When we were kids, we counted down the days to our birthdays, but these days, birthdays have a way of creeping up on us. Unless you’re celebrating a milestone year and someone is throwing you a party, it may seem like a ton of effort to plan things to do on your birthday. And to be honest, some years you really don’t want a party (and don’t want to feel guilted into having one). So if that means you want to take a bath and go to bed early, go for it. If you want to spend a weekend away with your friends, round up the troops and book a hotel.
To make your birthday planning a cinch, we’ve rounded up some of the best things to do on your birthday—from going out, to staying in, and everything in between.
Plan a Spa Day
Want a mental detox? Find the most relaxing spa in town and check yourself in for a full day of pampering (Chillhouse is worth checking out if you're in New York.) Mud baths, massages, facials: It's all on the table.
Make Prime Dinner Reservations
That place you've been trying to get into for a while? Enlist your S.O. or a friend and go for a relaxing, low-key meal that's all about celebrating you.
Don't stress about inviting everyone you've ever met to this shindig. The smaller the group, the easier it will be to get a reservation.
Buy Yourself a Gift
Give yourself a budget and then set out to treat yourself. There's something special about going to a store to pick out a present versus adding something to your online shopping cart.
Book a Luxurious Stay at a Boutique Hotel
Find one with a bar and restaurant in-house so you can spend more time relaxing and less time on-the-go. (The Marlton Hotel in New York and Palihouse in L.A. fit the bill.)
Go on a Vineyard Getaway
What better way to celebrate that things get better with age than by sipping some vino? Spoil yourself rotten with wine and all the cheese plates. Many wineries also offer subscriptions to their products, so you'll always have the perfect wine on hand.
Plan a Trip to See a Friend
Sometimes your closest friends don't live nearby, but they're the ones you want to celebrate with most. Go ahead and celebrate in their hometown instead of yours for a nice change of scenery.
Escape to the Beach
Is there anything more calming than sand between your toes? Enjoy some serious fun in the sun and get away from the business of life for a bit. Lounging by the beach is the perfect thing to do on your birthday.
Rent a Food Truck
Instead of going out to dinner, have a food truck pull up to the park or outside your place to serve guests. It's so much cooler than regular catering.
Host a Private Movie Screening
Whether you rent out your own theater at the cineplex or camp out inside someone's at-home movie room, one thing is for sure: You get to pick the flick. Make sure you have some movie theater quality snacks on hand to complete the evening.
Get a Room at a Karaoke Bar
This way you can sing/scream to your heart's content, without having to embarrass yourself too much. We suggest picking one that serves bubbly for an unforgettable celebration.
Throw a Pool Party
If you're lucky enough to be a summer baby or live somewhere that's warm year-round, give a pool party a go. Jump on the pool float trend for maximum coolness.
Hire a Private Chef
Want a fine dining–style meal without having to leave your home? A private chef will cook your favorite dish (for one, two, or even 10).
Have Your Own TV Marathon
It's all about what you want to watch, completely guilt-free. To make it extra special, have popcorn, candy, and ice cream on hand.
Whip Yourself up a Cocktail
Not the best bartender? Request a delivery from Cocktail Courier so all of the ingredients for your favorite beverage are already measured for you.
Indulge in a Slice of Cake
Whether you pick it up from your favorite bakery or decide to make your own, this is a must on your special day. Oh, and don't forget to make a wish.
Have a Pajama Party
Whether you're with friends, your partner, or even with your kids, there's something about chilling out in your coziest PJs that always makes you feel good. Binge-watching your favorite shows is a must.
Go to a Show
Splurge on tickets to a magic show, play, or concert (your pick) that you've been dying to see. If time permits, treat yourself to dinner before or after.
If beers are more your thing, gather your friends and head to your favorite craft breweries. Take advantage of flights so you can taste everything from stouts to IPAs.
Take Your Favorite Fitness Class
Always wanted to try boxing? Now's your chance. Take the day to try a new fitness class (or an old favorite) that you always wanted to try. From spinning to aerial yoga, there's always something new to try.
Have a Progressive Dinner
Enjoying a progressive dinner is a great way to hit all of your favorite restaurants in one day. Have appetizers at one location, entrées at another, and finish up with coffee and dessert at a final spot.
Reread Your Favorite Book
Your birthday is your day, why not do what you really enjoy? If you're an introvert who prefers your own company to a wild party, make it your day and reread one of your favorite books. Whether its Little Women or something more modern, taking the day to relax and recharge is never a bad idea.
Buy Your Favorite Treat
Your birthday is a time to indulge, so make a point of enjoying your favorite treat. Whether you love macarons or you're more of a cupcake person, be sure you get a sweet treat to celebrate your day.
Call Your Family or Closest Friends
Chances are they'll be texting you to wish you a happy birthday, but sometimes a call or a FaceTime gives you a better chance to catch up. Enjoy their well wishes and make plans to see them soon, if they live far away.
Reflect on Your Past Year
What lessons did you learn? What were some of the best moments and which parts are you glad to be moving on from? Reflecting on your past year, and maybe even setting some goals for the future, can be a great way to honor yourself.
Redecorate Your Home (or Maybe Just a Room)
Thinking about splurging on a new couch or fancy bedding? Now's the time to treat yourself. Work with an interior designer, an online design service like Modsy or try it on your own.
Avoid Your Least Favorite Chores
It's time to plan ahead. Strategically vacuum, do laundry, or any other chores you dread ahead of time, so you don't have to bother with it on your special day.
Become a Plant Parent
Plants are the gift that keep on giving. Not only can they help clean the air, they also bring a little life and happiness to your space. Start small with easy-to-care-for houseplants like snake plants or pilea pepermioides.
Go Through Old Photos
Whether you just scroll through photos you've posted on Instagram or flip through family photo albums, it's always fun to reminisce on old times. Plus you'll get plenty of options for throwback posts in the future.
Play With Puppies
Many shelters need volunteers to play with the dogs (or cats). What better way to spend your day than hanging with some furry friends? Call ahead to see what their needs are, and you can feel good about celebrating your day.
Binge Watch Your Favorite Show
Sometimes we all just need a day to ourselves where we can control the remote. Start a show you've been waiting to see or go back to an old favorite — there are no rules on your birthday!
Donate to a Charity
We all have causes that mean a lot to us. Take a little time to donate what you can to the charity of your choice. You can also encourage your friends and family to donate as well, in lieu of a gift.
Enjoy Breakfast in Bed
While we wouldn't normally recommend eating in bed (so many crumbs), we'll make an exception for your birthday. Enjoy pancakes, pastries, coffee, and maybe even a mimosa to start your day off right.
Host Your Own Wine Tasting
You don't need to visit a fancy winery to get the experience at home. Ask your friends to each bring a bottle of wine over, and enjoy trying different varieties.
Have an Ice Cream Social
Ice cream parties aren't just for kids. Celebrate your birthday like you used to by gathering up your favorite ice cream flavors and all the fixings.
Enjoy Your Favorite Dinner
You don't have to cook it, but at least order in your favorite meal. Whether you go for a full Italian spread or pick up some pad Thai, you should have your favorite foods on your big day.
Spending some time in nature is a great way to reset and indulge in some "you" time. Try a nearby trail or take a trip to a prime hiking destination like the red rocks of Sedona or Yosemite National Park.
Head to a Bowling Alley
Think bowling alleys are for kids? Think again. Many now serve great food and custom cocktails, making it a true destination for a great time.
Try a Recipe You've Always Wanted to Make
If you're a fan of cooking or baking, take the time to try a new recipe you've been waiting to try. Whether you make gnocchi from scratch or try to bake your own birthday treat, spending some time doing something you love is always a good idea.
Splurge on a Nice Bottle of Your Favorite Liquor
If you usually stick to a cheaper version of your favorite spirit, now's the time to indulge. Pick up a brand you've been eyeing and celebrate in style.
Have a Dance Party
It's not a party if there's not dancing. Grab a few of your favorite records and dance the night away to your favorite tunes.
Enjoy a Staycation
Find an Airbnb in a cool part of your town and live your best life for a day or two. Explore new shops, restaurants, bars, and hot spots in an area you might not always visit.
Take a Class
Always wanted to learn to spin pottery? Interested in learning how to cook? Book a class in the area of your choice and learn something new for the day. Invest in yourself this year.
Set Some Goals
Where would you like to be at this time next year? Write down some goals that you have for yourself (personal, work-related, or otherwise) to help guide you for the next year.
Buy Yourself Flowers
Whether you love roses or think lilies are gorgeous, head to a local florist and pick out a bouquet, just for you. Plus you'll get to enjoy the beauty of fresh flowers in your home for the next week.
Host a Fancy Tea
Celebrate your day in style with a fancy tea party. Include champagne, finger foods, and plenty of treats for a party worthy of your birthday.
Go on a Shopping Spree
If you've been meaning to hit the shops, today's your day. Give yourself an excuse to spend a little money on yourself. Buy a new outfit, grab some beauty buys, or just buy a thing or two that will make you smile.
Host a Themed Party
Everyone loves a good theme. Whether you go with a 70's disco party or a '90s grunge affair, tailor the music, food, and atmosphere to your decade of choice.
Indulge in Nostalgia
Love puzzles as a kid? Was Monopoly your favorite board game ever? Spend some time indulging in some of your favorite nostalgic memories — it's your day after all!
Decorate Your Home
It's time to pull out the streamers and confetti. Decorate your home with all of the festive party store dècor you can find.
Wear a Show-Stopping Outfit
Never had an occasion to wear that sequined jumpsuit in the back of your closet? Now you do. Spend some time dressing up for your day — you'll feel as good as you look!