City Guides » Holiday Planner

Gifts that give

Stuck trying to buy for a friend that's got it all? Think outside the gift-wrapped box and shops for seasonal skill-building.

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Got the core strength of Gumby? Not a problem at Ground Zero Climbing Gym.
  • Got the core strength of Gumby? Not a problem at Ground Zero Climbing Gym.

The 12 days of Christmas can't contain all the fun that's about to come at you. Breaking the holiday mould---read: a book for Uncle Steve, a puzzle for Grandma and beer for your younger brother---is a new frontier in gift-giving. It's groundbreaking stuff, people: gifts that actually keep on giving. Self-improvement is the name of the game, and look no further for all the skills you and yours could ever hope to master. Whether you're putting them on your own wish list or think your dad might benefit from some tribal fusion dance classes, we've got all your bases covered.

First up, learning to tickle a funny bone or two in the great tradition of the Second City and Tina Fey. Not only does Neptune Theatre (1593 Argyle Street) put on whimsical seasonal performances, it is also a purveyor of laughs in the form of Improv for Adults classes. Be warned, though: improv classes are not for the faint of heart. Forcing grown men and women to parade around like their favourite animal may sound like a wild time, but be sure the recipient is already game to step outside their comfort zone before you sign them up and buy tickets to their show. If you're certain this once-a-week giggle fest will be gratefully enjoyed, check out theatreschool.neptunetheatre.com.

If all of your friends and family have already conquered their fear of the stage, maybe they would enjoy facing a more visceral fear: heights! There's only one way to get jacked while scaling very tall walls, and it's rock climbing. Ground Zero Climbing Gym (7 Mellor Avenue) in Dartmouth offers a two-hour intro to climbing course along with a variety of passes so you can put in the work.

Nathan Bysterveldt, one of the guys behind Ground Zero, assuages our concerns about having the core strength of Gumby. "Anyone can do it---you really don't have to be in the best shape," he says. "We have walls for all abilities and we see everything from the odd four-year-old to 80-year-olds." Put aside the puzzles, everyone, there's a new problem-solving routine in town and it works more than just your brain. For a price list, see climbgroundzero.com.

For the slightly less lion-hearted among us, or for the craftier folks on our lists, the Roberts Street Social Centre (5684 Roberts Street) hosts monthly screenprinting workshops. Targeted at the absolute beginner, the workshop is so reasonably priced you could tag along with your friend and maybe even make each other BFF t-shirts. The RSSC also offers affordable equipment rentals and studio space, so once you master the basics, you can let your screenprinting skills shine on.

Maybe you have a grandchild, niece, nephew or friend who wants you to teach them to knit, but you don't really want to show them how. Enter The Loop (1547 Barrington Street), y'all. This craft cafe offers something for everyone.

"We have beginner knitting for people who have never knit before but we also have project-based knitting classes," says Cathy Merriman, one of its owners. "Knitting never went out of style, it's just always changing and evolving."

Tis the season for getting cozy, so do what you gotta do to score a sweater or a scarf. For a gift that pays dividends, check out robertsstreet.org or theloophalifax.ca, and always remember, it's the thought that counts. What better time than the holidays to show your friends you know they are a multi-faceted, unique snowflake?

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