Read our appeal on ditching stuff in favor of experience this holiday season. Plus - find out what tours, hikes, and memberships you can gift to impress your friends and family and support Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center's work.
Let me tell you a story. Everything I’ve ever gifted my sister (sorry, Karen), I’ve found years later, still in its packaging. Not discarded, but definitely not celebrated or enjoyed - the vision I’d had before spending my hard-earned dollars on a gesture. Whether it was the DVD set of Shark Week or a 7-foot wall calendar I could have sworn she’d love, I’ve inevitably found my well-intentioned presents at the bottom of a drawer or in a closet, sitting in her house unused.
Maybe you’re not like me. Maybe you’ve mastered the art of giving - your relatives and friends singing your praises each year as they try out their gifts, perfectly suited to their wants and needs. And I’m sure there was a sweater here and a journal there that my sister genuinely did love and use for some time, but still, you get the point.
Even if the occasional gift scores big, here’s the hard truth about stuff: we have too much of it. Through aging, relationships, fluctuating trends, and lifestyle changes, we accumulate more than we could ever possibly use. While it’s never our wish to add to a loved one’s sorting or storage issues, that’s often the unintended result of giving someone another item to add to their collection.
Don't let your gifts end up in a landfill
It’s easy to turn the holidays into a consumer’s checklist of what to buy, but this holiday season, challenge yourself to reflect your values in the gifts you give. Instead of things, present your family and friends with the gift of experience. Give them an opportunity to spend more time together and support a cause you all care about. With dozens of non-profit organizations in your area offering memberships, tours of their facilities, and enriching volunteer experiences, you have plenty of options.
One of those options for experiential giving - and one we hope you’ll consider - is Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center. From private behind-the-scenes tours of our Native Animal Exhibit to full moon night hikes, there are many different ways to engage and support the work we do (connecting our community with nature).
We recognize that not every family looks the same, which is why we’d like to work with you to make this year your best year of giving. Below, you’ll see a basic description for experience packages, but if you don’t see what you’re looking for, let us know and we’ll try our best to help you customize. And even better news - your holiday gifts will go towards our work of educating over 13,000 school children per year, caring for the 6 critically endangered red wolves and other animal ambassadors in the Native Animal Exhibit, and offering educational programs year-round for families and lifelong learners.
Membership at Reflection Riding presents an entry-level way of getting the people in your life closer to nature. If you live close to Chattanooga, you can utilize a membership during all daylight hours, 365 days a year. People join because it’s affordable (starting at $50) and because the park offers 317 acres to run or walk the dog, visit animal ambassadors, and canoe. Plus, our members enjoy an expanding list of benefits, including discounts to camps and programs, social member events, and a soon-to-be-added member living room with WiFi and comfy chairs.
#2: behind-the-scenes wildlife tours
Anyone who has been to our Native Animal Exhibit or seen its inhabitants in the news knows that the animal ambassadors at Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center are unforgettable. Give the gift of a private wildlife tour, and your loved ones will talk it up as the best gift of the season. Tours range from general behind-the-scenes tours (with the option of a bobcat or fox encounter) to an intensive focus on just one species (birds of prey or red wolves, for example). Have something else in mind? Just start the conversation, and we’ll let you know if we can make it work.
#3: Guided nighttime hikes
To catch a side of Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center that visitors and members rarely see, bring your group along for a nocturnal tour of the property that takes the form of a guided full moon night hike or owl prowl. The moonlight tours can accommodate 5 or more individuals, and depending on the interests of your group, our naturalists can focus on any number of fascinating nighttime sounds and sights. During an owl prowl, learn the calls of native owls you might find in your own backyard. On either of these excursions, you’ll have the option to end the night around a toasty campfire, with s’mores or drinks in hand.
#4: private horticulture tours
For your tree-obsessed parents or gardening friends, join staff botany experts for a plant-focused tour of the park or a behind-the-scenes greenhouse tour. On either of these outings, your group will have the options to play in the dirt by planting native seedlings of your choosing in the greenhouse to be cared for by the experts - you can pick them up later when they’re more mature (read: less killable) and ready for your yard.
outside the box
If your group has always wanted to have a perch party or throw a creek parade using Reflection Riding canoes, please let us know. Hearing from our fans will help us to offer more and better tours going forward. And you never know - we might be able to make your dreams come true this time around!
No matter what you decide this winter, we hope you’ll consider opting out of commercial gift giving in favor of spending quality time outside with the people you love. If you’ve already bought presents but still want to give the gift of experience, think about organizing a volunteer day with your friends or family. Our volunteers spend mornings and afternoons managing invasive plants, working in the gardens and fields, or maintaining the structures around the park. To find out more, send us an email - we’ll be happy to help you find the best tasks for your ages and abilities.
Happy holidays - we'll see you outside!