Holiday Gift Guide: Experience the fun of Alexandria

Holiday Gift Guide: Experience the fun of Alexandria
Graphic by Sasha Kochurova

By Eileen Abbott 

A Christmas or Hanukkah gift doesn’t have to be something you wear or look at or use in your home. Experiential gifts are a great way to show friends and loved ones you care, and an opportunity to give them something perhaps they wouldn’t have splurged on for themselves. Theater tickets, yoga classes, a massage, a cooking or a sewing class are just some of the many experiential gifts available in Alexandria.

Plus, by shopping locally, you get to enjoy the ambiance of the Port City all aglow with holiday decorations.

“Our shops and restaurants take great pride in making sure our streets are decked out in holiday cheer,” Joe Haggerty, CEO and president of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, said.

In this week’s holiday gift guide, we offer suggestions on capturing that exceptional Alexandria experience with thoughtful hands-on or in-person memory makers. Here are some of our picks:

Sur La Table

How does this tantalize your taste buds – Horseradish Crusted Beef Tenderloin, Wild Mushroom and Green Bean Gratin and Mousse au Chocolate. Are you hungry yet? Even better, would you like to learn how to make this exquisite meal yourself? At Sur La Table, you can.

General Manager Foster Pacine said, “We not only have the retail, but the culinary school. It’s something different, not offered elsewhere. You’re with renowned chefs, meeting fellow foodies. You eat an amazing dinner, then shop here. It’s a perfect day.” Treat yourself or someone you love to this deliciousness.

You can check out the company website to purchase gift cards and get more details on upcoming classes, or visit Sur La Table in person at 326 King St.

The Art League at the Torpedo Factory Art Center

Students enrolled in the Art League’s basic drawing with Scott Hutchison pose with their finished drawing. Art league offers classes ranging from beginner to advanced in mediums such as printmaking, felting, calligraphy, painting and
more. (Courtesy Photo)

At The Art League, located in the landmark Torpedo Factory Art Center, you can treat yourself or gift your loved ones to a palette of classes ranging from printmaking to painting, and let your van Gogh glow.

“Giving the gift of art classes or art work from The Art League provides friends and loved ones with oneof-a kind gifts and experiences and supports Alexandria’s world-class, vibrant community of artists,” Art League Communications Director Ariane D’Souza said.

Those who’ve participated in the art workshops say it is time well spent to create tangible joy from your own talent.

Check out The Art League’s website at for workshop offerings and registration, gift card purchases and announcements about upcoming art sales where you can find professional artwork on a wallet-friendly budget. Even better, visit The Art League in person at 105 N. Union St. to see this firsthand.

Stitch Sew Shop

A class at Stitch Sew Shop is in full swing. (Courtesy Photo)

Feeling nostalgic? Yearning for a gift made with lots of love? You’ll find that when you visit Old Town’s Stitch Sew Shop, which keeps alive the old-fashioned craft of sewing, with classes for the modern maker. According to manager Miriam Lein, “Every year as we approach the holidays, we offer several classes geared toward gift giving. These ‘Selfless Sewing’ classes are fun and interactive and are geared towards projects you can complete in one class period. The results – bag, pouch, wallet or pillow – are bound to be perfect for someone on your holiday list. Whether you are sewing for yourself or for others, we are here to help you learn new skills and perfect the ones you already have.”

A sewing sanctuary that offers high-quality fabrics, you’ll have the satisfaction of making a gorgeous gift with your own hands.

“At Stitch we are passionate about the handmade process,” said Lein. “Though we all love to sew for ourselves, we also love to give handmade gifts.”

Gift certificates are available for both classes and sewing supplies. You can go to the Stitch website for all the details at or visit in person at 102 N. Fayette St.

Little Theatre of Alexandria

The enchantment of being immersed in live theater is a gift likely to delight and make treasured memories. Supporting the Little Theatre of Alexandria is a winwin proposition.

“We’re a community theater made up of volunteers who are passionate about the theater,” LTA Business Office Manager Tina McCrea said. “By purchasing a gift certificate for tickets to our performances, you are giving something you can’t buy at a store. You are giving an experience.”

LTA also offers acting classes for adults and children, so you don’t just have to watch a performance, you can let your inner Shakespeare go to action. Details are available on the website at along with a full listing of upcoming theater performances, which include Charles Dickens’s classic “A Christmas Carol” continuing through Sunday, and the musical “The Fantasticks” greeting the new year beginning on Jan. 12.

Gift certificates may also be purchased by phone at 703-683-0496 or you can visit Little Theatre of Alexandria in person at 600 Wolfe St.

ShadowLand Laser Adventures

Looking for a family-friendly, fun time? Here’s a high-tech way to energize and have a blast – take everyone to Shadowland Adventures, at its Alexandria location. This is a holiday gift experience everyone will remember.

“It’s more than just laser-tag,” ShadowLand Director Randall Briggs said. “ShadowLand’s adventure system creates a rich, diverse playing environment where a player’s intellect is more important than physical skills and where strategy setting is key to advancing your position and winning the game.”

Shadowland employee Donovan Jones added, “Anybody of all ages can enjoy this. It’s a unique adventure with a great all-around atmosphere and staff. We also often have corporate team building groups.”

For gift certificates, go to their website: or visit in person at 5508 Franconia Road. Or call Shadowland at 703-921-1004.

The Birchmere

Music makes the soul smile, and happiness permeates The Birchmere. For an uplifting, memorable experience, consider a holiday gift to an upcoming concert at the legendary music hall.

Birchmere promoter Michael Jaworek said, “In my experience, attending concerts is important to folks for several reasons. First, music speaks to a person’s definition of self. Second, the uniqueness of a live show – where something, anything can happen – always adds to the excitement of going out. Finally, like-minded souls enjoy being together, and a concert is a wonderful way to share. A show at The Birchmere embodies all the above.”

Upcoming performances to welcome 2019 include Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder on Jan. 11 and Northern Virginia’s hometown band Eddie from Ohio on Jan. 18.

For more information on The Birchmere, visit their website at for the full concert calendar and details on purchasing gift cards. Located at 701 Mt. Vernon Ave., you can stop by in person or call 703-549-7500.

You can’t go wrong when you choose a local experience for your loved ones this holiday. One big bonus is that many businesses are currently offering specials on gift cards, so be sure and ask when you call or stop by.