37 Unconventional Birthday Party Ideas For Adults, Because It's Time To Have Some Fun

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Growing up with a big extended family, birthdays in my household were basically celebrated all month long so everyone could get in on the celebrating — which meant multiple parties (and multiple cakes). I have friends who aren't fans of celebrating birthdays as adults, which I totally get. Birthdays come with expectations, the stress of organizing it, that fear of getting older, plus no one ever wants to feel like they're forcing people to spend their day (and money) honoring their existence.

But really, it's just one day (or one week, two weeks, a month, whatever) out of year that you get celebrate however you want to with whoever you want to, so why not make the most of it?

Whether you love going all out for birthdays or prefer to keep them small and in your home, there are a ton of ways to make these celebrations more exciting, fun, and unique. The first step? Thinking outside-the-box for the type of birthday party you'll host. By no means are you limited to a restaurant or bar anymore.

Below are 37 unconventional birthday party ideas for adults, from scavenger hunts to cupcake crawls, because you've done the group dinner thing for 20-something years now and deserve more.

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1. Scavenger Hunt

Don't feel like sitting around at a table or bar to celebrate your birth? Good, get up and have some fun in your city. First, make a long list of items, where each item is worth a certain amount of points. To make it simple, I usually do one point per item. Then, divide the group into two teams. Pick a place in your city to start and then pick a meeting place in a different neighborhood where you'll end the hunt two or three hours from then. The team with the most points win.

Some scavenger hunt activities I've done: Get a group of strangers to sing happy birthday and film it, find a couple who looks alike and take a picture, do the Dirty Dancing jump in the middle of a park and film it, take a shot (use receipt as proof), etc.


2. Scavenger Hunt In A Bar

Too cold to run around outside — or just want to be at a central location on your bday too? Try doing your scavenger hunt inside a bar. I've done this the last two years at my birthday, and it's an easy way to get the party going and mix things up. Same rules as before apply but instead of dividing into teams, make it every person for themselves.

Some good scavenger hunt items for the bar: Get a stranger to let you do a trust fall with them, Start a limbo with your scarf (or belt), Ask someone to take a picture of your group and then ask them to get in it.

Bonus: this is also a great way to meet people IRL.

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3. Make It A Joint Trip

Celebrating 25 of life? The big 3-0? Your golden year? Get a group of friends together who are also turning that milestone age and make it a joint birthday trip. My friends and I went to Portugal two years ago in honor of us all turning 30.

You don't have to go all out for a group trip — even a weekend getaway or staycation (aka sleepover) can be a fun celebration in honor of your squad's birthdays. And, if you do want to make it a special occasion and plan something special, it also tends to be easier since you're not confined to one specific date when you're celebrating several people at once. My friends and I picked a month a worked for us and then looked up cheap nonstop flights to Europe.

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4. The "Bring Someone New" Party

I grew up right outside Manhattan and the majority of my closest friends are from my hometown — meaning I've been pretty much hanging out with same (amazing!) people for years and years. Eager to switch things up at my 27th birthday apartment party and meet some new people, I made a mandatory rule: everyone needs to bring someone new.

What I meant was, bring someone who 1) wasn't from our hometown 2) the rest of the party had never met before, 3) you don't typically hang out with. People brought co-workers, first dates, friends from college that had lost touch with, and two of my friends even brought a guy visiting from London who they met at the bar an hour earlier. It was a great way to get to know new people.

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5. DIY Bar Crawl

Why stick to just one bar for celebrating your birthday? Make a day of it and plan to hop around to a few bars. Make a list of all the bars you want to stop at and send them around to party guests in advance. They could all have a theme — dive bars, bars that have live music, speakeasies, beer gardens, bars that start with your first initial — or just be venues that are close to each other in distance.

You can a have a rule to keep you and your friends moving along — like a one-hour time limit per bar — or just go with the flow and move on to the next one when you feel like it.


6. DIY Pizza Party

Instead of ordering in pizza or going out to a restaurant or pizzeria for it — bring the goods to you and your party! Set each person up with dough and sauce and then have a buffet of toppings: roasted veggies, grilled fruit, different cheeses, pesto and other sauces, a variety of spices. You can also request that everyone brings one topping to the party to mix it up, too. It's really all about the toppings here, so get creative. And the best part? Everyone gets to try the creations at the end.

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7. Have A Potluck Dinner

Craving a night in with your friends? Instead of doing all the cooking or ordering food in yourself, ask everyone to bring one dish. You can get creative and make a theme for the potluck: your favorite childhood dish, a recipe that's been passed down in your family for generations, breakfast for dinner, no-cook dishes, etc. Or, you can make it a challenge and give everyone one main ingredient — like cheese, for example — that has to make an appearance in everyone's dish.


8. Take A Fitness Class

Want to do something active with your friends before a birthday brunch? Many fitness studios offer birthday classes, where you can reserve a private class or block off spots for your entire group. Whether you do it your go-to spin studio, where everyone knows your name, or at a dance cardio class where you and your friends can bust a move without feeling embarrassed, it's a fun way to do something new with your friends. It's also a great opportunity to try a class you've never done before, like aerial yoga or a trampoline workout.

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9. Have A Seasonal Party

Make your birthday extra festive by hosting a seasonal birthday party. If you're born in the spring, think flowers and pastels. If you're born in the summer, have a BBQ or a beach-themed party — even if you're not at the beach. For autumn birthdays, go all-out with a DIY fall festival that has pumpkin-carving, bobbing for apples, and DIY candy apples. If you're a winter baby? Ice skating and ugly sweaters FTW.


10. Do An Outoor Activity

Want an adventurous birthday? Regardless of where you live, the season, or your level of adventurousness, you can surely find outdoor seasonal activities to do with a group of friends nearby. It's also a great opportunity to do something you've never done before or have always wanted to do. Kayaking, paddle boarding, hiking, a bike ride, rock climbing, surfing, ice skating, snow shoeing, snow tubing, indoor skydiving (for the very adventurous), rollerblading skiing — the options for outdoor activities are endless.

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11. Party On A Boat

Many cities offer happy hour, dinner, party, sightseeing, music, food, evening rides, or booze cruises around the city. Get a group of friends together and enjoy a different view of your home while dancing, seeing historic sights, or eating really good lobster. Depending on the size of your birthday crew, it might make sense to even do a private boat tour so it's just you and your friends aboard.

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12. Beach Party

Born in the spring or summer? Skip an evening or nighttime gathering and make the most of the warm weather by heading to the closest ocean, sea, lake, or river near you with a big group for the day. Even better, try that beach you've always wanted to go to but have never gotten the chance to. Make sure to bring along beach games, chairs, music, drinks, and snacks.

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13. Picnic Party

If you're not a big fan of the beach or it's not the best season to be heading there, grab a few large blankets and head to the closest park to set up shop for the day. You can enjoy the same fun, drinks, music, snacks, and games there — and friends can come and go as they please. If you want to liven the picnic up a bit, try adding in a scavenger hunt or even making the picnic a themed one.


14. Party Like It's....

Here's a fun throwback idea: have a birthday party that's exactly one you had when you were younger. Pick a birthday party you had in the past, whether it's the one where you went to the arcade and ate pizza at age 10, an ice cream sundae party in high school, or the one where you split up into groups, made up dances to Spice Girls songs, and had judges pick a winner (aka my birthdays from ages 9-11).

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15. Concert Party

If your favorite artist or band is playing near your birthday, it's the perfect excuse to go see them and bring along all your besties to rock out with. If your favorite artist isn't on tour at the moment, check out cover bands, other live bands playing nearby or even themed-nights at local bars or music venues for the music genre you like: '80s, '90s, punk rock events, emo nights, etc.

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16. Get Out Of Town Party

Feel like getting out of town just for the day? Exploring a new nearby town or city with friends can be a great time and your birthday is the perfect time to do it. Play tourist — double decker bus, itinerary, and walking group tour included — and head somewhere you've never been for the day within driving distance, or a short train ride away, with your best friends.

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17. Weekend Getaway Party

If you feel like spending more than a day out of town exploring a nearby city with your friends, make a a whole weekend out of it — and consider making it a joint birthday celebration if any of your friends have birthdays around yours. It's a way more affordable option than asking friends to get on a plane and travel for a milestone birthday, too. Come prepared with an itinerary, snacks, and a killer playlist for the car ride there.


18. Road Trip Party

Want to get out of town for more than a weekend but don't want to fly? Your birthday is a great excuse to finally take that cross-country or down-the-coast road trip you've been dreaming of. Again, this would make a great group trip if you're hitting your 25th or 30th birthday this year. And if your best friends don't live in the same city as you — no problem — you can pick them up along the way or make their city the final destination.

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19. Take A Cooking Class

If you want to improve your pasta-making skills and have fun (and food) while you're doing it — and honestly, who doesn't? — make it a party. Invite friends to come along and make it a birthday to remember. Many companies can arrange a chef to come to you if you prefer to have a pasta party in the comfort of your own home. Plus, some cooking schools, like Brooklyn Kitchen, will let you host private parties.

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20. Slumber Party

If you want to host a nostalgic birthday party, look no further than having an old-school slumber party at your place — either during the day or night (aka a real sleepover). This type of birthday party is especially perfect if a lot of your friends are from your childhood, since you can re-create exactly what you used to do. PJs, sleeping bags, face masks, magazines, a 90s playlist, and board games are all required. Pig tails are optional.


21. Wine Tour Party

If you're a car, train, or bus ride away from vineyards, consider hosting a birthday there and learning more about the wine you drink. Get a group together, take an Uber, train, or rent a party bus, and tour your area's finest vino. If you're not close to vineyards, try taking a wine class at a restaurant nearby. Or wine isn't your thing but beer very much is, swap this idea for a brewery tour.

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22. Treat Yourself Self Day

Get inspired by Parks and Rec's best day ever and pamper yourself with some of your closest friends by your side. Have a big brunch, go shopping, get your nails and hair done, get massages, or even spend the whole day hanging at a spa. Of course, doing a day like this can be a lot to ask of friends financially. If you're not teaming up for a joint birthday, consider doing a DIY version with an at-home spa day or pampering session.


23. Pizza Crawl

Not a huge fan of drinking — or just like pizza so much better? Swap the booze for your favorite food and create a pizza crawl in your city. Make a list of the spots you want to hit during your birthday crawl, come up with rules for how you'll move along to the next spot — one slice per pizza joint or a 30 minute time limit — and celebrate your big day with some of your city's best pizzerias with your crew.

24. Cupcake Crawl

If you love sweets, try a cupcake crawl instead of a pizza one. Again, you'll want to map out your route of cupcake spots in your city and come up with some guidelines for guests to go by — and even some ideas of how to maximize your cupcake-eating experience (for example, everyone has a buddy they can split a cupcake with to get the most out of the crawl). Just BYO candles.

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25. Take A Class

Any class! Seriously, it's such a good excuse to try something new and have great company while you do it. Pottery, a DJ class, gelato making, sushi making, wine or beer tasting, glass blowing, pole dancing — the options for learning something new in a day are endless. Again, depending on how many you'll be it may make sense to do a private class. Check out LivingSocial, Groupon, or Gilt City in your area for discounts and inspo for your birthday class party.


26. Run A 5K

OK this may not be a dream birthday for everyone (aka this may sound like a complete nightmare to some people) but if you and your friends enjoy running and getting a little competitive every now and then, consider signing up for a 5K and make it a party — and even better if the 5k is in support of a good cause. You can all wear the same shirt, fun colors, or something else to make you standout. More celebrations after the finish line, of course.

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27. Host A Fundraiser Party

Have a cause that's near and dear to you? Turn a traditional birthday party at the bar into a fundraiser party so you can celebrate with your closest friends and family — and give back to the charity or organization of your choice. Instead of buying you a gift or drink at the bar, you can also recommend that friends and family put that money toward the cause — and even fundraise for it on Facebook.

Small group of coworkers are enjoying drinks in a bar after work. Shutterstock

28. Hiking Party

Again, not everyone's ideal birthday activity, but if you love the great outdoors, your birthday is during a warm-weathered month, and you live a car, busy or train ride away from hiking trails, get a group together and get your hike on for your birthday. Depending on your crew you can pick an easy or challenging hike. Climb your way to the top and then pop some champagne and have some birthday cake. When you get to the bottom you can also explore the town you're in.

29. Hometown Crawl

Here's another nostalgic way to celebrate, if you'd rather leave sleepovers in the late '90s or early '00s. If you're still close with your friends from home, plan a trip back home or put something on the calendar for when you'll all be back for the next holiday, and hit up your old go-tos: the diner, the woods where you had nature walks in elementary school, the candy shop you went to in middle school, the park you had recess in, the lunch spot you went to every day senior year etc.

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30. '90s Party

Get nostalgic and celebrate everyone's favorite decade (and yourself, of course). Some music venues and bars host 90s parties, but if there's not one in your city, DIY. Dress the part (which honestly isn't too hard now that scrunchies, jean skirt, crop tops are all back in style), make a killer '90s playlist on Spotify, and even provide snacks (gushers!) and drinks (Capri Sun cocktails) from the '90s. Don't forget to play Now and Then or Clueless in the background.

Lovable group of stylish girls smiling and sending kiss on camera, super trendy tropical print clothes and 90s style colorful glasses, best friends enjoy time together, pink background.Shutterstock

31. Breakfast For Dinner Party

Because why should you not have egg sandwiches, croissants, muffins, scones, waffles, and pancakes at an adult dinner party in honor of your birthday? Your 8-year-old self would be incredible proud. Make sure to blow out candles on a mountain of your favorite breakfast treats, covered in maple syrup and whipped cream. And major bonus points if everyone comes in their pajamas.


32. Tea Party

Want something little more sophisticated than a pile of pancakes and syrup that you call a birthday cake? OK, I get it. Try another nostalgic-inspired idea and host the tea party your inner child always wished you had attended. Make sure to have a variety of teas, scones, and sugar cubes. You can also ask everyone to dress the part — because who doesn't love a good themed party? And definitely don't forget the cucumber sandwiches.

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33. Movie-Themed Birthday Party

Take a page from your favorite party scene in a TV show or movie and re-create it the best way you know how. Whether it's the Parisian bridal shower party — you know, the Pinterest-perfect one, with the lemonade that was too good to be true and the life-size cake — from Bridesmaids (minus that whole meltdown, but keep the puppies as gifts) or something nostalgic, like the the high school house party kegger from Can't Hardly Wait, there's definitely a great pop culture party to get inspo from for your birthday.

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34. Paint Night Party

Paint, wine, friends — what else would you really want, anyway? If you're having a gathering that's on the small side, consider going to a Paint Night at your favorite bar or restaurant. You can often find deals for these nights on Groupon, Gilt City or LivingSocial, and if not, host your own paint party, give everyone canvas and a photo of what they should re-create and make it a BYOP (Bring Your Own Paint) party.


35. Skydiving Party

Sure, it's super intense and there's a very high chance that not everyone you invite will want to join in (but they can hang at the bottom and take your Instagram photo, right?), but it's your birthday so feel free to scream YOLO on your way out of a plane and plan something everyone can enjoy at the bottom. If skydiving feels too intense but you want to get some sort of adrenaline rush, considering another flying option. iFly has locations around the country and offers indoor skydiving — and you can plan private events there.

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36. Axe Throwing Party

Some throw things to let some steam off, post-break up or after a bad day at work, but for others, throwing things is a celebratory experience. If you've never tried it, your next birthday could be the perfect time to try something new and fun. But definitely don't try this at home. Plenty of indoor axe-throwing bars have popped up around the country in the last few years that let customers throw axes at wooden targets. And oftentimes, you can have drinks, food and host parties or reserve a room.

There you have it — 36 birthday party alternatives to the big group dinner where no one knows how to split up the bill or standing around a crowded bar where you can't hear each other. Happy celebrating!

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37. Have A Camping Party

If you've always wanted to get a big group together to go camping for your birthday but it's been too difficult to organize, you're in luck. With sites like Tentrr, which connects you with private landowners who are sharing their land, you can make the group camping experience so much easier. You can even pick camp sites that are even fully set up so you don't have to bring your own gear.

There you have it — 37 birthday party alternatives to the big group dinner where no one knows how to split up the bill or the crowded bar party where you're pressed up against each other and can't hear each other. Happy celebrating!