Right about now we start to get inundated with ads for clothes, wallets, ties, and gadgets suitable as gifts for dad, but in most cases, what he’d probably prefer is to spend some quality time with his kid. It doesn’t have to be something you love to do, just something he enjoys. Here are some Michigan adventures that you can opt for instead of material possessions, to salute your father, and maybe even get to know him a little bit better.
Returning to a place where your dad once lived, worked, or played can be a special experience. Undoubtedly you’ll hear a story or two that you’ve heard a gazillion times growing up, and one or two that you’ve never heard before. While in the area, have a meal or a beverage in one of his old stomping grounds, or try a new joint to get a feel for how the neighborhood has changed. Ask him a few questions to ignite his memories like: Who was your favorite teacher and why? What was the most trouble you ever got into as a kid? What is your earliest memory?
Few traditions are as time-honored as fathers and their kids heading to a baseball game. Get a program and show him that you still remember how he taught you to keep score. If a Detroit Tigers game is too far or too pricey for you, Michigan is full of alternatives like the Lansing Lugnuts, West Michigan Whitecaps, Great Lake Loons, Traverse City Beach Bums, or head to the newest addition, the United Shore Professional Baseball League in downtown Utica. During the game try asking your dad: Who do you think is the best player to ever play the game? What is the first pro game you ever remember going to and with whom did you go? What’s the most exciting sports experience you ever had, either on or off the field?
Many dads like to have a drink, and even more like to know how things work. Why not combine the two and if you’re 21 or older, take your dad on a tour of one of nearly 200 Michigan breweries or distilleries? If you make arrangements in advance, many of these facilities will be happy to show off their wares and the process by which they make them. If a tour isn’t available, you can at least enjoy the tasting room. While you’re there ask dad a few fun questions like: Who gave you your first sip of beer and how old were you? Were you nervous the first time you went out with mom? What’s the worst job you ever had?
Maybe your dad cares more for fruits of the vine, specifically in the form of wine. Michigan has several excellent wine trails where you can sample and savor some of the state’s most impressive libations. For example, try out the Lake Michigan Wine Shore, Southeast Michigan Pioneer Wine Trail, or the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail. You can also just visit any one of more than one hundred wineries around the state. Sipping wine provides an ideal atmosphere for chit chat with queries like: What were you like in high school or college? If you could do something else for a living what would it be? What wine region of the world would you most like to visit?
Of course, most fathers are watching what they eat these days (or perhaps someone else in the house is watching it for them), but this is one day out of the year. When it comes to food, ask your dad what he is craving most and take him out to a local establishment to indulge in that burger, Coney Dog, cherry pie, ice cream sundae, etc. (Do yourself, and him, a favor and make sure his wife is in on the decadent indulgence so he doesn’t get too much grief upon returning home). Food always makes conversation flow. This is a great time to ask questions like: What was your favorite meal as a kid growing up? What’s the best meal you’ve ever had in your whole life, and what made it special? Who have you not had dinner with in a very long time that you would love to see again?
There is no state in the nation more dedicated to celebrating the automobile as Michigan. That means we have abundant opportunities for fathers and their children to join together and admire these engineering marvels. You can make plans to attend one of the many weekend car shows that pop up over the summer, or visit a standing destination like the Gilmore Car Museum. For a truly nostalgic experience check out, or take part in, a cruise like the now iconic Dream Cruise down Woodward Avenue. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about his passion for cars. Ask a few questions like: What was the first car you ever owned and how did you get it? Is there a dream vehicle you’ve always wanted to own, and if so what is it? How did you first get interested in cars?
If you want to kick that auto passion into overdrive, hit the track. Even for those who are not huge racing fans, there is nothing quite like the roar of the engines at a car race. Make a plan to catch a race together at one of Michigan’s many premiere courses like Michigan International Speedway, Galesburg Speedway, Crystal Motor Speedway, or Berlin Raceway in Marne, where dad can strap in for the ride of a lifetime with a professional driver. There’s usually a good chance to chat between races so why not ask: What was the first race you ever went to and with whom did you go? What do you think is the most exciting race in the world? If you could meet one of the drivers, who would it be?
Perhaps your dad is more into planes than cars. Michigan is home to some great resources for exploring those vehicles in the sky. The Selfridge Military Air Museum in Harrison Township highlights nearly a century of Michigan aviation history. For an interactive experience, consider the Air Zoo in Portage. It features more than 50 rare and historic aircraft, amusement park-style rides, Full-Motion Flight Simulators, a RealD 3D/4D Missions Theater, as well as historical exhibits and educational activities. If you really want to get experiential, take a voyage via the Yankee Air Museum in Belleville. You and your dad can enjoy an unforgettable flight of a lifetime on their vintage B-17 “Yankee Lady” or B-25 “Yankee Warrior.” While your feet are firmly planted on the ground, consider asking your dad to share some stories like: How did you first get interested in aviation? Where did you go on your first flight? What’s the one place in the world you haven’t been yet, but would most like to see?
At the opposite end of the spectrum, there are few more peaceful, relaxing ways to spend time with someone than at a local fishing hole, stream, river, or lake. Cast from shore with some Eppinger lures or book one of the amazing charters available all over the state. Take advantage of the quiet time to ask dad questions like: When was the first time you ever went fishing? If you could fish with anyone living or dead, present company excluded of course, who would it be? What’s the greatest place you ever caught a fish?
Golf courses are almost as prevalent as fishing piers in this state. Did you know that there are over 800 public golf courses in Michigan? With that many from which to choose, it should be easy to find a course to tackle together. While you’re out there, consider asking him something like: What’s the best day on the course you’ve ever had? Who first taught you how to golf? If you could play a round with anyone in the world, who would you choose and why?
Beyond the days of “I spy” and the license plate game, there are few activities more conducive to conversations than a good old fashioned road trip. You can head back to somewhere familiar, or explore new territory together. Pure Michigan has a bunch of suggested routes for different themes, as well as six scenic routes worthy of a look. Be sure to grab a bite in a local café, grille, or restaurant that you can only find along those roads less traveled. While on the journey ask some thought-provoking queries like: What trips did you take with your family as a kid? Did you and your friends ever take a big road trip, and if so, where did you go, and who were you with? What’s your favorite memory from trips we took when I was a kid?
If your dad gives his time to a special cause, you can be sure he’s passionate about it, and would love for you to share in the experience. See if there is an event you can help him with, or a volunteer project you can do together. You’ll get to enjoy each other’s company, and help better your community at the same time. While there, or before you go, ask him: How long have you been volunteering for this event or organization? How did you first get involved? What’s been your most rewarding experience so far?
Perhaps your dad has an interest in the arts or history--then share an experience together. Get tickets to a concert you know he will enjoy (even if it’s not your favorite style) or take a stroll through a museum. The Detroit Institute of Arts and Grand Rapids Art Museum have world class collections. If he’s into history, check out the Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, The Henry Ford in Dearborn, the Detroit Historical Museum, or any number of local historic sites and museums in your neck of the woods. While there ask him something like: What was the first concert you ever went to with your friends? How did you get so interested in art or history? If you could travel through time and witness an event first-hand, what would you like to see?
Cross Something Off of His Michigan Bucket List
Nearly everyone has at least a virtual list of things they hope to see, taste, or experience in their lifetime, especially if they live in Michigan, which is so rich with opportunities. What’s on your dad’s list? Does he want to watch a ship go through the Soo Locks…compare a Flint Coney Dog to its Detroit counterpart…camp on Isle Royale? Ask him about the places he’s always wanted to visit, and the things he’s always wanted to do, and then make one of those happen as your Father’s Day gift. Don’t forget to take advantage of the time together to ask the questions you’ve always wondered about, and listen to the stories he wants to share.
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