Home Holidays Christmas The NJ Holiday Experience Guide: Gifting Without the Gifts

The NJ Holiday Experience Guide: Gifting Without the Gifts

Everyone you know and love has too much stuff. They’re editing down; they’re decluttering. They want to use their garage for, you know, their cars. So how can you possibly give them presents for the holidays? Simple: Don’t give them things – give them experiences.

For your Significant Other

Close up portrait of young couple at wine tasting. Man and woman smelling wine with eyes closed.
The Gift: Winery visit
Why: Wine tastings are fun and romantic, even if you don’t know your syrah from your chardonnay – and there are more than 40 wineries in New Jersey, with a varietal for every taste (and budget). Id addition to tastings, each winery offers its own experience: The Four Sisters Winery in Belvidere holds regular murder mystery dinners, while Hopewell Valley Vineyards in Pennington offers monthly farm-to-table dinners. Moreover, if you’re really ambitious, you can plan out multiple events in one day. (Just drive carefully.) For updates on wine happenings, visit the Garden State Wine Growers Association.

For the Art Lover

Art Gallery
The Gift: Museum membership
Why: There’s so much culture practically in our backyard. New Jersey has a number of well-regarded art museums, including the Montclair Art Museum, which emphasizes American and Native American art; then there’s the Morris Museum in Morristown, which features everything from local and national artists to rocks and minerals, and even mechanical musical instruments; meanwhile, the Newark Museum displays sculptures, textiles and other pieces from Africa, Asia, Latin America and other regions. The WheatonArts and Cultural Center in Millville focuses on historical and contemporary glass pieces, as well as glass-blowing demonstrations and traditional folk arts. Many museums host traveling exhibits in addition to their permanent collections. Membership includes admission plus fun extras like store discounts, invitation-only preview events and discounts at local restaurants. Two visits and your gift basically pays for itself, plus you’re supporting the local arts scene (plus it’s tax-deductible!).

For the Kids

Live Theater
The Gift: IRL entertainment
Why: It’s a chance to get them away from their tablets and phones, and show them the magic of live performances. For example, “Disney on Ice: Treasure Trove” is coming to the Prudential Center in Newark this January; Next, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus stops by in March. Beyond that, “Video Games Live,” an orchestral performance of classic video game themes, and “Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds,” a musical based on Marley’s song, are both headed to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark come January. State Theatre NJ in New Brunswick hosts the all-percussion show “Stomp” in January and “The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Eric Carle Favorites” in February. Remind the kids not to take too many selfies.

For the Adventurer

Hot Air Balloon
The Gift: Balloon trip
Why: Nothing beats the view of vast landscapes from a tiny floating basket. Balloon operators serving New Jersey include Balloonatics & Aeronuts in Phillipsburg, which provides a Champagne brunch or picnic post-flight; In Flight Balloon Adventures in Clinton, which offers “engagement flights” among other packages; Alexandria Balloon Flights in Pittstown, located at the Sky Manor Airport; and A Beautiful Balloon in Parsippany, which offers multiple flight packages. A couple quick tips: Plan ahead and wait for good weather.

For the Relaxation-Minded

Dinner Cruise
The Gift: Day or dinner cruise
Why: Watching the water is a pleasant way to zap stress and enjoy the scenery. You might have to book in advance, since most cruises shut down for winter, but that way there’s something nice to look forward to when the snow melts. Lake Hopatcong Cruises operates Summer lunch, dinner and cocktail cruises on the largest lake in New Jersey. Cape May Whale Watcher offers whale watching, dolphin watching, lighthouse cruises and fireworks cruises in the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean from March to December. The River Belle in Brielle, which sails the Manasquan River, the Point Pleasant Canal, Barnegat Bay and the Metedeconk River — depending on the cruise — offers everything from lunch and dinner cruises to murder mystery cruises from July through September; FYI, it is also hosting a New Year’s Eve cruise with dinner, dancing and a midnight Champagne toast.

For the Would-Be Foodie

Cooking Class
The Gift: Cooking classes
Why: They get to sharpen their skills and commune with fellow foodies. Classic Thyme Cooking School in Westfield offers everything from bread making workshops to cooking with beer, and even “working parent and me” classes. Ridgewood Culinary Studio teaches everything from appetizers to main dishes, and even offers speed dating cooking classes. Le Gourmet Factory Cooking School in Englewood has classes on comfort food (like chicken and dumplings) and gluten-free Italian food, among other offerings, and its LGF Foodie Club offers members one free class a month, plus other perks. Perhaps your happy giftee will even cook for you!

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