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Birthday ideas in Los Angeles

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

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

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.

Button Mash
Photograph: Courtesy Button Mash
Restaurants, Contemporary Asian

Have a birthday bash at Button Mash

Echo Park

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.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Disneyland
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Tyler
Things to do

Go to Disneyland

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.

Things to do

Spend the day hiking through Griffith Park

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.

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Jessica Watkins

Belt out karaoke jams like it’s your birthday (because it is)

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.

The Spare Room
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Things to do

Go bowling

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.

Photograph: Courtesy Sugarfish
Restaurants, Japanese

Have a free dinner at Sugarfish

Santa Monica

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.

Why Knot? Party Cruises
Photograph: Courtesy Why Knot? Party Cruises
Things to do

Embark on a booze cruise

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.

Palm Springs, CA
Photograph: Justin Meissen/flickr
Things to do

Take a day trip

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.

Lono luau group dinner in Hollywood Los Angeles tiki bar
Photograph: Courtesy Lono/Genevieve Adams

Bring along some extra hands for a massive dinner

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. 

Photograph: Lauren Spinelli
Things to do

Go on a picnic

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.

Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Chad McDonald

Get a free lift ticket at Big Bear

Big Bear

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.

Scorpion Bowl at Tiki No
Photograph: Becky Reams

Slurp up a bowl of booze at a tiki bar

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.

Buzz Wine Beer Shop.
Photograph: Courtesy Buzz Wine Beer Shop

Go wine tasting without leaving L.A.

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?

The Eat List
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

The 20 best restaurants in Los Angeles you need to try

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.