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Make their holidays happy with the gift of an active experience

Amtrak’s “Silver Meteor” train has a dining car.
Published Dec. 12, 2016

You have about 10 days left to shop for the holidays, and the theme of this season seems to be centered around giving experiences. The joys of family time, adventure and entertainment are certainly something to put you in the spirit.

There are countless ideas for gifts of active experiences, from a night at the theater to Elmo's Tree House to a trip to Cuba or a national park. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Jeanne Grinstead, Times staff writer

Bon voyage

• Road Scholar says its learning worldwide adventures are no ordinary travel experiences: They appeal to "lifelong learners typically over the age of 50 from diverse cultural and professional backgrounds. Students of the world, they are the guests you hope to sit next to at a dinner party." Adventures include a nine-day trip to Cuba focusing on photography (starts at $4,795); hiking in Acadia National Park (starts at $965); and an intergenerational discovery tour with your grandchild (9-11) to Colonial Virginia in Williamsburg (starts at $849 adult, $649 child). You'll find many options at

• Spring for a train journey for a loved one with a Senior (62+) fare on Amtrak. Here's a sample: Travel from Tampa to New York Penn Station midweek in February on the Silver Meteor with roomette for about $375 one-way, including the bus to Orlando. This train has a dining car, above, and the fare without the roomette starts at about $120 (reserved coach seat). The travel time is 24 hours. More at

• If you love travel and movies, you might want to plan a trip for two to a new or favorite destination during one of the many 2017 film festivals. Consider:

Sundance Film Festival, Jan. 19-29, Park City, Utah; including some free events as well, like film panels and concerts. (

Berlin International Film Festival, Feb. 9-19. (

Seattle International Film Festival, May 18-June 11. (

Toronto International Film Festival, right, Sept. 7-17. (

Nature, solitude

• Best deal: Searching for something special for those 62 or older who appreciate the peace and beauty of the outdoors? Put $10 or $20 in a gift bag and tell them how to buy a lifetime pass to the National Parks (think Florida's Biscayne, Dry Tortugas, Everglades, left, and more). The Senior Pass for entrance to all national parks, monuments and forests will cost them $10 at any federal recreation site or office ($20 by mail). Proof of age and U.S. residency or citizenship are required. Learn more at

• My friend and Bay magazine creative director Pegie Stark knows a lot about meditation and yoga. She offers some suggestions for experience gifts. (See story, far right.)

The sound of music

• Music is in the air, with choices for prime stocking stuffers. The Florida Orchestra presents a Happy Hour Concert "A Toast to the Classics" Feb. 2 at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa ($35); doors and bars open at 5:30 p.m. and the one-hour concert starts at 6:30. On March 23 at 11 a.m., the orchestra's Coffee Concert at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg features some of the favorite works of music director Michael Francis, below ($24-$42). A preconcert "Coffee With Michael" conversation begins at 10 am. Details and more at

• This gift is a notable experience if you enjoy country music's star couple. On Oct. 20, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, who both turn 50 next year, are bringing their mega Soul2Soul the World Tour 2017 to Amalie Arena in Tampa. Check the box office or

Time with the grandkids

• They'll love a field-trip voucher for a special experience with you, all wrapped up with a bow. Wear yourself out and have some fun by giving them your gift of time. Need suggestions? The Glazer Children's Museum greets about 200,000 visitors a year and offers birthday packages (110 W Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa; Elephants, giraffes and penguins, oh my, along with multiple opportunities to interact at Lowry Park Zoo (1101 W Sligh Ave., Tampa; At Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, the Sesame Street Safari of Fun features Elmo's Tree House and kid-friendly rides (corner of Busch Boulevard and 40th Street, Tampa; And a day at a local beach is free, except add in parking, sunscreen and that yummy lunch together.

• Taking the grands to a live Broadway show is an entertaining and educational experience. Younger ones might especially enjoy Disney's The Little Mermaid, coming in July to the Straz Center (, (813) 229-7827). And older children appreciate the message of Kinky Boots (acceptance), above, on stage April 11-16 at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater (, (727) 791-7400).


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