Washington Post: Holiday Guide

November 22, 2007

Soaring Above the Boring

Ever been left with that not-so-nice feeling after the kids open their holiday gifts? That, friends, is envy, and it tends to hit adults as the stockings are unstuffed and the wrapping paper starts to litter the living room floor like so many crinkled dust bunnies. After all, you're never too old to crave getting that one super gift at the holidays. And when was the last time you gave a present that inspired someone's inner child to let loose with a joyful whoop? Here are a few gift experiences loved ones will remember forever.

For the Youngster With His Head in the Clouds

A hot air balloon trip in and around scenic Shenandoah Valley's Woodstock, VA; $200 per person for a 40-minute ride before sunrise or a two-hour ride before sunset (five people can fit in a basket per ride). Available through Valleyballooning.com or 540-972-0192.

For the "Top Chef" Fanatic

L'Academie de Cuisine offers cooking classes for adults and summer cooking camps for children; prices vary; available through Lacademie.com or by contacting the Academy of Culinary and Pastry Arts, 5021 Wilson Lane, Bethesda, 301-986-9490.

For the Woman in Your Life Who Needs a Little Old School R&R

Sleep-away camp for adults is a booming vacation trend, especially among women who envy their kids' stints at summer camp. Camp Getaway offers weekend "moms only" packages in Southern California's San Bernardino Mountains beginning in March; $325 per adult per weekend (includes room and board, but not travel fares); available through Campgetaway.com or 310-471-3138, ext 103; other adult camps can be found through GrownUpCamps.com.

For Anyone Who Ever Dreamed of Running Away With the Circus

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus offers a pre-show pass that allows ticket holders access to the three rings, select animals and performers one hour before the show, ticket prices range from $14 to $83; available through Ringling.com, Ticketmaster.com or 202-397-SEAT.

For the Half-Pint Who Always Nails the Half-Pipe

Snowboarding camp for kids (ages 6 to 10) at Liberty Mountain Resort in Carroll Valley, PA.; $101 per child per day (includes a lesson, lift ticket and helmet, board and boot rentals); available through Skiliberty.com or 717-642-8282.

For Nerds Who Yearn to Mingle With Their Bespectacled Brethren

Geekcruises.com offers science, classical music, chess, Shakespeare and Mac computer conferences at sea. Experts in each field teach classes and lead discussions during each seven-day cruise. Speakers include New York Times tech columnist David Pogue, US and Canadian chess grandmasters and editors of Scientific American magazine; $800 to $4,500 per person, not including taxes and fees; available through geekcruises.com, insightcruises.com or 650-327-3692.

For Speed Demons Everywhere

A half-day of "Pro Formula Racing" in Wampum, PA or Pocono International Raceway at Long Pond, PA; $515 includes instruction, access to a Formula race car and safety equipment; available through Excitations.com or 1-877-8EXCITE.

For City Kids Who Need to Get Their "Back To Nature" On

Take the kids on a llama hike on the grounds of Brier Hill Farm in Blairsville in Pennsylvania's Laurel Highlands; $25 (children ages 7 to 13) and $29 (adults) for a two-mile hike with a gourmet picnic lunch, or $169 (children) and $239 (adults) for a two-day back-country trek; available through Brierhillfarm.com or 650-327-3692.