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Scorpion Bowl at Tiki No
Photograph: Becky ReamsScorpion Bowl at Tiki No

13 ways to celebrate your birthday in L.A. as an adult

From drunken karaoke to day trips, here are the best birthday ideas for your next celebration in L.A.

Michael Juliano
Written by
Michael Juliano
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Happy birthday! Well, we don’t actually know if today is your birthday, but it will be at some point this year. And when that day comes along, you’ll be in need of birthday ideas to celebrate in Los Angeles. Look, you could just hit up a gift shop or book an evening at a romantic restaurant, but we much prefer planning a truly unique L.A. experience, the kind of day that you or your birthday pal will surely remember (perhaps a little fuzzily). Whether you’re eagerly counting down the days or anxiously awaiting a milestone, here are a bunch of fun birthday ideas for your next L.A. celebration.

13 birthday ideas for a celebration in L.A.

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary Asian
  • Echo Park
  • price 2 of 4

Think of this as a Chuck E. Cheese’s birthday party for grown-ups. Whatever you want to call it—restaurant, bar, arcade—Button Mash has created a category all its own in L.A. The food, which comes from once-underground-restaurant Starry Kitchen, is fantastic (including their signature tofu balls), with video game-themed drinks to match. Button Mash has over 100 arcade machines from the ’70s to ’90s, with a rotating lineup of about 50 machines, from Frogger to Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker.

Check out more of our favorite arcade bars in L.A.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Santa Monica
  • price 2 of 4

With locations all over town, Kazunori Nozawa’s mini-empire favors straightforward, no-nonsense fresh sushi, sashimi and hand rolls over the usual Dragon and Rainbow rolls—as exemplified by Noawa’s trademark “Trust Me” menu item, which decides diners’ sushi dishes for them. You can get that dinner for free on your birthday, though you’ll have to meet a couple of conditions and fill out some paperwork first. The short version: bring a check-in card to Sugarfish on two separate visits within a year and you can redeem it for a “Trust Me” gift on your birthday.

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  • Attractions
  • Big Bear
  • price 2 of 4

L.A.’s closest thing to an alpine escape, Big Bear doubles as both a winter and summer recreation area. During snowy winters, the resort’s signature Snow Summit maintains miles of trails and lifts for all skill levels, while Bear Mountain caters toward snow sports. Visit on your birthday and you’ll get a free lift ticket valid until 4pm—all you need is a valid ID.

  • Bars
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 2 of 4

A jungle maze, a boat ride, a merry-go-round: Nope, this isn’t Disneyland, it’s Lost Spirits Distillery, L.A.’s most whimsical destination to get sauced with some friends. You’ll start your experience at an Arts District tasting room and—after boarding (and imbibing inside of) some incredibly immersive buses—find yourself at an industrial lab, sampling rum and listening to animatronic tiki birds chatter away. If you’re looking to up the insanity, splurge on the 10-course dinner, Fish or Flesh, a banquet table celebration fit for a mad scientist.

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  • Things to do

There’s plenty to do here in L.A. for your birthday. But sometimes you have the itch to go somewhere new, and luckily we happen to be surrounded by spectacular landscapes, beautiful beaches and small towns perfect for day trips. From wine tasting in Santa Barbara to vintage hunting in the desert or feeling the sand between your toes down south, you’re sure to find a short trip worth taking.

  • Things to do

Some park guests mistakenly believe that the happiest place on earth is free on your birthday—blame it on a limited time 2009 promotion that offered just that—so let’s clear this up: Disneyland is not free on your birthday. It is, however, a magical place to mark another year. Stop by City Hall (or the Chamber of Commerce in California Adventure) on your way in and pick up a pin-on birthday button. Seemingly every employee you encounter will wish you a happy birthday for the rest of the day.

Looking for something other than chicken fingers while you’re there? Check out the 30 best things to eat at Disneyland.

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  • Things to do

With L.A.’s near-perfect weather year-round, picnicking is always an option. For birthdays, the alfresco tradition works as both an intimate date night or a casual gathering of friends. Legally, you’ll have to leave the wine at home—save for some specially ticketed events in the summer—but a bit of food and some fresh air still sounds like a pretty sweet birthday to us.

  • Bars

When you’re craving wines by the flights but a boozy weekend getaway among the vines just isn’t in the cards, worry not: L.A.’s wine shops are the next best thing. Just like visiting a winery, you’ll pay a fee to sip through a flight of wines based on a theme—maybe all reds or whites, or all New World zinfandels—and walk away with discounted bottles and some newfound knowledge that’ll have you feeling like an expert.

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Three words: Jumbo’s Clown Room
  • Sex and dating
  • Thai Town
  • price 1 of 4

Jumbo’s isn’t a strip club… it’s an experience, and practically a birthday rite of passage in L.A. There’s a reason there’s always a line out the door at Hollywood’s hipster crown jewel of bikini bars—we’re just always too mesmerized by the badass pole-spinners and stiff drinks too articulate why. Everyone goes to Jumbo’s: single men and women, couples, groups of friends and, of course, the ever-present golden-agers. There’s no cover, but tipping is strongly encouraged.

Looking for a great birthday meal?

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