventiveness, interested parties can rest in peace in custom containers, which can be shaped like anything from a lobster to a blow-dryer.
3. LUCKY IRISH DIRT
Dirt isn’t always just dirt. For some, it’s a connection to a distant home or a beloved heritage. Such is the case with Irish dirt, which is sold in the U.S. in small quantities for those missing the Emerald Isle. In fact, Irish soil is so beloved that the USDA made an exception to its ban on soil imports for the “auld sod” (Israel is the only other country to get that treatment).
2. GO INSIDE THE RARE BOOK ROOM
Become acquainted with New York Academy of Medicine’s incredible Rare Book Room at the Obscura Society NY’s After Hours series in 2016. Topics to be covered include anatomical illustrations, alchemy, women’s medicine, and more.
1. AZTEC DEATH WHISTLE
With a name like “death whistle,” it should come as no surprise that this ancient Aztec instrument was often used to intimidate. Before you buy, you can hear what the whistle actually sounds like in these YouTube clips. Blood-curdling.