Carve Out Your Holiday Gift List this Year

by Tara Gary

As the holidays approach, I’m excited about the beautiful lights, events, and togetherness that accompany the season. However… I dread the thought of finding the perfect gift for everyone on my list. It’s difficult to purchase gifts that are both thoughtful and won’t break the bank. I personally love the gift of an experience. Spending time doing something you may have never done before, or simply attending a movie with the family and maybe playing some mini golf afterward. Tangible gifts come and go over time, but experiences can last a lifetime. Therefore, I’ve compiled a list of experiences—affordable and somewhat more extravagant—you may have not considered gifting in the past. And guess what? As part of this article’s “Experience Giveaway” you have a chance to enter to win one of these experiences! All you have to do is visit The Current Hub’s Facebook page for details on how to win.

I absolutely love to drive fast. I’m not condoning it, only expressing my affection for the need for speed. One of my favorite things is the initial takeoff in an airplane. I always have a huge smile on my face when taxiing down the runway—watching out the window as the airliner increases speed and all of the buildings swish past (as if being thrown by a MLB pitcher). I know the people around me must think I’m crazy, but it’s the closest I can get to feeling like a fighter pilot in a F-35 (well maybe not), but one can dream.

I’ve expressed my passion for speed once or twice at our office. Our office often ends up converging at Joe’s New York Pizzeria. A co-worker (or rather someone who meets us at Joe’s), Jason suggested I reach out to the owner of Just Track It to discuss a way for me to “quench my thirst” for speed, in a safe environment. For car enthusiasts, this track experience is available just north of us at Road Atlanta in Braselton. Just Track It—“Your Car Our Tracks”—offers open track events for first-timers to seasoned racers. Their mission is to get you on the track, in your car, to learn and enjoy the potential (and limits) of your car’s performance.

No, you don’t have to own a high-performance automobile to take on the track, but haven’t you always wondered what your car is capable of (especially when sitting in traffic on one of Atlanta’s lovely, highly populated multi-standstill lane highways?). Well I have, and taking my car on an open track with no speed limit is what I have often dreamt. Of course, I would want to be educated and coached by highly-trained professionals first. Just Track It provides in-car coaching as well as classroom sessions to ensure you are equipped with the necessary tools to safely appreciate your car’s capabilities.

I recently spoke with Nabil Abusharr, one of the co-founders and president of Just Track It, who is a highly experienced Training Director with an extensive background in learning program and development. His mission, he explained, is to assist the driver in exploring the limits of themselves and their car. This experience educates the participant on increasing a greater awareness of their surroundings, predicting situations, regaining control of their vehicle, and basically shaping them into an all-around better driver. Not only do I think this is a fabulous gift for the motor sport enthusiast on your list, but it is also an excellent gift for the new teen driver in your family. You must be sixteen (under eighteen accompanied by an adult) to enjoy this thrilling encounter with the track, and think of the important skills you will obtain that are necessary to react to everyday potentially dangerous driving scenarios—especially here in Atlanta.

The cost per day is approximately $325, which includes two hours in the classroom and two hours on the track accompanied by a professional instructor. For available dates, times, and locations (as they also provide this experience in Birmingham, Savannah, and other tracks) visit the Just Track It website. You can enter to win an experience at Road Atlanta on March 13, 2020. Please make sure you or the recipient will be available on that date. The winner must own a vehicle that has been properly maintained and inspected, and use of your vehicle is at your own risk. A helmet must be worn during the track experience. Helmets are available for rent on-site should you not own one. Should the winner or recipient not wish to actually drive themselves, Just Track It will substitute a ride-along experience in a race car with a professional instructor at the wheel.

Located in Roswell is a hidden gem, Area 51 nestled in the rear of Roswell Town Center. If you’ve ever driven down Commerce Parkway to avoid the traffic of Holcomb Bridge, you can’t miss the whimsical structures that comprise The Fringe miniature golf course. It’s the perfect activity for the family when you feel like you just need to get everyone out of the house—outdoors and appropriate for every age. (It’s also a great tool to use on a first or second date to evaluate someone’s personality. Is this person competitive, overly competitive, coordinated, or clumsy?)

Inside the complex is the Aurora Cineplex. Locally owned and operated, this theatre provides newly released movies in an extremely clean atmosphere and the concessions are much more affordable than most movie theaters. They also have a professional bakery on premises serving fresh-baked cookies and brownies that are absolutely scrumptious. Oftentimes, they have special promotions associated with the release of new movies. Check out their website for details. Gift certificates are available and customizable for any dollar amount, and can be used for movies, mini golf, and concessions. So this year, instead of buying another toy or unnecessary gadget, buy an experience of togetherness time for the recipient(s) on your list. For every $50 spent on gift cards, in one or multiple increments, you receive a $5 gift card for yourself. If you haven’t had the chance to visit Area 51 (or you have and are eager to return), they are providing our readers with the chance to win a Royal VIP Package—two movie passes, two mini golf passes, and two small drink/popcorn vouchers.

For the distinctive wine or beer enthusiast on your list, I suggest stopping by Pinkies Up Beer and Wine—a boutique of wine, beer, and growlers from around the world. The owners are dedicated to providing a unique selection of beverages, gifts, and wine tasting classes. Pinkies Up is passionate about teaching people the nuances of beer and wine, and exploring why you like certain flavors of wine or beer. They take the intimidation out of selecting a tasty beverage and have options for every budget. Their two-hour Wine Wisdom Class goes beyond your traditional wine tasting, and gives you a deep dive into how a particular grape tastes distinguishable from different parts of the world. November 16, they’ve curated a class featuring non-American wines to serve for each course at your Thanksgiving dinner. I attended one of the classes and enjoyed learning about German Rieslings from the owner of a vineyard in Germany. The food and wines selected were exquisite. I would suggest either buying a gift certificate for a class or asking the owners for their opinion (if you already know what the recipient enjoys drinking). They are also forming a beer club—I will be joining for sure! Pinkies Up has provided a certificate for two to attend the November 16 Wine Wisdom Class.

Rich, Tara, Patty, and Mark at the Chattahoochee Nature Center zipline.

Did you know the Chattahoochee Nature Center now has a zipline course? My friend Rich and I had the opportunity to join The Current Hub’s publisher, Mark, and his wife Patty on the Screaming Eagle Aerial Adventure zipline course. It’s the perfect way for a family or couple to interact and enjoy an afternoon together (without everyone being distracted by their phone). The only distractions are the natural inhabitants of the nature center and Beaver Pond—which you observe from a bird’s-eye view as you fly above it all. Tree walk bridges are intertwined within the path of the ziplines adding even more excitement to this adventure. When you’re done, explore the Discovery Center, hiking trails, gardens, and Wildlife Walk. You’ll feel like you’ve traveled far from the hustle and bustle of Atlanta and into a forest of fun. The Chattahoochee Nature Center has offered our readers a chance to win two passes for their Level One Aerial Adventure Course (designed for ages six and older).

Have any theatergoers on your list? Tickets to a theater production are always a great idea. There is something nostalgic about attending the theater. People have been attending theatrical performances since the beginning of the 5th century in Athens, Greece. It never fails. Whenever I attend, I find myself so engaged (as if someone put a spell on me),and I feel like I am a part of the story being portrayed on the stage. The theater has a funny way of stealing your troubles and day-to-day routine for a few hours, especially the comical productions.

The comedy A Tuna Christmas, directed by Topher Payne, will be presented by the Georgia Ensemble Theatre December 13-29 at Oglethorpe University’s Conant Performing Arts Center in Brookhaven. This broad comedy is set in the fictional, third-smallest town of Texas called Tuna. Two local news personalities report in hilarious exchanges portraying more than twenty quirky town residents. It’s the holidays, and there is an abundance of yuletide activities including the town’s Christmas lights contest—won by the same resident fourteen years in a row. This year the contest is being sabotaged by a mysterious Christmas phantom. Two tickets to this holiday fun are being provided by the Georgia Ensemble Theatre to one lucky winner.

I have someone on my list who loves to cook on his Big Green Egg. It’s an experience just to watch him proudly roll out the giant ceramic cooker (on the industrial cart we built together). Just like a child wants all of the accessories for a toy, he has every accessory to his Egg. I’m not knocking it. Whatever it takes to produce the results he gets is fine by me. He has mentioned his desire to attend the Big Green Egg Boot Camp for some time now, so he will be receiving a certificate to do so for Christmas. (I guess it won’t be a surprise now.)

Owner/Chef Andrew Traub formed A&S Culinary Concepts as a result of his more than three decades of award-winning culinary experience and his love of food and community.

The Big Green Egg Boot Camp is one of the experiences provided at A&S Culinary Concepts. Owner/Chef Andrew Traub formed A&S Culinary Concepts as a result of his more than three decades of award-winning culinary experience and his love of food and community. Our publisher, Mark Penstone, attended the Big Green Egg Boot Camp just recently. Class began promptly at 8:00 a.m. The Eggs were fired up and preparations for smoking prime rib, leg of lamb, a whole turkey, and cedar plank salmon began. While enjoying coffee and breakfast prepared by the chefs, the class discussed what would transpire that afternoon. Class dismissed and reassembled at 3:00 p.m. They were taught recipes and prepared fresh salads, creative versions of macaroni and cheese, and an assortment of local garden-ripe vegetables. Each class member was allowed to invite one guest to enjoy the meal they learned to make that day. Unfortunately, Mark did not invite me, but he did ask his newly-wed wife Patty to accompany him to the 6:00 p.m. dinner. I heard he was extremely proud of the meal he learned to make (graciously serving it with explanations as to how he prepared every morsel). I look forward to the possible Big Green Egg Boot Camp dinner invitation I may receive from the recipient of the certificate I intend to gift. A certificate to attend one of these classes is available for our readers to win.

Do you know someone who seeks adventure? Flying perhaps? I have expressed my passion for flight numerous times in my stories. One of my favorite experiences has to be hang gliding. I had seen those billboards on the way to Chattanooga, Tennessee advertising Lookout Mountain Flight Park. I decided I had to do it, and to my surprise my daughter (who was around ten-years-old at the time) expressed her interest as well. I signed her up after investigating the establishment thoroughly. Sidney (who’s now twenty) was eager to be buckled into the colorful hang glider attached to the small plane that would tow her and her instructor up (to what seemed like infinity to me) and release them at 4,000 feet. I can’t explain the feeling in my heart as I saw her released, but the smile on her face as she glided back down to the field was priceless. To my surprise, my son Conner decided to follow suit. He was timid at the time (sorry Conner) so I quickly signed the release form, and up he went. After anxiously and proudly watching my babies—it was my turn. This was the closest thing to feeling like a soaring bird I have ever experienced. Paragliding, flying in an ultralight, ziplining—none of these compared to the tranquility of slowly drifting back to the earth. I will never forget it, and I highly recommend it. The instructors are extremely knowledgeable and comforting. If you would like a chance to win a similar experience of your own, with a special someone of your choosing, Lookout Mountain Flight Park has provided an experience for two to do so. Please let me know how much you enjoy this experience.

Sexy and sophisticated, the dark wood walls at 1920 Tavern are adorned with massive antique mirrors that reflect the large lit globes.

As a result of the terms of the Eighteenth Amendment (aka Prohibition), in 1920, the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcoholic beverages became illegal. Oddly enough, the consumption of alcohol was not illegal. This spawned the era of bootlegging and speakeasies (those secretive, illegal drinking establishments). I’m not sure if I would have survived back then, but the owners of 1920 Tavern decided to hang on to the playfulness of that time period when they established their tavern. Sexy and sophisticated, the dark wood walls are adorned with massive antique mirrors that reflect the large lit globes. On a beautiful fall day, I especially love sitting in their outdoor space directly in front of the establishment on bustling Canton Street. The food is savory, fresh, and globally inspired. My favorite dish is Nawlin’s Shrimp and Grits—the low country gravy combined with andouille sausage create the perfect scenario for a sip or two of one of their craft draft beers. They also offer a sophisticated selection of spirits and mixed cocktails. It’s the perfect spot for a first date. (I may have had one there a few years ago.) 1920 Tavern has graciously provided a $50 gift certificate for one of our readers. If I were eligible, I’d enter. You are though!

The last experience available to our readers is dinner for two at Galeto Brazilian Steakhouse in Alpharetta. The Current Hub publisher, Mark, and his wife Patty rave about both the owner and the establishment. Proud Brazilians, the founders’ love of their culture and food envisioned a restaurant that would take their patrons to Brazil through a unique culinary experience.

So there you have it. A few wonderful gift experience options for you and yours this holiday. Remember, all you need to do in order to enter to win one of these fabulous gift experiences is visit The Current Hub’s Facebook page Good luck, and happy gifting!

When not writing, Roswell resident Tara Gary is busy making industrial furniture, charcuterie boards, and local art. Most nights she can be found with her friends at local breweries and pubs drinking craft beer.