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Father’s Day 2012: Experiences to Gift Dad This Year

Not that there’s anything wrong with new barbecue tongs or a tie, but the trend of gifting experiential travel (think brewery tours and surf camps) is full-steam-ahead this Father’s Day. Whether your dad is microbrew geek or wannabe Kelly Slater, closet spa connoisseur or committed runner, he’ll love "unwrapping" these trips on June 17th.


Mixology in Portland

Is dad a modern-day Don Draper? Then book him the Shaken, Not Stirred package at Portland, Oregon’s swanky Hotel deLuxe. After sleeping off a few Rusty Nails in one of the property’s 130 Art Deco-inspired chambers (blocky crystal lamps, architectural padded headboards), hair of the dog comes via a cocktail class downstairs in the Driftwood Room restaurant. Learn the secret formulas to Driftwood’s signature Champagne Cocktail and a second, seasonally changing pre-Prohibition tipple, both paired with appetizers. (From $249 per night, Friday or Saturday stay only.)

Insider’s Tip: Get mixology inspiration from the specialists behind the bar at Clyde Common, where classic drinks get seasonal, creative updates like the Spiced Dark and Stormy, made with Chinese five spice and house-brewed ginger beer.


Endure a Tough Mudder

Buttered monkey bars, electrically charged quicksand, and the "Arctic Enema" ice plunge are just a few of the physical challenges in the 12-mile Tough Mudder obstacle course. Designed by British Special Forces and scheduled all around the globe—there’s one in Attica, Indiana on Father’s Day, but we like the Southern California courses planned for select dates in July—the track tests physical and mental endurance and fosters teamwork and camaraderie amongst the "Mudders" that participate to raise money for the Wounded Warriors Project. (Tickets from $80,

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Where to Refuel: If you’re hitting the course in Southern California, wash the mud off and high-five each other for effort, then treat Dad to a meaty, manly dinner at Animal in Los Angeles, where the meat is paired with more meat. There is even a bacon and chocolate dessert.

Where to Stay: Fancier Dads will dig the newly renovated rooms and swank bar and dining room at the Hotel Bel Air (rates from $515/night), while laidback Dads will prefer the incredible seaside location and low-key vibes of Shutters on the Beach (rates from $575/night) in Santa Monica.


Unwind in New York City

Most spas offer a token treatment designed for guys; Guerlain Spa at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan has an entire menu dedicated to them, from deep-tissue massages to clean-buff manicures, and all treatments end with complimentary garment steaming and shoe shining. (Treatments from $90)

Where to Eat: If you want to keep the zen, spa theme going, book a table at Pure Food and Wine, where fresh figs come with black truffles and tamales are stuffed with sweet corn and cashews topped with spiced Portobello mushrooms.


Tour and Brew in Michigan

Placid, crystal blue Lake Michigan is the second most important liquid in Traverse City, on Michigan’s unspoiled northwest coast. The first? The porters, ales, and barley-wines produced at the local microbreweries. Rehydrate with dad with the 900-acre Grand Traverse Resort and Spa’s Craft Brewery Tour package on Father’s Day weekend. With two nights, three breweries (transportation included), and ample discounts, there’ll be plenty left over to bring home some drinkable souvenirs. (From $380 for two, June 15th-17th)

Insider’s Tip: If you and Dad are beer-lovers, you’re likely also food and wine lovers. Traverse City and its surrounds are a surprising hotbed of food and wine activity (Mario Batali even has a house here!), so take a few days to explore places like the Grand Traverse Pie Company, the farmers markets, The Cook’s House, and Trattoria Stella.


Curing Meat in Portland

Wannabe charcutiers book classes quickly at Portland Meat Collective. On Father’s Day, the boutique butcher shop is offering Basic Duck Butchery & Charcuterie, perfect for pops that obsess over jerky, sausage, and other cured meats. Students break down Anacona and Saxony heritage-breed birds under the guidance of butcher and Seattle Culinary Academy instructor, Sarah Wong, then use the meat to made bresaola, prosciutto, rillettes, confit, and more. ($100 per student, [email protected])

More Meat: If you can’t make it to Portland, don’t fret. There are more butchery classes around the country. One of the most famous is at Napa Valley’s Fatted Calf, Boston Dads can join a class at Savenor’s Market, Brooklyn Kitchen in Brooklyn will show you how to butcher a whole pig, and Chicago’s Butcher and the Burger offers a full meal (it’s BYOB) after each class.

Where to Stay: For Dads that are cool but still a little old school, book a room at Hotel deLuxe (from $140/night), where old Hollywood glam accents meet young Portland hip design. Rooms come with iPod docks and flatscreens, but you’ll want to check out the sweet screening room downstairs.


Surf in Costa Rica

The breaks are rightly legendary around Roca Bruja on Costa Rica’s virgin Pacific coast, perfect for aquatically inclined dads and only a couple hours’ flight from the southern U.S. The Witch’s Rock Surf Camp in Tamarindo has classes for both beginners and pros, plus custom boards by shaper Robert August, airy ocean-view rooms, and a beachfront sushi bar. Seven night surf camp packages include airport transfers, breakfast, board rental and daily lessons in three expertise levels. (Rates from $130 per person, per night.)

Where to Eat: Find a table at the nearby, off-the-beaten-path Dragonfly Bar & Grill for local, seasonal dishes, a refreshing tipple or two, and a laidback vibe.


Break the Speed Limit in Miami

No one is around to tell Dad to slow down at Miami’s Homestead Speedway. Whether you book him a ride-along trip or a first-hand experience, you’ll get him up close and personal with a real NASCAR race car with one of the track’s 3-hour Racing Experiences. He’ll meet with a crew chief, get some personal instruction, a (temporary) racing license, and the chance to take the track at top speeds. Prices start at $365 for a 5-minute drive, and there are still spots available for Father’s Day!

Insider Tip: If you can wait and celebrate Father’s Day a little later this year, go on July 1 for the Exotic Car Driving Experience where you and Dad can test drive Lamborghinis, Ferrari F430s, and an Audi R8.

Where to Stay: Book at the quintessentially swank, white-hot, and fun W South Beach (from $450/night), where you and Dad can refuel at Mr Chow, ease into the sleek pool scene, or clean up nice at the Bliss Spa.

Photo Credits: Cocktail: Courtesy of Tough Mudder; Massage: Breweryvia; Cooking: Runnersvia; Surfing: NASCAR race cars via Shutterstock

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