My dad is an incredibly dynamic and nuanced person, and for Father’s Day, I want to celebrate (rather than pigeon-hole) his awesome personality. Yet, as I browse through the internet for gift ideas, I keep coming up with the same things. Beer. Sports. Ties. Somehow, the internet thinks all dads are Men with a capital “M” and only enjoy activities that either require them to sweat profusely and chug Gatorade, or wear expensive cufflinks and bow ties.
I don’t want to buy my dad another engraved fountain pen that he’ll never use, or a stack of sweaters he’ll never wear. And I don’t have the funds to send him off on some kayaking trip in the Grand Canyon. So, instead of spending a heap of cash on the “perfect gift,” I’ve compiled a list of ways for us all to spend the “perfect day” with our pops. Feel free to get creative with my suggestions, and take them up a notch with whatever swag or crazy adventure you want to add in (an impromptu road trip to Nashville perhaps? Building a raft out of old tires and floating down a nearby river until sunset? All possible!) Because, at the end of the day, cashmere may be cool, but memories are way cooler.
1. Go on a long hike
I’ll bet there are some beautiful trails within two hours of where you live, trails that are begging for you to come and lay your feet on their dusty paths. The best part about hiking is that the natural beauty around you provides the perfect context for long heady discussions about life, love, art, ideas. And, if those aren’t generally the kinds of things that you and dad discuss, never fear: You can always play 20 Questions. Points for the daughter-dad duo who bring their binoculars and bird-spotting book along. I hear early morning is the best time to catch those elusive avifauna in flight.
2. Tour a beer brewery or spend an afternoon tasting wine
Spending an afternoon day-drinking gourmet alcohols with dad? Sounds too good to be true. Whether your dad is a beer or wine guy, you’re both sure to enjoy an afternoon sipping entirely too-small quantities of fizzy deliciousness from small cups. And talking about them in pretentious accents. Plus, if you choose to go on a vineyard tour, I bet there will be fancy cheese!
3. Cook a meal together
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Today, you and your dad aren’t just cooks. You are chefs. And from start to finish, you’re going to be chefs together. Wake up early so that you can hit your local farmers market while it’s fully stocked, and then plan your meal around whatever produce looks best. Late June usually means artichokes, kale, cauliflower, peas and so much more. Then, after enjoying some artisanal locally roasted coffee and a vegan taco (or three), head back home to get the cooking started. Spread out your wares, turn the radio to his favorite station and get to cooking!
4. Climb on some rocks!
I’ve never personally rock climbed with my dad, and his latent fear of heights means that I probably never will, but I like to think that there are a lot of dads out there that would be ecstatic at the prospect of spending an afternoon following intricately placed neon blobs up a wall made of rocks. Rock climbing gyms are popping up all over the place, so there is sure to be one in your area and they usually only cost about $20 for a day pass. Or, if you’re really bold, order a few crash pads and legit climbing shoes and take your bouldering outdoors. Maybe this 30 percent off coupon will be an extra incentive to be outdoor-adventurous.
5. Brunch in bed
In case your dad isn’t much of a chef, you can surprise him with brunch in bed. Seriously, why do moms get to have all the fun? Be creative with it: Whip up a batch of personalized pancakes by using funny cookie cutters; this Etsy page has dozens of ideas, from skulls to footballs to flowers (all on sale!). Write his name in chocolate chips all along the edges of the tray, fill an entire cup with whipped cream and sprinkles… who cares! It’s Father’s Day, no one said you had to be healthy.
6. Go for a bike ride
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Whether it’s through your city streets, along the winding suburban paths of your childhood hometown or out in the tangled countryside, bicycling is a fun and interactive way to get your endorphins flowing. It is also a super-enjoyable way to facilitate those delightfully father-daughter kinds of conversations. For example:
You: “Look at that weird neon green house, dad!”
Dad: “Ha ha. That reminds me of when I was your age… ”
You: “And, over there, a whole field of corn!”
Dad: “Oh wow, how corny.” (Laughs at his own joke)
You: Roll your eyes, and then laugh too because dad jokes are the best.
Supplement your cool father-daughter bike ride with some cool bike bling and save 10 percent when you sign up for emails with Sports Authority (which could be another present for your dad, endless Sports Authorities emails!).
7. Have a museum day
Think: What does dad like? Is he obsessed with reading about the British American War? Whale migration? Early televisual technology? The Brooklyn Dodgers? Well, you can bet that there’s a museum somewhere nearby that has an exhibit all about that. Look around your local cities for what’s open and when, pick your dad up and spend the day indulging his interests. Hey, maybe you’ll learn something too. Plus, museum gift shops have the best presents of all time (in case you want to get a little present for mom while you’re there).
8. Watch a baseball game! (Any baseball game… )
Two words: hot dogs and beer. And, if there are no major league games happening in your area, you can bet your bottom dollar that there’s something Little League going on. Put on your town’s colors, fill an old water bottle with vodka (just kidding) and hunker down with some folding chairs and a box of doughnuts. Watch with glee as the little mini humans in front of you run around swinging bats, throwing balls and having tantrums over not catching the pop fly that should have been so easy to catch. Go Lions!
9. Go on a mini road trip
We’ve all waited a long time to be able to say that it’s summer (unless you live on the west coast or any state south of the 36-degree, 30-minute line), and what better way to celebrate this season of long days and warm nights than a nice long drive? Picture it: a long car ride through the countryside, the windows down, the radio blasting “Stairway To Heaven” (because, let’s face it, that song is going to be playing all weekend). Fields and fields of wheat or corn or potatoes, or whatever it is that the the climate you live in happens to grow en masse… Now that will be fun to Instagram.
10. Bet on horses together and drink Champagne
Dress like it’s 1929, and bring your dad down to the horse track for an afternoon of fancy hats, fancy pocket watches and even fancier horses. You may want to decide on a gambling cap beforehand, just so neither of you gets carried away and ruins the rest of the day due to your resultant empty pockets. Bonus points if you spot the mafia guy rigging all the races sitting in the front row with the maroon suit.
11. Have a game night
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Now that you two have hiked together, cooked together, picked fruit together and gambled away all your money together, it’s time to play some board games together. Invite all the siblings, mothers, neighbors and cousins over for some raucous post-dinner rounds of your favorite games. My childhood favorites include Settlers of Catan, Clue and Boggle, all of which you can order online and get shipped for free in time for the big day. Things may get heated as the resources of Catan are depleted (or you narrow in on your mansion’s killer), so you’ll probably want to have some ice cream on hand to cool things down. Nota Bene: It is Father’s Day. Not that you should let him win that easily, but, you know, keep it in mind.