You’ve been waiting 21 years for this moment: your 21st birthday. Until now you’ve been flying under the radar, carefully jesting with the law; but the law no longer stands in your way. You’re 21 now. Legal.
The numbers 21 alone connote “adult” as each digit “twenty-one” slips off the tongue. But let’s not get caught up in the semantics of it all. You can analyze the layers of meaning of your 21st birthday after you celebrate the big day.
Just like those Gen Xers complained about our Millennial generation: you’re unique in every way. Which means the way you decide to celebrate your 21st birthday will reflect you.
Only problem? You’re out of 21st birthday ideas.
You’re 21, YOU DO YOU. If you don’t do it now, when will you? If you can’t find what you’re looking for here, we doubt you’ll find it anywhere. But try us in the comments if you’d like. Oh, and play safe–you only turn only 21 once.
21 Ideas for Celebrating Your 21st Birthday
1. The Midnight to Midnight 21st Birthday
12:01: you’re fresh 21. Walk up to the club, and start the night. Don’t stop until its no longer your birthday. Exploit any/all people who might have a few bucks to spare on a drink by screaming at them that its your 21st birthday. If its not getting through to them, send them straight to your shot book so they get the message loud and clear. Go to 10+ different bars/clubs and shove your ID triumphantly under each and every bouncers’ nose.
Still not sure what to do for your 21st birthday?
Check out 10 More 21st Birthday Ideas for Your BFF
22. The not-so-coordinated waltz
Take a 21st birthday tip from the Florida State University Seminoles. When the clock strikes 21 for the birthday girl (or boy), friends stumble together for a themed bar crawl. Close friends to the birthday honoree give a sign with 21 tasks to complete before the night ends. FSU senior Angela Udongwo’s friends challenged her to take a selfie with 21 strangers at her waltz and give 21 cheek kisses to random bar-goers. And the theme can literally be anything. Love monkeys? Throw a “going bananas” waltz. If you watch Back to the Future on repeat for days, host an 80s-themed waltz, complete with baby blue eyeshadow and teased hair. Udongwo’s waltz was panda-themed (yes, like the bear).
23. The shopping spree
On your #brokecollegestudent budget, you barely make enough to splurge on red meat at the grocery store. Give yourself the gift of liquid courage for your 21st birthday. Then you’ll finally buy yourself the Nike slides you’ve eyed for months. Pro Tip: Shop at a store with a lenient return policy in case of any reckless, drunken purchases. That way, if you end up coming home with a giant manatee statue, you can return it without embarrassingly explaining your boozy shopping spree.
24. The bounce party of a lifetime
Drinking for your 21st birthday is so #basic. What happened to the colorful bounce castles and enormous inflatable slides you used to play on for hours on end? Go in with your friends to rent a giant bounce house for your 21st birthday. Leave your shoes outside and play games like Four Corners and Popcorn to your childhood heart’s content.
25. The boozy brunch
Pinkies up! Break out the bubbly for your 21st birthday at the most Insta-worthy café in your college town. Gossip the morning (and afternoon) away while you sip on all-you-can-drink mimosas. Keep yourself in check and chow down on fancy appetizers like baked brie, biscuits and frittata. Pro tip: Take your social Boomerang posts before drinking too many mimosas.
26. The weekend winery getaway
You couldn’t enjoy all Napa Valley had to offer on your family trip back in your preteen days. Finally at a legal age, find a vineyard close to your campus and act like a sommelier for a day. Or better yet, make this the gift that never stops giving for your BFF or S.O. “My boyfriend gave me… a pass to 14 different vineyards in New England that includes a tasting for two people,” said Emerson College junior Tara Balan. “He’s not a wine guy so his even sweeter part of the gift was offering to be the designated driver to each vineyard and I bring one of our friends every time.”
27. The heritage celebration
Every culture has their signature drink. Russians drink vodka, Cubans drink rum, Spaniards drink wine and Germans drink beer. Theme your party around your heritage and drink like your ancestors once did. Decorate your apartment with your country’s flag and any other traditional decorations that remind you of home.
28. The one with nature
Some people don’t like people. Avoid civilization entirely on your 21st birthday. Round up the few people you do like and plan a weekend camping trip or take a long hike. When the darkness sets in, pull up chairs to the crackling fire—but instead of hot cocoa, crack open a few beers or a bottle of wine. Pro tip: Hang your trash high up in a tree so raccoons don’t steal your stash.
29. The parental approach
Twenty-one years before your birthday, your mom agonized in labor until your first cry. Spend your 21st birthday with the people who made sure you survived until this point. Cheers to the years past of toddler tantrums and pre-teen passive aggression. Your (of age) friends and roommates will re-live your parents’ glory days with you at the trendy dive bar downtown. And if they treat you all to a round of beers, that’s a win, am I right?
30. The macaroni-filled bath tub
Ditch the alcohol for your 21st birthday and indulge into your foodie fantasies. University of Vermont sophomore Carter Shapiro and their friends filled a bath tub with macaroni and cheese then hosted a party. “Spontaneity is the first thing I think of as to why we filled the bathtub with mac n cheese… something felt so right about doing something so weird,” Shapiro said. Think about the weirdest food challenge you’ve read and never got the chance to try. Then make it happen. Shapiro added, “There’s a spectrum of spontaneity in filling a bathtub with mac and cheese.” No one will forget your 21st birthday if you make it all about some kind of delicious food.
31. The peer pressure-less celebration
Society (read: social media) tells us that 21st birthdays should include drinking, more drinking, a black out and a massive hangover. Does that sound like a recipe for a safe night to you? “My favorite part [of my 21st birthday] was not celebrating it the day of because there is always this pressure to make it memorable,” said Emerson College junior Lauren Dobles. Some of us only want to enjoy another year of being alive and healthy. Spending your 21st birthday out on the town will likely pressure you to drink more than you should. Dobles said, “I waited a few days after and then went out to have myself a night with people I love at a club dancing the night away.” Choose to do whatever your heart desires on your 21st birthday—and actually remember it the next day.