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Father-Son Adventures, Beyond the Ordinary

The best gift you can give Dad?


Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to reflect trips for 2015. Our earlier selections, from 2014, are on the following page.

Now that you’re no longer a tyke, building a soap box derby car and playing catch in the backyard are pastimes long past. While tooling around under the hood of a ’65 Mustang was a good thing, these days require something more — a shared experience that’s far from common. For Father’s Day this year, shun another striped necktie or a leather key fob (unless it has the keys to a Porsche 911), and maximize the amount of time you two share together by going on an adventure. We’ve selected six relationship- and skill-enriching outings, ranging from local to distant — all of which are sure to take you a step farther in each of your journeys as father, son and man.

Fly Fish the Bighorn River, Montana


The Bighorn River in Eastern Montana is one of the nation’s best locations for large rainbow and brown trout fishing. These cold waters extend from the Yellowstone River in Montana down through Wyoming; in all, it’s 461 miles long — but your prime spot is 12 miles downstream from Fort Smith. There the river bursts with big trout, thanks to the millions of insect hatchlings that migrating trout consume. Catching big fish in the range of 15+ inches isn’t uncommon, so there’s no need for fish stories. And if it’s your first time fly fishing, fear not: Packages that include guided fishing are available, so you and Pops can learn something new together. The best time to go is after summer, when there are cooler temperatures and fewer crowds.

Eat: Drop by Billings’ Uberbrew for one (or more) of their 10 beers, along with their Whiskey Burger and Bockwurst, which is boiled in their beer, grilled and then topped with grilled onions and/or sauerkraut.
Stay: Spend your entire fly fishing experience at The Bighorn River Lodge, where you can capture some of the nation’s best fly fishing, and then rest your weary selves at the lodge. Packages start at $850 and include lodging, meals and guided fly fishing on the river.
Do: Waterfowl hunting at the Lodge is an experience in and of itself. Plenty of duck and geese provide for a true bird-hunting experience. When the bird activity tapers off, switch gears and get some fishing in. This is why they call it “Cast and Blast”.

Drive the Nordeschleife on the Nürburgring Racetrack


If you and dad are gearheads, or you just love speed and the opportunity to become a better driver, there’s almost no better place on earth than the famed Nürburgring racetrack in Nürburg, Germany. And the trip’s more affordable than you think. The track is open for public driving nearly every day, and you don’t even have to bring your own car across the ocean. Dad is worth a rental of a VW Scirocco Cup+, a VW Golf GTI or a Toyota GT86 (FR-S), so he can nail every apex on the north loop of the track. You’ll receive training on the car and the track, an explanation of the driving rules and a full safety briefing so you can tell your whole family that you’re not going to put dear old dad in harm’s way.

Eat: Just because you’re racing the heck out of the ring doesn’t mean you don’t have time to stop for an American meal at the Devil’s Diner, which serves up burgers and other calorie-rich fare. With racetrack and automotive paraphernalia galore, it’s an amateur racer’s delight, and there’s easy access at the entrance to the Nordeschleife.
Stay: If you plan on doing more than just one track outing, be sure to stay close at the Lindner Congress & Motorsport Hotel Nürburgring, situated adjacent to the start and finish lines. Catch a view of the Eifel Mountains from one of the 154 decadent rooms, and then get back to racing.
Do:When you’re not actually mashing the gas, get dad to the track museum known as the ring°werk. Newly remodeled, it’s essentially an indoor theme park paying homage to the ring, full of racing lore and legend.

Explore Cebu Island, Philippines


For all he’s put up with, Dad deserves an adventure in the Far East. Cebu Island sits in the middle of the Philippines and boasts some of its most developed areas, along with some of the most stunning beaches in the world. And though it’s a tropical paradise, temperatures aren’t scorching, and the climate remains mostly dry (rainfall happens occasionally from June through December). Temps range from 75 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit during most of the year, so it’s easy to explore the 122-mile-long, 20-mile-wide island. Start at bustling, commerce-heavy Cebu City, where you can bar-hop and hit up some of the country’s best eateries — then head to the gorgeous white sand beaches along the northern tip at Bantayan Island and on down to the southwest coast at Moalboal.

Eat: Zubuchon Lechon in Cebu City serves up the best roasted pig you’ll ever have (Anthony Bourdain thinks so, too). Or, for amazing Filipino-American fusion, break out the wallet for decadent Abaca Restaurant on Mactan Island, off the coast of Cebu City.
Stay: The Henry Hotel is a new and refreshing hotel in the heart of Cebu City that qualifies as an art gallery where you can sleep. For a more laid-back atmosphere, head to Eden Resort (Oslob) for a relaxed island experience.
Do: Don’t miss swimming with whale sharks while you’re there, which can be done any time of the year off the coast of Oslob, at the southern end of the island. You will be picked up at your hotel or resort and get the chance to snorkel or scuba with these massive, docile creatures (alongside a certified dive master).

City of New Orleans Amtrak Ride


Beginning in Chicago and ending in New Orleans, the City of City of New Orleans Amtrak Ride bisects the country with 900 miles of railroad over five states; that’s 19 hours of rolling hills and Midwestern jazz. The train ride begins in Chicago, a destination city in its own right, spewing blues, house, and the smell of deep dish pizza out across Lake Michigan. The train leaves from Chicago at 8:05 p.m. each night (giving some flexibility if you want to grab a Goose Island at Wrigley Field) and arrives in Memphis, the “Birthplace of Blues”, early the next morning. Here you can wander around Graceland, once home to Elvis Presley, or make the four-hour trek to the Jack Daniel’s Distillery Tour (worth it). Once back aboard the train, sit in the Sightseer Lounge to watch the day-lit Mississippi rush past as you half listen to the Trails and Rails program doling out historical and cultural information. The train ride ends in New Orleans, where jazz swings at every street corner, the creole food will change your view of jambalaya forever — but most importantly, lax open container laws mean you can walk bar to bar with a drink in your hand and your father in tow.

Eat: In Chicago, order deep dish pizza at Pequod’s Pizza (2207 N. Clybourn Ave); in New Orleans, go to Coop’s Place (1109 Decatur St) for real creole food without the tourists.
Stay: In Chicago, snag one of six rooms at the Longman & Eagle if you can, for a unique space that shies away from traditional hotel styling; in New Orleans, stay at Hotel Monteleone for comfortable lodging in the French Quarter without the noise of Bourbon Street.
Do: In Memphis, halfway through your trip, tour Graceland to see where the King lived and died.

Bandon Dunes Golf Resort


The oldest and most famous golf course in the world is the Old Course, one of seven public courses making up the St. Andrews Links in Scotland. The newest addition to this prestigious course came in 2008 with the completion of the Castle Course, designed by Scottish architect David McLay Kidd. A decade earlier Kidd had made a name for himself by designing the Bandon Dunes course, launching Bandon Dunes Golf Resort as a premiere golf destination on the Oregon coast. All this is to say that if you want traditional designs from the nation that invented the sport but don’t want to fly over to Scotland in the hopes of landing a tee time, head to the Bandon Dunes in the Pacific Northwest; sitting 2.5 hours from the Eugene Airport, the golf resort is an amazing getaway, housing three courses currently ranked in the top 50 of Golf Digest‘s best American links. Rustic, on-site lodging, a ban on golf carts and a sauna/spa give plenty of options for catching up with your old man.

Eat: While The Gallery serves the best dinner on the course, for our money the $8 breakfast burritos at Trail’s End are the best way to work off the hangover from a late night at the Bunker Bar with dad.
Stay: Of the five on-site accommodations, The Lodge is the most centrally located and allows you and your father spacious and separate rooms.
Do: When you aren’t golfing, the resort offers on-site massages along with walking tours and fishing excursions in the neighboring coastal town of Bandon, Oregon.

Galápagos Islands


Sitting on the equator 600 miles west of Ecuador are the 20 volcanic islands famed for inspiring Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species. While human visitation and introduced species have threatened the endemic species since the Galápagos islands were first discovered, the islands are still extremely isolated and home to animals rarely seen elsewhere, including Galápagos tortoises, marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, Galápagos penguins and Galápagos finches. And the islands are surprisingly easy to get to from the US; a four-and-a-half-hour flight from Miami to Ecuador followed by another two and a half hours by plane from Ecuador will land you on the San Cristobal or Baltra island. But because 97.5 percent of the islands are classified as a national park, visiting requires a guide and a good bit of preplanning. For this reason — despite normally advocating paving your own way — we recommend shelling out the extra dough for an all-inclusive expedition to take you from mainland South America to the islands for kayaking, snorkeling and hiking in one of the most unique ecosystems in the world.

Eat: While staying at the Finch Bay, stop at the Galápagos Deli for the best ice cream on Santa Cruz. And if you do island-hop, get Galápagos grub at the Booby Trap on Isla Isabela.
Stay: The Finch Bay Eco Hotel (Puerto Ayora, Isla Santa Cruz) for a smaller, more relaxing hotel after days exploring the island.
Do: Take a multi-day yacht tour of the islands to see the unique flora and fauna, and go on a dive at the Wolf and Darwin Islands for the underwater equivalent.

Additional Contribution by J. Travis Smith

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