This Father’s Day: Give Him an Experience, Not Another Shirt

I—like many people—struggle to come up with unique Father’s Day gift ideas. Every year, I try to think outside the box, and every year my dad’s gift winds up inside the (retail) box when I buy him clothes.

So much for originality!

My dad is into landscaping, and remodeling projects, and saltwater fish tanks and hunting and fishing and both professional and collegiate-level sports, and I don’t know enough about any of those subjects to come up with the perfect gift.

Don’t get me wrong, my dad always likes and wears the clothes I buy for him, but this year I wanted to give him something more. I wanted to thank him for being a fun, smart, kind, loving, and supportive friend as well as a first-rate dad and grandpa. A shirt, somehow, didn’t seem like enough.

And yes, he has told me that he doesn’t need a gift, but the truth is, I like buying gifts. I like spending money on loved ones, I like the thrill of the hunt, I like seeing people’s reactions as they open their gifts.

And then it came to me in a flash. I should buy him—the ultimate storyteller—an exciting experience that makes him feel alive, the framework of a happy memory, a story that can be told for years to come. (And told again, and again, and again.) I won’t tell you what I bought him. I’ll save that for a future blog post.

Shirts and ties are always a safe bet, but maybe you’ll find an exciting life experience for your dad on this list, too:

 • Drive a race car at Brainerd International Raceway (one session in Spec Ford Racecar = $325).

Snorkel with the fish or SCUBA dive with the sharks in the SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium at Mall of America (snorkeling starts at $90 for non-members, 15 percent off for members; diving starts at $200 for non-members; 15 percent off for members).

Take a beginner’s sailing lesson on Lake Minnetonka ($75/two hours).

• Golf with a PGA pro at Prestwick Golf Club ($150/hour).

• Go whitewater rafting on the St. Louis River, 15 miles south of Duluth (near Jay Cooke State Park, $40/person).

• Fly an airplane in Lakeville (rates vary).

Float in a hot air balloon over the St. Croix River (standard flight = $245/person; launches one block from the St. Croix River in Lakeland).

Brew a batch of beer at Vine Park Brewing Company in St. Paul (prices start at $165).

Catch fish with the pros who offer valuable insider tips and access to the hotspots whether fishing for walleye, muskie, northern pike, jumbo perch, crappie, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, or bluegill (Itasca/Cass County area, half-day trip, $300).

• Drive a tank convoy-style through the woods or over cars in Kasota (prices start at $400/driver).

Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful dads out there!