Make Your Own Travel Souvenir at These 10 Fun Classes

Learn about the history of Venetian masks in Venice, mosaics in Israel and swordmaking in Japan as you craft your own unique DIY souvenir.


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October 30, 2019
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Photo By: Xcaret Park

Photo By: Ca’macana

Photo By: Setouchi Tourism Authority

Photo By: Initium

Photo By: Anatoly Michaello

Photo By: Corning Museum of Glass

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Photo By: Meredith Rosenberg

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Photo By: Andrea Killam

Photo By: Xcaret Park

Create a Personalized Keepsake

DIY souvenir classes seem to be popping up in every corner of the globe — you can now find them at hotels, independent businesses and third-party booking sites. The types of souvenir you can make are only limited by your imagination. From customizing your own perfume in Florence, Italy to blending your ideal wine in Australia’s McLaren Vale region, read on for the coolest DIY classes around.

Venetian Mask Decorating, Italy

You’ll find carnival masks everywhere in Venice, whether or not it’s Carnival season, along with opportunities to make your own. Ca’macana is one of the most famous spots (its masks have appeared in Hollywood movies like Eyes Wide Shut) for this fun activity. During a workshop you not only get to decorate a mask, but also learn all about the history and meaning behind different masks. Choose from 60 different papier maché options and 12 traditional decorating styles to create one using metallic paint, feathers and more. Prices depend on the number of participants: expect to pay about $50 if you’re the only one, but the cost drops to about $40 a person if there are at least three people in your group. Reservations aren’t necessary since the workshop is held throughout the day Monday through Saturday, but you do need to pay in cash.

Swordmaking, Japan

Japan’s Setouchi region has been producing swords for at least 1,000 years, and you can view some of the finest at the Bizen Osafune Japanese Sword Museum. If you’re inspired to make your own and are spending a longer period of time in the area, then consider a kogatana, or small sword workshop. Know that two to four workshops are needed to complete the sword, and sessions are only held the first and third Saturday of each month and last about six hours. While you won’t create the sword from scratch, you will get to create the blade pattern, polish and sharpen it, and engrave your name. Materials cost about $90 and each session costs about $18. If you’re short on time, a paper-knife workshop (think letter opener) can be completed in an hour and a half for about $14. This version is also pre-made, but you still get to experience polishing, sharpening and decorating your mini-sword. Advance booking for both is required.

Initium Watchmaking, Switzerland

Smartwatches may be all the rage, but those with a soft spot for traditional watches can customize a high-quality piece at Initium. Switzerland has set the gold standard for fine watches, and Initium offers different class levels depending on your level of interest. Introduction Alpha and Beta classes expose participants to watch mechanics and engraving, but you’ll have to take the more advanced Gamma and Delta classes in order to bring home a fully customized watch. Prices for the latter range between $1,700-$2,700, depending on the exchange rate. Expect to spend the day choosing and partly assembling your watch, from picking out the strap and components to learning the entire watchmaking process. The workshop is offered in Le Noirmont and Geneva; the former includes lunch at two-Michelin-starred restaurant Georges Wenger while the latter features lunch at the iconic French favorite Brasserie Lipp.

Mosaic Decorating, Israel

Mosaics have long been an art form in Northern Israel. In fact, archaeologists recently discovered a 6th-century mosaic near the Sea of Galilee that’s believed to represent the New Testament story of Jesus feeding thousands of people with just a small number of fish and loaves of bread. If you happen to find yourself in Western Galilee, tucked away in the northwest region, and like mosaics, then pay a visit to Dalit Ben-Shalom’s mosaic workshop at Kibbutz Yehiam. Ben-Shalom offers an open workshop on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, where you can mosaic an item of your choice (bowls, garden gnomes) for $37.

Glass Blowing, New York

Upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region beckons with wine trails, a thriving restaurant scene, apple orchards, outdoor activities and gorgeous scenery. Remember your visit by taking a glassblowing class at the impressive Corning Museum of Glass, home to more than 50,000 works in glass divided into sections that cover glass history, contemporary pieces and continuing innovation. Plus, watching a hot glass demonstration at the world’s largest space devoted to it is sure to inspire your own creation. More than two dozen workshops are offered year-round, from holiday ornaments to wind chimes. This fall, make an adorable glass pumpkin: simply choose your colors, then collaborate with a professional glassblower to shape it. FYI, glass projects need to cool overnight, so do this at the beginning of your trip to avoid shipping costs. Also be sure to sign up in advance since everyone wants to make glass pumpkins right now.

Perfume Customizing, Italy

Aquaflor Firenze feels like stepping into an elegant home from another era, where you’re greeted by rows of perfume bottles and leather chairs that beckon you to sit a spell. You’re welcome to choose among the 1,500 existing scents, which isn’t a poor choice since all of the options are created by an in-house perfumer. But if you want to guarantee that nobody else will smell like you, then register in advance for a perfume workshop. Held in an equally attractive space underneath the store, the two-hour workshop covers how perfume is blended, with participants sniffing and taking detailed notes on their favorite scents. Then you'll launch into the wonderful trial and error of customizing your perfect scent, with the help of a master perfumer. The end result is a 100 ml bottle engraved with your initials. Don’t worry about running out, since the store can create more — as long as you kept your exact scent combo notes.

Chichi Doll Painting, Curacao

Chichi figurines have become iconic on Curacao, thanks to German-born local artist Serena Israel. The word chichi means a revered older woman in Papiamentu, a Caribbean Creole language, and today you’ll find chichi dolls for sale across Curacao. Sure, you can easily buy one, but even better, you can paint your own. Israel offers two workshop locations: one is held at Serena’s Art Factory, a short drive from the capital of Willemstad. Here you can tour the facilities before choosing which type of doll you’d like to paint; prices start at $28. The other location is tucked along a mural-filled alley in Willemstad’s lively Punda section, where you can sit outside in the shade and spend an hour painting. Tip: Elevate your doll-paining experience with a VIP package so you can enjoy champagne and snacks too. It’s also possible to arrange a private workshop with a group, or learn from the best and pick a workshop with Israel herself.

Wine Blending, Australia

Found in South Australia’s McLaren Vale wine region, d’Arenberg is a fourth-generation winery that employs grape stomping and basket pressing as part of its winemaking process. It’s also notable for the futuristic d’Arenberg Cube, a five-floor space that contains a tasting room, alternate reality museum (home to a virtual fermenter and wine sensory room), and wine-blending space. During the two-hour Blending Bench class, participants blend three different barrel samples of a single wine until achieving the desired result, and get to take home a bottle of customized Shiraz. The $65 cost also covers an eight-course food and wine pairing at on-site d’Arry’s Verandah Restaurant, whose speciality is sophisticated seasonal fare.

Birdhouse Decorating, Pennsylvania

Tap into your creative side at The Lodge at Woodloch, an upscale spa resort in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains. More than two dozen classes are on offer throughout the year, and many are free as part of the all-inclusive package. Opt to paint local landscapes, weave dreamcatchers or learn how to marble paper. For something different that can also benefit local wildlife, sign up to decorate a birdhouse with natural materials. Note that this class costs $10, but Woodloch provides the birdhouse and decor, and your beautifully decorated creation will be sure to attract some backyard birds.

BOOK NOW: The Lodge at Woodloch | Booking.com, Starting at $738/night

Ceramic painting, Mexico

Xcaret Park is a sprawling, eco-focused attraction that includes a museum, archeological site, aquarium, underground river, replica Mayan village and more. Various hands-on activities, like a ceramics painting workshop, are part of the many ways in which to learn about the local culture. You’ll find the workshop in the Mayan Village; choose from a variety of traditional Mexican ceramics such as Day of the Dead Catrinas, bowls and plates, then take your time painting a colorful keepsake. The workshop isn’t included in the price of admission ($110 for adults and $55 for kids), so the cost depends on which piece you choose. However, prices range between $2-$10. Don’t worry about your skill level, since all items contain helpful lines for painting. Budget an hour after you’ve finished for your handiwork to dry, but there’s plenty in the park to keep you entertained. (Or just pop into the chocolate-making workshop, included in the admission cost.)

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