“Astonished” is a good word to describe most people’s reaction when the first super bookstore opened here. BOOKS?? And they want you to sit down, drink coffee and read, even if you don’t buy??

Conventional wisdom had them there not too long. Well, WHO KNEW, these would come to be such hopping places, full of  people seeking both knowledge and camaraderie at 10 PM on Saturday nights?

While recent years have not been kind to places like this, our passion for ongoing learning has not abated.

A holiday gift that embraces, enhances and encourages another’s gifts and curiosities could be a most welcome surprise, so here are a few local ones you may not have thought of:

The New York Botanical Gardens -They offer  year-round programs/classes for kids and teens; Gardening, Horticulture, Photography, Floral,  and Landscape Design are some of the adult ed classes coming up. There is also a dandy of a Winter Lecture Series starting in January.

Gift certificates are available for classes or lectures, they can also be separately purchased for the gift shop; additionally gift memberships are $75.00. How cool would it be to find one of those folded up inside a new pair of garden gloves, or in an emptied seed envelope, in the toe of your stocking?

Know someone who’s had the interest, but perhaps not the time for music lessons? No time like the present (!!) to start.

The Westchester School of Guitar works one on one with any age or experience level, on every facet from traditional lessons for the beginner, to composing and techniques for the more advanced students.

Owner and founder Jeff Brown (left) has s been teaching guitar for 30 years, and feels it is the intuition he has developed on how each different student can be best taught that has accounted for the success and growth of the business.

Very conveniently located in Briarcliff, they offer a complimentary intro lesson, and a 4-lesson ‘try-out package’, as well as 12 week tri-mester.

Any drummer wanna-bes in your life? Simply, John Arrucci is the one you want to know.

As a percussionist, John has composed, performed, taught, recorded and traveled extensively for nearly 3 decades. He works with percussion instruments from many different cultures, all around the world, and offers private classes in composition, drumsets, percussion and piano.

Westchester Skating Academy in Elmsford, and theIce Casino at Playland both offer ice-skating classes for all ages and levels, both figure skating and hockey instruction.

Don’t overlook WCC! A SUNY school, their Spring schedule (starting mid-January) is chock-full of things  include lessons in 9 different languages; plus courses in  Writing, Dance, Film, Art History, Cooking, Politics, Wine Appreciation, Tai Chi, Area Rug Making, Boxing and …well, you get the picture.

It’s close, and quite affordable: while costs vary,  but many 5 or 6 session courses are in the $60.00-100.00 range.  While the student would have to register themselves, you can still surprise them with an appropriate small gift-like a book, or accessopry on the topic, with the course description tucked away inside…

Like the idea, but none of these exactly right?  Or maybe you’re not so local?  Just look around, chances are the perfect gift is right there, in your own backyard.