Your Holiday Gift Guide to Not Giving a Gift: Give an Experience Instead

By Amanda Ellis and Jessica York

The last thing most of us need is more stuff. After the holiday excitement is over, all those gifts can feel like a new wave of clutter.

But we get it - exchanging presents is hard to opt out of, not only because it’s tradition, but because it’s fun.

Our guide to gifts that aren’t “stuff” supports local business, makes you a star gift-giver and saves you plenty of time to get back to tree-trimming, eggnog and marathoning your favorite holiday movies.  


An excellent choice for the family on your list: give the gift of 300 acres of nature with a Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center membership.

Members receive unlimited daytime admission to the Arboretum’s trails and learning exhibits, reciprocal admission at similar attractions across North America and other perks like discounts to family programs and special events.

Family memberships are $70; visit reflectionriding.org for details.


Give a unique date night with Dinner on the Diner, offered by the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. Guests enjoy dinner served while traveling a local route on a restored 1924 dining car.

Trains run Valentine’s Day week and Saturdays April through November in addition to Christmas and New Year’s options. If you want your holiday gift to be enjoyed soon – book Valentine Dinner Trains with several scheduling options. Tickets start at $160 per couple. Check tvrail.com for more information.


The Chattanooga Theatre Centre partners with Beast & Barrel, Foodworks and Terra Nostra for a dinner and show date night.  Choose a restaurant and production for a full evening of fun for $80 per couple on Thursday, Friday or Saturday.

Offer not available online; call the Chattanooga Theatre Center box office at 423.267.8534 for details.

Subscription packages also available as holiday gifts. More information at theatrecentre.com.


We all know someone with a little wanderlust, and travel is a gift no one will forget. The Travel Agency, Inc. offers gift certificates for travel packages reserved through their office.

Call 423.634.2300 for details.


For an extra special gift, Southtree preserves outdated memories into digital keepsakes. They can convert film or tape to DVD, photo or audio to CD, pretty much any dated keepsake into something you can enjoy now.

Convert a videotape for $15 or a film reel for $45. Order at southtree.com. Special deals are often available through the site.

. . .

Want to record a family biography? Pass It Down is a digital biography service that makes writing your memoir easy and fun. The service includes hundreds of story prompts that can be answered in video, audio, text or photo from your phone, tablet or computer. When you’re done, turn your digital stories into a beautiful print book for the whole family. 

greetingStory Memory Boxes simplifies sharing memories and stories. Each box includes hand-selected questions from the world's top biographers with tips and instructions on the inside to guide friends and family in sharing their stories. Boxes start at $24.95.

Use the coupon code Chamber25 for 25 percent off your order at passitdown.com.


A good massage is not only relaxing, but can help address a number of health issues. C.A.S. Massage, located in the Chamber-managed Hamilton County INCubator, offers one hour bodywork sessions for $60.

Call 423.883.7982 for gift certificate information. 


For the clean freak in your life, or people with too many commitments and not enough time (wait, isn’t that all of us?), Molly Maid of Hamilton County offers gift certificates to get any home sparkling. 

Purchase a gift certificate at Mollymaid.com/gift-certificates. Minimum gift certificate amount is $100, but the Molly Maid office can help you with an estimate specific to the home you have in mind.


Anyone who loves music will appreciate the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera’s gift card. Give anywhere from $10 to $500 to be used toward Symphony single tickets and subscriptions. The Chattanooga Symphony also offers several subscription options for gifting with prices starting at $90. Check out chattanoogasymphony.org for more information.


 Giving Tuesday

Any time of the year is a good time to give back, but at the holidays, we’re especially thinking of others.

Most nonprofits will allow you to make a donation in someone’s name – so this is a great addition to our literally out of the box gift guide.

Tuesday, Nov. 28 is this year’s Giving Tuesday, and a great time to do all your holiday giving.

Last year, Chattanooga’s Giving Tuesday raised more than $250,000 for our nonprofit community.

Visit chagives.com for more information.


Need more gift ideas?

Start with the Chamber Business Directory or our directory of diverse businesses.