I know what you’re thinking: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But if you’re over 40, I’ve got news for you: You’re not an old dog. And though you may feel firmly established in your career, your life, and even your favorite pastimes, the truth is that there’s never been a better time to pick up a new hobby than early middle age.
You’ll possibly discover a new passion, improve yourself, see the world from a different perspective, and ultimately shake up your life for the better. Sound good? Good! Read on—because we’ve compiled the 40 best new hobbies anyone in their fifth decade should consider immediately. And to ensure your new pastimes become a regular fixture in your life, know the 40 Best Ways to Keep New Habits.
Become an astronomy buff
Want to impress basically anyone with some killer celestial knowledge? Learn to read the night sky by studying up on a few of the major constellations. Spend a few evenings scoping out the stars from your roof or porch—or, if you’re in a light-polluted city, getting out of town to a clearing. If you’re feeling ambitious, pick up a telescope and get a closer look at the stars and planets—and maybe invite some friends over for a stargazing party. And remember: Getting outdoors is also one of the 25 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues.
Talk about something that used to be niche but is rapidly becoming mainstream. When you get into it, birdwatching can actually be a supremely relaxing, meditative way to spend an hour. Learn a few of the local species of winged creatures in your area and find a good spot to view them—whether it’s a park, a hiking trail, or just killing a few minutes looking out your window. Not only will you find the it peaceful, you’ll look pretty sharp when you can tell the difference between a chirping sparrow and a white-throated sparrow. Jonathan Franzen would be so proud.
Don’t try this one on your own. If you can find a local guide or group who can show you what’s edible, tasty, and not poisonous in your area, you’ll suddenly see the outdoors in a completely new way (whether or not you pick any psychedelic mushrooms).
You’ll feel like a Bear Grylls heading out to the woods and being able to identify the plants and berries that make for a terrific side dish at a dinner party—and it’s a solid way to spend an afternoon outdoors. As a bonus, you’ll stock up on plenty of ingredients that will help you cook the 40 Dishes Everyone Over 40 Should Know How to Make.
Become a master griller
During the warmer months, don’t just barbecue—become a true grill master. Learn how to grill the perfect steak or ultimate burger, but also try out some more creative cuisines, like coffee-and-brown-sugar-crusted skirt steak or miso-glazed chicken burgers. Maybe even get a smoker. Whatever you do, take ownership of the backyard and elevate your grilling skills. And to help you get started, be sure to Steal Bobby Flay’s Top Steak-Cooking Secret.
Instead of just taking those worn-out shoes to the repair shop, learn how to do some basic leatherwork yourself. Start by learning how to properly treat or restore the material with cleaner and conditioner (Tandy Leather offers a handy intro guide to help you get started). If you enjoy that, consider teaching yourself how to stitch, stamp, or add rivets. You can add cool details to a belt you’ve had lying around or make a leather bookmark for a reader friend. You’ll look thoughtful and handy.
Become a Photoshop Master
Whether trying to remove a thumb image from a pic, enhance your vacation photos, or create goofy memes to share on Facebook, getting skilled with Photoshop opens up lots of useful and dumb-but-fun ways to spend your time. A quick course or even an online tutorial can get you up to speed on this surprisingly versatile program. And elevate your photography game with these 10 Next-Level Cameras That Are Way Better Than Your Smartphone.
Get out onto the water by renting a canoe or borrowing a friend’s and start paddling. You might take an intro course (or look online) to learn some of the basic strokes and make sure conditions are good, but once you hit the water, you’ll find that canoeing is a very peaceful way to spend a late morning or afternoon—just don’t tip over.
Stretch your legs out and get out onto a tranquil lake or (if you’re looking for a challenge) into more fast-moving waters. There aren’t many hobbies that let you enjoy your natural surroundings, work on your balance and posture, and give you an amazing abs workout at the same time. Plus, stand-up paddleboarding is good preparation for any incipient romances: it’s one of the 40 Second Date Ideas That Will Guarantee A Third.
Restore a Classic Car
If you’ve got an old heap passed down in the family or from a friend, or are willing to shell out a little money to get an automobile in need of some love, you can find tons of resource online and through local restoration clubs to help you bring back an old car to its former glory.
This hobby usually requires a bit of an investment up front as you purchase the car (if this is your first, you might want to find one that’s already been partially restored), the necessary auto tools, and acquire some of the pricier parts. But the investment will be worth it in the long run as you tour through town in a stylish ride. And if you want someone to do the restoring for you, check out the 5 Best Classic Mustangs You Can Buy Today.
Take Up Archery
Tap into your inner Robin Hood by picking up a bow and aiming for the bullseye. Most mid-sized cities have some kind of archery range or club where you can rent a bow and arrows and practice for a monthly or one-time fee. It’s a simple sport to learn and even if you aren’t cracking one arrow with the next, getting out on the range on a sunny day to work on your aim is not a bad way to spend an afternoon.
Pick up a side hustle
These days, it’s increasingly looking like a the new job is actually multiple jobs. Consider dabbling in real estate, SEO research, or opening up your home to the sharing economy. Those are just a few of the great Side Hustles or Putting Your Savings on Steroids.
Rehearse a few Big Lebowski lines and head to the local bowling alley to work on your strikes and spares. Just get a few friends together once a month to go head-to-head (or if you have no bowling-curious friends, join a local league to make a few while taking your rolls to the next level).
Learn to pick a lock
No, not to be a burglar. If you’ve ever been locked out of your house, you know how useful this skill can be. It can also just be fun—a real-world puzzle that takes laser-like focus to solve. For a few dollars, you can acquire a lock-picking set on Amazon to get a handle on the basics, before working your way up to something more sophisticated. Check out this handy guide for an overview of the essentials and you’ll be picking locks within an hour.
Take Up Chess
This is a game that takes the greats decades to master, but you can get a handle on the basics over an afternoon. Bonus: Now’s a great time to learn, given that whole internet thing.
Hone Your Survival Skills
No, you don’t need to attempt an Into the Wild. Just learn some basics of wilderness survival, from sourcing food and water to signaling for help. Think of your favorite camping spot and figure out what you would have to do survive there for three days with limited equipment.
Then try out a test run (with a friend or two and some way to get ahold of the outside world if things go sideways), getting out into the wild and putting your skills to the test. Of course, always be sure others know where you are going in case something goes wrong.
Write a Book
Many of the greatest authors had a day job and wrote in their free time—Chekhov, Melville, Burroughs, Joyce. With self-publishing easier than ever, if you’ve got a decent idea for a book, there’s no reason not to write it. Whether it’s a spy novel you’ve always wanted to write, a how-to book on a topic you know inside and out, or erotic fan fiction about your favorite 80s sitcom (no judgements), put together a few thousand words and get it up on Amazon.
Become a Whiskey Aficionado
Learn the distinctions between the world’s whiskies, or focus in on one region or type of whiskey in particular. Figure out what makes a Macallan 18 so much better than a Macallan 12, the different tasting notes of rye versus bourbon, and why it’s usually a bad idea to let ice be anywhere near a good scotch.
Become an art buff
Become an amateur art expert and impress your friends by telling the difference between pointillism and divisionism (but don’t be a jerk about it). Get into the habit of visiting the local museums in your city. If money is a concern, most offer free events and discount days. If money’s not a concern, pay for an annual membership and get into their exclusive bashes and parties.
With a make-your-own-beer kit and a little time, you can turn that unused corner of your garage into a microbrewery. Whether you like ale, lager, or stout, there’s a brew kit out there for your taste, and at less than $50 a kit for many of them, you can afford to do some trial and error until you create the perfect brew. When the beer is ready, it makes for a great excuse to throw a party, or celebrate by drinking yourself into a stupor.
For a healthier snack, you can make a hobby out of pickling vegetables. Just get a few mason jars and the right vinegars and spices, and it’s off to the races. Warning: this can stick, so be sure you’re packing them carefully and not inviting dates over while you’re in the middle of pickling.
Learn to Play Guitar
You probably aren’t going to be the next Jack White if you’ve never really played guitar, but you could at least learn to play a few of his songs decently enough. There are few ways to while away an afternoon as enjoyably as plucking on a guitar. You can hire a guitar teacher, or teach yourself with YouTube videos and online tips. Though if you’re new to the hobby, you might want to be sure you’ve got a soundproof room in which to practice. Your family will thank you.
You’re still in the prime of your health, we’re sure, but you still probably want to go easy on your joints once you get past 40—which makes swimming a brilliant alternative to running. Not only does it give you a chance to get a good workout and get your heart racing, it ensures little impact on those knees and hips—something 80-year-old you will very much appreciate still having intact.
This art takes skill and a careful hand, but can be an extremely relaxing way to spend an afternoon. You can get a handle on it with a few online videos or picking up one of the hundreds of how-to books out there on the subject, for both total novices and origami ninjas. Best of all, it gives you a fun and kinda weird gift to hand to friends.
Learn a New Language
Just because you haven’t known the Spanish word for “pants” since high school doesn’t mean you can’t reactivate that part of your brain—and without needing to dust off that textbook with those weird illustrations.
With daily learning apps like Duolingo, it’s more convenient than ever to pick up a few new foreign words and concepts each day. Better yet: plan a trip to a French- or Spanish-speaking country, and aim to get your language skills strong enough to get around and carry on a basic conversation. If you’re looking for tips on making a second tongue second nature, learn the Secret Trick for Learning A New Language in No Time.
Master Some Magic Tricks
No need to get a rabbit, a hat, and a ridiculous magician costume; learning a few card tricks or simple sleights of hand can be a great way to add some energy to a party (but don’t be weird about it) or entertain your friends at the bar. Master a couple basic illusions that you can break out anytime, and work your way up from there.
Get Into Yoga
You don’t have to join a high-end yoga studio or buy fancy equipment to make yourself into an amateur yogi. With a decent matt (or comfortable floor) and a few YouTube videos, you’ll be able to get a handle on the basics, and when people ask you what you’ve been up to, you can say “Downward Facing Dog.”
Stop being so selfish! Numerous studies show that being generous with your time and giving to another person is a surefire way to improve your own happiness. So why not lift your spirits by putting in a few hours a month doing something for a cause bigger than yourself? Whether it’s helping the homeless, assisting at an animal shelter, or working for a food drive, getting into the habit of helping others is a good hobby to take on.
Learn to Cook (or to Cook Better)
You’re probably pretty capable in the kitchen, but this is an area where you can always raise your game, and find ways to get friends and family involved. Pick up a cookbook from a Michelin-starred chef and try to make one of its more complicated recipes, host a dinner party and wow a few friends with your skills or start a potluck cook-off competition with a few coworkers. You’ll feel like Gordon Ramsay, but with hopefully none of the swearing.
Strap on a mask and hop in the water to scope out some stunning coral and fish, and other sea creatures. If you find you really enjoy it, take your hobby a step further by becoming a certified scuba diver. You can get into a Zen mood floating in water with few sounds but your own breathing—just so long as you don’t run into any man-eating sharks.
Take up Calligraphy
It takes the pros years to master this style of writing, but you’d be surprised how fast you can pick up the basics. Whether using an instruction guide or following a YouTube tutorial, you can get some of the simple lettering down, enough to start addressing envelopes with a little extra artistry.
Become a Cinephile
You may enjoy the occasional art film or documentary, but why not make it a full-on hobby? Choose a particular era or region and seek out as many films in that genre as you can. Whether it’s French New Wave, spaghetti westerns, or Korean horror, watching a movie a week will turn you into an aficionado in no time.
Who needs Whole Foods when you’ve got a yard or just a sizable window box. There are few hobbies that give you a chance to enjoy a nice sunny day while feeling like you’re accomplishing something than getting into the garden with a spade. Plant a few vegetables and, come harvest time, you can have a celebratory dinner party to enjoy them.
If space, or your attention span, is limited, try this as an alternative. Herb gardening is likely to give you the same satisfaction of producing something tangible and delicious—with less effort than a vegetable garden. Whether you like some basil or oregano for your pasta, cilantro for your tacos, or chives on your cereal (some people are into weird stuff) creating and maintaining a simple herb garden makes for an easy, edible hobby.
If gardening gives you a taste for something more ambitious, try your hand at landscaping—designing a section of your back- or front yard, taking into account the local animal and plant species and placement of earth and water features, creating a self-sufficient ecosystem. There are plenty of online tutorials, but even better is to head to your local hardware or garden store and get some in-person advice on your specific project.
Run a Marathon
Even if you are just a casual runner, preparing and training for a marathon (or half-marathon if you’re not quite tough enough) makes for a fun hobby that feels far more satisfying over the long run than just trying to hit the gym when you can. You can find an event in your city or area—or find one on the other side of the country and make a vacation out of it. It gives you a goal to strive for, tracking your progress and maybe looping in friends to join in the prep.
Do a Tough Mudder
If a marathon is too low-key for you, you can get a bit more extreme by signing up for a Tough Mudder or a similar high-impact endurance challenge. If you’re into getting a bit dirty, taking overcoming obstacles (literally), and getting some great pics in the process, you might consider signing up for one of these.
Wherever you live, there’s hopefully some decent outdoor space to enjoy. Pick up some decent boots and a book on local hiking trails, and you’re fully equipped for a new hobby. Hiking is a great way to get in some exercise while enjoying the nature that’s in your backyard, or to take some time out of your day to get in touch with the wider world. It’s also an excellent way to take in the latest episode of your favorite podcast or audiobook.
If hiking around the outdoors is not exciting enough for you, add a treasure-hunt element by getting into geocaching. Participants use their smartphone or GPS device to uncover (and hide their own) trinkets and knickknacks. It requires a bit of orienteering, a keen eye, and is likely to lead you into areas you might otherwise have never set foot.
Start a Podcast
Is there something you’re passionate about and happily talk your friends’ ears off about? Are you a great conversationalist who likes to talk to people about a particular topic or hobby? You can share it with the world by starting a podcast. It requires little if any overhead and is a good way to connect with people in your industry or learn more about an area you’re already interested in.
There’s a reason this remains such a classic way to pass the time: few sports offer such a combination of leisurely pace, beautiful surroundings, and potential for valuable social interaction. Whether working on your swing at the driving range or joining the local country club, golf remains a very enjoyable way to spend a few hours. And for more ways to make the most of your best decade, don’t miss the 40 Best Ways to Conquer Your 40s.
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