As you come into your 40s, gift giving becomes an art—a quick gift certificate or a duty-free purchase from your trip abroad won’t cut it. You need shrewdness, quirkiness, and great taste to pick out out the perfect present for your peers. Whether you’re shopping for the practical pal or the hard-to-please diva, we’ve compiled everything, from grown-up games and grown-up drinks to wearable offerings (not just clothing!) and intelligent, unforgettable experiences. Brush up on these gift ideas and you’ll be a present-presenting maestro in no time. For more on living your best life in your 40s, don’t miss 40 Ways to Stay Sharp After 40.
A Cooler Dart Board
$140; buy now from Fredericks and Mae
Games are good fun. Having a chic adult set of darts and a dart board is not only a decorative statement, but a great gift. This option, from Fredericks and Mae, is a flashy retro throwback to everyone’s favorite bar game.
A Day at the Spa
A spa day can consist of a couple hours soaking in hot springs to a full-day replete with treatments and massages. No matter the level of decadence, a spa day is always appreciated. For inspiration, check out our list of The 15 Most Luxurious Spas in America.
A Charitable Donation
For those friends over 40 who scoff at gift-giving, making a charitable donation in someone’s name is a perfect presentation of your affection while still maintaining their wishes. Some suggestions: Heifer International, Books for Africa, and Food for the Hungry.
A Telescope Fit For An Adult
$199; buy now at Astronomers without Borders
We don’t ever really grow up, we just get older and make more money. A telescope is a rather unexpected—yet very cool gift—for curious adults who want to relive a bit of childhood spark. The base model from Astronomers without Borders is basic enough to operate easily yet powerful enough to see some cool celestial bodies.
A Samurai-Grade Kitchen Knife
$145; buy now at Amazon
Every home cook should be equipped with at least one knife that can through raw meat like it’s butter. The DM0706 from Shun is exactly that, and is a rare Japanese blade that’s dishwasher-friendly. And for some ideas on what to cook with this new blade, be sure your friend check out the 15 Best Steak Marinade Recipes of All Time.
A Sumptuous Candle
$50; buy now at Ken Fulk
A candle is always acceptable—you just have to get the right one. Skip the Bed Bath & Beyond aisle and spring for a sumptuous, sexy model, like Ken Fulk’s 007.
Getting friends Hamilton tickets or court-side seats for a night is nice, but season tickets to the Nets or the Met is a mature gift that will keep on giving.
A Top-Gear Bike Trainer
$475; buy now at Bkool
Equal part elegant and efficient, a beautiful bike trainer—like the Bkool Smart Pro 2—is a far cry from those clunky metal messes that end up in the garage.
A Rowing Machine That Double As a Piece of Art
From $895; buy now at WaterRower
Well, here’s a piece of training equipment you could easily keep in plain sight. WaterRower’s row machines are, simply, pieces of art—the machine version of being in the royal enclosure at the Henley Regatta.
An Auto-Racing Experience
We all have that friend who may be entering the requisite mid-life crisis sports car phase. Why not help them be smart about it? Racing lessons are a safe and generous way of keeping your speedy friend on track.
A Surfing Lesson
Your 40s are when you really establish yourself and your hobbies. But some of those hobbies you just haven’t found yet. Here’s a chance to open your friend up to a new hobby—like, say, a surfing lesson. The activity is hard to pick up, but, once you get the skills down pat, it’s an incredibly exhilarating and therapeutic workout.
A Rare Bottle of Vino
Prices vary; buy now at Dirty Laundry
Wine is a no-brainer. But gifting a bottle from an up-and-coming region, like Okanagan, British Columbia, will show that you really know your grapes. (Best Life suggestion: Spring for a bottle from Dirty Laundry, the top award-winner in the region.)
Spirits with Spirit
Prices vary; buy now at Ventura Spirits Company
No one will complain about a bottle of nice whiskey, of course. But if you really want to go above and beyond, sui generis spirits, like those produced by Ventura Spirits Company (they’re the only manufacturer in the world to make vodka out of, as opposed to flavored by, strawberries, for example) will really leave an impression—so long as the recipient doesn’t drink the whole bottle in one go.
$6 per bottle; buy now at Couer de Lion
‘Tis the season—for drinking cider! (And, yes, giving gifts…) Put a little twist on the classic fall libation by gifting a pear cider instead of an apple one. For our money, the good folks at Christian Drouin make the best one: equal parts tangy and sweet, and the perfect ABV (4.5%) for sipping all day long next to a toasty autumn fire.
A Beer-Making Kit
$40; buy now at Williams Sonoma
Put the “craft” in “craft beer.” A beer-making kit is like an adult science project with the added bonus that you get buzzed at the end. The basic option from Williams Sonoma comes with all of the ingredients and a step-by-step guide to ensure a perfectly hoppy, buzzy product comes out the other end. (Note: The beer-making process takes 30 days to complete.)
A Dog Bed For Saving the World
From $65; buy now at Toad and Co.
Chances are, one of your friends will have a best friend who’s furry and walks on all fours. You want to befriend this cute critter; buy them a comfortable dog bed. Bonus points if you spring for an eco-friendly option, like this poof from Toad and Co.
As we get older, we can also get set in our ways. Branching out and learning new skills, especially in kitchen, can be transformative. An interesting cooking lesson is a fun gift that might actually boomerang benefits back to you—with a home-cooked meal!
A Barista-Worthy Espresso Machine
$599; buy now at Amazon
For the coffee fanatic—the pal who can smell the difference between Nicaraguan and Jamaican beans—nothing beats a barista-grade espresso machine. The Breville BES870XL is exactly that. This beast comes with a grinder, countless customization settings, and a built-in frothing wand.
Prices vary; buy now at Patagonia
Giving food is always nice, but habitual gift baskets of the same old, same old gets redundant. A fresh take on an old present—like Patagonia Provision’s sustainable gift boxes—are a guaranteed hit this season.
Flowers (That Last a While)
Flowers are always nice, but they die quickly. Go the everlasting route: Give some orchids.
And An Accompanying Vase
$75; buy now at BoConcept
If you are going to give cut flowers, give them in a special vase. The design-forward Twist, from BoConcept, is sure to delight.
A Timeless Timepiece
$379; buy now at Leff Amsterdam
Since we all have the time in our pocket, giving a clock seems odd. But they’re a steadfastly classic gift, and a solid decor upgrade, no matter the style—especially when they are as tasteful as Leff Amsterdam’s striking brick clock.
An Suspension Lamp
Price upon request; inquire at Foscarini
When it comes to décor style upgrades, everyone looks around, and few people look up. Don’t let your friends neglect their ceilings. The sleek, metallic Arumi by Foscarini is a sublime example of how stylish ceiling lamps can be. (When it’s alit, the aluminum glints like a raw diamond.)
A Scarf Upgrade
$275; buy now at Mr. Porter
Rejoice: It’s scarf season! Your coldest-blooded friend could probably use upgrade—to cashmere. A black option is the way to go; it matches with literally everything. This is among the safest gifts you can get. But if you want to put a little twist on it, spring for a ribbed option, like the Ace from Rag & Bone.
A Unique Blanket
$96; buy now at Jungmaven
A blanket that isn’t something you would see in a hotel but is neutral enough to be in a hotel is key here: Distinct enough to have meaning, while still able to fit in anyone’s bedroom. Jungmaven’s hemp blankets fit that bill to a tee.
An Extravagant Library Addition
$1,500; buy now at Taschen
Yes, that’s a $1,500 book. But Ai Weiwei‘s limited edition (only 1,000 copies were printed) compendium is worth every penny: The tome features unseen images from Weiwei’s collection and features paper-cut chapter openers designed by the man himself.
Product photo by Mark Seelen
$52; buy now at Gear 4
Considering the replacement costs for LCD screens, cases for laptops, phones, and tablets are never a bad idea. Gear 4’s Mayfair leather smart case is both tasteful and durable.
A Portable (Yes, Really) Shower
$100; buy now at Rinse Kit
Something useful and thoughtful might seem boring at first, but each time your friend uses a practical gift—like Rinse Kit’s portable shower—they will think of you fondly.
$110; buy now at Bogs
Slippers are an age-old gift for the winter season. But most folks typically get flimsy pairs that wear out fast. For the friends who have been gifting slippers for decades, change it up and do it right with an impervious pair, like those from Bogs.
An Leash for the Unleashed Pup
$25; buy now at Flowfold
The Sterling x Flowfold dog leash is made entirely from repurposed climbing rope. It goes hand in hand—or rather, hand in paw—with every outdoors-loving dog-and-human duo.
A Handsome Clutch
$190; buy now at Mansur Gavriel
Perfect for both men and women, an oversized wallet is a great gift for your fashion-conscious friends. The options from Mansur Gavriel are especially stylish. We suggest keeping a few around the house for last-minute occasions.
Barber Shop Shave
For any man of any hair length, a visit to the barber shop is like the male version of a blowout—especially if it comes with a hot shave.
A Healing (Literally) Lotion
$20; buy now at Sagely Naturals
Everyone gets sore from time to time. Make sure your friends are set with a cooling recovery cream, like this sustainable hemp-based offering from Sagely Naturals. It’s designed specifically to combat muscular inflammation.
A Personal Stylist Appointment
For your friend who just landed their biggest client ever—but has yet to land any time for looking the part—gifting a day with a personal shopper or stylist is a fun and flirty present for the young professional making a name. And trust us, they will make time for this gift.
An Head-turning Hat
$325; buy now at Lola Hats
Giving hats in the cooler seasons is a surefire bet—if you pick wisely, that is. A minimalist French tip fedora—like this sumptuous felt number from Lola Hats—is a departure from back-to-basics seasonal beanies.
A Board Game for the Ages
$395; buy now at Neiman Marcus
Everyone knows how to play chess. You know what’s cooler? Backgammon, the game of kings—literally. (It’s believed that the Persian royal court invented the modern iteration of this game in the 6th century.) A colorful board, like this one from Jonathan Adler, brings the game into the 21st century.
(Much) Warmer Socks
From $17; buy now at Amazon
Winter is coming, and everyone could use a good pair of wool socks. But kick up the heat—literally—but gifting a pair with a pocket fit for hand warmers, like Heat Factory’s Merino Pocket Socks. They’re perfect for especially frigid days.
Smoother Eye Cream
$100; buy now at Barney’s
Let’s face it: We aren’t getting any younger. You can never have too much eye cream. We suggest Aqua di Parma; the stuff include silk extract for an extra smooth finish. (Just make sure you don’t inadvertently insult by giving it to that 40-year-old friend who thinks they look 25.)
A Gift Certificate for a Custom-Made Shirt
Prices vary (pictured, $95); buy now at Paper Cloth
Nothing fits and flatters like a custom-made shirt. And now, with the advent of online retailers, they’re easier to find—and gift—than ever. (No more scouring Yelp! for the best tailor in town.) For our money, Paper Cloth is the place to start: They do everything from business-casual plaid to halls-of-power twill.
$1,299; buy now at Red Paddle Co.
Supping is one of the fastest0growing sports in the world right now. It can be done anywhere there’s water: lakes, oceans, rivers, and yes, even pools. A SUP board is the perfect gift for your most aquatic friend. We suggest Red Paddle Co.’s inflatable boards, since it won’t take up too much space. This year, to celebrate their 10-year anniversary, they released a special edition 10-foot paddle board (center-left) that’s designed for all skill levels—so your friend, too, can share in the fun. Remember: Trying new things is just one of the many Best Things About Being In Your 40s.