Holiday Gift Guide 2019: Experience Alexandria

Holiday Gift Guide 2019: Experience Alexandria
(Graphic/Lyvian Sieg)

By Missy Schrott |

Maybe you’re the person running down the stairs Christmas morning hoping that the biggest present under the tree has your name on the tag. Or maybe you’re the wise soul reminding your family, “Good things come in small packages.” But sometimes the best gifts don’t come in packages at all.

This week’s Holiday Gift Guide is focusing on those gifts, specifically the ones that allow you to experience all that Alexandria has to offer.

Experiential gifts are great for the person who already buys everything they need. They’re also a great gift for the whole family when you’re looking for something to do over the holidays, or for your friend group when you need an activity for the annual holiday get-together.

From wreath-making workshops and painting classes to symphony tickets and self-defense lessons, we have you covered when it comes to experiential presents. In next week’s gift guide, we’ll list our favorite eco-friendly gifts.

AR Workshop

We all have that one friend who crochets their own mittens, addresses their Christmas cards in calligraphy and spends more time on Pinterest than they probably should. For the craft-oholic on your gift list, skip the yarn and paintbrushes and give the gift of a new skill.

With a cozy, mint green studio at 1212 King St. that looks straight out of an Etsy shop, AR Workshop offers a variety of classes that will essentially let your loved one create their own gift.

AR Workshop offers hands-on classes where participants can learn new DIY skills. (Photo/AR Workshop)

The DIY possibilities are vast, and each scheduled workshop provides attendees with the supplies and instructions to make everything from chunky knit blankets to lazy Susans. Sign your crafter up for a specific workshop, or simply get them a gift card and let them choose.

Planning a holiday get-together? Book a group event or private table at AR Workshop where you can make holiday decorations or handmade gifts while spending time with your friends or coworkers.

AR Workshop offers classes for all ages and skill levels. Most adult projects range from $40 to $70 and most children’s projects range from $40 to $45. For a full workshop schedule, visit

Escape Quest

The Escape Quest at 1127 King St. has five themed adventures. (Photo/Missy Schrott)

Sick of your kids, siblings or relatives fighting over the holidays? Lock them in a room for 60 minutes and force them to work together.

Nothing says good old family bonding like an escape room. Each room at Escape Quest at 1127 King St. offers a different themed adventure. Participants are locked in a room full of clues and riddles and given one hour to find their way out.

Break into a tomb and attempt to steal treasure in The Lost Temple, or save a king from certain death in The King’s Ransom. Each theme varies in difficulty.

Most rooms are fit for two to 10 players. Tickets are $34 per person. For more information, visit

Alexandria Symphony Orchestra

There’s no better way to experience Alexandria than by soaking up its rich culture, and one of Alexandria’s greatest cultural gems is the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra.

The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. (Photo/P.J. Barbour)

Founded in 1954, the orchestra has established a reputation over the years as Northern Virginia’s premiere fully professional orchestra, according to ASO’s website.

Treat your loved one to an early holiday present with tickets to ASO’s Nutcracker Potpourri on Dec. 14 and 15. Featuring two takes on The Nutcracker – classic selections from Tchaikovsky’s famous suite and a swinging rendition from jazz legend Duke Ellington – the concert has something for everyone.

Or, give the music lover in your life something to look forward to with tickets to ASO’s String Serenade in February featuring pieces by Mozart, Florence Price and Schubert.

Tickets for adults range from $45 to $85, with discounted prices available for kids, students, seniors and military. For more information, visit

Key to the City

Another way to soak up Alexandria’s rich history and culture is by visiting its various museums.

If you have a history lover in the family, give them admission to almost all of Alexandria’s major history attractions with a Key to the City Attractions Pass.

Family selfie with the Old Town Crier at Carlyle House. (Photo/K Summerer for Visit Alexandria)

The pass grants admission to the Alexandria Black History Museum, Alexandria’s History Museum at the Lyceum, Carlyle House Historic Park, Freedom House Museum, Friendship Firehouse Museum, Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, George Washington Masonic National Memorial Observation Deck, Lee-Fendall House Museum & Garden and the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum.

In addition, the pass gives you 40 percent off admission to George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the Potomac Riverboat Water Taxi and Tall Ship Providence tours, which will begin in mid-December.

Purchase the key in person at the Alexandria Visitor Center located at 221 King St. or online at For only $20, the pass is good for more than a full year, expiring on Dec. 31, 2020.

This might be just the ticket for that difficult-to-buy-for dad or mom in your family.

Ryushinkan Aikido

For a practical and experiential gift, head to Ryushinkan Aikido for lessons in self-defense.

Self defense classes at Ryushinkan Aikido are a practical and experiential gift. (Courtesy Photo)

Located at 110 King St., the studio offers classes in Aikido, a traditional Japanese martial art. The practice, which is based on self-defense, teaches adults age 13 and older to control and diffuse confrontation without inflicting injury on an attacker, according to the business’ website.

Ryushinkan Aikido offers three gift card options. Depending on how much you want to spend, you can get a trial class pass for $20; a four-week, eight-class intro course for $80; or a month of unlimited classes for $110.

To purchase a gift card, visit

Gift your loved ones a fun new experience and practical life skill, while giving yourself the peace of mind that they’ll be learning to defend themselves.

The Art League

Get the aspiring artist in your life classes at The Art League to help hone their skills.

Founded in 1954, The Art League is a visual arts nonprofit organization with a gallery and non-accredited institution. The Art League School offers a series of classes and workshops throughout the year.

The Art League’s annual pop-up holiday ceramics
sale is set to take place from Dec. 6 to 8 (Photo Credit: Jonmark Nailor)

For a gift, we recommend a two- to three-session workshop. Workshops are held almost daily on a range of topics, from metal jewelry to atmospheric watercolors.

Prices also vary by workshop. If you’re looking to stay on the cheaper side, go with the $90 Jumpstart in Felted Jewelry workshop by Renate Maile-Moskowitz on Dec. 14. If you think the person receiving your gift would like something more involved, go for the $315, three-day Alla Prima Portrait Painting workshop starting on Jan. 3.

A full list of classes is available at Just make sure you know your recipient’s schedule before you sign them up. To play it safe, you can get an Art League gift card that is good for classes and workshops, original art, art supplies and more.

The Art League is headquartered at the Torpedo Factory, but it also has classrooms at 305 Madison St.


Help jumpstart New Year’s resolutions by gifting classes at local fitness studios.

There are several studios in Alexandria that sell single classes and memberships. If you’re not sure where to start, we recommend a gift card to ClassPass.

Megan Brown, Ph. D., teaches a class at Mind the Mat Pilates and Yoga. (Photo Credit: Kevin Costillo)

ClassPass is a monthly membership that allows users to pay a flat rate to attend classes at more than 30,000 fitness studios around the world, according to its website. Alexandria alone has 38 participating studios, including Studio Barre in Old Town, Mind the Mat Pilates and Yoga in Del Ray and Power Nectar Yoga in Potomac Yard.

ClassPass operates on a credit system. Members pay a monthly fee for a certain number of credits, which they can use to sign up for classes at participating studios.

Memberships range from $15 to $199 per month. We recommend giving the gym rat in your life a $49 gift card, which will cover one month of a plan that includes 27 credits to book up to seven classes.

Buy their first month, then let them decide if they want to continue the membership on their own. Or, maybe they’ll fall in love with one studio and decide to get an exclusive membership.

Scramble Indoor Play

If you’re buying for kids, take a step back from the toys and video games and give them a physical activity to do.

With a gift card to Scramble Indoor Play, kids can enjoy the gift of play. The indoor playground, located at 5412 Eisenhower Ave., features several play areas for kids of all ages, including smaller areas for toddlers.

Scramble Indoor Play has several themed play areas for kids of all ages. (Courtesy Photo)

With colorful slides, giant puzzle pieces and themed jungle gyms, kids will be entertained for hours. There’s also a café that serves pizza, pastries and snacks – and wine, beer and cider for parents.

You can buy e-gift cards for any amount at Weekday entry is $8 for kids 2 and younger and $12 for kids 3 and older. Weekend and holiday entry is $12 for kids 2 and younger and $20 for kids 3 and older.

When it’s getting colder outside and the monkey bars at the playground are frozen, your kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews will thank you for giving them somewhere to play.

Potomac Riverboat Company

Just about anyone on your list will enjoy an opportunity to explore Alexandria by water. Potomac Riverboat Company offers a variety of cruises and tours that make great gifts.

Give out-of-towners a reason to visit with tickets to the Mount Vernon Cruise, which takes passengers from Alexandria to George Washington’s Mount Vernon, where they’re able to explore for four hours. Mount Vernon admission is included in the ticket price, which ranges from $37 for children to $50 for adults.

Give the gift of New Year’s Eve tickets to Potomac Riverboat Company’s Cherry Blossom fireworks cruise. (Photo/Potomac Riverboat Company)

Grab two tickets for one of Potomac Riverboat Company’s dining cruises and give your significant other a date night on the water. Dining cruises are offered in collaboration with Odyssey DC and Spirit of Washington, and prices vary.

Or, help your friends lock down New Year’s Eve plans with tickets to the Cherry Blossom’s fireworks cruise. Tickets are $160 and include a three-hour cruise, an open bar, hor d’oeuvres, dessert and entertainment. The cruise leaves the Alexandria marina at 10 p.m. on Dec. 31.

For tickets and more information, see

(Read more: Holiday Gift Guide 2019: Shop local this holiday season)