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The best birthday party ideas for adults in Chicago

Make growing a year older a blast with the best birthday party ideas for adults in Chicago, from bowling to dive bars

Photograph: Courtesy Virgin Hotels Chicago

Planning a birthday party can be stressful. From building an invite list to finding the perfect location to second-guessing whether you should be throwing yourself a party in the first place, it’s often tempting to just call the whole thing off. But we’re here to make party-planning a little bit easier. The best birthday parties for adults are cheap, accessible, fun and perfect for large groups. Celebrate another trip around the sun at the best bars in the city, or blow of some steam by acting like a kid again. Whatever your style, all you have to do is kick back and have fun.

The best birthday party ideas for adults

Lagunitas in Douglas Park is one of the many Chicago breweries to offer tours.
Photograph: Martha Williams

Go on a brewery tour

Brewery tours offer a bit more interaction that just going to a bar. Plus, it’s the perfect excuse to soak up Chicago’s rich craft beer scene. Local brewery tours range from a booze-fueled, hours-long lesson on beermaking to quick and dirty 20-minute overviews. Why just go to a bar when you can drink the freshest brews in town? It’s your birthday, after all. Do it up.

Photograph: Michael Jarecki

Sing your heart out at a karaoke bar

If you're feeling the stress of getting older, you need just three things: a beer, a microphone and Mariah Carey. Luckily, Chicago is chock full of excellent karaoke spots, ranging from gritty dive bars to gay bars to can’t-miss spots down in Chinatown. So get your vocal chords ready—or, at the very least, knock back a couple drinks—and hit up the best Chicago bars for karaoke.

Photograph: Courtesy Cerise

Drink up awesome city views and cocktails

If you’re #blessed enough to have a summertime birthday, what better way to celebrate than at a rooftop bar? Chicago has no shortage of spots to drink while admiring stunning views of the city. From bougie cocktail bars to laid-back beer bars, get elevated on your special day.

Photograph: Jaclyn Elizabeth Rivas
Things to do

Do a beach day

Why deal with reservations and marking territory at bars when you can just hang outside? Avoid the fuss and plan a relaxing day at the beach, where your friends can come and go as they please.

WhirlyBall has a new location in Bucktown.
Photograph: Hilary Higgins
Things to do

Show off your WhirlyBall skills

icon-location-pin Bucktown

Or, perhaps, lack thereof. There's a reason why this totally made-up sport is such a popular party activity. WhirlyBall is played by two teams driving bumper cars and combines elements of lacrosse, hockey and basketball. Needless to say, it's a ton of fun after you've had a few drinks. The Webster Avenue location also offers laser tag and bowling, just in case you didn't get your fill. 

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Go out to dinner at one of Chicago's top restaurants

Your special day calls for a feast at one of Chicago's very best restaurants. Whether you're looking to go all out (may we suggest Alinea?) or get down with some awesomely messy grub (there's nothing wrong with Pequod's), book a table at one of our all-time favorite eateries and dine your way through your birthday.

Sox vs Cubs at Cellular Field x600
Photograph: Chandler West
Sports and fitness, Baseball & softball

Go to a White Sox game

Instead of going broke paying for nosebleed seats at Wrigley, take a trip to the South Side for a White Sox game. With less expensive tickets, it's much easier to bring a big group to Guaranteed Rate Field. Plus, Sox Park has really upped its food and drink game lately. Who wouldn't be up for a can of local craft beer and a 16-inch grilled cheese sandwich?

Lisa Beasley, Tim Ryder, Carisa Barreca, Rashawn Nadine Scott, Eddie Mujica and Scott Morehead in Soul Brother, Where Art Thou? at Second City e.t.c.
Photograph: Todd Rosenberg
Things to do

Go to a comedy show

Chicago continues to be home—or at least a second home—to some of the biggest names in comedy.  Laugh it up on your birthday at some of the city's best comedy clubs to see stand-ups, sketch acts, improv and more comedians. Second City, the Annoyance and iO all have excellent bars in their venues, so you can stick around for a few drinks with your pals after the show.

Photograph: Martha Williams

Tuck into a dive bar

Don’t want to make your birthday a “thing,” but still trying to celebrate? Have your party at a casual, no-fuss dive bar. Chicago's got a ton of 'em, and the best of the bunch offer cheap drinks, great jukeboxes and, most importantly, no finicky dress codes. 

Photograph: Mark Wright
Things to do

Plan a picturesque picnic in the park

Invite your nearest and dearest to one of Chicago's most stunning parks for a B.Y.O. picnic. Ask friends and family to bring appetizers and sides to share, and sprawl out on the lush greenery. With more than 600 city parks to choose from, there's something for every birthday boy and girl. 

Medieval Times
Photo: Matt Petit
Restaurants, American

Travel back to the Medieval Times

icon-location-pin Suburbs

Yes, we know it's in Schaumburg. Yes, we know it's for children. But think about it: giant chicken legs, drinks, crowns and jousting? Sounds like a birthday party you'll never forget. Schlep out to the 'burbs for an incredibly goofy birthday party—complete with questionable English accents—at Medieval Times.

Devereaux at Viceroy
Photograph: Anthony Tahlier
Travel, Getaways

Plan an epic staycation

Want to do something extra special for a milestone birthday? Check in at one of Chicago's top hotels for a relaxing staycation with your closest friends and loved ones. These tried-and-true accommodations offer top-notch restaurants, luxe amenities and awesome views. Pack your bags and get ready to celebrate! 

Photograph: Martha Williams

Post up at a great outdoor bar

Again, summer babies, you've got it made. After months spent huddling around fireplaces and shivering from inevitable bar-room drafts, you deserve a drink. Outside. And so do all your friends. With the sun beaming down, margarita in hand. These outdoor bars all make for perfect birthday party spots in the summer, the best season in Chicago.

Things to do

Have a pingpong party at AceBounce

icon-location-pin Loop

AceBounce is a great spot for a birthday party, complete with a full bar, wood-fired pizzas, craft cocktails and a whole lot of ping pong tables. And because it's located in the Loop, it's a great post-work party location. Clock out early and start celebrating with a paddle in your hand.

Spend an afternoon enjoying old-school games and craft beer at the city's best arcade bars.
Photograph: Jaclyn Elizabeth Rivas

Waste quarters at an arcade bar

Taking a group of adults to Chuck E. Cheese to celebrate a birthday is a little weird, but you can replicate the thrill of pumping quarters into arcade games (sans the chintzy prizes) 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. Treat your guests to the first round of quarters (the drinks will be on them, after all).

Red Rum
Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki

Sneak into one of Chicago's most secret bars

If you've hosted your party at the same bar for the last three years, it's time to switch things up. Perfect for an intimate group of friends, Chicago's hidden speakeasies are mysterious and fun. From cocktail hangs and Japanese izakayas to Irish pubs and college bars, read up on how to access these top-secret bars before you go.