Planning birthday parties for yourself was so much easier when we were in our 20s. Pick a bar, tell people to come, they drink, everyone goes home. But, now that I’m in my 30s, I find that we are often left with coming up with creative ideas to celebrate our birthdays to get people to actually want to show up. Just me? No? Yes? I mean, I don’t blame people. I don’t want to stand around in a crowded bar anymore and going to a house party where I don’t know a ton of people doesn’t really interest me either.
To combat this issue, I’ve started throwing myself creative out of the box idea birthday parties. Things that aren’t just a dinner at a new restaurant (though I do love those birthday parties by the way!) so I don’t lose my friend’s or my own interest in celebrating my own day of birth.
Party Bus with a Twist
Party buses or trolleys are a huge Chicago-area go to party idea. They are relatively inexpensive and they are BYOB (meaning cheap!) so people here love them. But how do you put a new twist on it for your birthday? A few years back, I decided to do a party bus to 3 different bars – all ones that had been established in 1985 aka the year I was born. We hit up Pops for Champagne, Dugan’s in the West Loop and ended our night at Sluggers, where a few people even participated in the batting cages. It was fun and a different twist on a trolley/party bus situation. You could even do this with themed bars: like hit up only tiki bars!
Another problem I have with my birthday is that it’s in the month of March, which means everyone is very over winter. So how do you find something to do that is creative but also outdoors? Enter: the Igloo. These have been all the rage the last few winters and Chicago has a very expensive option along the Riverwalk at City Winery. To be fair, these are really, really nice igloos and you get premium furniture, wine, cheese and a great view. However, my birthday last year I rented one at IO Godfrey, a rooftop club, and while the furniture was not luxury and it was a little chilly because the igloo had a few holes, we had so much fun, service was top notch and
Hot Tub Party
So renting The Bunny Slope, which is what I did for my birthday this year, is only a thing in Chicago. At least, I’ve only heard about it in Chicago! But, you can always create your own winter pool party at a hotel instead! The Bunny Slope though is perfect for a smaller party of say 15 people who just want to sit in a hot tub and drink alcoholic slushies and shotskis all night. Also, it is relatively cheap! I had to pay $150 for the bartender and then we just had to hit a minimum within the 3 hours we rented it for, which is really easy if you’re doing a lot of shotskis! This was super fun and I highly recommend it if you live in the city.
So day drinking is kind of my thanggg, and while people generally leave it for summer and rooftops, there are definitely fun ways to do it in the winter. One being all you can eat and all you can drink deals. Here in Chicago, Steakbar is one of my favorites. The food is very good and you can stay as long as you want. It is for sure fun in the summer, but I find it just as fun in the winter!
One year, I had planned this amazing beach party bash for my friend’s birthday and the day of it turned out cold and rainy. June in Chicago is a finicky sucker. Anyway, we had to rebrand the party fast so I went to an old college favorite: pub golf. Everyone dresses up in golf attire and you go from bar to bar drinking different drinks at each “hole” aka bar along the way in teams. Each team member has to drink the chosen drink at each bar or you get negative points to your score. So bar one might be a shot, bar two might be a beer, bar three might be another shot, and so on and so on. Obviously, you want to get par and have everyone complete the challenge. You can also add fun side challenges to get extra points. The more embarrassing the better. We had people do jumping jacks, hop across the entire bar on one foot, sing a song so the whole bar can hear it, and many more! We did this during the day on a Saturday so the bars weren’t super crowded, but we had the BEST time. You might remember this from the movie The Wedding Date. Am I dating myself? Maybe. Do I care? NO!
Blind Wine Tasting
I’ve never done this for a birthday party, but this could easily be repurposed for one. Each person who comes to the party brings a bottle of wine with either no label or in a paper bag. Make up scorecards for each person and then taste test each bottle of wine. Everyone rates their favorite to least favorite and then you reveal the winners! Everyone gets good and sloshed and it’s super fun when someone brings a really cheap bottle of wine from Trader Joe’s and it ends up winning!
My friends and I do one of these parties every year since we all live within a 2-block radius of one another in the West Loop. Basically, we pick a theme, last year was the Super Bowl, and we all make a bite (like a dip or sliders or something) and then we go from house to house drinking and eating. One year, we did countries and people got really into it. One house even made their own pasta! And someone had Greece and decorated their whole house like the Parthenon.