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Whether it’s theatre tickets, museum memberships or cooking classes, experiential offerings are a way to provide a meaningful gift that doesn’t add to household clutter or landfills.
For a family or individual that frequents (or would frequent) a museum or other local destination, a membership is a great gift. Many of them pay for themselves in as few as two visits. Memberships frequently cover parking, offer discounts in gift shops, and can be used reciprocally to similar museums all over North America. As the giver, you also gain the satisfaction of knowing that your gift is supporting the cultural community.
Below are experiential gift ideas from around the state, many of which can be enjoyed year-round.
Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, Little Rock
Memberships offer preview parties and exclusive access to events, free or discounted admission to all programs, 20% off all art classes and workshops, and a 10% discount at Park Grill restaurant and the museum store.
Crystal Bridges, Bentonville
All membership levels grant free admission to temporary exhibits and guest tickets, a 20% discount on programs, classes, workshops, camps and lectures; a 10% discount at Crystal Bridges and the Momentary gift shops; invitations to preview exhibitions and members-only events; a Momentary membership discount; priority access in the main lobby and restaurant Eleven; regional travel opportunities; and a 10% discount on rooms at 21c Museum Hotels in Bentonville, St. Louis and Kansas City.
Last month, for my daughter’s 13th birthday, we presented her with tickets to a Robinson Center performance of “SIX” the musical. Although she was expecting tickets to Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour, she was pleasantly surprised by the experience. For Christmas, we will be giving her tickets to “Mean Girls,” which will be performed at Robinson Center in February. A four-show Broadway season package is available for as low as $124.
Theater season tickets often run like the school schedule, with shows beginning in September of one year and concluding in June of the next. But The Rep recently announced its 2024 season — they are calling it SummerStage — that offers shows June through September. The season includes favorites such as “Pride and Prejudice,” “Footloose” and “Hello, Dolly.”
In Northwest Arkansas, the 2023-24 Broadway Series season tickets includes six shows, and prices begin at $326. But you can also choose a Broadway sampler subscription, which allows you to mix and match. Gift certificates are also totally customizable. You choose the dollar amount, and the recipient can choose any show at Walton Arts Center or Walmart AMP.
Memberships begin at $50 ($40 for seniors) and include free children’s educational programs, free and discounted opportunities to sign up for classes and workshops before the public, members-only events, early shopping at plant sale, reciprocal benefits at more than 350 gardens and arboretums around the country, and discounts to local and mail-order nurseries.
All members enjoy reciprocal garden admission at more than 300 gardens and arboretums around the country, express entry on peak nights during the popular holiday lights, garden shop discounts, event and workshop discounts, and members-only preview events. Prices begin at $65.
A CSA (community-supported agriculture) subscription is available from this small boutique flower farm outside Searcy. They only use organic methods, and the results are stunning.
The grower determines what blooms are included in each delivery, but I promise your recipient will be thrilled. This is on my wish list!
A zoo membership is the quintessential gift for families with young children. A household family plan is $99, and it includes free parking; four free rides on the train or carousel; invitations to members-only events, a 15% discount at the gift shop; and discounts on select ticketed events, education programs, camps and birthday parties.
This hands-on experiential learning center offers members exclusive access from 9 to 10 a.m. Mondays and Saturdays. In addition, members enjoy exclusive events and previews of new exhibits; a 10% discount at the museum store; discounts on camps, programs and birthday parties; and priority registration for summer camps, programs and special events.
A family membership here extends admission for up to five people each visit. Other benefits include a 10% gift shop discount, members- only programs and special exhibit previews, reduced rates for birthday parties, and free Tesla shows.
Museum of Discovery, Little Rock
When it’s too hot or too cold for the zoo, an indoor space to explore and learn is a perfect alternative. Memberships begin at $60 and offer a 10% discount on birthday parties; summer camps and museum store purchases; invitations to exhibit previews and events; and free entry to many museums throughout the country, including Mid-America Museum.
The CORE (Community Outreach Recreational Education) classes are designed for foodies, cooking enthusiasts and home chefs alike, focusing on core kitchen practices and fundamentals. Recent topics have included Costa Rican soups and stews, Mediterranean flavors, and holiday wreath cakes.
This popular kitchen-based retail shop known for its Arkansas-made products also offers cooking classes from January through September. Past topics have included arroz con pollo, ceviche, jambalaya, pasta for teens and more. Private classes are also available.
This retail shop and kitchen offer public cooking classes in NWA for all skill levels with a focus on different types of cuisines. The kitchen features six fully equipped workstations where participants learn hands-on from local culinary talent. In addition to supporting local talent, they also support local farms and produce companies to offer the best ingredients. They announced their January through March class schedule at the end of October, and many classes are already full, but some fun ones still have seats open.
University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical College’s Community Education Program offers a variety of hands-on, non-credit culinary classes offered at the college’s state-of-the-art Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute (CAHMI) that are open to the public year-round. For example, a November offering included a course in cheese-making, and it was open to ages 14 and up or 10-13 with a registered adult. Customized courses, private and company-only courses are also available.
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