Father’s Day is around the corner, which means you’re probably wondering what to get for Dad. Maybe a tie, or a fancy bottle of scotch, or a razor with more turbo power than a guided missile? Yes, all sounds nice, but allow us to make a suggestion. If you want to give your dad a gift that will really last a lifetime, give him an experience—more specifically, an experience with you.
In a 2017 Pew Research Center survey, 63 percent of fathers say they spend too little time with their kids. And they’re not going to be around forever. When it’s all said and done, will you really remember the time you gave him a card and cologne on a Sunday? Or will you remember taking him out to the fishing creek for an afternoon, or watching a baseball game with him, or jumping in the car for a spontaneous road trip, just the two of you?
Here are 30 ideas of what you can do with your dad. Not just this weekend, but any day when you want to make some memories with the most important man in your life. But if you are still in search of the perfect Father’s Day gift to send his way in the meantime, don’t miss our compilation of the 30 Timeless Style Upgrades Dad Will Love.
Whether you’re 5 or 50, there’s no better way to hang out with your dad than by throwing a ball around in your backyard. For such a simple activity, it always feels so meaningful, like you’re taking part in an ancient ritual that only fathers and sons truly understand. Be sure to check out The 30 Best Things about Being a Dad for more of those iconic father-son moments.
Build a bookshelf.
Not one of those IKEA kits. We mean a bookshelf you make from scratch, where you have to visit the lumberyard and make exact measurements and use power tools. Even if the thing comes out looking like a hot mess, you’ll cherish the experience of building something with him.
There’s something sacred about a backyard, a grill, and two dudes watching meat slowly cook on steel grates. Talk about your lives or how many more minutes to keep those steaks on the fire, it doesn’t really matter. And if you’re having trouble deciding between Charcoal or Gas? Learn the Healthier Way to Grill.
Make him laugh.
Dads love jokes, the cornier the better. See if you can find a joke that’ll make him fall to the ground from the sheer force of his guffaws. To really score some laughs, learn the 50 Dad Jokes So Bad They’re Actually Hilarious.
Let him teach you something new.
Dads never grow bored of being your teacher. What does he excel at that you’ve always wanted to learn? Maybe it’s how to replace the battery or alternator in your car. Maybe it’s the recipe for his famous meatloaf. Be his pupil for a day, or even just the morning.
Introduce him to something new.
Get your dad out of his comfort zone and trying something new. If he’s never been on a horse before, or the skipper on a boat, or to a Broadway musical, you’re just the one to show him how much life has to offer.
Go to a hardware store.
You don’t even need to have a specific DIY project in mind to visit the hardware store with your father. Window shop for power tools, stock up on duct tape, and be amazed at the celestial display of screws. You could get lost for days in a good hardware store.
Test drive your fantasy car.
Not in the market for a new set of wheels? Doesn’t matter. When you and your old man are behind the wheel of some ridiculously expensive sports car, maybe a Rolls-Royce or a BMW, something either or both of you have always fantasized about owning but could never justify, it’ll be a day you remember forever. In fact, going for a joyride is one of the 20 Best Ways to Give Your Dad the Gift of Time.
Fishing has less to do with the actual fish than the opportunity to have long, rambling conversations with your dad on a boat in the middle of a lake or pond. There’s no wifi out here, no distractions at all but each other (and the occasional tug at your fishing pole).
Take a golf lesson together.
Even if he’s been playing golf all his life, there’s always something new he can learn about the game. Hire a PGA pro to take you both out for a morning, giving you pointers on your technique and 18 holes worth of perfect memories. If you’re looking for an extra challenge, consider visiting one of The 9 Hardest Golf Holes in America.
Play a board game.
Let him pick the game. Maybe it’s a classic like Monopoly or Clue, or maybe his preference is something a bit more oddball, like Zombies!!!, the kind of game he wouldn’t normally suggest on family game night. Just don’t let him win on purpose; if he wants to take you down, make him earn it. Just be sure to avoid the 30 Worst Board Games of All Time.
Take him out for a beer.
Always been curious about that local brewery that makes their own suds and sells it by the growler? Take Dad along for a tipsy afternoon of day drinking you won’t soon forget. Remember, beer always tastes better if you’re playing hooky.
Ask him about his childhood.
Think you’ve heard all of Dad’s best stories from his youth? Think again. He’s got a few tall tales up his sleeve about the crazy things he got away with as a kid, and he’s just dying to share them with you.
From putting up a tent to cooking over a campfire, sleeping in the great outdoors is full of collaborative fun you can have with your old man. It combines all the thrills of survivalism with all the innocent silliness of telling ghost stories over a fire you both helped build. If you need to brush up on your tent-pitching skills, check out the 20 Lessons You Forgot from Summer Camp That Are Actually Useful.
Fly a kite.
Give yourself an extra challenge and see if you can build your own kite rather than use a store-bought one. Will your design make it into the air, or come crashing down to earth like an early Wright brother prototype?
Read a book together.
Can you even remember the last time your dad told you a story? It doesn’t have to be a kids book, it could be anything you both enjoy. There’s something beautifully intimate about reading aloud to another person.
Watch a “guy” movie with him.
What’s your dad’s favorite movie that he hasn’t seen in forever? Does he go crazy for The Godfather or The Longest Yard or The Good, the Bad and the Ugly? Bonus points if it’s a movie that chokes you both up. See who openly weeps first at Field of Dreams. And speaking of baseball nostalgia…
Take him to a ballgame.
If sitting with your dad in the bleachers and watching baseball doesn’t give you goosebumps, regardless of who’s winning, it’s possible you’re not even alive.
Build a model rocket.
He’ll love the challenge of seeing if the two of you can build a rocket that actually works. It’ll take some patience and a little bit of research, but when you light the fuse and watch your creation launch into the air, you’ll feel like a father-and-son NASA team. Get ready for the celebratory hugs!
Hit the barber shop.
We don’t mean a salon. We’re talking about a barber shop that caters almost exclusively to dudes, with a spinning pole outside and the smell of aftershave lotion heavy in the air. Treat him to a haircut, or better still, a straight razor shave. If you’re feeling extra fancy, treat your dad with a visit to one of The 12 Best Barbershops in America.
Plant a tree.
It’s not just about picking the right sapling, and finding the perfect spot, and digging the hole. It’s creating something together that will always remind you of a certain time and place. Many decades from now, you’ll be able to tell your son or daughter, or maybe your grandkids, that this is the tree you planted with your old man.
Go see live music.
Buy a pair of tickets to see his favorite band or artist, even if it’s somebody you can’t stand. Especially if it’s somebody you can’t stand. You’ll never get a better argument for why an artist matters than watching them play live. If you can understand why your dad loves this music so much, you’re a little bit closer to understanding what makes him tick.
Create a family tree.
It’s like you’re detectives investigating the mysteries of your shared family history. What will you uncover about your past? It’s not just about collecting names and dates. You might learn something about your great-great-great-great-grandfather that makes your dad’s personality, or maybe yours, make so much more sense.
Sit in a sauna.
Other than ladling water on the sauna stones, there’s not much else to do in a sauna but sit and sweat. Which is exactly what makes it such a great place to get to know somebody. It’s like one part confessional booth—what’s said in the sauna stays in the sauna—and one part campfire story time, but with less clothing.
Hunt for your dinner.
A venison roast always tastes better if you’ve hunted the deer yourself. But it doesn’t really matter if you come home empty handed. Like fishing, the fun is in the waiting, quietly watching for signs of moment among the trees, and feeling closer to that person next to you than you ever thought possible.
Embrace his crazy hobby.
What does he love to do that you’ve never gotten into? Is his passion ham radios, or reconstructing cars, or Civil War reenactments? Whatever it is, spend a day immersing yourself in his world. Don’t be the kid who rolls his eyes at Dad’s quirky pastime; be the curious and enthusiastic student.
Everybody needs a reminder of just how lucky they really are, and devoting your time and energy to somebody in need, be it at a soup kitchen or building homes through Habitat for Humanity, will help you and your dad remember to be grateful for everything you have, including each other.
Take a hike.
It could be as short as a stroll around the block or as long as a full day of mountain hiking. While you’re out, you can talk about everything or nothing at all — even a quiet hike can be a bonding moment. It’s the antithesis of sitting in an air-conditioned room, staring at your respective screens. For some trailblazing inspiration, check out The Greatest Hikes in the World.
Go antique hunting.
You never know what you’ll learn about somebody in an antique store. The things they’re drawn to, that make their eyes light up with joy and nostalgia, tell you more about their past than anything you could get from grilling them for memories.
You don’t need a destination. Just get in the car and drive. Turn off the GPS and let the road take you wherever. Whether it leads to a deep conversation, or you and Dad just sit in silence and embrace the wanderlust of the open road, it’ll be a great day you won’t soon forget.
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