Holiday Gift Guide 2020: Experience Alexandria safely

Holiday Gift Guide 2020: Experience Alexandria safely
(Graphic/Lyvian Sieg)

By Cody Mello-Klein |

This year’s holiday season is all about getting creative.

Tighter COVID-19 restrictions and increasing COVID-19 cases have left this year’s holiday season lacking some of its regular cheer.

Luckily, at a time when just getting out of the house can feel like a gift, Alexandria businesses are rallying to provide creative, experiential solutions to your gift giving needs. This week’s gift guide is focused on experiential gifts for anyone who is starting to feel the quarantine blues and needs a change of pace.

From do-it-yourself art kits and virtual parties to private wine soirees and cat cuddling sessions, these gifts are opportunities for pandemic-safe excitement, creativity and exploration.

In next week’s gift guide, we’ll list our top health and wellness-themed gift suggestions.

School of Rock

Consider the gift of rock for Christmas or Hanukkah.

School of Rock, 3260 Duke St., a music school that focuses on teaching kids of all ages how to play, sing and create through rock and other popular music, has some great gift opportunities for the aspiring rocker in your life.

Through virtual classes conducted over Zoom and in-school, monitored lessons, School of Rock is still offering its signature brand of music education during the pandemic.

School of Rock gift cards, which range from $175 to $450, can cover the cost of lessons and can be the perfect entry point for young musicians.

For the committed musician, School of Rock also has specific, themed summer camps that are scheduled for summer 2021. Whether your young headbanger is a beginner or more experienced musician, loves Led Zeppelin or Blink 182, there is a summer camp experience for them. Until New Year’s Eve, School of Rock is running a summer camp special: Get 35% off the cost of a summer camp by using the code CAMP35 at registration.

Kid Create Studio

Winter weather and pandemic safety precautions will make it hard for kids to get outside, but Kid Create Studio is here to help your kiddos exercise their creative muscles. Just get ready to clean up the mess.

Kid Create Studio opened its Alexandria location at 724 Jefferson St. in March right as the pandemic struck the city, but it has transitioned well to this new virtual world.

“For people staying home, we have live virtual classes, live virtual parties and we have art kits that they pick up all the supplies and it includes a video lesson of how to complete the project on their own at home,” Diane Greenbaum, owner of Kid Create Studio Alexandria, said.

Kid Create Studio has do-it-yourself art kits, virtual art classes and virtual art parties for the young artist. (Photo/Kid Create Studio)

Live virtual parties have been a particularly big hit with families this year. Want to schedule a birthday party or end of school year celebration for your child and their friends? The host picks from a variety of fun art projects, including newspaper puppies, mosaics or fairy houses, and everybody picks up their supplies at Kid Create or has them delivered. Then, accompanied by a livestreamed lesson from an art teacher, the party begins.

“It’s very engaging, it’s very interactive,” Greenbaum said. “It’s not prerecorded, and we have had kids just so excited, saying it’s the best party they have been to.”

Party pricing is based on a per child basis and is available in a variety of packages, ranging from $16 per child to $25 per child.

Kid Create Studio also has a variety of art kits available for the holiday season, including a holiday slime kit, clay Christmas tree or Star of David mosaic kit and ornament making kit. Art kits are available starting at $15.

For more information and a full class schedule visit:

AR Workshop

The pandemic has been an opportunity for lots of people to learn new skills, and AR Workshop, 1212 King St., is here to help you on your DIY journey.

AR Workshop is a one stop shop for the DIYer in your life and offers a wide array of workshops for adults and families. Sign up for a special holiday ornament or chunky knit Christmas tree workshop at

AR Workshop has some holiday-specific DIY projects, such as custom ornament making kits. (Photo/AR Workshop)

If you’re looking for a less guided experience, AR Workshop’s DIY-to-go kits are also a big hit with makers and creators. The blanket-to-go kit is $85, without shipping, and includes five skeins of chunky knit yarn and access to video instruction.

AR Workshop also has a sleigh full of festive DIY-to-go kits available. Select from a wide range of projects, including custom pillow covers or wood block sign sets, choose a design and pick it up when you’re ready. Projects range from $35 to $175.

Sonoma Cellar

Keep up the holiday spirit with a selection of fine wines or even a private wine soiree at Sonoma Cellar.

With outdoor dining along King Street and a quiet back patio, Sonoma Cellar, 207 King St., has plenty of pandemic-friendly offerings.

For the wine snob in training, consider purchasing enrollment in one of Sonoma Cellar’s monthly wine classes, which cost around $40.

For a family outing, Sonoma Cellar offers reservation-only wine tasting experiences. Guests will get a custom, pre-fixed food menu and, alongside a Sonoma Cellar sommelier, explore the cellar to pick out a bottle of wine for the meal.

“They get to create their own dinner and wine experience,” Elizabeth Myllenbeck, Sonoma Cellar owner and chief executive officer, said. “They choose the bottles and get to hunt in the cellar and look over our selections with our advice and have a really nice time.”

For the adventurous, exploratory wine lovers, there is also Club SoCel, Sonoma Cellar’s wine club. Joining Club SoCel at various monthly subscription levels unlocks exclusive perks, including access to monthly bottles of hard-to-find wines and special events like the Winter Wine Pick-Up Celebration. Club SoCel members can enter at various levels, ranging from $60 to $600.

Maribeth’s Bakery

Impress friends, family and even Santa with some custom cookies from Maribeth’s Bakery.

Known for its pies, pop tarts and breakfast breads, Maribeth’s Bakery is selling cookie decorating kits through its online portal: The cookies come in a variety of shapes, including stockings, stars, reindeer and trees, and they come packaged with frosting and sweet decorations.

For those with a sweet tooth, Maribeth’s Bakery sells holiday cookie decorating packages, complete with icing and decorations. (Photo/Maribeth’s Bakery)

Order an individual cookie kit for $7.50 or a larger decorating kit for $30. And if you’re not partial to holiday cookies, you can always scroll through Maribeth’s mouthwatering selection of holiday pies and pastries.

Penny Post

Visiting friends and family might not be possible, or safe, for people this holiday season, but you can still wish them “Happy holidays” in other ways. Quarantine is the perfect time to return to the old school postcard.

If you’re tired of Zoom calls, Penny Post, 1201 King St., has your back with a holiday collection of greeting cards, postcards and ornaments. They range from cute and cuddly – a card depicting two white rabbits outside an illuminated igloo – to the humorous and sassy – a card with Santa standing next to a bag of coal, with the words “Santa knows who you voted for.”

Individual greeting cards cost about $6, while boxed sets of greeting cards and postcards, including a charming “Greetings from the North Pole” postcard, cost between $14 and $22.

Communication is key during the pandemic, and the right greeting card is more than just a piece of paper. It could be just the thing your family or friends need right now.

Mount Purrnon

Looking for the purrfect holiday gift? You could do worse than an afternoon spent with cuddly kittens at Mount Purrnon, the city’s only cat café and wine bar.

A gift card to Mount Purrnon, Alexandria’s only cat café, provides the perfect opportunity to cuddle with adoptable felines. (Photo/Mount Purrnon)

Located in Old Town at 109 S. Alfred St., Mount Purrnon provides a limited menu of sandwiches, small bites and wine and plenty of adoptable cats in a warm, colonial setting. Mount Purrnon has partnered with Fancy Cats and Dogs Rescue Team, which provides the group of adoptable cats at the café.

“A visit to Mount Purrnon not only provides you with holiday warmth – in the form of cat cuddles – but also helps us save lives,” Kristin Cowen, owner of Mount Purrnon, said.

Mount Purrnon sells gift cards for hour-long visits, $20, as well as $40 daily passes or $80 monthly passes.

Face masks are required – and provided – and reservations are encouraged. Visit for more information.

(Find more gift ideas in our Holiday Gift Guide 2020: Shopping small, shopping local)