15 last-minute dad gifts (who is impossible to shop for)
This is part of the L.A. Times 2022 Gift Guide. See the full guide here. If you make a purchase using some of our links, the L.A. Times may be compensated.
Dads can be mysterious creatures. Though researchers have established their jokes to be certifiably corny, it can be hard to pinpoint their hobbies and tastes. Despite this problem coming up every holiday season (and birthday and Father’s Day), it never seems to get easier. If you’re still scratching your head right before the holidays, here’s a Dad-approved list of gifts and experiences that can be shipped relatively quickly.
There is a video of Mandy Patinkin, the dad of all dads, that my sister deeply loves. He’s pouring water in and out of his bright green GurglePot and looks absolutely giddy, snorting and cradling his pot like a small baby as it makes its signature bubbling sound after each pour. When I gave my dad this same pot in cobalt blue (his favorite color), his reaction was very similar. I don’t understand the magical effect that this fish-shaped pitcher has on dads, but I’d recommend you order one to see it firsthand.
$45-$60 at Amazon
Katz’s Pastrami Tour
Nothing makes my Jewish father smile like a pound of fresh pastrami, and no one has figured out a better way to deliver pastrami to your door than New York’s Katz’s Delicatessen. The Pastrami Tour package includes everything you need to make more than eight pastrami on rye or pastrami Reuben sandwiches (the meat can be frozen for up to two months in the rare chance it isn’t devoured right away). Standard shipping is free for orders that are more than $100, and transit to L.A. might take up to six days (though packages are only ever in transit for up to 48 hours to maintain the meat’s freshness). My dad certainly didn’t care when his pastrami, rye and mustard showed up.
$175 at Katz’s Delicatessen
Tushy Classic 3.0 bidet
We won’t offer you a visual here, but if your dad has never owned or used a bidet, it will truly change his life. Tushy’s newest classic model lets you control the water pressure (which ranges from a gentle stream to a whoa-there rush) and has a “precision nozzle adjuster” that lets you choose your target. The company offers a solid discount if you buy two bidets at the same time — making it a great last-minute gift for your dad and another friend or family member who you put off shopping for.
$129 at Tushy
Lego bonsai tree
Building something with your dad can be a great way to bond, and keeping this stylish Lego plant around can be a sweet reminder of that time well spent. The bonsai kit comes with more than 800 pieces, making it a bit of a challenge but nothing too difficult to enjoy. It also includes both green leaves and pink blossoms (some of which, up close, are actually tiny light pink frogs) so you can change the bonsai’s appearance to match the seasons if you please.
$50 at Lego (This product will ship Nov. 19.)
The Noma Guide to Fermentation
For those who enjoy cooking or picking up food-related hobbies (like making kombucha, beer, jam or whatever else), reading this book will become their new favorite pastime. Written by the head chef and former head of fermentation at the world-renowned Copenhagen restaurant Noma, the book has photos and in-depth explanations for every flavor combination and process. My dad has been a loyal taste-tester for my mom’s experiments with this book, fermenting everything from black garlic to lemons to Bulgarian yogurt — all of which are quite delicious.
$40 at Amazon
Proraso shaving kit
Although my dad has a robust beard that he rarely touches, my co-worker Adam recommends this kit for dads who wet shave (as opposed to using an electric razor). The shaving creams have a light eucalyptus scent and, per Adam, they “LAST FOREVER.” He also recommends pairing the set with a badger-hair shaving brush if you’re looking for a sweet, old-school gift that your dad can use every day.
$22 on Amazon
Subscription to the L.A. Phil
This is a perfect gift for any music-loving dad that requires very little planning ahead. Though many of the series began in October, there are different packages that range from three to eight concerts on different days of the week and even a “create your own package” option. The packages can also be paid in monthly installments, which alleviates the cost of bundled tickets. Yo-Yo Ma, Terence Blanchard and Jean-Yves Thibaudet are among the composers and musicians who will be performing at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2023.
Starting at $88 at L.A. Phil
Studebaker portable AM/FM radio
This cute little radio is great for analog lovers, giving dads whothat may be technology-averse dads the feeling of physically turning the dial. It’s also portable, so it’s easy to take to the beach, work or the golf course as your dad surfs the airwaves from KDAY to KROQ.
$30 at Amazon
Los Angeles Mycological Society membership
For those dads who love to hike, bird-watch or otherwise hang outside, there’s a good chance they’ll also enjoy foraging for mushrooms alongside the Los Angeles Mycological Society. Bringing together all those interested in fungi, the society hosts speakers, meetings and classes where people can learn about slime molds, share photos of their own finds and get foraging tips from experts and other local foragers. A one-year membership is $25, but a lifetime membership is $250, if you’re sure he’ll love hunting for hen-of-the-woods or black trumpets.
$25 at Los Angeles Mycological Society
Brightland extra-virgin olive oils
If your dad has ever scorned you for using the “nice olive oil” on something that you should’ve used the normal olive oil for, he’ll probably love these. The Duo pack includes one bottle of AWAKE olive oil (recommended for roasting, sautéing, soups and stews) and one bottle of ALIVE olive oil (best for salads, hummus, baked goods and fresh greens). Both names aptly describe how your dad will feel while using them.
$74 at Brightland
Potchen ceramic planters
These small vases can be used for air plants or little dry herbs, and the sweet shapes of people sitting together and holding each other make for a lovely sentimental gift. If you want to make them extra cute, you can arrange some of your dad’s favorite dried flowers or plants in them to up the presentation.
$13 at Amazon
L.A. Beach straight bourbon whiskey
This bourbon is made in Culver City and distilled right next door to the main liquor store that sells it, so if your dad enjoys asking incredibly specific questions about how single-malt whiskeys and bourbons are distilled, you can bring him along to pick it up. The employees are happy to walk you through the minutiae of each bottle and might just let you snoop around the distillery.
$75 at the Whiskey Store
L.L. Bean Wicked Good slippers
These sheepskin-lined moccasins also come in two widths, making them especially friendly for wide-footed dads. Though these Venetian moccasins are comfy and not incredibly embarrassing to be seen with in public, your dad will surely still wear them with socks, so … what are you gonna do?
$89 at L.L. Bean
If your parents are anything like my parents, they probably have a tough time using their smart TV. I haven’t found a better solution for manually helping them set up and log in to every application, but I have high hopes that they’re getting the hang of voice-searching shows and movies when I’m not around. Apple TV’s remotes have minimal buttons and a voice command option on the side that works better than most.
From $179 at Apple
Meat Church seasonings
For the dad who loves to smoke meat and run the grill, this pack of meat rubs with names like “Holy Cow” and “Holy Gospel” is his match made in heaven. The Fab 5 Gift Box includes five options to take your brisket game to the next level, but don’t just take my word for it: One Amazon reviewer wrote, “My only complaint is now that I’ve found Meat Church spices I have become the family grill and meat guy.” This could be your dad.
$57 at Amazon