What We ::Really:: Want for Christmas — Experiences Over “Stuff”


Please know that I am extremely grateful for the privilege of sharing and receiving gifts. I like stuff. I like new stuff. I love stuff I can’t afford to buy for myself.


Perhaps, like me, you’re wondering how much more “stuff” your house can hold. Perhaps, you’re inwardly laughing at the irony of writing an email of gift ideas you and your kids would love to receive at your mother-in-law’s request while you’ve simultaneously opened a new tab to read 18 Five-Minute Decluttering Tips to Start Conquering Your Mess leading to another tab to explore the No New Things Challenge for 30 Days. Or, perhaps you are fed up with toys and want to start focusing your family’s free time on making memories through experiences.

We live in a great city to do just that. Here’s my list of non-stuff holiday wish list ideas in Nashville and the surrounding area. (Yes, Mom, we’d love anything on this list. Thank you! Love you!)

1. Family Trip (lodging, $20 per night and up)

Exploring the world with Grandpa - priceless memories
Exploring the world with Grandpa – priceless memories

Instead of exchanging gifts, my parents recently suggested that we all commit to a weekend getaway over the summer. When we get together to celebrate the holiday in a few weeks, we’ll have a few presents for the boys to open, we’ll give out a few boy-made art projects, and then we’ll all get out our calendars and schedule a weekend to travel together. We’re hoping to go to Maine with our extended family sometime in June. and to Pennsylvania to celebrate my grandmother’s 90th birthday in July. We love to travel and want to foster our children’s sense of adventure, so spending the money we budget for Christmas gifts on a great trip is a trade I’d make any day.

Canoe trail at Reelfoot Lake
Canoe trail at Reelfoot Lake

If traveling a few states away isn’t in the cards this year, we’ve got lots of local options. For camping, I’ve heard really great things about Montgomery Bell State Park (especially because it’s so close, so if weather or dispositions called for evacuation, you don’t have far to go) and Fall Creek Falls. We’ve also enjoyed Reelfoot Lake State Park, Barren River, and Cave Run. Most parks like Natural Bridge State Park Resort have lovely cabins available if tenting is not your (or your mom’s) favorite thing. (My mom would never consider tent camping a viable option for a weekend trip. Ever.)

Lane Motor Museum. History lessons, Antique and unique vehicles, Little kid play area. Perfect.
Lane Motor Museum. History lessons, Antique and unique vehicles, Little kid play area. Perfect.

Not up for a weekend in the wild? Plan a family day trip to any of these awesome places: Cave City (Dinosaur World), Chattanooga, Fall Creek Falls, Lawrence County, or Leiper’s Fork. Do a stay cation, or ask for train tickets for a trip on the Music City Star.

2. Memberships/Day Passes/Event Tickets ($8-120+)

The Nashville Symphony's instrument petting zoo
The Nashville Symphony’s instrument petting zoo

Where do you like to go around town? Where would you go if the admission price wasn’t a consideration? Consider asking for memberships or day passes to Cheekwood, The Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Adventure Science CenterNashville Zoo (you can read the inside scoop on their expansion here!), the YMCALane Motor Museum, Nashville Children’s Theatre, Nashville Symphony (they have their instrument petting zoo one hour before showtime at family-friendly performances!).

3. Classes for the Kiddos ($20-180+)

Almost all of the destinations above offer classes and camps for children to explore the world and discover new talents. You could also check out other local offerings for piano lessons, Kindermusik, Leslie’s Music Together, Lil Sports Academy (baseball, soccer, football), Happy Feet (soccer), sports leagues via the YMCA, and Green Elephant Arts classes.

4. Family Dinner Out ($25-50)

Mesob. Eat with your hands = perfect way to try new flavors
Mesob. Eat with your hands = perfect way to try new flavors

Eating out as a family can get very pricey—but sometimes you just need a night off. What if you had a few gift cards to use throughout the year? Some of our favorite kid-friendly restaurants include:  Calypso, Edley’s, Samurai SushiMcDougal’s, Rosepepper Cantina, Mesob, Hai Woon Dai, and there’s always Rainforest Cafe or the Aquarium if you want Disney-like attractions with your mac ‘n’ cheese.

5. Tasty Treats ($5 and up)

Samples at Olive & Sinclair AND a factory tour. Heaven.
Samples at Olive & Sinclair AND a factory tour. Heaven.

This category is bordering on stuff, but we’ll let it slide because it won’t stay around for long. Nashville has some amazing boutique eateries and a gift card or little package from one or two of these places would be…well…delightful!  Play at Dragon Park and get a sundae or hot chocolate at Hot & Cold in Hillsboro Village, spend your night tasting artisan ice creams at Jeni’s in East Nashville or 12 South, walk through American Pickers and Marathon Village with some homemade marshmallows from The Bang Candy Conpany, stroll Broadway and listen to bands with a praline or fudge from Savannah’s Candy Kitchen, check out the Shoppes on Fatherland and the Idea Hatchery with some chocolate from Chocolate F/X or Olive & Sinclair (take a tour of the factory while you’re there!)…I could go on, but my mouth is watering.

What other kinds of activities and splurges would you love to receive for the holidays this year?




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