Hard to Wrap, Easy to Give

Experiential giving allows for less “stuff” and more living.
A playhouse from Little Critter Playhouses

As the holidays draw to a close and the tinsel is tossed, trimmings are tidied up and relatives return home, a dilemma remains—where to put, store or keep all the presents that marched, albeit with good intentions, into the house. Rather than add to a person’s commercial footprint, gift loved ones or friends with wings to fly, a gold-medal sport, studio time, creative expression or an imagination destination.

High Flying

Aiming for the stars is easier thanks to flight lessons at Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie. Thunderbird Aviation offers an introductory flight lesson, which lasts for 30 minutes and gives students a chance to try out their flying skills with an instructor. There’s no minimum age for a discovery flight, but most young pilots are older than 10. For those looking to share the experience, scenic tours are offered at varying lengths from 30–90 minutes, with room for up to three. Consider booking a scenic flight to view Christmas lights. At Inflight Pilot Training, pilots provide an hour long flight, with students getting the opportunity to fly for as long as an hour and even over their homes. Hummingbird Aviation boasts helicopters in addition to airplanes. Flight options include 30 or 60 minutes in a two-seat of four-seat chopper with students getting to fly the lion’s share of the flight.

Prices and lessons vary; Thunderbird Aviation, Inflight Pilot Training, Hummingbird Aviation


With the 2018 Winter Olympics quickly approaching, give the gift of learning an Olympic sport—an introductory curling class is an affordable experience for all skill levels. “It’s a great way to learn about the game, and it’s a great class,” says Scott Belvitch, head ice maker at the Chaska Curling Center. “We have families, husbands and wives [take lessons],” Belvitch says. “We’ve even had grandparents bring the kids.”

$25/two-hour session for ages 7 and up; private lessons and group team building sessions also available.


For the musically inclined, School of Rock in Eden Prairie provides a learning experience that can jumpstart a new hobby. Classes offered include guitar, bass, drums, keys, piano, ukulele and vocal lessons. “One story we like to tell is that our owner is not a musician, and she bought her son a guitar for Christmas at 7 years old,” says  Stacey Marmolejo, owner of the Eden Prairie franchise location. After Christmas, she started looking for guitar lessons for her son, but to no avail. “Because of her experience, we have a beginner guitar camp between Christmas and New Year’s,” Marmolejo says. The camp, which consists of half-days, is for kids between the ages of 5–18 and is one of the most popular classes of the year.  For adults looking to pick up a new instrument, Marmolejo suggests a gift of four private lessons.

Prices vary.


Aspire Artisan Studios and Folk School offers group classes, taught by artisans. “Most of my classes are introductory, or I teach them in a way that anyone can learn,” founder Geraldine Johnson says. The program features artisans from a host of creative niches. “With our handmade books, you’re making the paper, drawing the paper and putting it together from start to finish,” Johnson says. One artisan makes wraps for flasks, and another creates leather foraging bags, perfect for using at farmer’s market. For those needing to scratch that Game of Thrones itch, lessons with a blacksmith can be organized. Whatever you’re thinking, Johnson will help pull the vision together.

Fees average about $35 per student.

Tiny Living

Any gift allowing kids to expand their imaginations and delve into unstructured playtime is well worth the investment. Little Critter Playhouses creates playhouses with whimsical roof lines, punchy colors and a Dr. Seuss-inspired vibe. “We’re appealing to people who want something a little more creative than your average playhouse,” says owner Cory Day.  He aspires to create playsets that are fun for kids to play on and pleasing for parents to look at. “It’s an artistic, functional playhouse,” Day says. “I loved that I could customize it, and that it could be something that would match our house and grow with our kids,” Chanhassen client Leann Stoneburg says. “We’ve had it for two years, and [the kids] are constantly out there. It’s like their own house.”

Prices vary.