underscored gifts for dad lead NEW
CNN  — 

That happy Sunday to celebrate all the paternal figures in our lives is on the horizon. June 21 is only two weeks away, but you definitely still have time to land an incredible gift. The challenge is steering clear of the stuff he expects. How much No. 1 Dad paraphernalia can one man appreciate, anyway? The solution is to decide on that special gift now; shopping at the last minute ends with a gift card to join the rest in the drawer.

To get some inspiration, we asked dads here at CNN Underscored and around the country what they’d really like to receive this Father’s Day. No matter what your budget is, any of these finds will have him saying “Wow!” when he opens his gift.

Instead of another ‘Best Dad’ apron …

Five Two Ultimate Apron ($45; food52.com)

Five Two Ultimate Apron

The epitome of smart design in messy cooking protection, this oversized, sturdily stitched apron will have him covered in the kitchen. Clever features include potholders built into the front corners and a stitched-in list of measurement conversions tucked into the pocket. No more fumbling with his phone with sticky hands to figure out how many teaspoons are in 10 milliliters. The five subdued, yet fresh and cheery hues have a modern vibe we love.

Instead of a standard pair of socks …

Graphic Sock Gift Box ($48; happysocks.com)

Graphic Sock Gift Box

Quirky socks are always a fun gift to open, but sometimes, they’re not the ones that the guy would actually put on his feet and wear. Enter these black and white beauts. The four stretchy, high-quality pairs come in a variety of geometric patterns. They’ll provide just the right amount of flair for the dapper dad.

Instead of another boring mug …

Corkcicle Mug (starting at $27.95; amazon.com)

Corkcicle Mug

Does he fix a cup of coffee, and then wind up microwaving it 20 minutes later? His morning joe will stay nice and warm for three hours in this steel-insulated mug. It has a leak-resistant lid and a silicone bottom, so it won’t slide around on his desk.

Instead of an open dish to toss everything into on the dresser …

Leather Earphone Holder (starting at $15.25, originally $16.95; etsy.com)

Leather Earphone Holder

They just seem to multiply, don’t they? Many households have an ever-expanding collection of earbuds and charging cables that are forever entangled. He’ll be able to keep his collection tidy and unsnarled with one or two of these snappy handmade cases.

Instead of a food gift basket …

Olympia Provisions Salami Bouquet ($50/three salami, food52.com)

Olympia Provisions Salami Bouquet

Say it with sausage! The equivalent of a flower bouquet, but for guys — guys who are all about savory, hearty snacking on gourmet fare. Upgrade to a bouquet of six salamis for $85.

Instead of a tie …

Circuit Board Cufflinks ($28.79, originally $33.98; etsy.com)

Circuit Board Cufflinks

Handcrafted of real recycled computer circuit boards and stainless steel, these cuff links will show off his techy side. They’re available in eight colors. Who knew circuit boards came in colors besides green? We’re partial to the blue.

Instead of a basic grill tool …

Personalized BBQ Set (starting at $43.30, originally $47; etsy.com)

Personalized BBQ Set

Owning the title of Neighborhood Grill Master can be a competitive game of sorts. This set of laser engraved, stainless steel barbecuing essentials makes sure everyone knows who the real king of the grill is.

Instead of taking him out to eat (which isn’t possible in a lot of places these days anyway) …

Freshly Meal Subscription (starting at $49.99/week; freshly.com)

Freshly Meal Subscription

Home delivery of good-for-him lunches or dinners is a thing this year for Father’s Day. The Freshly service drops off fully prepared meals that are yummy on top of being healthy. They only need to be microwaved for three minutes, and they’re perfectly single-serving sized. The menu is expansive, ranging from peppercorn steak to chicken Parm to penne baked with sausage. Check out all of our favorite meal delivery services, and even vegetarian meal subscriptions — if he’s into that — for more inspiration.

Instead of a new basketball or football …

Amazin’ Aces Pickleball Set ($46.99; amazon.com)

Amazin' Aces Pickleball Set

We got this inspired idea from Paul Slusarz, a dad of two tween girls in Barrington, Rhode Island. “I loved playing pickleball as a kid, but nobody seems to do it anymore,” he said. “It would be so fun now, when I’m trying to find new things to do as a family while staying at home.” This four-person set gets high marks from reviewers, who lauded the quality for the price. It comes with an e-book, “The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Pickleball.”

Instead of a new razor …

Birchbox Man Subscription (starting at $10/month; birchbox.com)

Birchbox Man Subscription

Everyone’s fave beauty box subscription service now has the men in our lives looking good, too. If he likes looking his best, he’ll enjoy this monthly delivery of surprise toiletries. Everything will be selected based on his hair and skin type, as well as his overall style personality.

Instead of planning a far-flung trip abroad …

’100 Drives, 5,000 Ideas: Where to Go, When to Go, What to Do, What to See’ ($17.90; amazon.com)

"100 Drives, 5,000 Ideas: Where to Go, When to Go, What to Do, What to See"

This new guide by National Geographic was published at just the right time, as many families are trading air travel for road trips this summer. He’ll enjoy plotting a vacation with the help of this comprehensive directory. It contains the most scenic and rewarding itineraries for all 50 states, and has detailed tips, such as notable stops along the way.

Instead of a tie pin or collar stays …

Wishbeads Intention Bracelet ($58; uncommongoods.com)

Wishbeads Intention Bracelet

This is a unique idea for a devoted dad. Life these days can be stressful — well, it’s always a little stressful, isn’t it? — so keeping the big picture in mind can help. This bracelet comes with a small slip of paper, on which his kid(s), or you, can write a short message of love or encouragement. It’ll be a daily reminder of what he really wants to focus on. The black style is made of lava stone beads; the brown style features tiger’s eye. Both have brass fittings and stretch to comfortably fit most wrists.

Instead of a portrait of his fur baby …

Custom Pet Magnet ($22; etsy.com)

Custom Pet Magnet

We could never forget the many doggie and kitty daddies out there who dote on their furry friends. The pet parent in your life will love one of these magnets, with breed, pet name and collar color customization options. “This came out perfect, and looked exactly like my dog,” one happy reviewer noted.

Instead of tickets to see his favorite MLB team …

Baseball Park Map Glasses ($35; uncommongoods.com)

Baseball Park Map Glasses

The 2020 baseball season might be scuttled, but the fan in your house can toast his favorite team if you gift him this set of two whiskey glasses. They are adorned with a detailed map of an MLB stadium of your choice in the home team colors. Its logo is on the bottom. A nice touch would be to include an IOU for tickets to a game once the stadium reopens.

Instead of a useless kitchen gadget …

Ninja Nutri Pro Personal Blender ($59.99; amazon.com)

Ninja Nutri Pro Personal Blender

This handy-dandy, compact blender will take up hardly any room on the counter, but delivers plenty of power for the dad on a health kick who likes a good smoothie or fresh juice blend. The special lid allows drinks to be taken on the go. The blender thoroughly crushes ice and seeds, and the parts can be tossed in the dishwasher.

Instead of an astrology book that he’ll probably never read …

Zodiac Sign Necklace ($7.73; etsy.com)

Zodiac Sign Necklace

We love this necklace for a dad of one child, especially a new first-timer. He can wear the zodiac symbol of his child on a leather cord, which comes in your choice of three colors. The sentiment is so sweet, yet the look is edgy, making it work perfectly even for the dad who isn’t into traditional jewelry.

Instead of basic coasters with his monogram …

Paladone Face Coasters ($8.99, originally $15.59; amazon.com)

Paladone Face Coasters

Does the dad you adore have tweens or teens? They’ll have endless selfie fun with these lightweight, bar-style coasters. They fit onto their noses with hysterical results. Each set contains 20 two-sided coasters, so 40 different faces that include men, women and babies. And when social distancing is done and he can invite all his friends over again, they’ll have laughs with them, too.

Instead of a watch …

MLB Friendship Bracelets ($64/set of three; uncommongoods.com)

MLB Friendship Bracelets

“I’ve been trying to get my daughter to make me a friendship bracelet for a year,” shares one CNN Underscored dad. “She starts it but never finishes. It’s the only thing I really want from her.” No words. This trio — ideal if given by two kids — is made of wool unwound from the core of balls used in Major League Baseball games.

Instead of a phone case …

UV Sanitizer by Casetify ($120; casetify.com)

UV Sanitizer by Casetify

Gadget-loving dads are all about this new phone sanitizer, which you can read more about here. It has wireless charging capabilities and even sanitizes other objects, like keys.

Instead of a tool set …

16-inch Chainsaw by Echo ($199; homedepot.com)

16-inch Chainsaw by Echo

It’s time to get the man a chainsaw. “Dads get antsy hearing all the neighbor dads firing up their chainsaws while he stares listlessly at the broken tree limbs he valiantly dragged to the side of the yard to deal with later,” one dad at CNN Underscored says. “Later never comes.” This is a great entry-level model, small and light enough to easily use for jobs all over the yard, but with a gas engine that gives sufficient power.

Flex Pro Jersey Jetset Jogger ($128; thegoodmanbrand.com)

Good Man Brand Flex Pro Jersey Jetset Jogger

Dads who love lounging at home —- in something they also feel good about wearing out of the house —- will love these insanely comfortable jersey joggers. One of our editors says her husband wants them in every color because they look nicer than sweats but feel softer and better made than any other joggers he’s tried. Note: They run a smidge on the small side, so order up if he’s between sizes.

Instead of an iTunes gift card …

Sonos One SL Microphone-Free Smart Speaker ($179; amazon.com)

Sonos One SL - Microphone-Free Smart Speaker

Audiophile dad? Treat him to these wireless smart speakers that get consistent high marks from Amazon reviewers. They’re “a toy he’ll have a blast with,” one dad at CNN Underscored agrees. “He’ll enjoy them whether he’s setting up a new music zone in the basement or garage, or bringing the full-sounding stereo pair to his office.”

Instead of a frying pan …

Brio Air Fryer by Nuwave ($59.95, originally $99.99; amazon.com)

Brio Air Fryer by Nuwave

“I’m so tired of waiting for the oven to preheat to make chicken nuggets for the kids. An air fryer would be a game changer,” says one dad in the office. This sleek machine is smaller than others out there, so it doesn’t hog too much space on the counter. It has six presets: frozen fries, homemade fries, steak, poultry, fish — and, of course, nuggets.

Instead of tickets to a game or concert …

Just the Ticket Ticket Stub Organizer ($13.97; amazon.com)

Just the Ticket Ticket Stub Organizer

Neil Brown, a dad of three in Mechanicsville, Maryland, told us that tickets — whether to an outdoor sporting event, the movies or a summer concert — are his favorite Father’s Day gift. Because of social distancing rules, that’s probably not going to happen this year. Bring a smile to event-loving dads with this cool memory builder. Ticket stubs of all types fit, and he’ll find spots for jotting down memories to go along with them. (Brown suggests tucking in an IOU for tix post-covid.)

Instead of a shovel …

WORX WG050 Aerocart 8-In-1 Multifunction Wheelbarrow ($196.09; amazon.com)

Aerocart by Worx

Eric Holtje, a father of two in Moseley, Virginia, is known for fixing up his yard during his downtime: “I love my family, but I still need time to relax and work on something by myself outside of my dad duties.” His wife surprised him with a wheelbarrow for Father’s Day. “It changed my life!” he says. The Aerocart is tough, but a cinch to maneuver. It easily converts to a yard cart as well as a dolly.

Instead of serving breakfast in bed …

Bacon of the Month Club (starting at $46.95/month for three months; amazingclubs.com)

Bacon of the Month Club

Bacon! Over and over! And not just any old bacon. We’re talking thick-cut, artisanal, savory-smoky goodness from specialty butchers. Each month the lucky recipient will receive two 1-pound packages, in all kinds of flavors. Think cranberry honey, white pepper Parmesan and Cajun. The longer the subscription, the less the cost per month.

Instead of his favorite barbeque sauce …

Stay Salty Pack ($29.99; mancrates.com)

Stay Salty Pack

Brent Abraham, a dad of three kiddos in Findlay, Ohio, says, “I for one would really like to get some different, high-quality seasonings to experiment with.” Spice up Father’s Day with this collection of gourmet salts. The varieties, packaged in a small but mighty cardboard crate, include hickory smoke, lemon rosemary sea salt, bacon and spicy Sriracha sea salt.

Instead of a folding stool for working in the yard …

Anthonyville Outdoor Adjustable Reclining Chaise Lounge ($149.99, originally $200; wayfair.com)

Anthonyville Outdoor Adjustable Reclining Chaise Lounge

Justin Fuhrman, a dad of two girls in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, has a simple Father’s Day wish: a nice lawn chair. They tend to get beat up pretty quickly, being outside and all. So if the dad you love is in need of an upgrade, may we suggest this comfy beauty. It’s built with weather-resistant materials and has five different reclining positions.

Instead of another sport-tech tee …

Premium Series Catcher’s Mitt by Rawlings ($69.99, originally $79.99; dickssportinggoods.com)

Premium Series Catcher's Mitt by Rawlings

Relaxing father-and-kid pastimes like playing catch have had a resurgence — filling days that would have been spent at summer camp. “I love to throw mine whenever I get the chance,” says one dad at CNN Underscored. “It’s especially fun with the kids.” Made of full-grain leather, this mitt has padding at the palm for catching comfort. It’s designed to break in extra fast too.

Instead of a current nonfiction bestseller …

“The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas ($21.32; amazon.com)

"The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas

Another father on the CNN team tipped us off to what we think is an incredible idea: a classic novel that he always wanted to read, or did read in school and would love to reread. Our staffer voted for “The Count of Monte Cristo” (shown). We had other dads weigh in, too, with “The Red Badge of Courage,” “The Call of the Wild” and “Of Mice and Men.” “It can be an insightful experience to pick up a book last read by your high school self,” notes Wayne Gai, a dad of one son in Chicago.

Instead of a Spotify subscription …

Washed Wood Bluetooth Record Player by Crosley ($99; urbanoutfitters.com)

Washed Wood Bluetooth Record Player by Crosley

More than one dad we chatted with mentioned a turntable as a killer Father’s Day gift. Vinyl has had a serious comeback, with many aficionados collecting and playing records for the first time in years — or for the first time, period. We love the retro look of this solid pick.

Instead of a weekender bag …

Std. Issue Back Pack by Urban Armor Gear ($119.95; amazon.com)

Std. Issue Back Pack by Urban Armor Gear

This stellar bag is technically a backpack, but it can also have a wonderful life as a baby bag, commuter bag and carry-on. It’s extra sturdy and ergonomically designed for maximum comfort, well-padded with EVO foam. It stands upright — an underrated feature until you finally have a bag that does and you realize how much easier that makes things. The tech compartment is fleece-lined and it stashes a laptop with ease. The pass-through strap attaches to rolling luggage, no problem.

Instead of whiskey stones …

S’well Teakwood 25-Ounce Bottle ($45; swell.com)

S'well Teakwood 25-Ounce Bottle

We tested a bunch of water bottles earlier this year to find the absolute best, and this one came out on top for holding liquids at a steady temperature. So, whether he loves his coffee hot or his water ice cold, this bottle will be a loyal friend. And we like the teakwood-look design, too.

Instead of a trip to the ice cream shop …

Cuisinart ICE-21CGR Frozen Yogurt, Ice Cream and Sorbet Maker ($109.99; amazon.com)

Cuisinart ICE-21CGR Frozen Yogurt, Ice Cream and Sorbet Maker

Summer is here, and everyone loves the cold, sweet stuff. (And if you’re looking for pointers on how to make ice cream at home, we’ve got you.) Emil Gretarsson, a dad in Slidell, Louisiana, well-known in his circle for his unbridled love of ice cream, doesn’t have an ice cream maker — a fact he’d very much like to change. Aside from the obvious benefits, he notes, it would be a fun activity to share with his four kids. This model gets rave reviews and produces loads of your flavor du jour in only 20 minutes.

Instead of bulky headphones …

Samsung Galaxy Buds+ ($149.99; amazon.com)

Samsung Galaxy Buds+

Whether he’s catching up on his podcasts, chilling with music, gaming or taking another work-from-home conference call, these earbuds won’t let him down — delivering 22 hours of total battery life. They’ll let dad hear as little or as much surrounding noise as he likes, an excellent feature, say, at the park, where he wants to be able to hear his kid calling out to him. Extra wing and ear tips are included for a custom fit. Did we mention that these were also our pick for the best budget true wireless earbuds?

Instead of slippers …

Oofos Ooahh Sport Flex Sandals ($79.95; zappos.com)

Oofos Ooahh Sport Flex Sandals

Designed specifically to soothe tired feet (which, let’s face it, virtually all of us have), these modern slides have good arch support and are uber comfortable, according to many satisfied reviewers. They’re odor- and moisture-resistant — essentially perfect for the beach, pool or shower at the gym. We have a feeling these will instantly become his running around shoes for the whole summer.

Looking for more ideas? Check out our other Father’s Day gift guides here:

Note: The prices above reflect the retailers’ listed prices at the time of publication.