Experiences to give kids, adults and families this holiday instead of stuff

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From lessons to getaways, you can gift your friends and family a memory

Forget about the latest gaming system, gadget and gift craze. This year, give friends and family an experience to create a memory, instead of most stuff to they’ll get bored with in a few weeks.

You can find adventures and fun geared toward kids, adults and the whole family in Georgia and in nearby states.

Here are few suggestions:

For kids

Cooking class: Being able to feed yourself is an important life skill, and a cooking class teaches kids early on how to make their meals instead of getting them via the drive-through. Young Chefs Academy has four locations in metro Atlanta, with programs ranging from workshops to camps to weekly classes and memberships. Individual classes are $35 each for nonmembers, or $89-$99 month for members.

Horseback riding: Get your city slicker up on a horse and out on a trail. At Georgia Frontiers in Canton, experienced riders lead groups “all inability levels,” so kids 9 and older can join a group with similar skills. The pace of each ride “will be set by the rider with the least courage, talent or sense of humor,” the website states. An hourlong ride will set you back only $48 ($45 cash), with 90 minutes costing $70 ($65 cash) and two hours ringing in at $85 ($80 cash).

Music lessons: Does your kid dream of being the next Grace VanderWaal? At Skyler’s Music Studio, your future “America’s Got Talent” winner can take ukulele and voice lessons (as well as piano and music theory). A 30 minute ukulele lesson costs $25, with voice lessons ranging from $35 to $55 depending on length. There are also packages available, if you know your child will love to stick with lessons.


Visit the fictional Merrill’s Farm from “Stranger Things” on a tour of filming locations. Photo: RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com

TV show tour: Eleven and the gang might live in the fictional world of Hawkins, but real life Atlanta is where the hit Netflix series “Stranger Things” is filmed. Now fans of the show can visit these locations during the Atlanta Upside Down Tour. The 3 ½ hour adventure presented by Atlanta Movie Tours has stops at Benny’s Burgers, Hopper’s cabin, the arcade and more. There will also be fun stories and trivia from tour guides. Tours are $75 per person.

If your kid is more into walkers than waffles, book a “Walking Dead” tour. Atlanta Movie Tours offers three “Big Zombie” tours, each visiting different filming sites for the the hit AMC television show. These tours are $55 for kids, $69 for adults.

For adults

The grown-ups on your list also will enjoy getting a memorable experience this holiday.


A reserve wine tasting at Yonah Mountain Vineyards would be a hit with most adults. Photo: Yonah Mountain Vineyards

Wine tasting and tour: Just 90 minutes north of Atlanta is Yonah Mountain Vineyards. The second Sunday of each month, the winery holds a 90-minute Reserve Wine Tasting. Owner Bob Miller will take your gift recipient on a tour of the winery and wine caves, followed by a seated comparison tasting. Space is limited for this $125 a person experience, so reservations are required.

O and The Rock: Even if you don’t know an Oprah fan, you probably know a Rock fan. Oprah Winfrey is returning to Atlanta, and she’s bringing Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson with her. Her “2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus” tour will be here Jan. 25 at State Farm Arena. Winfrey’s tour aims to motivate “audiences to make 2020 the year of renewal and celebrate all we are meant to be,” the tour websites states. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.

Scavenger hunt: Help a friend or family member get to know their neighborhood by organizing a scavenger hunt. Or better yet, let Scavenger Hunt Atlanta do it for you. “Imagine a scavenger hunt mixed with a culinary experience. We can take you all around the city sampling various delectables. Or mix it with a pub crawl and you’ve got a fun evening of levity and libations to enjoy,” its website states. Price is based on the hunt you choose.

ASO subscription: The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is in its 75th season, and the next to last with music director Robert Spano. Spano announced earlier he would be stepping down after the 2020-21 season. You can choose from a variety of subscriptions, and prices depend on the concert series and seats selected.

A getaway to Serenbe: It’s only half an hour away, but your gift recipient will feel like they’re in another world. Serenbe charmed Oprah Winfrey and her crew earlier this year, and was the backdrop for the April edition of O magazine. Serenbe has an inn with 27 rooms, a theater and trail riding, among other experiences. 

For the family

Match tickets: Atlanta United is the hottest team in town, and everyone seems to be a fan. The Five Stripes are again offering the holiday ticket pack, and this year they’re doubling your options for “giving the gift of the beautiful game this holiday season.”


ATLANTA – APRIL 02: People look at a hammerhead shark while visiting the Georgia Aquarium on April 2, 2007 in Atlanta, Georgia. The aquarium has been open since 2004 and is home to an estimated 55,000 fish. Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Swim with the fishes (and mammals): The Georgia Aquarium offers the unique opportunity to scuba dive with whale sharks, manta rays and thousands of other sea creatures in the Ocean Voyager exhibit. For $279.95 (members) or $333.95 (nonmembers), you get equipment, a 30-minute dive, a certificate of participation, shirt and photo. You have to be at least 12 to participate, however, and be able to show proof of open water scuba certification from a nationally or internationally recognized organization. Groups of four or more can receive a discount.

Out of this world adventure: Learn what it’s like to travel in space without ever leaving the South. About 3 ½ hours from Atlanta is the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, in Huntsville, Ala. For three days, you and the kids can attend family space camp. While there, you’ll:

  • Launch on simulated missions to the International Space Station and beyond!
  • Train like an astronaut on the Multi-Axis Trainer and the 1/6th Gravity Chair!
  • Construct and launch your own model rocket!
  • Learn about the past, present and future of space exploration.

Children must be at least 7 years old to participate. The camp costs $948 a pair (one adult and one child) and $349 for each additional person. Spots are available through August 2020.

Mountain memories: If Disney World isn’t in your budget, head about four hours north to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge in the Great Smoky Mountains. Yes, you can go to Dollywood, which closes the first week of January and reopens in April, but there is more to see and do. The country’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge has been a big hit since it opened in May, and it’s decked out for the holidays through Jan. 31. The 680-foot-long SkyBridge is part of the newly renovated SkyLift Park at the top of Crockett Mountain in Gatlinburg. Or drive over to Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud Show & Adventure Park and ride a roller coaster that’s unlike any other. It’s part zip line, part coaster.

Don’t let this list limit you. A little online research can yield myriad ideas for gifts that will create memories instead of clutter this holiday season.

Need ideas for where to eat and things to do around Atlanta? Check out our Atlanta Winter Guide on ajc.com.

Read the original story on AJC.com.