40+ Father’s Day activities that don’t involve BBQ

An illustration of a father and his young son holding hands as they walk along the beach, their footprints in the sand.

We all know how the stereotypical dad celebrates Father’s Day. But what if your dad isn’t stereotypical? What if he doesn’t grill burgers while drinking a beer after mowing the lawn before taking a nap in a hammock and dreaming about how he’d rather be fishing? Or what if he DOES do all of that stuff, but you’d still like to celebrate him in ways that don’t depend on barbecue tongs and koozies?

Well, either way, you’re in luck! We’ve got an absolute shed-ful of Father’s Day ideas to share with you, from unique takes on Dad’s nostalgic interests to fun suggestions for unique hangouts. It’s the least we can do, right? Because today’s awesome dads deserve an extra-big shoutout for spending time, sharing wisdom, supporting dreams and everything else they do for their kiddos.

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An illustration of two bicyclists riding on a lakeside path toward a set of hills; in the distance beyond lies a cityscape with the sun above.

The Great Outdoors  

Let’s be honest: Some dads just aren’t that great at slowing down, even for a day. Sound like your dad? Then try something active that doesn’t take him out of his comfort zone as much as just expand it a little, like one of these Father’s Day activities.

  • Take a ride. Remember those bikes you dusted off a couple of springs ago? If your neighborhood is a bike-friendly place, take ’em for a group spin around the block, to a park, wherever Dad wants to go. If bikes aren’t an option, try a group hike instead.
  • Find the water. Doesn’t matter if it’s a creek, a pond, a river, a lake or the ocean, just find somewhere with some amazing agua and let the mood guide you. You could fish quietly, canoe loudly or just sit on a bench and trade dumb jokes while you ponder how great it is to have a dad like yours.
  • Clean it up. Does Dad have a nice backyard space? Why not power wash the patio, the deck or his favorite chairs out there? Bonus points for making one of those delightfully satisfying cleaning videos of the whole process.


The outdoor possibilities are endless! You could also: 

  • Plant something together.
  • Run through the sprinklers.
  • Have a family relay race, or an all-family kickball, volleyball, flag football or bocci ball day.
  • Find a place to play mini golf.
  • Take a lesson and learn something new together. 
  • Get him a shiny new extension cord! Who knows what for, but he’ll be delighted to figure it out. 
  • And he absolutely does not need a chainsaw, but you could get him one anyway. Then next time there’s a storm, he’ll be staring out the window longingly, hoping a big chunk of tree falls in the yard.


“My dad doesn’t understand the meaning of R&R—he genuinely loves having things to do, so we always find something we can build together or another project we can work on outside.” – Megan H.

An illustration from the perspective of the back seat of a car, with a father and son sitting in the front seats, driving down the road toward a sunset sky.

Expeditions with a mission  

Maybe the open-ended exploring isn’t quite enough for your super-driven, plan-focused dad. In that case, you can set out on adventures with very specific goals in mind. These trips could include Dad in the planning or not, depending on whether he’d like a break from being the one who has to make the plans.

  • Test drive a dream car. Is there a convertible or some other kind of fancy car that Dad would never actually buy but would love to drive? You could take one for a test drive! Or in the pricier version of this scenario, you could rent the dream car for the weekend.
  • Explore a junk shop. There’s something endlessly fascinating about stores filled with antique trinkets, scrap metal, old tools or car parts and whatever else has piled up over the years. You never know what kind of nostalgic buzz that kind of visit will create for him. After all, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
  • Visit your own city. Maybe you don’t have the time or the funds to take the kind of trip that would require airfare and several days in a hotel, condo, Airbnb or Vrbo. But what if you just rented a local place that’s listed on one of those sites and pretended to be a tourist for the weekend?


There are so many other little adventures, missions or scavenger hunts you could plan as a Father’s Day activity. For instance:

  • Is there a comedy show, play, musical or some big act in town that you could buy tickets for in advance? 
  • You could secretly take his car and get it detailed.
  • Maybe you could organize a family stop at the mall, where everyone picks out one item of clothing for Dad. 
  • How about hitting up his favorite drive-through for drinks and snacks or find a nearby drive-in for a movie? 
  • What if you took him recliner shopping?
  • Or maybe he’d go for a massage and a MAN-icure…get it? (Be sure to make that joke several times.)


“My dad loves a road trip but not an aimless one, so what we do is find a restaurant he’s been meaning to try in another town and we make the drive there, whether it’s 15 minutes or a couple hours away. It always feels like something special and a little different has been accomplished.” – Mike F.

An illustration of a family garage with an outdoor picnic set up in front, complete with s'mores and a fire pit.

The Great Indoors  

And let’s not forget, you don’t even need to leave the house to have fun. Maybe y’all have a more “indoor cat” kinda vibe and already know this well. Or maybe Dad has trouble getting around and it’s just better to take a low-key approach to your Father’s Day ideas. Whatever the reason, there’s a lot you can do right there at home.  

  • Piece it together. When was the last time you got out (or bought) a really big and complicated puzzle and tried to finish it in a day? Maybe it’s been years! Could be a randomly enjoyable thing to try with Dad.
  • Stink up the joint. In a good way, that is. There are so many delightfully specific scents for candles these days that go beyond the usual stuff, things that smell like hay, leather, bourbon or saltwater. You could create just about any kind of environment with the right “nasalstalgia.”
  • Refresh the garage. Doesn’t have to be the garage, either. Could be the basement. Surely one of those two places in the house could use a little sweeping or vacuuming, or maybe a new set of organizing shelves? Anything to brighten up or straighten up an otherwise messy space, especially if it’s a space he spends time in.


What else could you do to find a little fun inside? Well, you might: 

  • Pitch a tent indoors and have a “campfire” story session about Dad. 
  • Create an indoor scavenger hunt that leads to his gift. 
  • Host a fake-out virtual happy hour with out-of-town siblings that starts with everyone on their phones—but they’re actually sitting in their cars parked nearby! Then the guests show up at the door for the real in-person happy hour.


“We have three kids and they’re all pretty little. My husband’s only request after last year’s Father’s Day? Literally this was all he asked for this year—to sleep in as long as he wanted without anyone jumping directly onto him to wake him up. Honestly, that seems like something that we could pull off. We’ll see.” – Julia S.

“I always have fun doing crosswords with my dad over Christmas break, so there’s something about doing puzzles that just says ‘time with Dad,’ you know?” – Gretchen L.

Ann illustration of a man sitting in a bean bag chair in front of a record player, his child stretched out on the carpet alongside.

No school like the old-school  

Doesn’t matter if he’s in his 20s or in his 80s, every dad has classic faves and original passions that we can honor, celebrate and poke a little fun at on Father’s Day.

  • Make a retro playlist. Choose whatever decade Dad was in high school and curate a playlist that he can enjoy alongside whatever else y’all have planned for the day. The only catch: You can’t complain about the songs once he’s playing them! 🙂
  • Play vintage video games. See if you can borrow or buy an original console (or one inspired by the original) with the first games he ever played loaded on it. Or find an arcade that has a lot of the classics. To shake things up a little more, YOU can watch HIM play for a change.
  • Honk if you know what his first car was. Discussions about the early days of driving always seem to bring up a lot of memories. Can you track down and pull together some of his old photos with him and his car? Or even just the car? You might need to check in with other relatives or old friends to make this happen, but it could make a fun collage.


Nostalgia for the good ol’ days can send you in a bunch of other directions, too. You could:

  • Pick something that he collects and add a piece of memorabilia. 
  • Find a replica of a prop from one of his all-time favorite TV shows. 
  • Set up a projector for an outdoor marathon with his favorite movie trilogy. 
  • Break out a classic board game and get everyone to play it without whining about it (this is a recurring theme…you might have noticed). 
  • If you’re an extremely extroverted crew, you could learn the lyrics to one of his favorite songs and perform it as a group!


“One year we surprised our dad by everyone dressing up like him for a day, but like the way he looked in one of his high school photos. He loved it. He was laughing about it for days afterward.” – Dani M.

“My brother got our dad a kit to make smoked Old Fashioned cocktails. It’s the kind of a throwback drink that he loves but wouldn’t normally make on his own, so it added that extra little dash of coolness to the day.” –Matt P.

A home office desk with a stack of books, a globe and two mugs sitting on it; on the wall behind the desk hang pictures of bicycles, a campground and a plaque that reads

For the creatively inclined (while he’s reclined)  

Do you feel comfortable making something artistic or crafty for Dad? Do you have “the write stuff”? Then one of these visual or verbal combinations might be right for you as a Father’s Day activity.

  • Make a memory map. Think about all of the places you’ve been with your dad over the years, where you’ve had some of the best times. Build a map, whether you draw it or cut out pictures, that commemorates those places and memories.
  • Capture the greatest Dadisms. There are always a few phrases Dad kinda makes his own. Sometimes they’re twists on a classic, and sometimes they’re just his own strange creations. Make a list of those and present it to him on a scroll, or in some other simple, silly way.
  • Draw a portrait. Doesn’t have to be a great one! Just ask everyone in the family to try sketching, drawing, painting or otherwise capturing a likeness of your pops.


What else could you put together? How about: 

  • A T-shirt with the kids’ handprints painted on it.
  • A poster-size sheet with compliments to hang the first place he’d see it that morning.
  • Gratitude notes to tuck in to a book or magazine he reads.
  • A dad-specific pennant.
  • A custom sign for his favorite spot in the house.
  • Customized temporary tattoos—or maybe even a real tattoo design that symbolizes something important to him (bonus points if he actually goes out and gets it inked)


“One year on Father’s Day we happened to start talking about our best and worst family vacations, and we sketched out a couple of the really hilariously bad moments so he could keep ’em, and now every year we have a new category of best/worst and that always starts a great conversation.” – Anthony B.