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Scorpion Bowl at Tiki No
Photograph: Becky Reams Scorpion 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.

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.

Button Mash
Photograph: Courtesy Button Mash

Have a birthday bash at Button Mash

Restaurants Contemporary Asian 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.

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

Sugarfish new Trust Me menu Don't Think Just Eat secret menu
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

Claim your free dinner at Sugarfish

Restaurants Japanese 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.

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Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Jessica Watkins

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

Clubs

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.

Scorpion Bowl at Tiki No
Photograph: Becky Reams

Slurp up a bowl of booze at a tiki bar

Bars

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 at Tiki No.

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Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Chad McDonald

Get a free lift ticket at Big Bear

Attractions 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.

Photograph: Michael Juliano

Taste whiskey at the whimsical Lost Spirits Distillery

Bars Downtown Arts District

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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Highland Park Bowl
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Hit the lanes and go bowling

Things to do

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.

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

Bring along some extra hands for a massive dinner

Restaurants

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. 

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Palm Springs
Photograph: Michael Juliano

Take a day trip

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.

Best food at Disneyland guide Anaheim
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

Go to Disneyland

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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Photograph: Lauren Spinelli

Prep a perfect picnic spread

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.

Esters Wine Shop & Bar
Photograph: Emily Hart Roth

Go wine tasting without leaving L.A.

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

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?

The Eat List
Photograph: Jesse Hsu

The 31 best restaurants in Los Angeles you need to try

Restaurants

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.

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