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It feels like, as a culture, we are slowly being buried in our own stuff. The holidays? More stuff.

A 2009 study at San Francisco State University attempted to measure how long the happiness dividend lasted between objects and experiences and concluded that experiences lasted longer. Things eventually lose their luster while experiences, usually shared with other people, create memories that may stay with us for the rest of our lives.

So as you embark on the season of gift-giving, consider some good memories as presents. The options are endless, but here are a few suggestions for unforgettable experiences close to home.

<b>The gift of new skills</b>

<i>Ice skating:</i> Ice skating is a great way to get some cardio exercise in the winter. At the Redwood Empire Ice Arena in Santa Rosa, the adults-only Coffee Club meets from 9:30-11:30 a.m. Monday and Friday and is open to skaters of all levels. The Coffee Club provides a half-hour group lesson, an open skating practice session and a cup of coffee and doughnut from the Warm Puppy Cafe for $14 a session. No reservations required; just show up. Private skating lessons also available. The "Ice Cool Cash Card" is good toward hot chocolate at the Warm Puppy Cafe, gear at Snoopy's Gift Shop, public skates or lessons. At www.snoopyshomeice.com, 1665 West Steele Lane, Santa Rosa, 546-3385.

<i>Cooking classes:</i> A cooking class not only sharpens skills, but provides a fun environment to explore new flavors and make new friends. Relish Culinary Adventures in Healdsburg, Sur La Table in Santa Rosa and Ramekins in Sonoma are the Big 3 in Sonoma County, offering a wide range of classes and foraging adventures every week of the year. At www.relishculinary.com, www.surlatable.com, www.ramekins.com.

<b>Outdoor adventures</b>

<i>Ski trip:</i> Santa Rosa Ski & Sports offers one-day bus trips to Tahoe for $95, which includes a lift ticket, a light breakfast, movies on the bus and transportation. Buses depart from Santa Rosa at 5 a.m. roughly every two weeks through March 29 and go directly to various Tahoe ski resorts, including Northstar, Sugar Bowl, Homewood and Sierra-at-Tahoe. At www.santarosaskiandsports.com, 1125 West Steele Lane, Santa Rosa, 578-4754.

<i>Sonoma County Regional Parks Annual Pass:</i> Give someone a ticket to ride, as well as walk, hike, swim, kayak, picnic and fish in one of 50 parks and trails of their choice for a full year with this annual pass. The pass packs a lot of value, with additional perks ranging from a free night of camping to discounts on parks activities and at local outdoors retailers. Cost is $69, or $39 for seniors 60 and older. Gift memberships can be purchased at park kiosks, REI, Oliver's Markets, Sebastopol Hardware and online at www.sonomacountyparks.org.

<i>Safari West:</i> Most people will never go on safari in Africa, but a visit to Safari West on the rural Santa Rosa savannah is an exciting substitute. Basic three-hour treks by Jeep and foot over 400 rugged acres lead to encounters with giraffes, gazelles, zebras, antelopes, wildebeests, cheetahs, lemurs and other creatures you're guaranteed not to see in your own neighborhood. Gift certificates are 10 percent off through December. Tour prices range from $70 in winter to $80 in summer. Kids' tickets are $32. The park also offers special packages and events and overnight adventures, with luxury cabins for two starting at $225 a night in the shoulder season. Wild Gift cards can be purchased online at www.safariwest.com.

<i>Helicopter tour of Wine Country:</i> Give someone a seat on a spectacular thrill ride. Wine Country Helicopters offers aerial tours of the Napa and Sonoma valleys, San Francisco and up to Lake County with a stop at the lakeside Ceago Winery. Lift-off is from the Napa County Airport. They also offer special packages to more distant spots and for special occasions. At www.winecountryhelicopters.com.

<i>Sonoma Canopy Tours:</i> Give the gift of wings with an all-expenses-paid flight through the redwoods in Occidental. Sonoma Canopy Tours offers 2?-hour gravity-defying tours through the canopy of a redwood forest while harnessed onto ziplines. The adventure experience includes a rappel, a spiral staircase, two sky bridges and seven ziplines. At 2650 Bohemian Highway, Occidental. Cost is $89 weekdays and $99 weekends for adults and $59 for kids 10-17. Seniors 59 and over fly for $79. Gift certificates in denominations starting at $25 can be bought online at www.sonomacanopytours.com or by calling 888-494-7868.

<i>Driven Raceway:</i> Give someone a spin on the inside track with indoor motor cart racing. Hours: noon to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Prices start at $20 for 16 laps. At 4601 Redwood Drive, Rohnert Park, www.drivenraceway.com, 585-3748.

<i>Ballooning:</i> Ballooning with Santa Rosa Hot Air Balloons is adventuresome and decadent. Perks often include champagne toasts, pastries, coffee and appetizers. Prices range from $179 to $249 per person for shared rides. For a couple to take an exclusive ride, the range is $750 to $1,000, depending on location. At www.hotairballoonsoversantarosa.com, 678-813-5841.

<b>Food, wine and spas</b>

<i>Dinner at the Duck Club:</i> After the chaos of the holidays, it's a gift to contemplate a quiet dinner at one of Wine Country's top restaurants. For a gourmet escape, head to the Duck Club Restaurant in Bodega Bay, where Executive Chef Jeff Reilly offers a range of full-flavored comfort food, from clam chowder to duck confit. The dining room has one of the best views in Sonoma County, looking out over Bodega Head and the Pacific Ocean beyond. At www.bodegabaylodge.com, 103 Coast Highway 1, Bodega Bay, 875-3525.

<i>Tram and tasting:</i> Ride the aerial tram up to Sterling Vineyards, with striking views of the Napa Valley below, before an afternoon of tasting at the winery. The tram ride and tasting fee is either $28 or $37 per person, depending on how elaborate you want your tasting to be. Tastings available daily. At www.sterlingvineyards.com, 1111 Dunaweal Lane, Calistoga, 800-726-6136.

<i>Castle stop:</i> A great getaway for wine lovers who double as history buffs is Castello di Amorosa, a winery built in the style of a 13th-century Tuscan castle. Here, Italian and mainstream varietals reign. The fee is $19 per person for general admission and a tasting, or $34 per person for a guided tour and tasting. At www.castellodiamorosa.com, 4045 St. Helena Highway, Calistoga, 967-6272.

<i>Wineland:</i> Explore the Dry Creek, Alexander and Russian River valleys at the 22nd annual Winter Wineland event Jan. 18 and 19 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Costs $50 per person for the weekend. At www.wineroad.com.

<i>Spa treatment:</i> Find some solitude with a massage at the Spa at Hotel Healdsburg. Treatments range from facials to pedicures to hot stone massages and wine-and-honey wraps. They range in price from $45 to $230. At www.hotelhealdsburg.com, 433-4747, 327 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg.

<b>A city excursion</b>

<i>Ferry on over:</i> For a more relaxing trip, arrange for the recipient of your day-trip gift to park the car at Larkspur, take the Golden Gate Transit ferry, enjoy the view of the bay and arrive unruffled by traffic at the San Francisco Ferry Building. (No ferry on Christmas Day.) For fares and a complete schedule: www.goldengateferry.org, 415-455-2000.

<i>A place to Explore:</i> Once on the Embarcadero, it's a short walk to the relocated and expanded Exploratorium, where adventurous minds of all ages can participate in hands-on experiments and lunch at the museum's cafeteria, which features a fresh sushi bar. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Mondays, plus 6-10 p.m. Thursdays. Tickets are $19-$25; age 5 and under free. At www.exploratorium.edu, 415-528-4360.

<i>Cirque du Soleil:</i> At AT&T Park, also on the waterfront, Cirque du Soleil presents its latest artful circus experience, "Amaluna," in the Grand Chapiteau tent through Jan. 12. At www.cirquedusoleil.com.

<i>See a show:</i> The day trip easily could conclude with dinner and a show in the city. San Francisco's Broadway connection, SHN (Shorenstein Hays Nederlander), has several big shows running, including "The Book of Mormon" until Jan. 19 at the Orpheum Theater. Getting tickets takes determination, but it's worth the effort. For an easier buy, look ahead to "Mamma Mia," running March 28 through April 6 at the Orpheum. Tickets range from $40 to $160. At www.shnsf.com, 888-746- 1799.