Giving in Style!

By Karen R. Smith


If you’re shopping for gifts for family and friends this season, there are lots of special options here in town, across the country and around the world that DO NOT involve gift wrapping or a fruitcake. Buy experiences and memories through a membership and you’ll be giving a gift that lasts a lifetime. Few of us actually need another shirt or sweater, but all of us could use a bit more laughter and joy!

Tohono Chul

This botanical garden, nature preserve and cultural museum is located on the northwest side of town, just west of the intersection of Ina and Oracle Roads. It has been rated as one of the world’s great botanical gardens by Travel & Leisure Magazine, so your giftees are getting a very special experience indeed.

In addition to the park itself (49 acres of lush desert there are regular art exhibits in the gallery, concerts, lectures and workshops of all sorts, hands-on children’s programs and a gift shop filled with unique creations by local artists.

You can give someone you love a day’s adventure, or purchase a membership so they can enjoy the park throughout the coming year. Perks include invitations to all openings, and reciprocal member privileges at over 300 gardens throughout North America and the Cayman Islands.

Tucson Museum of Art

Many people don’t realize that the Tucson Museum of Art includes a four-acre city block in the Presidio District. If you select a membership to TMA as a holiday gift for your loved ones, you’ll really be giving them a regularly changing assortment of the world’s art, as well as regular cultural programs and activities. Membership grants discounted fees for Art Camp for the littles, and on studio art classes for the adults, and at TMA’s gift shop… and includes 20% off at Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door Spa at the Westin La Paloma every Monday through Thursday.

Talk about giving in style! (

Tucson Botanical Gardens

TBG was named “The Best Secret Garden in America” and a gift of membership for your friends or family will acquaint them with 16 different gardens, a host of programs and exhibits throughout the year, an annual plant sale and the magic of butterflies from October through May. Nothing else remotely like it! (

The Desert Museum

Officially known as the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, this complex just southwest of Tucson on Kinney Road includes an aquarium and an art gallery, a botanical garden, a museum and a zoo. Memberships are available at all sorts of different levels and may even include one-time-use stingray passes! ( The Loft Cinema

More than a movie theater, The Loft is an arts organization that helps keep Tucson...Tucson. You can purchase a gift membership or a sponsorship, or make a donation in someone’s name. A basic membership includes year-long admission discounts and free popcorn (and quite a lot more!


If the folks on your list are pet lovers, consider gifting them with a donation to one of these two community resources. Pima Animal Care Center (www. ) is the only open admissions shelter and PACC saves more than 90% of 17,000 lost, homeless and abandoned animals every year. You can place a gift donation in several different ways, including by funding items on PACC’s Amazon wishlist. PACC’s shelter is located on Silverbell Road.

The Humane Society of Southern Arizona ( will use your gift to further adoptions from their new Roger Road facility, as well as towards the variety of education and neutering programs they operate here.

Goodwill Industries of Southern Arizona

( Our local Goodwill Industries operates 17 retail thrift stores, one Good Threads Boutique and two outlets. The folks you buy gift cards for will be able to shop in all of them, and find antiques and treasures galore, all the while keeping things out of landfills and saving valuable resources. GISA operates skills workshops, job placement programs and lots more -- using 90 cents of every dollar right here in Southern Arizona.

YMCA of Southern Arizona

A YMCA membership can be how a kid learns to swim..or how a senior takes up yoga. It might be an ideal gift for a whole family! Memberships include free exercise classes, and full access to all facilities (and that includes other YMCAs across the country!) (

Beyond our borders

Want to gift globally? Visit Heifer International’s website ( and you can send a gift unlike any other. Your recipient will chose the gift of a living animal business for a family

somewhere in the world. “This is no ordinary gift” is the best description,and not something you’ll hear when you give him another tie. A share of a goat for as little as $10 or an irrigation pump for $150 can change a family’s struggle, and delight someone on your list.

About the Author:
Karen R. Smith is an award-winning journalist and publicist. Her book, "Stylishly Sexy" is available online and she takes private style clients throughout Arizona and across the country. Visit her at