Arts and Entertainment

Can't find the perfect thing to give? Gift an experience instead

Christmas is just a little over a week away, and thoughtful gifts may get more and more difficult to find. But before you give in to the temptation of playing gift roulette in the sock aisle of your friendly neighborhood Fred Meyer (e.g., picking out something at random), consider giving the gift of an experience.

After all, experiential purchases — that is, buying an experience like a concert or a vacation — tend to make people happier than material purchases, according to research published by Cornell psychology professor Thomas Gilovich. Gilovich theorized that this may be due to feelings of anticipation and nostalgia — people enjoy imagining what experiences will be like before they happen and, after the fact, can enjoy their memories.

From the adventurous to the thought-provoking, Alaska has many experiences to gift. Best of all — they're never out of stock.

For the athlete

Treat an active friend to some peace of mind with yoga classes. Deha Yoga in South Anchorage offers a five-class pass for $90 that can be used in 90 days. Anchorage Yoga in Midtown also offers a five-class pass for $95 that is good for one year.

For the climbers in your crew, Alaska Rock Gym has a new facility with 20,000 square feet of climbing space. They offer a 10-visit punch card that's $150 ($200 if you want to include gear rental).

A budget-friendly option for the hiking fiend in your life is a state park annual parking pass ($50 at

For the aspiring artist or musician

Know someone who's always wanted to learn to play an instrument? Jump-start their journey with some basic music lessons. Alaska School of Music offers lessons in piano, guitar, violin, viola, bass, banjo, mandolin and ukulele for a registration fee of $25 per family, and $35 per half-hour lesson. Not sure if they're ready to invest in an instrument? You can find rentals at Music Man, The Horn Doctor and Petr's Violin Shop and Guitar Central, as well as referrals for music teachers.

For the seasoned musician, consider paying for some studio time to record or process their music. Rates generally range from $85-$200 in Anchorage. Surreal Studios, Mirror Studios and Buzzbizz Studios are all options for local recording studios.

Give the gift of theater to your resident thespian. Cyrano's Playhouse offers a 10-play punch card. Each punch is good for one ticket to any show the playhouse puts on, meaning you can see 10 different plays or you and nine friends can all see one play together. Best of all, the punch card is good for three years after purchase (costs $195).

For those who enjoy the opera, Anchorage Opera offers gift certificates in any amount and for any show. Certificates can be purchased by calling Anchorage Opera at 907-279-2557 or by email at Anchorage Concert Association offers shows throughout the year. A short list of some of the highlights this year: John Cleese, David Sedaris, Portland Cello Project, "Billy Elliot," "Beauty and the Beast." For a complete list, see Tickets to performances can be purchased at

Getting out there

Give the gift of a getaway with reservations to a public-use cabin. More than 200 cabins across the state can be reserved online all year long. Cabin access ranges from drive-up to remote access. Prices range from $20 to $50, and some are even free. Reserve and buy at

Relieve cabin fever by giving a day trip on the Alaska Railroad. The Aurora Winter train is the nation's last flag-stop train. Journey round trip from Anchorage to Hurricane Gulch for a scenic winter ride through Alaska's backcountry. Prices for children (ages 2-11) $60; adults, $119; and seniors (ages 65 and over) $60. The train runs the first Thursday of every month in the wintertime.

Food and drink

Designed for all ages and skill levels, Allen and Petersen Appliances' cooking classes make excellent gifts for the home chef. With classes ranging from kids' sushi making to gluten-free holiday dinners, there's a class for everybody. Check their online class calendar at Prices vary, but range from $20 to $100.

For the vino-lover, try a wine club membership. UnWINEd has memberships beginning at $29 a month for one select bottle, and $39 a month for two select bottles of either white or red. Their premier membership is $99 for two vintage red wines a month that are hand-selected by the owners from a limited supply. Each membership from UnWINEd includes 10 percent off all in-store purchases, a wine tote bag and invitations to exclusive events. Wine Styles Taste Club membership from Wine Styles is $34.99 a month, which includes two bottles of wine, pairing recipes, discounts on in-store purchases and invitations to tastings and other events. Crush Wine Bistro offers three wine club options. Starting at $39.50, the Cellar Wine Club gives two bottles with food-pairing suggestions. The Collector Club is $39.50 as well and features one rare bottle and food-pairing suggestions. Their Combination Club is $74.50 and combines the previous plans with two bottles and one rare bottle, along with food-pairing suggestions.

For the more hands-on, Arctic Brewing Supply has kits and equipment for making beer, mead, wine, soda and even cheese.

Everyone has got to eat — so consider treating a friend to a meal at their favorite restaurant. Many restaurants offer gift certificates that allow you to choose the dollar amount, so this gift can work with many different budgets. Spenard Roadhouse offers gift cards in $25 increments. At Bear Tooth or Moose's Tooth, gift cards work at both restaurants and for the theater.


With rotating exhibits, the Imaginarium, planetarium and a treasure trove of Alaska history, an Anchorage Museum membership makes a great gift for families and knowledge-seekers alike. The membership allows for free admission to the Anchorage Museum and to over 300 other science museums around the world through the Association of Science-Technology Centers Passport Program. One individual membership is $60 and one family membership is $90.

Whether for work or for the home, professional photos go a long way. You could gift a family photo shoot, senior photos for the teenager on your list or headshots for the professional getting her start. Family photo sessions generally run between $250-$350. For senior photos, fashion shoots, headshots and individual photo sessions, the price ranges between $95 to $350 per session, depending on the types of photos and who you book with. Some photographers could include hair and makeup in their sessions.

There are many great photographers in Anchorage and across Alaska, so this one might take a bit of legwork to find the right fit. Once you've narrowed down your choices, check out photographers' Instagram feeds and online portfolio to see if their style jells with what you're looking for.

Busy bees

Let the busy and stressed take a minute to relax with a day at the spa. Adagio Day Spa offers the Aroma Luxe Spa Ritual for $215. The 120-minute treatment includes a massage, pedicure and facial. Escape Alaska Aveda Spa offers a Spa Sampler that includes a 30-minute facial, brow wax, and manicure and pedicure ($125). At Allure Day Spa downtown, you can choose the amount for a gift card.

Treat the commuter on your list to a professionally cleaned-up ride. Purple Turtle Fine Auto Detailing offers packages for both exterior and interior ranging from $77-$264, depending on size and amount of work requested. Morris Auto Detail offers packages and services for both exterior and interior as well, priced at $75-$400, depending on the size of the vehicle.