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Giving gifts of experience

  • Wendy Debbas, president of Project Survival Cat Haven, left, and Megan Pauls feed a 9-week-old jaguar cub named Nove during the 20th anniversary celebration at Safari West in Santa Rosa in October. A tour at Safari West is among Press Democrat staff picks for a great "experience" gift this Christmas. (BETH SCHLANKER / The Press Democrat)

It feels like, as a culture, we are slowly being buried in our own stuff. The holidays? More stuff.

A 2009 study at San Francisco State University attempted to measure how long the happiness dividend lasted between objects and experiences and concluded that experiences lasted longer. Things eventually lose their luster while experiences, usually shared with other people, create memories that may stay with us for the rest of our lives.

So as you embark on the season of gift-giving, consider some good memories as presents. The options are endless, but here are a few suggestions for unforgettable experiences close to home.

The gift of new skills

Ice skating: Ice skating is a great way to get some cardio exercise in the winter. At the Redwood Empire Ice Arena in Santa Rosa, the adults-only Coffee Club meets from 9:30-11:30 a.m. Monday and Friday and is open to skaters of all levels. The Coffee Club provides a half-hour group lesson, an open skating practice session and a cup of coffee and doughnut from the Warm Puppy Cafe for $14 a session. No reservations required; just show up. Private skating lessons also available. The “Ice Cool Cash Card” is good toward hot chocolate at the Warm Puppy Cafe, gear at Snoopy's Gift Shop, public skates or lessons. At www.snoopyshomeice.com, 1665 West Steele Lane, Santa Rosa, 546-3385.

Cooking classes: A cooking class not only sharpens skills, but provides a fun environment to explore new flavors and make new friends. Relish Culinary Adventures in Healdsburg, Sur La Table in Santa Rosa and Ramekins in Sonoma are the Big 3 in Sonoma County, offering a wide range of classes and foraging adventures every week of the year. At www.relishculinary.com, www.surlatable.com, www.ramekins.com.

Outdoor adventures

Ski trip: Santa Rosa Ski & Sports offers one-day bus trips to Tahoe for $95, which includes a lift ticket, a light breakfast, movies on the bus and transportation. Buses depart from Santa Rosa at 5 a.m. roughly every two weeks through March 29 and go directly to various Tahoe ski resorts, including Northstar, Sugar Bowl, Homewood and Sierra-at-Tahoe. At www.santarosaskiandsports.com, 1125 West Steele Lane, Santa Rosa, 578-4754.

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