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Experiences — the gifts that keep on giving

Giving an experience instead of a physical gift is becoming increasingly popular, especially among baby boomers. Deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial facilitate the trend.

December 24, 2011|By Shan Li, Los Angeles Times

Executive Vice President Bobby Augst said the explosive popularity of social media has given the company a big boost. "People like sharing videos and photos of themselves doing exciting new things, so they have to go out and get behind the wheels of a race car, or go hot air ballooning, to get those photos to post on Facebook," Augst said.

To be sure, there are still many shoppers like Kim Mayes, who loves seeing a stack of brightly wrapped gifts under the tree.

"How much thought have you really put into a gift that you can just click and print?" said the 45-year-old investment consultant. "It's like giving a gift card."

But for people who prefer a thrill, there's a vast array of experiences to pick from — some romantic, others dangerous and some unusual.

Carolyn Grantham's husband, Diego, took her to commune with wolves near Boston last September for her birthday.

After signing waivers releasing the habitat operator from liability, the couple stepped into an enclosure with two gray and white wolves and fed them dog treats and frolicked with them.

"One came up and greeted me and put her paws on my shoulder and nipped my chin," said Grantham, 42, a Web editor. "I'll never forget it, and I'll always be able to brag about it."

shan.li@latimes.com

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