13 Birthday Ideas For Adults That Are More Fun Than Going Out To Dinner –

Birthday ideas for adults are often …. lacking, aren’t they?

It seems like our options are often limited to:

  • Corralling friends into a dinner out (but trying to do it on your Actual Birthday is nearly impossible plus budgets and traffic and dietary restrictions?)
  • Traveling (Which is awesome! But not always financially or logistically feasible)
  • Scrolling through all the Facebook birthday notifications and eating cake in the break room at work (When you’re really more of a pie person, anyhow.)

Today is my 39th birthday. We spent the last five days celebrating my birthday/our anniversary with a trip to Massachusetts and Vermont, but my thirst for celebration has yet to be quenched! I’m still going! If you’re looking for ways to celebrate your birthday, keeping reading.

1. Take the day off and do as many happy-making things as you can

If it’s financially and logistically possible, take the day off from work. Switch shifts, request a personal day, or ask a family member to take the kids. AND THEN DO ALL YOUR FAVORITE THINGS.

What favorite things? The little things that make you happy that you keep putting off or ‘saving’ for special occasions. My birthday will include many of my favorite things: walking to the Baker’s Wife, buying an almond croissant,  and then eating it next to the lake while I re-read one of my favorite books.

I’m getting a pedicure and having lunch with a friend at Shuang Cheng and ordering the garlic eggplant. I’m going to matinee by myself and then I’m going to wander Grand Avenue, popping into all the fancy shops. Maybe I’ll buy something! Maybe I’ll just look at amazing merchandising in Anthropoligie and buy one $15 candle!

If I do everything single one of these things, my whole dream day will ring up around $65. Not nothing, surely, but a pretty good price for a day filled almost exclusively with happiness.

2. Journal a bit about where you’d like to be this time next year

More than New Year’s Eve, I like to use my birthday as a time to check in with myself and my life. Am I making choices I’m proud of? Do my daily habits support the life I want for myself and my family? Where would I like to be on August 29th, next year?

3. Put together your New Things List for the coming year

Every year on my birthday, I make a list of 25 new things I want to try in the coming year. I have yet to try all 25 things but even the practice of making the list (and noticing what I don’t complete!) is incredibly illuminating.

Your New Things are a great way to bond with friends, get outside your comfort zone, and make memories. I can’t recommend it highly enough!

4.  Try a birthday tradition from your ancestors

I’m Swedish, Norwegian, German, and a touch of French Canadian and Scottish, so there’s plenty to choose from. Maybe next year I’ll make myself a Swedish ‘princess cake’?

5. Go to the top of your city’s/state’s/country’s tallest building at sunset

Take pictures in that perfect golden light, blow bubbles from the observation deck, thrust your arms behind you and holler about being the king of the world. Lots of tall buildings have a swanky restaurant or bar at the top so you can double dip here, getting dolled up and grabbing a free birthday drink.

6. Do something that makes you feel proud

Hike to the top of a mountain. Purge your closet. Forgive your ex. Reach out to that friend you haven’t talked to in ages. Finally schedule that doctor’s appointment. Chop all your hair off. Attempt that recipe you always thought was too hard. Start the next year of your life on the right foot!

7. Write a letter to yourself in five years

What’s your life like right now? Right this minute? Where will you be in five years time? A ranch house in the ‘burbs? Opening for Feist? Barrel racing?

What do you hope will be different in five years? What do you hope will be the same? Do you have any advice you’d give Future You? What’s one change you could make today that would be helpful to Future You?

8. Do something nice for your body

Your body deserves to celebrate another trip around the sun, too. What would feel the best? A massage? A floating tank? A yoga class? A long bike ride? A roll in the hay with your partner (or yourself!)

9. Throw yourself an amazing party

If you love celebrating your birthday and you wish your partner or best friend would throw you a party, tell them that.

And if that’s not on the table, throw the dang party for yourself. I know it’s very, very easy to get caught up in the way you’d like your life to look and how, exactly, you’d like things to go.

Besides, if you plan it, you can choose a theme, the food, the guest list. Only the best for you, bunny.

10. Go to a live show

Even better if it’s a band or performer you know nothing about. Open your city’s free arts & entertainment newspaper and go to the most recommended event that night, sight unseen

Free admission to Disneyland! Free Video Rentals! Free Sephora Gift! Or you could just go out to eat for every meal and see how many times you can get singing waiters.

12. Plan a long weekend getaway with your closest friends

Wouldn’t it be great to ring in your new year, on the porch of a beach house, drinking champagne with the friends you loved most? Poking around a little tourist town, going out for brunch and buying sea shell earrings? Or paddling around the bay in kayak, getting a bit sunburnt?

I swear by Airbnb for big group weekend rentals. If you’ve never booked with them, here’s $40 towards your first booking!

13. Make a list of all the awesome things you’ve accomplished in the last year

Too often we get hung up on what we haven’t done, the items that never seem to get crossed off our life to-do lists. Pour yourself something delicious, hunker down somewhere comfortable, and systemically think through the previous year and list every single cool, impressive, challenging thing you’ve done.

(If you need help jogging your memory, look through your Google calendar and your Facebook events!)

But I want to hear from you! How do you celebrate your birthday? Tell us in the comment so we can try your methods!

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

I wish I could afford to take the day off on my birthday! I only have ten days of annual leave so I try to spend them wisely, reserved for vacations overseas. But it’s an awesome idea. Everyone should get to spend their birthday away from their job! 🙂



Happy birthday, Sarah! We share all the same feelings about birthdays. I realized a few years ago that I have a “birthday formula” that i know if I follow it, it will turn out amazing. My personal formula is: amazing long leisurely breakfast + going out to explore / do an activity + visit some natural space (like a botanical garden) + dinner some place I’ve long wanted to try and ordering a fancy drink + a party with friends, concert, or other interesting evening diversion that is not simply just going out to a bar. In the U.S. I would ALWAYS take my birthday off work, and in the country I live now, it’s a national holiday, so it works out.


August 29th, 2018

Have you ever heard of FutureMe.org? You can email yourself and pick a day when it will be sent. I have emailed myself several years now, usually on my birthday. It’s such an experienced getting an email from yourself from however many years ago. I usually choose 2-3 birthdays in the future so I don’t remember what I wrote.


August 29th, 2018

Happy Birthday! I am 40 and haven’t worked on my birthday since I graduated from college – my birthday tradition is to always take the day off. This year, since it was a milestone birthday, I really threw myself into collecting free things… and got quite a bit! It was fun to mix and match things at two of my favorite retailers so I only spent $1 of real money with my bday coupons ($25 and $15) – great deals and a great way to beat the system. 🙂


August 29th, 2018

So I’ve been struggling lately in life, feeling “stuck” and not very fun. I have a new baby and have been remodeling a house down to the studs and life has just gotten away from me. Anyway, I’ve been googling things like, “how to be happy”, “how to be fun again”, and “how to start enjoying life”….but those searches didn’t produce anything. Reading this post has given me a huge boost of energy and ideas for how to make my life better this week! No, it is not my birthday, but boy oh boy, do I need this. Thank you so much for being so thoughtful in your posts and so authentic. Your insight is always so appreciated. Thank you for working hard to help me! I hope I can return the favor sometime in the future.


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13 Birthday Ideas For Adults That Are More Fun Than Going Out To Dinner