If you’re looking for 21st birthday ideas, you’re in the right place. Birthdays are fun to celebrate but there are a few milestone birthdays that just mean more. Your 21st birthday is one of those. Therefore, it should be a night to remember. You are finally considered a legal adult. You now have zero restrictions. It’s time to celebrate. But how?
A lot of people choose to bar hop or visit their first liquor store on their 21st birthday. Why not? You’re ready to flash that over 21 ID at any checkpoint you encounter. You’re unstoppable. But why settle for something so dull and uneventful? Try these 21st birthday ideas so you’ll have the best birthday ever!
Why Celebrate Turning 21?
Although you become a legal adult at the age of 18 in most states, you’ll quickly realize you don’t get as much freedom as you’d expect from being grown. You can now legally vote or buy cigarettes – in most places – but you can’t have a drink, go into a bar, or hit the casino for some gambling.
Turning 21 is a rite of passage for all of us. I remember the day I turned 21. I wasn’t a party person. I was a single mom raising three kids, so I didn’t even celebrate. But I made sure to walk into the liquor store and purchase a bottle of vodka, just because my ID said I could. I eventually gave the bottle away because I’d never even opened it.
Now that you’re 21, you can officially do anything you want. You don’t have to worry about not getting to go with your friends to the hot new club because you aren’t old enough to get in. If your crew plans a weekend trip to Atlantic City, you can finally go with them, instead of having to hang back by yourself. Drinking, clubbing, casinos. All are allowed once you’ve turned the magical age of 21.
Even if you don’t drink or party, you can still have a great 21st birthday. Our list includes fun ideas for those of you who like to party; and those of you who want to keep it low-key and sober. As I’ve learned over the years, you don’t need alcohol to have a good time. Sometimes, it’s more fun to stay sober and make fun of all the drunk people.
21st Birthday Ideas
Some people like to throw a surprise party for their friend, family member, or significant other. These parties can be a blast, but it really takes a group effort to make it a success. At other times, maybe you’re throwing your birthday bash. No matter who plans the party, there are eight factors you’ll need to consider.
When planning a birthday party, you’ll want to cover all these bases if you’re going to make the event a success. The party should be a reflection of the guest of honor. If the birthday girl prefers quiet nights in with just a few friends, don’t throw a massive rager at the hottest bar in town with an open guest list, so you have a hundred plus strangers around.
Typically someone close to the birthday guest throws the party because they know the most intimate details of the guest of honor’s life – including likes and doesn’t like. If you come across something you don’t know, try seeking advice from other important people in the birthday boy or girl’s life. Siblings, cousins, and parents can be a wealth of knowledge.
No party is complete without some form of entertainment. If you’re not providing your guests with something fun to do, you’re not acting like a good host. The possibilities for how to entertain people is endless. However, it should reflect the birthday host’s tastes.
You could go all out and hire a band. Or you could keep it a bit more simple and hire a DJ. Or even just have someone make up a party dance playlist and blast it through the home theater system – if you’re partying at home.
Arrange a night of drinking or board games for people who aren’t big on parties and going out to celebrate. Or a movie marathon featuring their Hollywood crush. If you’re more adventurous, hire an exotic dancer to give the guest of honor a real birthday treat.
What’s a party without decorations? When you’re celebrating a 21st birthday, it’s okay to go tacky – as long as the birthday star doesn’t mind. Hit up Party City and grab all the stuff you’ll need. No party can be complete without balloons. Find some flashy number balloons that show 21.
You can never go wrong with streamers and a banner that announces the guest of honor. With the vast popularity of social media and selfies has come a fun new activity – photo booths. Grab a bunch of funky, and goofy, photo props that guests can use to take silly photos of a night they’ll never want to forget.
Customized shirts for the guest of honor to wear are quite popular as well as tiaras and ‘I’m finally 21’ banners for women. Men might wear “21” beads or sunglasses. You can even get hats. If you’re going to a bar, it’s wise to announce it’s your 21st birthday because a lot of people like to buy a young person their “first” drink. You could end up drinking for free the whole night.
Where you’ll host the 21st birthday party can be tricky. Renting an establishment for a private party can be pricey. Unless you have a lot of people that you know will be attending, there’s no real reason to rent a large, private venue like a hotel ballroom or community center.
A 21st birthday party is often best done on the road if you’re planning to go out that night. Start with a dinner celebration at a restaurant (make sure to call ahead if you’re going to have a bunch of people) or at someone’s house so that family and friends who won’t be going out to party can still be included in the festivities.
Once the family approved party has ended, you can start the celebration. Go to the hottest club in town, where you’ve been smart enough to prearrange VIP passes. Climb into the limo and have a drink while you’re riding to the casinos.
Your celebration should reflect the guest of honor’s tastes. If he doesn’t like bars and big crowds, don’t expect him to have fun at the hottest joint in town, where it’s packed wall to wall with strangers. Pick something smaller that he might enjoy instead.
We get that you want to make this the best 21st birthday party ever. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune. A good birthday party can happen without a large budget. The dollar store usually has plenty of cheap but stylish decorations.
Instead of renting a private venue, consider having the party at a public forum or someone’s house. Offer finger foods and snacks instead of big meals or cook the food at home instead of paying for a caterer.
Don’t blow your budget just to have a huge party. Trust me when I say how much the party costs won’t be what anyone will be thinking about in ten to twenty years when they think back on that night. Memories are free to make.
What’s a party without food? The type of food you serve for a party can be a simple way to tie together the party theme. It’s up to you whether you want to serve a whole meal or just small snacks like Chex mix and chips.
But regardless of what you do and don’t include, there has to be a birthday cake. If the guest of honor isn’t big on sweets, don’t worry. We’ve got the perfect solution. Order two dozen of the birthday champ’s favorite cupcakes from your local store – or make them yourself. On top of each small cake, stick a small solo cup filled with a jello shot.
If you want to skip the sweetness all together, simply serve up an alcohol cake. They’re easy to make, although they might cost you a bit more than a regular edible cake. For the alcohol cake, all you’ll need is a three-tier cake stand, a feather boa or glitter tape, numbers, and bottles and cans – of alcohol.
A themed party can be a lot of fun, especially for your 21st birthday. You could go completely wild with this and have any type of party you want. A lot of people enjoy the popular choices – Hawaiian luau, 80s, 90s, roaring 20s, black and white.
Don’t be afraid to step out of the box and customize the birthday party theme to reflect the guest of honor’s personality and tastes. You could do something untraditional like Arabian Nights, a burlesque theme, or even a carnival.
Not interested in a themed party? Make it a colored party instead. Pick one or two colors and match the decorations to your picks. Hobby Lobby and Party City have plenty of solid-colored decorations. Or look on Amazon.
Announce the Theme on the Invitations
Whether you’re throwing a surprise party or hosting a party for yourself, you’ll need a way to invite your guests. Most people use e-vites or social media to inform people of your party, but you can still go old school with paper invites as well.
Regardless of how you deliver the deets of the party, you’ll want to include relevant information on the invitations, like time and location. If you’ve chosen a themed party, even if it’s just color-themed, make sure you announce it on the requests.
A lot of people like to design their invitations to match the theme, so there is no confusion. This is a great way to make sure that everyone is aware that you are inviting them to participate in the festivities that you’ve planned. If you don’t inform everyone of what to expect, you might not get the turnout you expect.
If you’re hosting a surprise party, you must explain this in explicit detail to all the guests. You also want to make sure that everyone has their story straight so that no one accidentally mixes up details which might arouse suspicion from the guest of honor.
On the night or day of the party, you’ll need to have one or two people that will be able to distract the birthday guest. The person, or people, you entrust to occupy the birthday boy or girl has to be able to keep the secret of the party.
They are in charge of keeping the guest of honor busy while you’re getting the party set up. Make sure that the person, or people, that you pick can keep a secret without slipping up and that they have their story straight, so they don’t give anything away about the surprise. A slip of the tongue has ruined many parties.
The guest list is another important factor of the birthday party that you don’t want to dismiss as unimportant. You don’t want to invite people that the birthday boy or girl doesn’t like. You want the party to be drama-free, especially if there’s alcohol involved.
Likewise, you wouldn’t want to have an exotic dancer and perverted decorations if the guest list is going to include parents, grandparents, and younger siblings or family members. Consider the people who will be attending before you make plans for the rest of the party.
A lot of people host a family-friendly party that is appropriate for all ages. Then, once the party is over, they move on to a smaller, more adult-oriented theme. Mark this clearly on the invitations if the party will be changing to a more mature theme so that guests will be aware ahead of time on what to expect.
21st Birthday Party Ideas
Now that you know what goes into planning a birthday party, here are six fun birthday party ideas. Whether you want to celebrate being able to drink legally or you want a simple, fun time with family and friends, we’ve got plenty of party ideas for you.
Rent a Party Bus
If you know you’re going to be doing a lot of drinking, you don’t want to be driving. You could have a friend be the designated driver, but who wants to be the one who stays sober all night long? Instead, consider renting a party bus.
Party buses can be rented for the night, and the driver will happily drive you through the city, stopping at any place you want. Most buses come fully stocked with liquor, a complete sound system, and even a stripper pole and disco lights.
Put together a party playlist full of your guest of honor’s favorite jams and be ready to have a night you’ll never forget. Party buses can usually fit around ten of your closest friends and family for a fun night out on the town.
Sign Up for a Bartending Class
What’s the point in being able to legally drink if you don’t know what kind of beverages you like? Having to go out to a club or bar every time you want to have a specific type of alcoholic drink can get expensive.
Instead, get a few friends together and enroll in a bartending class. This class lets you socialize while learning how to mix up different concoctions. You’ll get the chance to taste test a bunch of different kinds of drinks while learning how to make them.
If you have fun with the first class, you can always go back for more advanced courses later. You could end up starting a new hobby or a new girl or boy’s night out tradition. Plus, it would look great on your resume if you can list that you know how to mix your drinks. Talk about a way to impress your next date.
Go to the Casino
One of the great things about turning 21 is that you can do all the cool stuff you’ve been waiting for for years. Gambling is one of those things. It can be exhilarating to pass through the casino doors for the first time finally.
Gather up a group of friends and surprise your birthday girl or boy with an impromptu trip to the casinos. A word of caution is to make sure you set a budget, so you don’t end up spending more money than you have to spare. Your landlord isn’t going to care that you spent your rent money on a once in a lifetime birthday celebration.
If you’re trying to surprise the guest of honor with a night of gambling, take up secret donations from family and friends so the birthday person will have their own gambling money without having to stop at an ATM. It can be tricky explaining why they might need cash for their big night out.
Plan a Road Trip
Road trips can be a great way to celebrate your 21st birthday. Who doesn’t love a fun vacation? Plan a weekend trip with a few close friends. Go all out and rent the birthday boy’s dream ride for a short trip to the beach. Or blow birthday girl’s mind with a fully loaded luxury SUV. You could take your vehicle instead of renting one if you prefer.
Let everyone pitch in on the cost of gas and take turns driving if it’s going to be a long ride. But remember that no one should drink and drive. Put together a road trip playlist and play carpool karaoke. Take some fun photo props with you so you can snap memorable selfies throughout the trip.
You could even play road trip drinking games. Have everyone, but the driver, do a shot when you see an out of state license plate. If you’re the last to spot a car with a bumper sticker, you have to shotgun a beer. Make up your own rules and have a blast.
Not a drinker? No problem. Road trips can still be a fun time, even if you’re sober.
Take a Brewery/Winery Tour
Now that you’re old enough to drink legally take it a step further and take a tour of how beer or wine is made. Not only will you get the first-hand experience on the process of how your favorite beverage is created, but you’ll also get to participate in a tasting, where you’ll sample different flavors.
Being able to try different drinks for one price is a great way to expand your palate without hurting your wallet. Some locations offer private rooms and tours if you want to have a personal touch to your group outing. Or you could even book a private room to host the party after doing the tour.
Wineries and breweries are often beautiful venues, so they make great places to have a bunch of people gathering. If you’re looking for a place to have a 21st birthday party, you can’t go wrong with booking a private tour and room. All you have to do is decorate and celebrate.
House parties can be the perfect solution for your 21st birthday party. You don’t have to worry about getting a DUI from drinking or driving. There’s no dress code or rules that you have to adhere to.
Throwing a party in your own home can be cheaper than having to rent out a venue. You only have to pay for your decorations, food and, of course, the alcohol. If you’re going to have a party at home, there are a few things you’ll need to consider.
First of all, make sure you check with your neighbors, so you don’t end up getting a noise complaint. Second, remember that you and your housemates will be the ones responsible for the cleanup the next day. Some parties can get pretty crazy, meaning messy.
Celebrate Your 21st Birthday with our Fun Party Ideas
You only turn 21 once. It should be a day you can look back on with fondness years from now. It doesn’t matter if you’re throwing a huge party and having your first legal drink or having a quiet night of sobriety with some friends – as long as you have fun. Try celebrating the end of your youth in style with one of our fun party ideas.