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You might take him fly-fishing in Montana or cycling through the Berkshires, for example. Or you could take it up a notch and give something that will provide a serious rush.
A lot of families are letting go this Fathers Day. Spending on Dad is expected to soar — to an average of $106.49 per Dad, up from $94.32 last year and the highest figure in the eight-year history of an annual National Retail Federation survey. Total spending on Fathers Day gifts will reach an estimated $11.1 billion. (If the Dad you’re shopping for likes gadgets, check out CNET’s Gift Guide.)
According to the survey, more people will be taking Dad on a special outing, spending $2.1 billion on activities like golf, eating out or the movies. Dads will also receive gift cards ($1.4 billion), sporting goods ($653 million) and automotive accessories ($593 million). Traditional Fathers Day gifts like electronics ($1.3 billion), clothing ($1.4 billion), home improvement or gardening tools and appliances ($1.4 billion) and books or CDs ($598 million) will also remain popular.
But if you want to break the mold, here are some ideas that are especially popular among Fathers and sons. Warning: These are not for the timid and they will set you back plenty. But what a memory you’ll have. Here, then, are six ideas for over-the-top splurging on Dad this year:
Idea #1: Drive A Race Car
Want a taste of being a fighter pilot? This is a dogfighting school for civilians, where everything is real except the bullets. Guest pilots fly real military fighters alongside licensed fighter pilots. All aircraft are outfitted with multi-camera systems to capture the experience from take-off to air-to-air “kill” to landing and send you home with a souvenir for the ages. It’s a half-day commitment and no pilot’s license is required for the guest. Since 1988, Air Combat USA has had 38,000 guest pilots. The company works closely with aviation regulators to ensure a safe aerial combat experience. Prices vary by program, but one mission for father and son (five dogfights) runs $2,590. For more detail look here.
Idea #3: Be An Airborne Trooper
Here’s a treat for World War II buffs. The American Airpower Museum at Republic Airport, Farmingdale, N.Y., is the site where some 9,000 P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft (used in paratrooper missions) were built during the war. Today the museum recreates the experience of being an airborne trooper. You don the uniform of a World War II soldier, board an historic and restored C-47 that participated in D-Day, get briefed on “your mission to Normandy” and take to the air. No one jumps out of a plane but your sense of history will be palpable. There’s a lot more to view at the museum as well. Cost: $300 per person. For more details look here.
Idea #4: Jam with Legends
If you play an instrument, no matter how lame, here’s your chance to jam with and learn from rock legends like Paul Stanley of Kiss (right), Leslie West of Mountain and Roger Daltrey of The Who. Even if you just sing or play the tambourine, you’ll fit in somewhere. You get matched with musicians of similar ability and are tutored by rock stars. You’ll write and record an original song and play on stage at a major concert venue in front of family and friends. Coming events include Woodstock weekend, Aug. 12-14, where you practice in New York City before taking a bus with Leslie West to the site of the original Woodstock festival at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. You’ll be the opening act for Blood Sweat & Tears and Tommy James. Also coming: a Nov. 10-13 gig at the Playboy Mansion in Hollywood with Paul Stanley. Packages start at $2,999 per person. For more details look here.
Idea #5: A Total Baseball Experience
An instructional league for adults who play baseball, this camp has been catering to father-son combinations of all ages since 2002. This is not a fantasy camp where you play alongside legends from your favorite team. It’s a four-day baseball experience that includes rotating offensive and defensive stations, video analysis, live batting practice and instruction from 10 major league coaches, including Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long and Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher. Fathers often arrive with their high school and college-aged sons; there is a mix of youth and middle age. The Pro Ball baseball Clinic is for anyone over the age of 14. The next Father-Son Clinic is Jan. 13-16 at the San Diego Padres spring training complex in Peoria, Ariz. The price is $2,795 per person (includes hotel and meals). For more details look here.
Idea #6: Space Flight (really)
For the Dad who has everything now there’s a trip to space. Virgin Galactic (of Sir Richard Branson fame) is building an elaborate $200 million launch pad in New Mexico, where tourist astronauts from around the world will begin blasting off for the ride of a lifetime starting as early as next year. Some 80,000 people are on the waiting list; a fraction of those — around 430 — have plunked down a deposit of at least $20,000 to be at the head of the line. You’ll get three days of training and then a trip into low orbit for a view of earth and a taste of weightlessness. Virgin Galactic has said that it envisions one flight a week with six tourists aboard. Heck, why not bring the whole family. The cost is only $200,000 per person. For more details look here.
Daniel J. Kadlec is an author and journalist whose work appears regularly in Time and Money magazines. He is the former editor of Time’s Generations section, which was written and edited for boomers. Kadlec came to Time from USA Today, where he was the creator and author of the daily column Street Talk, which anchored the newspaper’s business coverage. He has co-written three books, including, most recently, With Purpose: Going from Success to Significance in Work and Life. He has won a New York Press Club award and a National Headliner Award for columns on the economy and investing.