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Experiences ~ The Gifts that Keep on Giving

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Whether it’s gift-giving for a holiday, birthday or an observance, we all have a relative or close friend (or it might even be you) who either has enough stuff or poses a challenge regarding choosing the right gift.

So, what does one do in these situations?

Simple - you gift them with an experience.

From animal encounters to creating something of your own, there are experiences for nearly all ages and interests throughout the South.

For the animal lover

  • Meet a penguin and learn more about the creature at Penguin Encounter in the Aquarium Pyramid at Moody Gardens in Galveston, Texas. As a bonus, watch as they create artwork for you.

  • Among the tours at Columbia, S.C.'s Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens Backstage include learning about the feeding and caring of sea lions. Pay attention, or you might get splashed!

  • The Sloth Experience at Hattiesburg (Miss.) Zoo allows you to assist in feeding a sloth and a possible (depending on the sloth's temperature) up-close encounter.

  • Zoo Tampa offers various encounters that include the African Elephant Behind-the-Scenes tour featuring sitting in on a training session and more. 

For the thrill seeker

  • Take a guided walking tour along the catwalk under the New River Gorge Bridge with Bridge Walk in Lansing, WVa. 

  • Get a bird's eye view of the Smokies with Scenic Helicopter Tours. They even have options for unique and custom experiences.

  • Experience Chattooga River's (located along the Georgia-South Carolina border) Class IV - V rapids on a guided ride with Nantahala Outdoor Center, putting in at the outpost near Clayton, Ga.

  • Feel all the thrills when riding the Rail Runner Mountain Coaster at Anakeesta in Gatlinburg, Tenn. The single-rail mountain coaster is said to be the first of its kind in the country.

For the outdoor enthusiast

  • Hike, bike, canoe, dark sky gaze ... experience nearly everything outdoor-wise at a state park. However, some offer unique experiences. For instance, dig for rocks, minerals and even diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Ark., or go tree-climbing at Panola Mountain State Park in Stonecrest, Ga. In South Carolina, SCUBA on Lake Jocassee at Devil Forks State Park in Salem, while in North Carolina, and in Kentucky, spot the moonbow at Cumberland Falls State Park in Corbin.

  • Go off-roading on an ATV. Banning Mills in Whitesburg, Ga., offers the Extreme Eco-Spider ATV Adventure, where you can ride single or tandem on the guided tour. Foxfire Mountain in Sevierville, Tenn., also has a guided ATV tour. Over at Wilderness Rider Buffalo Ranch and Adventure Park in Kingston, Ark., choose to go on a guided 6 x 6 tour or rent your own and let the provided park map be the guide. 

  • Rent an ATV and head out on one of the eight distinctive trails that make up the Hatfield-McCoy Trails. As one of the nation's most extensive trail systems, it winds through multiple counties in southern West Virginia, where many famous feuds occurred between the two families.

  • Find an air, water or land adventure through Kitty Hawk Kites in Nags Head, N.C.

  • Delve into the history and stories of all the blooms within Jackson County, N.C. and the Southern Appalachia region on a guided walk with Bigelow's Botanical Excursions.

  • Exploring Wassaw Island National Wildlife Refuge or a salt marsh are just a few of the eco trips offered by WiSE - Wilderness Southeast based in Savannah, Ga.

For the foodie

For the hobbyist

  • Blow a beer, wine or whiskey glass at Pretentious Glass in Knoxville, Tenn., or shape a glass piece at Tamarack in Beckley, WVa.

  • Alabama Chanin in Florence offers DIY kits, workshops and more with their School of Making.


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