Life has been throwing wonderful and horrible life-changing curveballs at me with the speed of a professional pitcher. We’ve celebrated births, mourned loved one’s deaths, and many stressful things in between. But all of this chaos has got me thinking outside of the traditional Christmas box. I needed to avoid Porch Pirates and give our children and grandchildren “experiences” instead of trinkets.

Last year, for our son and his wife, we wrapped up tickets to go zip lining and gave them gas money, cash for dinner and a hotel stay. Theme park tickets went under my daughter’s family Christmas Tree in Chattanooga, and we stuffed a fancy evening out including dinner at the Jacksonville Landings and Lion King theatre tickets into the stockings of our youngest daughter and our grandson.

This year we are planning to do the same and I realized our own backyard has amazing experiences to give as gifts:

The Escape Room
River Boat Cruise
Amelia Musical Playhouse
Amelia Community Theatre
Cocktails at the Ritz Carlton
Movie theater tickets
Local restaurant gift certificates
Fishing and sightseeing charters
Kayak Adventures
Scooter Rentals
… and so much more.

By thinking outside of the box we can pair an experience with a local lunch or dinner to create an unforgettable day for someone we love. After 28 years of marriage, perhaps I’ll box up a few gift cards for “date night” and gift it to my husband… surely, he would take me.

Did you know that by shopping local you are doing business with your neighbors? I’ve heard that as much as 70% of every dollar leaves our community when you shop at a chain or big box retailer. If you turn that around, shopping local lets that same 70% stay in Nassau County. But, what if we took it one step further and looked at the label on what you are buying to learn where it was manufactured? You do have a choice on what other geographical areas you want to benefit from your money. Is that shirt for your son made in America? China? Ecuador? It is up to you to select the one that makes you feel good.

Best of all, when you shop local you don’t have to worry about Porch Pirates stealing the boxes of gifts you ordered online.