Hobbies aren’t just something that a man should do when he’s bored and doesn’t have anything else on the task list; they should be an integral part of how he spends his time.
While leisure time is often equated with simply lying around and doing nothing, great men throughout history have filled those seemingly empty moments with activity. Men like Winston Churchill, who declared that “one ought to have two or three hobbies,” actually felt more invigorated by doing something with his free time rather than nothing:
“It is no use saying to the tired ‘mental muscles’… ‘I will give you a good rest,’ ‘I will go for a long walk,’ or ‘I will lie down and think of nothing.’ The mind keeps busy just the same. If it has been weighing and measuring, it goes on weighing and measuring. If it has been worrying, it goes on worrying…It is useless to argue with the mind in this condition…A gifted American psychologist has said, ‘worry is a spasm of the emotion; the mind catches hold to something and will not let it go.’ One can only gently insinuate something else into its convulsive grasp. And if this something else is rightly chosen, if it is really attended by the illumination of another field of interest, gradually, and often quite swiftly, the old undue grip relaxes and the process of recuperation and repair begins.”
Rejuvenation often happens through an invigorating and thoughtful hobby. We published a guide to 45 hobbies a couple years ago, and it was enormously popular. Readers chimed in with hobbies of theirs that weren’t listed, so I went through and culled those that were most frequently mentioned. Below are 22 more hobbies for a man to consider and pursue.
The feeling of riding a bicycle for the first time without training wheels is a euphoria that few men ever forget. The sensation of the wind on your face, your pedaling legs pushing you along, and of course the hard scrape of the pavement when you take your first digger. When we’re kids, we live on our bikes. But then we get a driver’s license, and our bikes sit in the garage, lonely and mostly unused.
Why give up this youthful activity though? Bicycling has seen a huge resurgence, both with urban hipsters and amateur athletes alike. While everyone seems to have run in a 5k, participating in bike races is unique enough to make you interesting. If not racing, even just cruising around town by the power of your own two legs is a satisfying endeavor. Mountain biking is another option, and offers the bonus of time spent in the woods. You might even consider traveling longer distances by bike — seeing the country on two wheels can be a grand adventure.
Today’s high-tech and high-volume coffee roasteries crank out thousands of pounds of beans at a time that all look and taste the same. While mass-produced stuff often tastes fine and is far easier (just buy and plop it in the coffee maker!), roasting coffee on your own will make the best cup of joe you’ll ever have. It’s also cheaper than store-bought stuff, averaging $5-$8 per pound. You can buy a coffee roasting machine, or do it in a popcorn popper on your grill like I do. To really make it a hobby, you can roast coffee for friends and family or even start a side hustle and sell beans to your neighborhood. Double this hobby with hunting for antique coffee contraptions (like hand-crank grinders) or with discovering as many brewing methods as you can, and you’ll be a connoisseur in no time.
The hobby of fishkeeping has been around for at least 1,500 years, far longer than many of the other hobbies listed here. In the 1800s, fishkeeping was primarily a hobby of the wealthy, as the tanks need to be heated with gas, or later, electricity. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the hobby really became accessible to the everyman. Today, it’s become rather popular with home aquarists and dentist offices alike.
This is a great hobby because it’s easy to scale. You can start with a classic goldfish bowl and a castle to see if you like it. If you do, you work your way on up with bigger and bigger aquariums, more exotic fish, and fancier tank decorations. When you have a 90-gallon tank (as a roommate of mine once did), it keeps you plenty busy beyond just feeding the fish every day. Visit Marineland for some tips on getting started.
Being a lifelong learner should be a goal of every man. While reading is itself a great hobby that often goes toward this end, taking online classes provides a variety of learning methods (video, reading, discussion) and also keeps you accountable to what you’re learning through quizzes and assignments. You also have the benefit of expert professors to answer questions and help you along if something confuses you.
What’s great about this hobby is its cost, which in most cases is nothing. With websites like Coursera and EdX, you can start classes today ranging from programming basics, to critical thinking, to classical music and not pay a dime. In my experience, the hardest part is simply following through on the classwork when you’re not paying anything, so consider doing this with another person, or even as a group to keep yourself accountable.
Whether riding cross-country or tinkering in the garage, plenty of men enjoy being a motorcyclist. This hobby is sure to reward its practitioner in more than just gas mileage and technical knowledge, though — books like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Shop Class as Soulcraft argue for the many mental and philosophical benefits of motorcycling as well.
“In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.
On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.”
–Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
The rise of shows like Pawn Stars and American Pickers has spurred a return of antiquing or “picking” to the national spotlight. Antiquing, as a hobby, simply refers to the buying and collecting of antiques from stores, malls, garage sales, etc. In many cases it also means re-selling them at a profit, sometimes after first refinishing or restoring. Picking is antiquing’s middle man; instead of buying from stores, pickers will buy directly from collectors, amateur historians, even hoarders, then sell to antique stores.
The best way to go about antiquing is to pick a niche of products to look for. This will make your job much easier, and gives you the thrill of the hunt of looking for something specific rather than just wandering around looking for good deals. For many AoM men, it’s antique shaving supplies. (We even have an article on how to restore them.) For me, it’s antique coffee-related products — be it old tins or grinders. Whatever you enjoy, you can find cool old stuff related to it. Learn more with this extensive guide.
While antiquing or picking relies on items with actual material value in their current form, scrapping is literally turning other people’s junk into cash. What was once simply discarded is recycled and transformed into green in your hands. All you really need to get started is a small magnet and basic knowledge of the various types of metals and their values. Once you have that, you can get started collecting and bring your found pieces to a scrapyard.
Metal detecting is similar, but your standard finds are old rings, coins, and other jewelry. Detecting is a walking hobby too, meaning it’ll give you a little physical activity to boot.
Both of these hobbies have you becoming a little bit of a historian as well, as just like rocks do, various metals tell a history and a story.
No other sport feels as regal and storied as golf. The clothing is dapper, the movements are graceful, the lawns are manicured. It’s truly the gentleman’s game. There are few better ways for men to congregate and spend a few hours together than while hitting the links. While it’s a hard sport to master, that actually makes it part of the fun. You’re almost always competing against others and yourself. In other sports, you often just have to be better than your opponent, but part of the enjoyment in golf is bettering your own game; you can always do something to improve your acumen that doesn’t rely on anyone else. With this sport, it’s best to take lessons in person at your local course or golf shop.
Between paying for range time and ammo, firearm training and shooting can get very expensive. While airsoft used to be something only kids played with, today’s marketplace sees near-exact replicas of almost every firearm on the market. If police and military use airsoft for their training, you can too. You can have fun and improve your tactical skills all at once by connecting with the airsoft community online and finding simulations and competitions — almost like paintball, but even more realistic.
If you’re not quite ready to get into woodworking, but want to start working with wood in some way, this is a great hobby to try. Woodburning, or pyrography, is simply burning a pattern or piece of art onto a block of wood using a pen-like searing tool. It’s incredibly easy to pick up, and your start-up fees are less than $50. While it’s harder to find online resources and communities for pyrography than for standard woodworking, they are out there. Though it’s not as sexy as building a chair, woodburning requires attention to detail, patience, and a mastery of the tools of the trade. Look for an AoM primer on woodburning coming soon, but in the meantime, this guide will get you started.
Writing and journaling has been a hobby of almost too many great men to count. While some men write in order to sell a book or an idea, many just do it to organize their thoughts, make connections, solve problems, and even soothe stress. It’s truly a cathartic experience to get something out of your head and onto paper.
Many men will make a goal to journal more, but in my experience, it’s almost more helpful to view it as a hobby — something you do with spare time, even if just a few minutes here and there throughout the day. While it’s not something that you can show off, like with a lot of other hobbies, it’s personally rewarding and will help keep you from the grips of an attention-less world. And someday your grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be happy to be able to read what your life was like back in good old 2015.
Taking to the seas on your own volition is something that many men have dreamed about. Sailing involves some of the most ancient disciplines: weather forecasting, navigating, rope skills, etc. You harken back to crusty, bearded men of yore fighting rough seas and angry whales, even if just puttering around the calm waters of a small lake. It’s a literal breath of fresh air, and provides both physical and mental exercise. It may seem an expensive hobby, and it certainly can be, but that can be mitigated by taking classes, using boats for hire, etc. You don’t need to drop thousands on a boat in order to get started. It’s also something that the whole family can enjoy rather than just you as an individual; get your spouse and kids on the boat, and make it a weekend tradition!
While sailing keeps you on top of the seas, scuba diving takes you below to explore the deep. It’s a unique hobby in that you’re required to take classes and become certified before being able to participate. You’re certainly a little bit limited if you live in a state without much water to explore, but even inland locales have scuba shops and classes available. Many people will take classes inland and become scuba certified, but then use their skills on vacations to the clear waters of the Caribbean or more murky haunts like the northern coasts or the great lakes. In most cases, you can at least take a drive somewhere to be able to scuba dive.
You’ll become an amateur historian and biologist all in one by joining schools of fish and ancient shipwrecks on diving adventures. Few hobbies offer this type of thrill, so find a school near you to get started!
While we covered model building in our first list, many commenters wanted a special mention of model railroad building. The uniqueness of railroading is that you aren’t just building one item to be added to a collection, but in many cases an entire scene, with trains actually moving through it. It’s a hobby that’s been enjoyed by the likes of Johnny Cash, Joe DiMaggio, Walt Disney, Tom Hanks, Frank Sinatra, Warren Buffett, and many more. You’ll learn a variety of disciplines including math/physics basics, wiring, building/constructing scenes, and designing. This isn’t just your childhood railroad ring around the Christmas tree. To get started, take a look at the beginner’s guide put forth by the National Model Railroad Association.
In our first list of hobbies we covered hiking and mountaineering, but rock climbing is a sport all its own. Instead of scaling sloping peaks, you’re conquering cliff walls, often not for the reward of a great view (although that’s often part of it), but for the physical thrill of knowing you just scaled a vertical wall. It utilizes your physical skills, but also your analytical and problem solving skills as you search for the next small handhold and as you find and create a line to the top.
The easiest way to begin rock climbing is by learning the, ahem, ropes at an indoor gym. Once you get the basics of safety and technique down, take your new hobby outside; even if you don’t live in a place blessed with majestic cliffs, you may be surprised to find lesser-known local areas with good climbing. Most climbers employ a partner to belay them, which can seem like a barrier to learning if you don’t know anyone who can go with you. But climbers are a friendly sort; hang out at the gym, and you’ll find folks happy to spot you and bring you along on their outings.
It’s important for men to cultivate a nostalgic love for history. What better way to truly immerse yourself than by participating in historic reenactments? It can be as narrow as recreating a specific battle, or as broad as representing a time period at a historic place like Colonial Williamsburg. Recreating historic moments has actually been around since ancient Roman times, when men would perform famous battles from history. It gives you a chance to feel what the men of that time wore, what they perhaps thought, and of course you are learning a great deal no matter what you’re recreating. This hobby gives you the chance to truly walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, but from a time gone by. Plus, you often have a chance to educate those who come out to watch the reenactment.
Ebay has a great guide for getting started, and will be a helpful resource in finding gear too!
Records of beekeeping have been found as far back as 4,500 years ago in ancient Egypt. The hobby gained some notoriety in the U.S. in the 80s when Burt Shavitz took his pastime to market with Burt’s Bees. (Speaking of which, there’s an excellent documentary about Mr. Shavitz and Burt’s Bees called Burt’s Buzz, available on Netflix.) It combines a little bit of danger and conquering of fears with getting a tangible return — honey! Before starting up, you’ll want to check your city’s beekeeping regulations, especially in urban areas. This is another hobby that is easily scaled — you can start small with one hive, and work your way up as you get more comfortable. Learn more from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm.
In the 50s and 60s it was common for house parties and get togethers to revolve around the record player. You’d gather and listen to the latest album while trying your suave moves on the apple of your eye. Like many nostalgic activities of that time period, vinyl collecting and playing is making a comeback. In fact, vinyl sales have leapt up in the last few years while CD sales continue to decline. For someone who loves music, going to vinyl offers a brand new experience with your tunes. Vinyl aficionados swear by the richer, more accurate sound embedded in a record.
Listening to vinyl also forces you to focus on an album as a whole rather than skipping around to your favorite singles. You’re consuming it as a piece of art rather than just four minutes of entertainment, which is often how the artist prefers it. To get started in record collecting and listening, check out our guide to buying your first turntable.
Bird watching offers many of the benefits of collecting — organizing, learning about a specific topic, even the thrill of the hunt — without any of the costs. Instead of buying and perhaps cluttering your home with objects, you’re keeping a journal of your findings or perhaps checking off species on a list. As a youngster, it seems like the ultimate old man’s hobby, but even just into my late 20s, I seem to have more interest simply in the birds in my yard than I ever did before. Perhaps it’s their peaceful nature, or my jealousy for their ability to fly; either way, they’re beautiful creatures that are as varied in shapes and colors and habits as people are. Bird watching offers entertainment and enjoyment both in the short-term (like on an afternoon walk), and over a lifetime of searching for rare species and coming to learn more about the creatures that humans have tried so hard to emulate. Grab a pair of binoculars and get started!
For some men, working on projects around the house is a chore, and one they’d avoid at any cost. But for many others, it’s a totally enjoyable way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Be it finishing a basement, working on your home maintenance checklist, or even just re-painting a room, puttering around the house (and garage) offers many men the chance to work with their hands and learn a new skill.
Homes need love and care just like our bodies do in order to stay healthy. If you come to enjoy it, you’ll be much better off and you’ll probably save money in the long run since you’re not hiring out every little project. Of course you need always be careful; better to be safe than sorry and end up having to pay extra to fix what you broke. The benefit is that there are resources galore for those who look, be it online in videos and articles, books from your library, or shows on HGTV.
Dwight D. Eisenhower played bridge with his fellow officers into the wee hours of the morning; Winston Churchill enjoyed playing mah-jongg and gin rummy with his family before dinner; many of the founding fathers, including Franklin, Jefferson, and Madison, were ardent players of chess; presidents from Theodore Roosevelt to Harry Truman played poker with their advisors; Abraham Lincoln played backgammon with his sons.
Nearly every great man from history had a favorite board or card game — as did millions of men whose names have been lost in time. Join their ranks, and discover the multitude of benefits that come from playing analog games with your friends and family.
Even men who don’t consider themselves materialistic can be greedy with their time. But while holding tightly to our time and resources seems in the moment to protect our happiness, in the long run, this selfishness cankers our souls. Service should thus be a part of every man’s life, for in losing yourself in helping others, you often find your own life greatly improved.
Instead of dedicating the entirety of your hobbies to your own pursuits, why not serve others through volunteering; as you aid your fellow man, you will in turn find fulfillment, proper perspective on your own problems, the breaking down of prejudice, and more. While men certainly need time alone with an activity to refresh themselves, spending regular time volunteering offers a unique kind of rejuvenation as well.
Last updated: July 25, 2016