December 9, 2015 in Smart Money

4 fabulously frivolous holiday gifts

Holiday shopping got you flummoxed? Can’t bear the thought of combing the malls, only to emerge with underwhelming gifts that likely will be forgotten by New Year’s?

Relax — we’ve got you covered.

Retail sales are expected to increase by 3.5% to 4% this year over 2014’s holiday shopping season, according to Deloitte’s annual retail forecast. 

So, if you’re going to spend that money anyway, why not spend it on something extraordinary — a gift that raises the bar for all Yuletide offerings to follow? Here are 4 fabulous holiday gifts that will definitely be remembered.

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New York sculptor Nathan Sawaya can deliver one gift that Michelangelo, Pablo Picasso and Auguste Rodin could not: life-size, 3-D replicas made entirely of Lego bricks.

“I started sculpting out of more traditional media like clay and wire,” says Sawaya. “I was doing a series of sculptures out of candy, which, like Legos, are additive in nature, using small pieces to create these larger forms. One day, I thought, ‘What about this toy from my childhood?’ So I dug out all of these Lego bricks and just challenged myself to do large-scale pieces, and it’s worked out.”

Indeed. Sawaya has parlayed his uncanny Lego sculptures into a cottage industry that includes lobby art for hotels, private commissioned pieces and even abstracts. He once Lego’d an entire bedroom for an episode of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

But there’s something magical about his human replicas. Each takes 2 to 3 weeks to complete; all he requires are photos of the subject from 360 degrees.

The secret to his success? Patience, of course.

“It is one of the factors you definitely need,” he says. “These projects don’t happen overnight.”

Price: $15,000 to $25,000 for a life-size replica, depending on size and complexity. Children and pets would fall in the $5,000 to $10,000 range.

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Want to experience global travel on a whole new level? An around-the-world trip with 50 of your closest friends promises to deliver.

Abercrombie & Kent offers private-jet trips for 26 days, with each guest enjoying first-class service on a Boeing 757 jet outfitted with 50 VIP-style seats.

“Islands, Savannas & the Amazon” begins in Miami and includes such exotic locales as Easter Island, Sri Lanka and Madagascar, and winds up in Monaco. The trip includes first-class accommodations at resorts and hotels, invitations to exclusive events and a safari in Kenya. 

Price: $117,000 per person, double occupancy.

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Feel like you were “born to be wild”? One of this year’s Neiman Marcus fantasy gifts combines your need to hit the open road and feel the wind in your hair with Hollywood star power.

The Arch Motorcycle & Ride Experience gives you your very own KRGT-1, the first production bike designed and built by actor Keanu Reeves and custom-bike builder Gard Hollinger of the Arch Motorcycle Co. The bike has a steel frame and a 124-cubic-inch V-twin engine, producing 121 horsepower. It has been described as “the Zen of motorcycle design.”

But there’s more: The gift includes first-class airfare from anywhere in the U.S. to Los Angeles for you and your guest, private car service and 3 nights at Santa Monica’s Shutters on the Beach. Over the next 2 days, you’ll have the opportunity to try out your new bike on a ride with Reeves and Hollinger, winding around the Santa Monica mountains and the Angeles Crest National Forest.

For every fantasy gift, Neiman Marcus donates $5,000 to its foundation.

Price: $150,000

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Looking for that truly out-of-this-world holiday gift? Look no further than a Zero G flight.

Zero Gravity Corp., a Virginia-based private space entertainment and tourism organization, averages about 3 zero-gravity tourism flights a month across the country aboard its specially modified Boeing 727, G-Force One.

Each tourism flight consists of 15 parabolic maneuvers (or “loop-de-loops”) between the altitudes of 24,000 and 34,000 feet. The result: 20 to 30 seconds of weightlessness on each downward swing, followed by a gentle pullup that increases gravitational force to 1.8, or nearly twice the normal level.

What does weightlessness feel like?

“You cannot describe it until you’ve experienced it,” says Terese Brewster, president and chief operating officer of Zero Gravity Corp. “It’s not like swimming in a pool or sky diving. When you come over the top, you just kind of lift off the ground and become weightless. It’s much more gentle than people realize.”

That’s when the fun starts. You can start playing with items like floating M&M’s and water droplets. Zero G has hosted weightless birthday parties, surprise parties and even weddings.

“We have a lot of repeat clients,” Brewster says. “We do all ages, as young as 8 to people well into their 90s. It’s for everyone.”

Price: $4,950 per person, plus 5% tax, includes the Zero-G Experience, merchandise, catering before and after the experience, a certificate of weightlessness, and a video and photos of your flight.

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