Give the gift of opportunity: When it comes to gifting, consider memberships and tickets as options

The Dubuque Symphony Orchestra. PHOTO CREDIT: Dave Kettering

The Grand Opera House. PHOTO CREDIT: Jessica Reilly

Ski instructor Beth Bonz, of Asbury, Iowa, helps Kaily Ramage, of Dubuque, get used to her skis at Sundown Mountain Resort. PHOTO CREDIT: EILEEN MESLAR

Amy Cone, of Bellevue, Iowa, works out at the Dubuque Community YMCA/YWCA. PHOTO CREDIT: TH file

Scuba Santa and a Christmas tree scuba diver wave to families at the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in Dubuque. PHOTO CREDIT: TH file

It’s that wonderful time of year, when we start thinking, planning and preparing for the holidays.

It also is the gift-giving season. Excitement fills our families with boundless possibilities, as well as the lines in stores or the spinning wheel of our computers.

For some, it might signal a nerve-racking pontification of what to give. The majority will determine a budget and might have concerns such as who gets what, where to find it, whether or not an item is in stock and how long that gift really will last.

For others, it is a breeze and a highly enjoyable time.

And the rest: Guilty for procrastinating. Who can say, without regret, that they have never heard, “Attention shoppers. It’s 11:55 p.m. Christmas Eve. Please make your way to the checkout lines now. We’d like to go home to our families, too.”

Regardless, there is an answer.

Think outside that beautifully wrapped box for memorable, intangible and educational gifts for all ages that can last all year long.

According to local experts, memberships and seasonal tickets can be valuable. They provide an opportunity to visit and revisit a venue for the entertainment value, as well as body and mind stimulation, hands-on learning and exploring and chances to get out of a comfort zone and try something new.

From yearly skiing passes to museums, the arts or gym memberships, here are a few localized suggestions:

The arts

Did you know music can boost your mood, reduce stress and help you sleep? Have you ever had the opportunity to see and hear classical music live?

The Dubuque Symphony Orchestra, which offers single and seasonal ticket options, provides an opportunity to listen to top-class performers in a historic theater.

“The best and most flexible way to give the gift of music with the DSO is to purchase a gift certificate through our office,” said Kathleen Hoeper, director of marketing and community relations. “It can be used for season tickets and single tickets to performances at Five Flags Theater. People can call our office for questions or ordering at 563-557-1677 or email”

Other local arts suggestions include the Dubuque Museum of Art, Five Flags Center, the Grand Opera House, the Bell Tower Theater, University Dubuque Heritage Center and more.

Sports and fitness

Staples in many lives include staying physically active.

The Dubuque Community YMCA/YWCA, which has been serving area patrons since the 1960s, is just one of many options available in the tri-states.

“The Dubuque Community YMCA/YWCA is one of only a few organizations that have life-long relationships with the people we serve,” said Danielle Shea, director of marketing and communications. “From infants to senior adults, a YMCA membership opens the doors to many exciting individual and family programs that change lives and benefit the entire community. Our new Your Y Your Way membership structure, in addition to our income-based pricing, ensures that you can design a membership that best fits your family.”

Program offerings range from child care for infants through school age children, youth sports, swimming lessons, group exercise classes, chronic disease prevention classes, camp and more.

“Members also are able to take advantage of our free Kids Corner, a supervised area for children while parents workout,” Shea said.

Other options including ski passes to Sundown Mountain Resort in Dubuque or Chestnut Mountain Resort in Galena, Ill., Vertical Jump Park in Dubuque, B-1 Yoga in Dubuque or Body & Soul Wellness Center and Spa in Dubuque, as well as a plethora of other local fitness facilities.


How about an opportunity for hands-on interaction, as well as a visual storytelling?

The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, located in the Port of Dubuque, offers single admission as well as memberships and is a likely bet for all ages to to enjoy.

“The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium is a nonprofit that I believe our community is so fortunate to have,” said Kimberly Mulheron, membership coordinator. “We are a unique, engaging learning environment for families and individuals of all ages, and our membership levels are priced at an amazing value. A family of four’s membership pays for itself within two visits to the river museum. Our memberships offer many benefits, including year-long free admission for our members to the river museum and the Mathias Ham Historic Site.

“My favorite benefit of our membership program is our reciprocity agreement through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which allows our members to visit AZA locations nationwide at a free or discounted rate.”

Full membership benefits can be found by visiting

This year, may “opportunities” verses “things” be what your gift-giving list consists of.

Happy shopping!

Vicki Kouzmanoff is a freelance writer from Elizabeth, Ill.

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