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25 Great Gift Experiences for the Holidays

Published: December 17, 2021


Feel like we all have too much stuff? Research on happiness supports investing in the things that really bring fulfillment — like time together and finding new adventures.

Here are some more regional ideas for gift giving "experiences" to fill your heart, not your house.

1. Snuggle Up in The Cascade Mountains

The McKenzie River region is recovering, rebuilding and re-emerging in the aftermath of wildfires — and it's a great place for you to do the same. Stay along the river in a beautiful, cozy lodge or cabin and spend the days fishing, soaking in hot springs and walking in the woods. After a mountain getaway, you'll feel revitalized, and your visit will also contribute to the community's recovery, so you can feel doubly good.

2. Fall in Love With Local Theatre

Get season tickets at one of two recently remodeled theaters. These beloved community theatre groups strategically utilized the pandemic downtime to spruce up their performance venues and now are ready to welcome us back. For 2022, the Cottage Theatre, a long standing stable of outstanding local talent, will be debuting with "Mamma Mia!" in Cottage Grove. And the Very Little Theater (VLT) which has presented top notch theatre in Eugene since the 1920s, will roll out a host of new productions including "Little Women" and "Murder on the Orient Express". Explore all our local community theatre for more inspiration! 

3. Throw an Axe

Instead of tossing darts, imagine heaving an entire axe at your target! Try out your best logger look and wear closed-toe shoes. To throw axes you must be at least 12 years old. The Oregon Axe lounge also has a 21-and-over drink service with a two-drink maximum. Reservations for axe throwing lanes are recommended.

4. Sightsee on the River

Cruise the Willamette River soaking up nature's seasonal beauty. Jet boats are able to skim the shallows and go fast, so you can see all there is to see. Spot osprey, deer and more along the banks. Check out Scenic Jet Boat Tours and 2 Rivers Jet Boat Tours for touring options. Or present them with a gift certificate for summer rafting!

5. Ride at Sunset

A horseback ride along the beach at sunset is probably on everybody's bucket list. C&M Stables makes this dream come true with comfortable and scenic trail rides. Choose from a variety of options including lead-rope corral riding for children. The horses here are loved and well-cared for, each with their own sweet story.

6. Golf Indoors

Winter golf? The weather's always perfect indoors at the Topgolf Swing Suite! Compete for the best sports scores while perfecting your golf swing, soccer kick, baseball pitch or dodgeball throw. The Topgolf game inside the Graduate hotel includes comfy lounge seating, bar and food service and your choice of games.

7. Taste Wine During Cellar Season

Learn more about the top local wineries while enjoying cheerful chauffeured transportation. Coordinate custom tours to favorite wineries in South Willamette Wine Country. Or, stay close to downtown and visit the many urban wine bars which bring the vineyard experience to you.

8. Take Aim at Targets

Blast the clay birdies with your best buddies. A daily membership rate is offered for those just trying it out. Sign up for shooting instruction or choose from sporting clays, skeet, trap and five stand games. If you haven't been, Creswell Clay Target Sports offers a comfortable club house adjacent the outdoor ranges —  a perfect place to relax after target practice.

9. Visit the Sea Lions

One of the must-do experiences of a lifetime, descend 200 feet into a cavernous marine cave to see bellowing sea lions. This family-owned attraction is also a family-favorite with cliffside walking paths, educational exhibits and a gift shop. Learn the history of the Sea Lion Caves and all about the wild Steller sea lions that inhabit it.

10. Puzzle Your Way Out of a Room

Escape the Room Oregon offers several different scenarios from spies to bio-hazard labs. There are a variety of ways to play including private room rentals (with minimums) or joining others. Gift certificates are available!

11. Cruise the Sand Dunes in an ATV

Intrigued by those mountains of sand? So was writer Frank Herbert when he visited Florence in the 50s. Inspired by the vast expanse of endless sands, he later wrote the science fiction book "Dune", released this year as a movie. Go cruising up and over the sand mountains on a dune buggy tour or independently with an ATV rental from Ocean Breeze ATV Rental

12. Book a Guided Outdoor Adventure

The Cascades Outdoor Center in Westfir will get you started on the right track. Based in the charming Westfir Lodge adjacent the historic Office Covered Bridge, the recreation guides can orchestrate all types of outdoor adventures and tours for you from snowshoeing along nearby trails to river rafting and mountain biking trips — seasonally-based, of course. 

13. Indulge Your Aviation Buff

Spend the day checking out amazing collections of aircraft from a MIG 17 to a Skyhawk at the Oregon Air and Space Museum. Or learn all about Oregon's aviation history in the Hall of Fame at the Oregon Aviation Historical Society (OAHS). Did you know the OAHS is restoring several famous biplanes from the 30s?

14. Cast Out a Line in the Famous McKenzie River

Beginners to avid anglers will benefit from personalized casting instruction. Both Home Waters Fly Fishing and Caddis Fly offer classes and/or guided fishing trips. Plus you can get expert advice on all your gear needs.

15. Foster Confidence & Self Defense Skills

Adaptive karate instruction offered by Reverence Karate-DO Institute emphasizes love and respect for all. Their unique programs accommodate children and adults with autism, FAS, Down syndrome, OCD, ADHD, Parkinson's and mobility disabilities. All abilities and disabilities welcome.

16. Spend the Night in a Tipi

Go glamping just outside Springfield in a comfortable bed and breakfast "zen" tipi. Tipi Village offers a relaxing, serene setting in the forest along Mill Creek. An organic gourmet breakfast is served in the morning. Add on a reflexology or yoga package for the complete retreat experience.

17. Tour a Historic Home 

Step back into the past with a tour of the Victorian Shelton McMurphey Johnson House overlooking Downtown Eugene; The Historic Mims House, one of the first Black-owned homes in the Eugene area; the former lighthouse keeper's house at Heceta Head Lighthouse on the coast; or the historic Dr. Snapp House in Cottage Grove. Each home has different visitation arrangements, so plan ahead. These homes often decorate for the holidays or are beautiful backdrops for special events open to the public. The Shelton McMurphey Johnson House and The Historic Mims House are preserved as museums. And the Shelton McMurphey Johnson House even offers special tours lit by candlelight during the holidays!

18. Find Urban Street Art in Unexpected Places

Mural of a man and rat

You've heard about the City of Eugene's 20x21 mural campaign? Discover the amazing international artworks gracing buildings throughout downtown. America's Hub World Tours offers a city tour around Eugene — keep your eyes peeled for the abundant street art from miniature murals in tucked in corners to sidewalk art that only appears when it rains. Also visit the classics like the Rosa Parks statue at the downtown Eugene bus stop and the Ken Kesey statute, called the "Storyteller" gracing Kesey Square.

19. Cheer on the Ducks

From football to basketball to soccer to volleyball and more, there are always amazing athletes to support. Purchase tickets to a wide array of sports competitions, games and exhibitions at Check the website for entry protocols and schedules.

20. Dive Deep into a Glass of Pinot

Pinot is the starring varietal in Oregon. Learn all about this finicky grape and its prestigious wines with a vertical tasting. Proprietors Robin and Danuta Pfeiffer are not just wine experts, they are adept storytellers and a session with them will leave you feeling like a true Pinot expert. While you're there, take time to tour Pfeiffer Winery's wine cave, water gardens and tasting pavilion.  

21. Give the Gift of Music

Soak up the sounds of the Eugene Symphony with a variety of productions including classic with "Beethoven's Fifth", family friendly with "Peter and the Wolf", and poignant with a musical tribute to Eugene's legendary runner "Prefontaine". Check the Hult Center website for entry protocols.

22. Follow the South Willamette Valley Food Trail

Criss-cross the region following a delicious food trail from farm to market to vineyard to restaurant, meeting the farmers, producers, chefs and entrepreneurs that make local dining the joy that it is. Fill up a picnic basket with artisan foods including canned goods, honey, ferments, wine, beer, cider, smoked fish, fresh baked bread and pastries, milled grains, produce, mushrooms and local meats.

23. Sample Life on a Farm

Get back to basics with your loved one on a weekend "farm stay". Start the mornings with the crowing of the roosters, breathe in the fresh country air —and if part of the program— roll up your sleeves to help muck out a stall, gather eggs, milk a cow or brush a horse. While the level of interaction on each farm is different, all of these rustic escapes include the peace, enjoyment and simplicity of country living. Ramble through wine country, stopping at boutique tasting rooms; bring your sketch book, easel or journal for quiet pursuits; or pack binoculars and guidebooks for birding. However you choose to spend your country time, this wholesome gift will give you amble memories. Two nearby retreats include Territorial Farm Stay & Stable and All Inclusive Lavish Bed & Breakfast at Sweet Springs Family Farm.

24. Sip Tea on the Oregon Coast

Lovejoy's teahouse in Historic Old Town Florence is an authentic treasure trove of high quality teas. Alongside their ample tea selection, they serve tea sandwiches, scones and a variety of baked goods, soups and salads. Ask about their signature bangers and mash and Indian dinners.

25. Watch a "Radio Show" 

Radio Redux's show lineup includes the "Radio Redux Holiday Special", "The Fibber McGee and Molly Show" and "The Great Gatsby"and is a great way to introduce or reacquaint yourself with radio storytelling. Fun for all generations, it's new for the kids and heartwarming for the grandparents. The host, Fred Crafts, is a national voice talent and local legend who has graced Eugene with an extraordinary pageant of bygone but beloved entertainment. Check the Hult Center website for entry protocols.

Bonus! Gift Certificates

Experiences are not limited to what can be best enjoyed right now. Plan ahead and gift a guided fishing excursion for spring, a rafting trip or mountain biking adventure for summer, or season tickets to your favorite performing arts venue, sports team or membership at a favorite museum or park. Most businesses from restaurants to retail, from activities to services, will be able to provide you with a certificate, prepaid card or other delightful promise for future redemption.


Author: Taj Barnhart Morgan

Taj Barnhart Morgan is the Director of Content Strategy for Travel Lane County. A journalism graduate from the University of Oregon, Taj has two decades of special event management and hospitality marketing experience in San Diego, CA and Maui, HI. Passionate about mothering, and back to her Oregon roots, she is discovering the Eugene, Cascades & Coast region all over again through the eyes of her daughter.