Opening presents is a holiday tradition, but it can come with a few drawbacks — namely all the stuff that comes out of those gift boxes. This stuff will undoubtedly fill your house with clutter and have you tripping over it on your way to the couch or kitchen.

Material gifts can also have a short shelf-life. Gifts break, they get lost, or they lose their luster — months, weeks and even days after purchase.

That’s why buying an experience can be the best choice this holiday season. Experiences can be cost-effective and memorable, and they don’t require the hassle of wrapping and unwrapping.

Here are some examples of gift choices that will get you and your loved ones out of the house and increase everyone’s holiday happiness this season.

1) Art Classes

Whether it’s paint parties, pottery lessons, crochet classes, or weekly art classes, diving into some art is a great way to make some memories.

Arline Link, owner of Explore, Art & Clay in Front Royal, offers workshops where customers can make Christmas ornaments, gingerbread houses, gnomes, pottery, and more. She also offers wheel classes for both adults and children.

“It’s the experience,” Link says. “Instead of a toy that’s going to last an hour or a week, you find people are looking more for the experience. It’s family time. Time to be with your brothers and sisters, and it’s better than spending your money on toys.”

Link says that her workshops and classes are also good for couples looking to do something for date night, or for leadership classes where people are encouraged to bond.

“No matter how old you are, people enjoy getting their hands dirty,” she says.

2) Park passes

The Northern Shenandoah Valley boasts an array of parks that serve up beautiful scenery and regional history. From battlefields like Kernstown and Cool Spring, to museums like the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, Winchester and the surrounding area offer a plethora of good experiences.

Kristen Laise, executive director at Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park, encourages people to buy annual park membership, which includes holiday house tours, weekend music, a 12-foot Christmas tree, and of course, cookies and spiced tea.

“It’s really a nice tradition,” Laise says. “The house is decorated very uniquely.”

Visitors can also buy standalone weekend music tickets, and members get a discount at the museum.

Laise says that through visitation research, it’s been found that people are opting for experience over material gifts.

“People increasingly like spending time with friends or loved ones, and sharing an experience is becoming more valued,” she says.

3) Theater

If you want to buy something that your loved ones will remember, a musical or theatrical performance is something you might want to consider.

Shenandoah Conservatory offers tickets to a wide array of performing art on the university campus, including instrumental ensembles, original dance works, and contemporary musicals and plays, such as “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.”

Winchester Little Theatre, on Boscawen Street, offers the best of community theater, with upcoming performances of “A Christmas Carol” and “Nuts.”

To learn more about entertainment options, make sure to check out theater and art venues in your area.

4) Dinner

A good meal out can create lasting memories, especially with your tastebuds. Whether it’s a romantic candlelight meal, or a family dinner where laughs are loud and plenty, the dining experience can be something both your mind and your palate enjoy.

And if dining out isn’t your cup of tea, order takeout and spend a cozy evening at home with family and friends.

5) Music

Every summer, the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival offers a series of concerts held at the Shrine Mont retreat center in Orkney Springs. Last year's lineup included a Beatles tribute band, country music star Marty Stuart, the '70s rock band America and the Village People, plus several other acts. Concerts begin in mid-July. For more information, call 540-459-3396 or go online to visit

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