My brother and I used to have a joke around this time of year. It went something like this: One of us would say,"Hey, what do you want for Christmas?" And the other would reply, "Christmas is happening AGAIN?"
You'd think that two over-thinkers with advanced degrees would learn to plot our years a little better, but without fail around December 10 (or 15th) we were scrambling. I've only slightly improved since becoming a wife and mother.
A girlfriend and I were comparing notes on where to shop for last-minute gifts, and I created a list based on my family's favorite educational nonprofits. These places offer one-of-a-kind ideas for kiddos AND adults with their proceeds supporting important institutions in our city. Plus, some have the bonus of offering cash-saving memberships that offer great experiences throughout the year. So if you're in a time-bind this week, consider shopping these smart spots around town.
Our local mecca for all things hands-on education, the Discovery Center offers tiered membership options to benefit families of all sizes and ages, as well a supplemental programs for homeschoolers. Pay ahead for a workshop or purchase a year's membership (always a win), and don't forget to stop in the gift shop for DC merch, clever science kits, and unique toys to keep inquisitive kids learning.
Family memberships to this incredible education center includes admission to seasonal exhibits, the indoor climbing wall, and all-age special programs and art nights throughout the year (you can even purchase a package that includes pool admission in the summer). Want something for them to unwrap? Choose from T-shirts, climbing gear, Frisbees and other outdoorsy gifts in the visitors shop.
If you have a dinosaur lover in the family -- of any age! -- spot them admission to the area's only paleontology museum where they can see real dinosaur bones and casts of full-sized "terrible lizards." Find a truly unique gift from the shop including dinosaur casts, clocks and items made from local minerals, collectible rocks, archaeological tools, and more.
As a pre-K homeschooling mom I've grown in my appreciation for our local park and recreation departments' provision of educational tools and programs for families. The Wilderness Station is not only a great spot for educational events; it's also a treasure chest of interesting toys, books, games, and puzzles for curious learners. Pick up a Walden's Puddle umbrella, Frisbees, an artful birdhouse, a drawing sketchbook, or guide to local flora and fauna.
For book lovers look no further than the Friends of Linebaugh Library Book Store. Supplied by book donations that don't make it into the library's general circulation, titles are sold for a tiny fraction of full-price, and all proceeds benefit the library and local literary events. I adore the children's section for my kiddos, but have also enjoyed finding collectible titles for grownups. Schedule an appointment for social-distance shopping and settle in for a fabulous book hunt.
Of course the grounds and tours are beautiful, but I find the gift shop at Oaklands Mansion an overlooked gem. Choose hand-crafted art pieces like the fountain pens and scarves, or signature candles (named for members of the Maney family) and Antebellum-era toys and sweets. Consider it a safe bet for the very-hard-to-buy-for. Don't forget to peek at the pottery, or pick up one of the site's posters for the local memorabilia collector.
The city's pioneer village is an enchanting walk-through (especially right now as they display gorgeous lights this year!), but did you know it also hosts a gift shop? Inside their visitor center find handmade wooden trains, pottery, ornaments, and pioneer-themed crafts and even dress-up items. Perfect for the history-loving kid!
If you've attended a field trip or Toddler Tuesday program at The Sam Davis Home, chances are you've taken a peek at the gorgeous gift items. Find toy swords and pop guns, unique candies, books, soap, and handmade dishes inside, and of course get a jar of honey made from the hives on the property.
While the historic acreage of the battlefield are incredible for walking, hiking and biking, the gift store offers cool history and art-themed gifts! Choose from National Park tees, hats, water bottles, and posters, and peruse the myriad of Civil Warm-themed books, games and toys.
Laura Beth Payne is a writer mama and Murfreesboro native who lives in the Blackman community with her husband and two children. Follow her at @murfreesboromama on Facebook and Instagram. Got a column idea? Email her at email@example.com.