Celebrating your birthday in Chicago doesn't have to be stressful. In fact, the city is filled with so many party options that choosing one is a piece of cake—preferably the kind that's filled with funfetti and topped with a birthday candle. If you don't want to devote too much time to planning your birthday in Chicago, you'll be in good hands at one of the best bars in Chicago; just be sure to arrive early enough to secure a table for your group. (Better yet, this list of 4am bars in Chicago will keep the celebration going into the wee hours of the morning.) Looking for something a bit more laid-back? consider snagging a reservation at one of the best restaurants in Chicago, booking an epic staycation or visiting a DIY facial bar. Whatever your style, planning your birthday in Chicago is a breeze if you know where to look.
Where to celebrate your birthday in Chicago
Upgrade your usual birthday bar routine by gathering your friends for an interactive brewery tour at one of the city's best beer houses, like Lagunitas, Dovetail or Lake Effect. Local brewery tours range from a booze-fueled, hours-long lesson on beermaking to quick and dirty 20-minute overviews. Why just post up at a bar when you can sip the freshest suds in town? It's your birthday after all.
If you're feeling stressed about getting older, you need a beer, a microphone and Mariah Carey. Luckily, Chicago is dotted with excellent karaoke haunts, ranging from gritty dive bars to gay bars to can’t-miss spots down in Chinatown. Warm up your vocal chords—or, at the very least, knock back a few drinks—and sing your favorite tune at the best karaoke bars in Chicago.
Your special day calls for a feast with friends at one of Chicago's very best restaurants. Whether you're looking to go all out (may we suggest Parachute?) or get down with some awesomely messy grub (there's nothing wrong with a saucy slab of ribs at Smoque), book a table at one of our all-time favorite restaurants and eat your way through another year.
If the thought of celebrating your birthday at a raging nightclub makes your head hurt, consider doing something more intimate at one of the most relaxing spas in Chicago. Book mani-pedis at Cowshed, take a dip in the heated pools at AIRE Ancient Baths or splurge on bespoke treatments at The Peninsula Spa. Whether you book your visit with a few friends, a significant other or by yourself (no shame in that), there's bound to be something on the menu for every price point.
Taking a group of adults to Chuck E. Cheese to celebrate a birthday feels a little weird, but you can replicate the thrill of pumping quarters into arcade games at an arcade bar. Relive the glory days of your youth at a pinball table, behind the joystick of a Pac-Man cabinet or by blowing up zombies with your friends.
Pizza is the ultimate shareable, and every real Chicagoan has their favorite pie shop—whether it's Pequod's or Coalfire or Marie's. For your special day, gather your friends at your go-to spot, order a few pitchers of beer and stuff your face with cheese-covered slices. It's the grown-up version of the pizza parties of your youth—only with way better food and adult beverages.
If you're a summer baby, you don't have to pay a dime to celebrate your big day at one of the city's most beautiful beaches. Pack a few blankets, ask everyone to bring a snack to share and pop a squat in front of Lake Michigan. Oak Street Beach offers pristine skyline views and beach volleyball, while Promontory Point is perfect for a relaxed cookout by the water.
Want to do something extra special for a milestone birthday? You don't have to skip town to get away when you book a weekend staycation at one of the best hotels in Chicago. Boutique properties like Publishing House, the Robey and Chicago Athletic Association are home to amazing restaurants and bars, making your stay a one-stop shop. Plus, you won't have to make your bed on your birthday if you don't want to—a major perk in our book.
The hardest decision you should have to make on your birthday is Mimosas or Bloody Marys? Get your fill of boozy breakfast bevvies when you plan your birthday around one of Chicago's finest bottomless brunches. Restaurants like etta, Margeaux Brasserie and SX Sky Bar will make sure that your celebratory flute of bubbles never goes empty.
Let's say you don't want your birthday to revolve around drinking—we totally get it. Pile your friends in the car and hit the road for one of Chicago's most epic hiking trails. Head to the Northwest Side to go for a walk on the North Branch Trail, take the Metra to Warrenville to hike atop an underground particle accelerator or cross state lines to visit the gorgeous Indiana Dunes along Lake Michigan. It's the kind of celebration your friends won't soon forget.
Your night on the town doesn't have to end at 2am, when most Chicago bars have to close up shop. Select local watering holes keep the party going till 4am or later, allowing you to celebrate another lap around the sun into the wee hours of the morning. Listen to live jazz music at Green Mill, close down the dance floor at the Hangge-Uppe, or throw back shots of Malört at the Owl.
If your birthday falls in the summer months, there's really no excuse to be cooped up inside. Take your party higher at one of Chicago's top-rated rooftop bars for an unforgettable evening of drinking, dancing and shimmering views of the skyline. From posh cocktail spots to laid-back beer bars, there's a rooftop bar in Chicago for every personality.
It's no Napa, but Chicago's wine-bar scene is positively booming. If you want to do a formal vino tasting, consider spots like City Winery or Red & White Wines, where experts can guide you through the process, sprinkling in fun facts and useful tips along the way. Or go off script and do a self-guided exploration of the wine lists at Webster's, Rootstock or Income Tax.