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Alternative gift ideas

If, like me, you struggle to think of suitable presents for your spouse for their birthday, Christmas, father’s (or mother’s) day, how about something different like an activity or experience instead of something tangible? You’ll be amazed at how much there is to do locally. Here are some suggestions for you.

  1. Chocolate workshop

“For my birthday my husband surprised me with a three hour long chocolate workshop at De Lelie Chocolaterie in Delft. There were about eight other people participating in the workshop with us. After donning our plastic caps and aprons we got down to business,” said Karen Heijman. “Our ‘teacher’ taught us how to make filled bonbons where we got to choose the type of chocolate for the shell; we also got to make our own flavoured ganache to fill them with. We also learned how to make chocolate pieces and shapes using a piping bag. Turned out I wasn’t very good at that, but my husband killed it, and it was great fun. At the end of the class we got to take home everything we made, which was about 1.5 kg between the two of us!”

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  1. Paintballing

If shooting each other with blobs of paint to let off some steam appeals, this is possible at Outdoor Delft. Be sure to check the minimum participants needed upon reservation. Oh, and expect some bruises too.

  1. Archery

Does your spouse fancy themselves as Robin Hood or Katniss Everdeen? Then this could be a perfect gift. Outdoor Delft offer recreational archery (indoors and outdoors) plus a Hunger Games style challenge. There are several clubs in Delft that also offer introductory courses: Reineveld Club at Brasserskade, Willem Tell on Rotterdamseweg and Frederik Hendrik at Delftse Hout.

  1. Escape room

This is something I’d like to try myself. You’ll be locked in a room and will have to solve a series of puzzles on time in order to escape. A fun activity for small groups. Escape Challenge in Delft offer dentist and freak show themed rooms that can be done in English and Dutch. They offer gift cards too, and have some rave reviews on Trip Advisor. There’s also one at Outdoor Delft in a commando post.

  1. Go karting

In Delft, Race Planet is the place to go. “It’s a physically intensive track. There are not many straights, but lots of bends over different levels, and the turns make it interesting,” according to my husband. “They also offer racing days in real sports cars on a proper race track at their Zandvoort location, which I’ve also done with colleagues. That was fantastic! I got to race in a Lamborghini, Aston Martin and a Porsche racing up to 250 km/hr,” he said with a grin. “For something different, de Uithof in Den Haag offer karting on the ice rink seasonally, which is a totally different kind of experience.”

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  1. Euromast with a difference

Another one for the adrenalin junkies. You can abseil (or zip line) around 100 metres down from the Euromast, one of the tallest buildings in Rotterdam. It’s a long way up, but the view is worth it.

  1. Snow World

An indoor ski resort can be found just 20 minutes’ drive from Delft in Zoetermeer, so how about a day snowboarding or skiing? Gift cards, lessons and trials are available too.

  1. Take to the skies

Hot air balloon rides can be arranged from Delft with prices starting at €150 per person. For something more adventurous, a tandem sky dive can be done from Rotterdam airport for €249. Not the cheapest gifts, but possibly the most memorable.

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  1. Cinema voucher

I was given a voucher for my last birthday and thought it was a really cool idea. Both the Pathe and Filmhuis Lumen in Delft offer gift cards.

  1. Spa day

For a day of pampering and relaxation Elysium spa in Bleiswijk is often recommended. Jacuzzis, saunas, pools and treatments are just some of the things on offer. “It’s a mixed naked spa, but everybody has their head held high, so it’s not a big deal. Everyone has their own dressing gown and towel, but 99% of people walk around naked. It’s very relaxed and informal. The worst bit for me was climbing up into the hot tub, it was quite high!” said Nareen Beales. On a Monday you can visit in a swimming costume if you’d prefer, and ladies day is every last Thursday of the month.

  1. Old-fashioned barber’s shave

Pampering just for the men. In Delft, you can try Knippen & Scheren on Papsouwselaan. In Rotterdam, try New York Barbershop or Schorem. Various vouchers and packages are available.

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  1. Theme park tickets

One mum mentioned to me recently that she had been gifted tickets for a theme park which went down really well, since it can often be expensive to buy tickets for the whole family. I took my Dad (and my two boys aged 4 and 6) to Drievliet in The Hague over the summer. “It’s clearly geared to kids up to about the age of 12 or 13, whilst still being fun for grown-ups too,” he said. Kids under a metre are free. It’s not as huge as some other parks like Efteling, and is only 10 minutes away by car from Delft, or 20 minutes by bike.

  1. Annual museum card

If you’re looking for value for money this is a great investment. The museum card allows access to a long list of museums for a year. We bought cards for our family this year, for the second time, and it’s been really worthwhile. It’s always possible to find something to do to suit the weather, and this has solved many rainy Sundays for us. Some of our favourite places to visit are Archeon in Alphen aan den Rijn, the maritime museum in Rotterdam and the train museum in Utrecht. Naturalis in Leiden is also popular with my two boys, and a female Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton is being unveiled there on September 10, 2016.

  1. Treetop adventures

If swinging through the trees like a monkey floats your boat, try the Fun Forest at the Kralingse Bos in Rotterdam. Having recently done Go Ape, a similar British attraction, I can attest that this is much harder and more nerve-racking than it looks. Either that or I’m just getting old! My husband has done the Rotterdam course and said: “The courses are of varying difficulty, and I had some serious muscle aching the next day!”

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  1. Tastings

In Delft, beer and whiskey tastings can be arranged at ‘t Klooster and Miss Morrison offers coffee workshops too. For something typically Dutch, head to Schiedam which is the place to be for  jenever tastings.

  1. Afternoon tea

Copious cups of tea and cake, and an afternoon off without the kids, sounds perfect doesn’t it? Plenty of places offer high tea in Delft. Try Leonidas, Stads-Koffyhuis or Royal Delft.

  1. Kitesurfing

We’re not far from the sea, and there are a number of places along the coast locally that offer kitesurfing – Scheveningen and Kijkduin included.

Please feel free to comment below and share your own ideas and stories too!

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Caroline Vermeulen

Caroline Vermeulen is originally from the UK, and moved to the Netherlands in 2008 after marrying a Dutchman. A lawyer by profession, she now spends her days writing and editing when she’s not running around after her two energetic boys.

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