You don’t need to throw a formal birthday party to celebrate a friend or relative’s birthday. The whole key to a celebration is the word celebrate, and you can do that anywhere, in any way you want. The freedom to throw a birthday shindig with a creative or personalized flair is especially important for young adults who are still exploring the world.
Older adults or retirees may be looking for something different to spice up their celebrations. Middle-aged folks may want an escape from their daily routine, and planning an indoor birthday party with a set schedule just won’t satisfy them.
These “event” birthday celebrations may or may not involve opening presents or blowing out candles on a birthday cake. You can combine a typical birthday party with one of these celebrations or host a party or gathering separately to open gifts.
Here are 16 birthday celebration ideas to turn your friend or Significant Other’s birthday into a day or night to remember.
1. Throw a House Party
Not into formal, sit-down parties? Throw a house party. These loosely-planned parties are known to be raucous, but they don’t have to be. The party mood depends on the participants, whether or not alcohol is served, etc.
House parties are open-ended affairs – there’s no official end time, and anyone connected with the guest of honor is invited- from close friends and relatives to social media followers.
If you have a loft space, large basement, or a spacious room, you can hire a band or other entertainers. Play board games, video games, sing karaoke, or just socialize. House parties don’t have any formal rules, Although house parties are typically thought of as teenage celebrations, these free-for-alls can be fun for adults, too.
If you plan on having a large house party, you may want to have a few people designated as impromptu security guards to keep gatecrashers off the premises.
2. Have a Barbecue
You have the option of hosting an outdoor barbecue instead of a dinner or house party during the summer. Buy cold drinks, hot dogs, corn on the cob, steaks, veggies, and strike up the grill. Depending on the space available, you can hire a band or D.J.
Prepare cocktails or non-alcoholic mocktails and put them in mason jars, and place them in an ice bucket for guests to enjoy.
If you need more space for lots of guests, have a barbecue at a park. You can also combine a pool party and a barbecue if the park has a pool.
3. Go Sky-Diving
If your birthday boy or girl likes extreme sports or just likes to try new, challenging things, give the gift of a skydiving lesson. Other guests can get in on the action too, or simply join the party festivities afterward.
Some skydiving adventure companies offer group lessons and birthday specials. Give your friend the gift of a tandem skydive with a professional if he or she is relatively inexperienced. A tandem skydive involves a jump with an experienced skydiver to guide the amateur through the jump.
There’s even indoor skydiving for people who don’t want to take the risk of outdoor adventures. (You use a skydiving simulator to mimic the real thing.) Indoor skydiving facilities also have onsite bars, restaurants, and party rooms so you can spend the whole day celebrating.
College students and young adults may prefer to celebrate their friend’s birthday with a night of clubbing. You don’t have to spend the entire night at one club. College towns and big cities have
lots of nightclubs. You don’t need to limit yourself to just dance clubs. There are comedy clubs, jazz clubs, rock clubs, even coffee bars with folk music or poetry readings.Some clubs may have private party rooms where you can dance and celebrate without other people infringing on your party.
Take an Uber or Lyft from club to club, or walk if the clubs are nearby.
5. Take a Camping Trip
If your group of friends likes the great outdoors, try taking the birthday celebration to a national or state park for camping. You can spend the night roughing it in a tent, rent a cabin, or stay at a cozy lodge.
If you stay at a national or state park, you can take advantage of many activities, depending on the location. You can go kayaking, fishing, hiking, rafting, or horseback riding. Even if you’re not the athletic type, you can always photograph wildlife, mountains, rivers, and plants.
Sing Happy Birthday around the campfire at night (or around the fireplace on the lodge) and have the birthday girl or boy open presents to cap off a fun day in the wilderness.
6. Go Classy with High Tea
Women of all ages will love an afternoon with their girlfriends at a high-class tea house or pastry shop. Celebrate your friend’s birthday at a luxurious hotel restaurant that offers high tea, or a French restaurant for dessert and tea.
Make a day of it by shopping or at least browsing in classy and trendy shops before having tea. Treat your friend to a day strolling through stores that aren’t a part of everyday life. Surprise the birthday girl with a scarf, vintage costume jewelry, or another
You can also host a high tea at your house. Choose bold teas to serve with rich foods, delicate teas to serve with subdued foods, and a selection of herbal and decaf teas. Add milk, sugar, and lemon as condiments for guests to use in their teas.
Include traditional scones to go with tea. Scones can be sweet, like raspberry or cinnamon, or savory, like cheddar or mustard. Order scones from the bakery or make your own with these recipes.
Finger or tea sandwiches are miniature versions of regular sandwiches. You can serve roast beef, ham, egg salad, or cucumber tea sandwiches for a heartier afternoon tea. Small cupcakes, candies, or trifles (gelatin with fruit) are other choices for a birthday high tea.
Play soothing classical music in the background, and include a surprise birthday cake at any point during the tea.
7. Hit the Road
A road trip can last for a birthday weekend or even a few weeks. Share the trip in one car, or use several cars if lots of friends want to join in on the fun. You could even share a Greyhound bus ride or Amtrak train ride if you don’t mind sacrificing some of our privacy to get to your destination without driving.
Pack sandwiches and soda and make stops along the way to have a picnic at a park along the way. You can plan all the stops along the route or just wing it and have impromptu adventures. Visit friends and family, eat at roadside diners, or go antiquing and thrifting in small towns along the way.
Arrange a party during one of the stops to break out the birthday cake and open presents. You could buy the cake along the way or pack it with you before you leave.
8. Travel to a Music Festival
Music festivals take place all over the country and even overseas. You’ll probably be able to find a festival near you if your friend’s birthday is in the summertime. Some festivals offer day passes, so you don’t necessarily have to camp out or rent hotel rooms to enjoy the music.
If the birthday girl loves live music and a festival is out of the question, check out one-off local concerts as well. Make a night of it by having dinner at a favorite restaurant and stopping for a nightcap after the show.
Music festivals usually have merchandise booths where you can buy band merchandise, jewelry, unique clothing, artwork, posters, and other items. Gift the birthday girl with a present from one of the booths as a memento of your adventure.
9. Host a Wine Tasting
If your guest of honor likes fine wine, host a wine tasting party. You can include several types of wine in every price range from the local liquor store. Put out a wooden board with a selection of cheeses, crackers, and fruit. Your guests will be able to experience food pairings and discover new wines that go with their favorite foods.
Include coffee and cake to pair with sweet wines. Put boards with food all over the space so people will mingle freely and meet other guests. You can line the walls with prints and paintings by local artists, and invite the artist to attend and talk about their creations.
After all, wine and cheese are staples at art gallery receptions, so why not include art at a wine tasting/birthday party?
10. Explore the City
If you live in or near a large city like New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, there are probably a lot of interesting or out-of-the-way spots you and your friends have never seen. Check Tripadvisor, local websites, and ask friends for ideas.
Plan the day to surprise the birthday boy or girl. If he or she likes the supernatural, arrange a Ghost Tour of the City. Animal lovers will like a trip to a goat farm, small zoo, or even the nearest animal shelter. You could give the guest of honor a new pet as a gift!
Every city has offbeat places to explore, and an expedition to the Museum of the American Gangster (New York) or the Alpine Village (L.A.) are perfect experiences for a quirky friend’s birthday.
One of the places you visit may have a room for rent where you can host a party before or after your adventure – or celebrate at your home or your friend’s home before your day on the town. Bring a cake and sing Happy Birthday, then go off and explore your city.
11. Host a Vintage-Themed Party
The party theme can be from any era you choose, from the Swingin’ 1960s to Victorian England. Find decorations online or at party stores and thrift shops.
Host a 1920s-themed party with a free-wheeling speakeasy. Look for gowns with fringe and heavy beading and Art Deco posters. The 1920s were well-represented in films, plays, and books, so draw inspiration from The Great Gatsby, Chicago, The Artist, The Cotton Club, and silent movies.
Prohibition outlawed alcohol in the 1920s in the U.S., but speakeasies dominated big cities. Create a speakeasy using old crates, empty liquor bottles, and burlap. You can also use old wooden kegs or make your own version. Use lots of sparkly decor, including rhinestones. Guests can wear feather boas, fedoras, or pinstripe suits.
You can also include a mini-casino – blackjack, roulette, craps, playing cards, and a tuxedoed dealer.
A 1960s party gives you lots of choices. You can concentrate on the early 1960s, which were similar to the 1950s. Decorate with mid-century modern designs like geometric prints and space-age postcards. Serve highballs, Old-Fashioneds, and other era-appropriate cocktails. Tiki decor was also big in the early ’60s.
A swinging ’60s party gives you permission to get as bright and colorful as you want. Use flower power stickers, peace signs, and paisley print posters to liven up your space. Guests can wear tie-dye shirts, ponchos, headbands, and beaded necklaces. Serve vegetarian meatloaf, veggies, yogurt, avocado, and alfalfa sandwiches and other healthy foods.
Send paper invitations in the graphic style of the time you’ve chosen. Use Art Deco designs on a 1920s party invitation, bright, neon colors on a tubular 1980s invitation, and cowboys and log cabins on a card for a Wild West party.
12. Go Bowling
Reserve a few lanes at a local bowling alley Rent some shoes and knock down pins to celebrate Bowling is a fun sport, and you don’t need to be athletic to participate. The bowling alley will reset the pins and keep the score automatically. Food will be available, and many places have restaurants and offer specials for large groups.
You’ll need to coordinate the number of partygoers with the lanes available. Try using a bowling alley with a separate party room. If you go to a bowling alley without a party room, you’ll have to deal with noise and interruptions from bowlers, not at your party.
You can even arrange a bowling party at your home. You don’t need to install lanes in your home. Put together a temporary bowling alley. Buy plastic pins and an inflatable or plastic bowling bowl. Guests can wear bowling shirts or a reasonable facsimile Decorate your home with bowling-themed posters and cut-outs.
You can even separate guests into teams. If the guest of honor likes Marvel movies, for example, attendees can dress as different Marvel characters and play on different teams. (Spider-Man characters vs. Deadpool characters, etc.).
If you don’t have a lot of space, go bowling virtually with 3D bowling video games. There are dozens of bowling video games to choose from, including PBA Pro Bowling, Playstation’s High-Velocity Bowling, and Bowling King.
13. Pot Luck Dinner
Leave the formalities of a sit-down birthday dinner behind with a potluck party. Have guests bring home-cooked sides, desserts, and entrees. Some people should bring liquor, snacks, and beverages as well, but be sure to keep a tab of who is bringing what before guests actually show up to prevent duplicates.
People tend to be more sociable during buffet-style potluck dinner parties since they can move around freely. The guest of honor can open his or her presents after the main course and before dessert and drinks.
If the birthday girl is a vegan or vegetarian, suggest dishes like Skinny Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins, Beets in Orange Sauce, or Almond-Pecan Date Truffles.
14. Slumber Party
Celebrate your girlfriend’s or sister’s birthday by throwing a good, old-fashioned slumber party. Bring your stuffed animals, comfy P.J.s, pillows, blankets – and a few bottles of wine. You might even try pairing the wine with your favorite childhood candy. Reese’s Peanut Butter cups pair with Chocolate stout beer, and Red Twizzlers with Champagne.
Play trivia, Twister, Monopoly, or play MadLibs, an online word game that dares you to fill in the blanks. Get out your colored pencils or crayons and brighten an adult coloring book.
Sing along with your favorite songs, or go full-on karaoke with online music minus the lyrics. Sing like a star, even if you can’t sing on key. Sleepover karaoke is all about having fun. Use a hairbrush or shampoo bottle as a substitute microphone. All that singing will help guests hone their vocal chops for singing Happy Birthday to the guest of honor at the end of the night!
Instead of just binging on store-bought snacks, do some creative baking Pick a recipe or create one from scratch. Whether you like sugary cookies and frosted cupcakes or vegan treats, you’ll feel a sense of camaraderie by baking together.
The slumber isn’t over when you go to sleep. Have breakfast mimosas in the morning, along with quiche, pancakes or whatever goodies your birthday girl likes
15. Paint Party
You may have read about companies that offer paint parties. People pay a fee to use paint supplies and canvases supplied by the company while they sip wine. Instead of paying a company to set up a party for you, why not throw your own art party?
Make sure your space has plenty of lighting and enough tables for everyone. Give everyone the same supplies a brush, canvas, and a few tubes or bottles of paint. (If you’re really on a strict budget, you can have a drawing party instead of a paint party, and use sketch paper and colored pencils instead.)
All artists can work on the same painting (a tree, for example) or create their own unique vision. A paint party is all about having fun, being with friends, and celebrating the birthday boy or girl’s special day.
Some painting “assignments” for beginners include sunflowers, daisies, trees, pets, abstract designs, and holiday images like Santa Claus or Halloween pumpkins. If folks invited to the party have previous art experience, they might try painting the birthday boy or girl!
Set up a table with finger foods like cheese and crackers and chicken nuggets. You can serve wine or stick with soda or other non-alcoholic drinks.
After the party, the guest of honor and attendees will have new works of art to decorate their homes.
16. Spa Day
Turn your home into a temporary spa and pamper your birthday girl and other guests with manicures, pedicures, and massages. Decorate your living room with wheatgrass boxes, calla lilies, or other pleasant-looking flowers and plants.
Set up spa stations around your home for facial masks, hand and shoulder massages, pedicures, manicures, and microdermabrasion treatments. Hire beauty school students, professional aestheticians, or manicurists if you want a formal, salon experience.
Have a fun, but slightly less than professional spa day by allowing guests to act as amateur manicurists or facialists. Use homemade or high-quality store-bought products and enjoy the process, just like you did when you were a teen.
Serve light foods in your kitchen or dining room for guests to enjoy between treatments. Sliced melon, cold pea soup with mint, and chilled salad with tuna are a few ideas for spa food. Light candles on the birthday cake and have the birthday girl open presents after everyone is pampered and beautified.
You can book a birthday celebration at your local spa or salon if you don’t have time to prepare for an in-home celebration. Salons offer manicure and pedicure packages, facial or massage packages, or day-long packages that feature a bit of everything. Some spas offer customized decor and music for your celebration for an extra fee.
A birthday celebration is only limited only by your imagination (and to a lesser extent, your budget.). Even if you don’t have a lot of money to spend, you can still offer your spouse, friend, or relative a fun, personalized birthday celebration.