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Experiential Gift Guide: The Gift of Something to Do

A bike tour around Gettysburg captures the battlefield’s history. (Dave Smith)
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If you’ve smelled one Whispering Pine Spice scented candle, you’ve smelled ’em all. This year, instead of giving your mom, spouse or best pal another tchotchke to go on a shelf, why not give an activity to remember? “D.C. is a thriving city of professionals who are torn in a million different ways,” says Jennifer Brickman Rasche, the founder of 25th Hour Concierge (, a local company that will shop for your presents, pick up your dry cleaning and more. “A lot of people don’t even take vacations, so an experiential gift is a good way for people to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do.”

Vase Camp

Nothing can brighten a dark, chilly winter’s day like a ribbon-covered vase filled with chartreuse orchids and hot-pink peonies. Students in floral design workshops at Old Town’s Helen Olivia shop learn the secrets of flower cutting, posy choosing and even bow making during two-hour-long classes and then take home their creations.

Most lessons $95 per person, 128 N. Pitt St., Alexandria; 703-548-2848,

Battlefields by Bike

During the three-hour, 7.5-mile “Yanks Tour” of the Civil War’s Gettysburg battlefield, a guide pedals beside you, pinpointing such spots as Cemetery Ridge, where Union soldiers halted a Confederate charge on July 3, 1863.

$56 per person, 1195 Baltimore St., Gettysburg, Pa.; 717-752-7752,

Zip-Lining Playbook

Send your thrill-seeking spouse (or kid over 10 years old) zip-lining and rope-climbing in the treetops around Lake Needwood in the Rockville section of Rock Creek Regional Park. Dozens of crossings, a skateboard zip line and Tarzan-style swings add to the adventure.

$55 for adults, $35 for ages 17 and under, 6129 Needwood Lake Drive, Derwood, Md.; 800-971-8271;

Yes, I Really Hike You

For someone who loves fresh air and stunning views, consider a guided hike up a gradually ascending trail to Maryland Heights, which overlooks the spot where the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers connect at Harpers Ferry. After the hikers descend, a brief walk along the Potomac River leads to a wine or cider tasting. Hikes last approximately two-and-a-half to three hours. 

$45 per person, 604 Valley Road, Knoxville, Md., 301-695-5177,

Let the Bonbons Roll

At two-hour classes (either at his Capitol Hill headquarters or in your home), Algerian-born sweets pro Ismael Neggaz teaches chocolate making, detailing finer points of truffle forming and tempering. The best part: You eat what you make.

$40-$60 per person, four-person minimum; 617-595-0330,

Tails and Trails

One-hour, guided horseback rides through Rock Creek Park take off on the weekends throughout the year (weather permitting) and seven days a week in the summer. Sorry, jockey-wannabes: No trotting or galloping. The relaxed walk through the woods is open to ages 12 and older.

$40 per person, 5100 Glover Road NW; 202-362-0117,

Clean Up Their Act

A voucher for a professional organizing session gives both ways: He’ll be able to find his keys, and you won’t have to help look for them. Consider gifting your discombobulated loved one some quality time with Certified Professional Organizer C. Lee Cawley of Simplify You. It’s amazing how much peace a label maker and some matching bins can bring to a room.

$110 per hour for hands-on help, three-hour minimum on gift cards; 703-625-7336,

A Fin Time

Orioles season is over, but you can still play catch in downtown Baltimore — with a dolphin! A gift for ages 8 and up, the National Aquarium’s two-hour Dolphin Encounter tour lets participants get a behind-the-scenes look at the life of these acrobatic mammals, priority seating for a show in the dolphin amphitheater and hands-on playtime with the show’s stars.

$210 per person, 501 E. Pratt St., Baltimore; 410-576-3833,

This story appeared in Express Sunday, a new weekend publication from Washington Post Express. To have Express Sunday delivered to your home for free, sign up here.