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

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: At Skyler’s Music Studio, your future “America’s Got Talent” winner can take piano and voice lessions. Only children’s piano lessons are in person during the coronavirus pandemic; all other lessons are conducted via Zoom. Prices depend on the length of the class.

For adults

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

Wine tasting and tour: Just 90 minutes north of Atlanta is Yonah Mountain Vineyards. Although tours and tastings are suspended during the coronavirus pandemic, the vineyard has reopened for outdoor glass and bottle sales.

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. “We can keep it family friendly or get a little dirty. We don’t judge, we just make it happen. By coming up with ways to integrate your specific wants with fun filled challenges, creative puzzles and creative photo missions.” Price is based on the hunt you choose.

ASO performance: The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is in its 65th season, and the last with music director Robert Spano. Spano announced earlier he would be stepping down after the 2020-21 season, which is happening despite the coronavirus pandemic.

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 last 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 often 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.” Please note that tickets must be bought by Dec. 15 to ensure delivery by Christmas.

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. No certification? The Shark Cage Dive Program doesn’t require it. Purchase a ticket for $189.95 (members) or $233.95 (nonmembers), and the recipient will be one of the first to take part in this new attraction.

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. Although lodging isn’t included, you’ll get: Astronaut training exercises, cool challenges, rocket construction and launch, a show in the Intuitive Planetarium or a movie in the National Geographic Theater, museum admission for Saturday and Sunday., and lunch each day

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 last year, 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.

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