6 Ways to Share Experiences Instead of Things This Holiday Season

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The stereotypical image of the holidays is a pile of boxes wrapped with wrapping paper and bags tied off with ribbons -- but so much of that stuff ends up stuffed in clothes drawers never to be worn or dumped in the trash after months of disuse.

Instead of contributing to the wasteful side of the season, get back to the holidays’ true values by giving experiential gifts that are friendly to your gift recipients, as well as the environment. Here are our favorite ways to give experiences instead of things this holiday season.


Take a Class Together

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Instead of buying fancy serveware or furniture, buy your friends and family the chance to make their own gifts by signing up for a class together. From pottery to chocolate making, from dancing to flower arranging, there are classes for every person on your gift list. Whether you’re making a new centerpiece for the holiday table or learning a new skill together, the class will always be a fond memory of your time together. 


See a Show Together

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The holidays bring tons of great seasonal shows to theaters and stages across the country. Countless productions of “The Nutcracker” ballet thrill audiences young and old, while theaters increasingly host live adaptations of the classic Christmas TV special “Rudolph.” But you don’t have to blow your budget on a big production. Gather a few pals to support a local band or theater troupe during the season of giving. 


Share America’s Natural Heritage

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The U.S. is home to 419 national parks, as well as thousands of other national recreation sites, all included under the National Park Service’s annual America the Beautiful parks pass. The pass grants holders a year of free access to all of the parks, making it a great gift for any outdoorsy friend or family member. Plus, the pass covers any standard four-door car of passengers and camping gear, so you load up supplies and hit the road together to explore America’s beautiful, varied landscapes.

America the Beautiful Pass


Offer Restoration at the (Green) Spa

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The holidays are meant to fill everyone with cheer, but the winter season can be brutal on the body and the spirit. Give the gift of relaxation with a day pass to a local spa, where hot and cold baths, massages, and beauty treatments help restore that festive shine. Look for spas that concentrate on providing eco-friendly services, and pick up a pass for yourself while you’re at it. No one should have to spa all alone. 


Cook Up Edible Gifts

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No one ever looked at a big tray of brownies and said, “I really wish you had gotten me something more commercial.” Baked desserts always win hearts, but you can cook up a variety of treats for your pals, from fruity jams to last all winter, to custom spice rubs for meaty feasts, a fresh loaf of bread, to personalized cocktail and hot cocoa mixes.


Take on a Workout Together

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Between heavy turkey-and-ham-laden dinners, pumpkin spice everything, and pie upon pie upon pie, the holidays can take a quick toll on everyone’s healthy habits. Sign up for a yoga class with a family member to work off nana’s famed marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole, or haul a friend off the couch to hit a crossfit class. They may not thank you during a difficult workout, but they’ll certainly thank you after.