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17 ways to celebrate your birthday in Chicago as an adult

Celebrate your birthday in Chicago with these super fun party ideas

Morgan Olsen
Erin Yarnall
Written by
Morgan Olsen
Contributor
Erin Yarnall
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Year after year, there’s one day that should revolve entirely about you—your birthday—and your birthday should be spent doing exactly what you like. How do you celebrate you birthday as an adult in Chicago? If you want to spend your big day watching sports, check out a game in-person or on a big screen at one of the best bars in Chicago. Not a sports fan? There are movie theaters, comedy clubs, a bevy of Chicago museums, and if all of those still aren’t cutting it for your birthday, there’s something that everyone enjoys—food. Don’t forget to make an extra stop for birthday cake from a Chicago bakery. Mark the most special day of the year in style with these ideas for celebrating your birthday in Chicago.

Time Out Market Chicago
  • Restaurants
  • West Loop

Want to have a party where everyone can eat exactly what they want and nobody has to worry about splitting a check? That's easy to accomplish at Time Out Market Chicago, where 18 of the city's best chefs come toghether to serve pizza, ramen, fried chicken, tacos and more delicious dishes. And if you need a drink, there are three Time Out Bars (including Tony's Rooftop Bar) ready to serve your party delicious cocktails and beer. Show up with your crew or get in touch with Time Out Market staff to arrange an unfortgettable private birthday party.

Where to celebrate your birthday in Chicago

  • Bars

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.

  • Restaurants

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 the Bristol?) 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.

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  • Health and beauty
  • Spas

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 a CBD treatment at Kohler Waters Spa in Lincoln Park, 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.

  • Things to do
  • Walks and tours

One of the best things about Chicago is its beautiful lakeshore, so why not celebrate your proximity to Lake Michigan by taking a birthday boat tour. The Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Cruise is well-known and well-loved by both residents and tourists, but there are also more intimate tours, like the Lady Grebe Chicago River Experience, where you and up to your six friends can celebrate in style by renting a 48-foot yacht. Some tours offer dinner and lunch, so you can dig into a birthday meal with one of the best views in the city.

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  • Bars

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 at spots like Logan Arcade, Emporium Arcade Bar and Headquarters Beercade.

  • Restaurants

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.

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  • Clubs

There are few better ways to celebrate another trip around the sun than by dancing your heart out to your favorite music. There’s a host of nightlife destinations with dance floors where you can groove to all sorts of music, from the progressive house music thumping at River North’s Sound Bar to the emo anthems blasting from the speakers at West Town’s Beauty Bar.

  • Things to do

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.

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  • Movies

Birthdays don’t always have to revolve around a huge plan—sometimes a simple day makes for an altogether better experience. Going to see a movie is one of the easiest ways to treat yourself for your birthday. Whether you want to catch the latest blockbuster at a multiplex, or see an a classic movie screening at the Music Box Theatre, there’s a movie and a theater that will make you feel like your name is up in lights.

  • Comedy

No one wants to be sad on their birthday. Instead, you should spend your special day laughing as hard as you can—a feat made easier by going to one of the city’s numerous comedy clubs. You’ll find improv and sketch shows at Second City in Old Town, local headliners doing stand-up at The Comedy Bar in River North and a cavalcade of funny folks onstage at Lincoln Lodge. Plus, considering how many comedy greats have emerged from Chicago, you could be celebrating your birthday with the next Tina Fey or Steve Carell.

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  • Restaurants

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 Barcocina, Mad Social and Fremont Chicago will make sure that your celebratory flute of bubbles never goes empty.

  • Things to do

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.

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  • Travel
  • getaways

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.

  • Bars

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.

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Take yourself out to a ball game
Photograph: Zach Long

Take yourself out to a ball game

Baseball fans should only have to make one big choice on their birthday: are you heading to Guaranteed Rate Field to see the White Sox or Wrigley Field to see the Cubs? Don’t feel like taking a side in the crosstown rivalry? You can always go cheer for the Chicago Dogs, an independent professional team that plays out in Rosemont. The best thing about the baseball season is that it’s so lengthy, spanning from April until November, which means anyone without a winter birthday is in luck. And you can always catch a belated game, because what’s better than extending your birthday for a month, or four?

  • Bars

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.

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  • Bars

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 All Together Now.

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