What’s the one night everyone’s been waiting for all their lives? Their 21st birthday. Whether you’re hitting the streets, hopping on a plane or finding your couch, everyone has elaborate plans for their first legal night of alcohol. Not sure what to do yet? Here are some stories of 21st birthdays past and present that may inspire you.
Hopefully these 21st birthday ideas let you glide into your legal drinking years in style.
The Planning Type
Okay, okay, okay. We all know you’ve been thinking about your 21st birthday and meticulously planning it in your head. But will you actually go through with those plans? Some people did, and it showed. Whether it was to go downtown, find your friends or just get purely and stupidly drunk, these ‘planners’ knew exactly the type of night they wanted.
1. “The whole weekend, I had events planned. Why not go all out for your 21st right? Everything was all planned down to the tee. Thursday, my parents took me for margaritas and a tequila shot. My friends from home took me to downtown Davenport on Friday. That Saturday, I went to Iowa City with my boyfriend and some close friends. We all went to someone’s house and had tacos for dinner. Randomly, we all decided to go downtown and get wasted. The next morning, we made breakfast of champions and tried to cure our hangovers—mine being the worst after heavily drinking for three days straight,” Saint Ambrose junior Sara Stockdale said.
2. “I had a party on the Saturday before because my birthday was on Sunday. All my close friends from school were there. It was a big party with lots of drink, people and beer pong. The party was a ‘Black Out’ theme because I was gonna ‘black the f–k out.’ At midnight, we all decided to go downtown to get my first legal drink. We were all gonna do a birthday shot but forgot due to alcohol consumption. Lots of people were already wasted. On the way out the door, somebody face planted down the stairs…it was hilarious,” University of Iowa junior Katie Borchert said.
3. “On the day itself, I went out to dinner with my boyfriend and then we went to go see Legally Blonde the Musical at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, Illinois. Later in the month, I went to the University of Iowa for ‘Hallo-weekend’ so I could get my first legal festivities in before October was over,” Aurora University sophomore Karina Riscos said.
It’s The Small Things That Count
On the complete other spectrum, some people have no plans at all. Or they have the type of plans that mean something to them. But it’s whatever makes you happy, right? If big elaborate shenanigans aren’t your thing, stick to one or two. As long as you know that whatever you’re doing is going to make you happy in the process, hats off and happy birthday to you, my friend.
4. “I went to the store at 11:50 p.m. the night before and picked out a bottle. Midnight happened and I slapped the bottle down at the register. The clerk thought it was funny. Took a sip when I got home and went to bed,” University of Iowa alum Ethan Bonzer said.
5. “We went out to Texas Roadhouse for dinner and I had my friends buy me three drinks. Then we came back to Platteville and went downtown. The first bar we went to you gave out a free shot and a t-shirt on your 21st, so I did that. Then we just bar hopped all night…I had people I didn’t know buying my drinks and shots. Then we walked back to my friend’s house and I crashed. No doubt, I had a rough next day being hungover and feeling like I was dying,” University of Wisconsin Platteville junior Allison Vanseveren said.
6. “I don’t drink much, so my party wasn’t a big thing for me. A couple of my friends and I went out for a beer or two at Big Grove. My drink ended up being free, which was my motivation to actually go out. We had a fun, decently sober time,” University of Iowa junior Teagan White said.
7. “I went to Applebee’s with some friend and ended up having seven long islands and being super drunk. Then I went to a bar that my boss and coworkers were at. My boss had bought me a beer. After he made me chug my beer, he made me do a tequila shot. And I did okay for about a minute until I threw up in my beer cup. I went to the bathroom to clean up and my boss and coworkers ended up getting into a fight. They kicked us out and shut the bar down for the night,” Hamilton Tech first-year Chelsea Graap said.
The Oh No’s
Yeah, you may need to sit down for these stories. Beer may also be a good call. These people may have only thought out one thing for their 21st—they were going to get wasted. And boy, did they pull through. We don’t even know how they managed to remember any of these stories.
8. “I made a lot of interesting decisions on my birthday. First off, I decided that with every shot I had, I would put a Sharpie mark on my face. I had 21 marks on my face by the end of the night, but I think we lost count. On the way back from the bars, I decided to race my friends back to the house—but didn’t tell them that’s what I was doing. Without stopping, I puked on the ground and myself. Luckily, my girlfriend (now wife) slept by me to make sure I didn’t die (she told me to put that in),” Iowa State University alum Noah Gullikson said.
9. “Short version of the escapade: updos, Mexican food, casino, small town townie bar and more Mexican food. I sang at a bar, which was not a karaoke bar. The next day, my grandma told me to ‘walk it off,’” University of Northern Iowa alum Morgan Eggink said.
10. “I was told about a lot of things that happened on my 21st. I know we went out at midnight for some shots. Pretty sure I passed out in a bar bathroom. I was told I threw up off our front porch while yelling at one of our neighbors. My friends, apparently, carried me up our stairs like Superman. My girlfriend said I might’ve pooped myself because I smelled pretty bad,” Iowa State University alum Matt Johnson said.
11. “I went out on a weeknight at midnight…I had two tests the next day. I took 6ish shots, mostly nasty 21st birthday ones like Prairie Fire and Three Wise Men. They’re basically just a bunch of whiskey, so steer clear if that’s not your thing. I got home, got sick and went to my tests. Probably did mediocre but honestly can’t remember taking them,” Iowa State University alum Kelsey Gullickson said.
Now these stories deserve their own highlight. Though they may not be the drunkest belle of the ball, they surely are memorable. You can bet your bottom dollar these stories are going to be told at the dinner table for years on end, whether you like it or not. Take a deep breath and proceed with caution.
12. “I don’t know if it’s a good story, but I certainly remember my 21st birthday as it was a big letdown. Growing up with older siblings, I watched with envy as they went out to bars with their friends. One of their favorite places that I heard them mention often was called Lee’s. They would come back after a night at Lee’s and talk about the friends they had seen and the fun they had. I was sure that finally being able to go to Lee’s would reveal all the secrets and mysteries that I had built it up to be. I have a summer birthday so had to hunt around for a friend to go out with me. The magical hour arrived. I walked into Lee’s with my eyes wide open and my legal ID clutched in my hand. The place was a dive and nearly deserted. I knew no one and no one knew me. We had a beer or two, spent an awkward hour there and then went home. Maybe on another night or with other people it would’ve been an amazing experience, but on my 21st birthday, it was nothing I had hoped it would be,” University of Iowa alum Sue Hooks.
13. “My mom’s 21st is funny. She came to Brothers, a bar in Iowa City, for her birthday pitchers (they give a deal of 21 pitchers for $21). Well apparently they give plastic pitchers for the birthday people. When the workers were walking around with glass ones, my mom started arguing with them. She thought the glass pitchers held more beer and wanted to switch her plastic one to a glass. The manager said, ‘No, they’re the same size and I’ll show you. If it’s the same size, you can’t drink here anymore but if you win, you get a month’s worth of free beer here.’ So he filled the glass pitcher up and started pouring it into the plastic one. It overfilled the plastic one and my mom won a free months worth of free beer,” said University of Iowa sophomore Tannis Simon.
The Let Downs
No matter the plans upon plans or hopefulness you have for your birthday, sometimes it’s a big let down. Though you may plan your own celebratory pity party at the time, it (hopefully) becomes a joke over time. And if not, well, it’s a story for a different occasion. Who knows, maybe your 21st birthday whoopsie is the same as someone else’s.
14. “It was my best friends 21st birthday party and so we obviously went downtown to celebrate. Somehow, we ended up in a bar called Union and I thought it was a great idea to go to the dance floor. This random guy came up and started dancing on me and when I went to leave because I felt uncomfortable, he pulled me closer. I was extremely grossed out and haven’t been in a bar since,” University of Iowa junior Skye Vogel said.
15. “My birthday landed on the first week of classes. I thought it’d be pretty chill and relaxed, but all my professors skipped the syllabus and gave us homework right away. So I studied for my birthday and celebrated that weekend,” University of Iowa junior Carter Leiran said.
Nothing special to see here, officer. These parties are not out of hand in the slightest. In fact, they may be the most ideal of the bunch. With no pressure on your plans, you can make of it what you want—which is exactly what these cool dudes did. Party planning committee too much for you? Never fret. Just follow what you want to do at the moment and make it meaningful to you and the people you’re with.
16. “My birthday landed on a Wednesday, so for the actual day, I didn’t do much except study for a test I had the next day. For one night that weekend, a small army of my friends and I finished two rounds of birthday pitchers (21 pitchers each) then I blacked out. The next night, I went out for a drink or two—pretty chill overall,” University of Iowa senior Matthew Smith said.
17. “Mine was pretty chill. I had my friends over and had a beer or two, nothing too eventful,” University of Northern Iowa alum Quinn Eggink said.
18. “Boring…I went to Scheels, bought some stuff instead of getting hammered and then went to dinner with my family. I was in bed by midnight at the latest,” University of Iowa junior Sam Funk said.
Someday your day will come. Oh, and do these people know it. Though they’re not technically 21 yet, they’re making the plans to celebrate. Plan your night out, fun in the sun or nice dinner and gather all the people who love and support you. No plans big or small will let you down on your special day. Well, some bad alcohol might, so keep your eyes peeled.
19. “It’s later this summer, but I have some plans set up already. My birthday is on a Monday which kinda sucks. I’ll probably get dinner with my parents. Later in the week, my friends and I are gonna go see Toy Story 4 and I’m heading to Lake Geneva with my awesome roommates,” University of Iowa junior Meredith Sanders said.
20. “I’m actually going out to dinner with my grandpa and he said he’s taking me to his favorite casino after,” Hamilton Tech alum Abby Rioux said.
21. “I’ll most likely do brunch or dinner with my parents and sister and then possibly go out for drinks that night. I want a laid-back day, nothing too crazy. I just want to actually remember my 21st. There’s always time for getting plastered later on, so I’d much rather be surrounded by the people I love and enjoy that time with them,” Moraine Valley Community College senior Katie Tieri said.