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Alternatives to Holidays: From Gift-Giving to Experience-Giving

December 16, 2021

Every year December sneaks up without notice and the holidays are upon us. Only a few short weeks until Christmas and I am still not finished shopping for my family!


What do you buy someone who has EVERYTHING? After doing much online shopping, visits to the mall and sleepless nights, I have come up with the solution- experiences. The one thing about the holidays is that your loved ones want to spend time with YOU! Why not give it to them? Here is my top list of experiences you can give your family (free-to-low cost because I understand the struggle of being a student is real).

1. Enjoy the Movies

In the age of Netflix, we have lost the fun of seeing a movie in the theatre! There are many theatres to choose from, like Landmarks and Cineplex, to see the latest movies. To the theatre experience check out the Biltmore Theatre and Regent Theatre. Both have local acts, travelling shows, concerts and classic movie festivals. Buy a pair of tickets and spend the day with the gift receiver.

2. Visit Parkwood Estate

One of the most famous mansions in all of Ontario, the Parkwood Estate has something for everyone. You could take a stool any day of the week for free on the grounds, book a tour to visit the inside or sign up for one of their many workshops. Tickets for events go fast and for a good reason, they have an amazing selection with something for everyone; past events include Paint Night, Artefact Care, Teddy Bear Picnic, Whiskey Tasting and much more.

3. Experience the Robert McLaughlin Gallery

The Robert McLaughlin Gallery (RMG) is the largest gallery in the Durham Region with ever-changing exhibitions to suit all patrons. There are three different ways to experience the gallery: buying a pass and exploring for yourself, signing up for one of their many events or joining the community on RMG Fridays. Why not plan a day around the gallery and register for an art class together? Low-cost, entertaining and a memory they can carry for a lifetime.

4. Play Boardgames at Brew Wizards.

Book a table for you and your gift-receiver to make your way through Brew Wizards’ amazing collection of board games; even invite some of their friends to join! In addition to games, they offer an amazing menu of fair-trade coffee, craft beer and snacks to share.

5. Grab a coffee at Cork & Bean

A local coffee shop with an amazing selection of coffee, handcrafted drinks, craft beer and wine. On Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, they also have live music from local artists! It is a hot spot for students, local residents and artists alike.

6. Take a stroll down the Oshawa Waterfront Trail

Oshawa is no stranger to great scenic views, with the Oshawa Waterfront Trail being no exception. The full trail will take between 2 to 3 hours and is 11 km one-way but it is worth it! If you follow the trail, you will be able to enjoy the Lake Ontario shoreline and pass one of the largest remaining wetlands at the Second Marsh. Grab water, snacks and binoculars to have a fun day in the sun.

7. Take a trip to the Canadian Automotive Museum

As the City in Motion, Oshawa has a long history in the automotive space with General Motors being a valuable factory for many generations. The Automotive Museum was a community project back in 1962 and looks to conserve our history through the display of antique automobiles and related artifacts. For travellers and long-term residents, this is a great experience for any history or car buffs on your list.

8. Tour the All or Nothing Brewhouse & Distillery

Advertised as the “home of your favourite craft beer”, the All or Nothing Brewhouse is a great place to spend the day touring and taste-testing. Tour-goers will be taken through the brewing process, all the way to the final product! The Tour concludes at the Beer Garden for sampling and putting newfound knowledge to the test.

9. Strike out at Leisure Lanes

When was the last time you went bowling? I can’t remember either! What I can remember is the amount of fun I have trying to knock over the pins but hitting endless gutter balls. Bowling brings the competitive side of everyone and is sweetened by the snack bar. For rock fans on your list, why not stick around for Rock’n Bowl nights?

10. Laugh the Night Away at Yuk Yuk’s

The newest addition to Oshawa on this list, Yuk Yuk’s had made its name in Oshawa as a great place to grab a beer and a laugh. Self-described as “wild, weird and wacky”, Yuk Yuks hosts dozens of comedians each week.

There is so much to do and see in Durham Region, why not give the gift of experience this holiday season? Sometimes the thing we miss when buying gifts is the person behind the present. The holidays are all about finding time to be with one another at least once a year. This list is a great start however, you know the gift-receiver! Ask yourself, what is an experience they would enjoy? My tip is to pick something that caters to their interests such as coffee, reading, art viewing and so forth; this will shorten the list of experiences. The Holidays are just around the corner so go forth and have a happy experience-giving!