Giving the Gift of Fun

Are you looking for the perfect gift for that person on your list who has everything? Maybe skip the item, and instead look for a fun evening out, a camp, or a class. In fact, a number of scientific studies back the idea that experiences actually bring us greater joy than things. So this year, why not fill everyone’s stockings with new adventures? The Magic City is brimming with fun experiences that you can share with loved ones, and while you’re checking everyone off your list, you can enjoy the added bonus of supporting small local businesses.

There's so much to do in Billings, but making time to try new restaurants or venues can be a challenge. Randi Barber, the founder of GoUnite, wants to help locals get out to enjoy the community. For five years, Barber’s work took her around the Western U.S., where she sampled the cultures, the mom-and-pop shops, and the art galleries. But she realized that people weren’t getting out to enjoy those things in their own towns. “It always kind of shocked me that people weren’t experiencing the towns they were living in, but then I realized when I was home in Billings, I was the exact same way,” Barber said.

She aims to get people out to try new things, but as any parent knows, finding reliable childcare can complicate that goal. So Barber has taken on that sometimes herculean challenge. "I got this idea that how nice would it be if there was a way to go out and try new places and meet new people, and have great childcare as well in a place where the kids aren't just being watched, they're going and having enriching childcare and having something fun to do," Barber said.

Once a month, GoUnite provides social events, such as canoe basketball at the Montana Audubon Center, the Amazing Race at ZooMontana, or a food and beverage pairing at a local restaurant. Kids have their own event at a separate venue. “They’re getting a night out to meet new friends too,” she said.

Businesses often reach out to her with an idea, and then they brainstorm the best way to showcase their establishment. “It’s a great opportunity for these new businesses to get 100 new avid fans that maybe haven’t been to their establishment before,” Barber said.

GoUnite also coordinates monthly community service events, such as cooking meals for Tumbleweed, where even young children can participate. Since its inception in February 2017, Barber has seen their membership grow and flourish. “Just seeing the friendships that have formed out of the group is really awesome,” she said.

Tickets are available either through membership or can be purchased for individual events. Visit GoUniteNow.com for a complete schedule of events, membership information, individual tickets, and more details.

The extended campus at MSU-Billings also offers a variety of fun and interesting courses, with titles ranging from Basic Entomology for Fly Fishers, Long Range Shooting Course, National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) Wilderness First Aid, and Creating Barrel Aged Whiskeys and Cocktails. Such courses can make noteworthy gifts, and there’s something for just about everyone.

“We will have a whole suite of youth camps next summer. We offered about 25 this summer, everything from art, to riding, to rockets, to robots, so we’ll have those available next summer as well,” said Kevin Nemeth, director of extended campus at MSU-Billings. The youth summer schedule will be available in February or March, and the complete schedule is available online at https://www.msubillings.edu/extendedcampus/index.htm.

For memorable evenings downtown, Terakedis Fine Art and Jewelry works with local artists, musicians, and restaurants to create unique experiences, often with live music and live paintings. “We try to combine as many creative outlets as possible in one setting, mostly to get people around art in a very comfortable way that’s not all about a retail setting. It’s more about being around the artwork,” said owner Zack Terakedis. His gallery recently participated in a progressive dinner with other downtown restaurants and art galleries; he has partnered with Seva Kitchen for a beer pairing dinner.

“A lot of people are intimidated by art galleries, in particular. So we’re kind of neutralizing the space by making it multi-use, in that we’re pairing with other creatives. We do have a nice space, and it lends itself to a nice night out for people coming to experience it,” Terakedis said.

Their next event, “The Joy of Artistry,” will be held in January and will include a sit-down, multi-course meal, live painting, and live music. Partners for that evening will be The Joy of Living, The Fieldhouse, and Terakedis Fine Art and Jewelry. Tickets are available now at the downtown Joy of Living location, The Fieldhouse or Terakedis Fine Art and Jewelry, or online at https://terakedisfineart.com. You can also follow the gallery on Facebook for other gift ideas throughout the year.

about the author...Stephanie Hobby is married to an awesome Billings guy. They love skiing, hiking, traveling, and other adventures with their two fun kids and crazy dog.