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. From picking a present at a gift shop to giving a unique L.A. experience to an evening at a romantic restaurant, there a plenty of special gifts to both give and receive. 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.
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.
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. Nearly every employee you encounter will wish you a happy birthday for the rest of the day.
It’s easy to forget you’re still in Los Angeles as you trek through the mix of native chaparral and landscaped paths that cover Griffith Park. Where else could you encounter canyons, caves and coyotes in the middle of a city? Griffith is a point of pride for Angelenos, a park to rival all others and the perfect place for a birthday hike. Stick around into the evening and watch the sunset from the Griffith Observatory.
Karaoke is everywhere in L.A. From Koreatown to the Valley, hoarse renditions of Journey, the B-52s and Sir Mix-A-Lot can be heard wafting out of karaoke bars on many a city block. If you’re rounding up a bunch of friends for your birthday, consider renting a private room. At the very least, you’ll want to consult our guide, linked here, to all things karoke.
Bowling alleys abound in Los Angeles—some new and highfalutin’ with cocktail bars and dress codes, others old and divey, crumbling with character. You can knock ’em down all over the city, but consider an evening at L.A.’s most unique alleys—the steampunk-esque lanes at Highland Park Bowl or the swanky private lanes at the Spare Room—for a special birthday celebration.
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.
Ah, a booze cruise—the perfect way to celebrate your love of the open seas and an open bar. You’ll find a wide variety of booze cruises across the city, from entire chartered ships to individual reservations, and from open bars to pay-as-you-go cocktails. Most make port out of Marina Del Rey, with a couple of others in Long Beach and OC.
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.
Birthday celebrations with your friends and family call for a restaurant that can feed a small army. Thankfully, some of L.A.’s rich with family-style meals, weekly group dinners and little-known specials that should do the trick, no matter your craving—including a few options for dinner and a show.
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.
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.
There are a few deciding factors that define a true tiki bar: It has to be a dive. There must be ample umbrellas in your cocktail. And the kitsch factor should be through the (bamboo thatched) roof. Nothing says “happy birthday” like some drunken chanting around a Scorpion Bowl.
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.
Looking for a great birthday meal?
There isn’t a more exciting place to eat right now than Los Angeles. While we’ve built our gastronomic reputation on incredible food trucks and off-the-beaten-path tacos, chefs are now flocking to our fair city to take some serious risks, turning L.A. into a true culinary mecca.