Where to Celebrate Your Next Milestone Birthday in San Francisco
Whether you're turning 25 or 50, these birthday ideas will get the party started.
When it comes to throwing a birthday party in San Francisco, there’s certainly nothing wrong with inviting all of your friends to drink with you at your favorite bar… Unless your birthday is a milestone birthday, in which case, we highly recommend you go all out. After all, there’s only one day a year you can make all about you, so you might as well take the celebration to the next level. Here are our favorite ideas for celebrating the big 2-5, 3-0, 3-5, 4-0, 4-5, and the biggest one of ’em all: fifty.
When You’re Turning 25
Congrats! You’ve successfully wiled away at least a quarter of your time of this earth and can officially drive a rental car. You probably now realize that sometimes it’s just as fun to stay in as it is to go out, but we’re talking about a birthday celebration here. Staying in is not an option. Rather, this is one of the last years of your life where you may still be able to party and wake up without a debilitating hangover, so make the most of it.
All Aboard for a Mexican Bus Bar Crawl
The Mexican Bus is kind of like your own private limo except… it’s basically a fancified school bus with colorful lights and loud music on which you and up to 37 of your closest friends can have a moving dance party while you go from bar to bar. You can rent The Mexican Bus for $650 for four hours, which is just enough time to drink at all of the bars where you’ll make terrible decisions (think: Bar None, Latin American Club, and Delirium) you definitely won’t remember by your next milestone birthday, but, if all goes according to plan, won’t even remember the next day.
Karaoke in a Private Room
Sure, you and all of your friends could head to The Mint where you get to enjoy the thrill of performing in front of strangers, but if you rent your own private room at Playground in Japantown, you’ll never have to share the mic and you can snack on South Korean-inspired comfort food (or, you know, popcorn chicken, cheese sticks, and fries), while drinking all of the drinks. Yup, Playground has a full bar and you can order by the bottle. Private karaoke rooms hold anywhere from 8 to 15 guests seated comfortably with rates around $30 an hour (plus a food and beverage minimum, but like you’re going to have any problem meeting that).
When You’re Turning 30
Even though you’re going to tell everyone you’re turning 29 (again), you should still celebrate the triple X for the milestone birthday that it is. At 30, you’re a little older and wiser than your last milestone birthday and you know going in that the day-after is probably going to be rough. But you’re still young enough that you don’t care. Which is why 30 is the best birthday to go big (and not go home).
Rent a Party House for the Weekend
Get on Airbnb or VRBO and find a pimped out house in a warm part of the Bay with a pool, hot tub, and grill for cooking out and then invite 10 of your closest friends to go in on it with you. It’s probably a lot more affordable than you realize and is the perfect way to get the gang together without the stress of finding the right restaurant or renting out a space for a party.
Make a Splash with an SF Pool Party
It’s your birthday. Splurge on a (fairly affordable) room for the weekend at the Phoenix Hotel. Invite your closest friends to spend the day with you brunching, drinking, and hanging out in a cabana by the outdoor heated pool. Then take a quick nap (you’re 30 now; you’ll need one) before heading to the attached bar and restaurant, Chambers Eat + Drink, where you can invite everyone you’ve ever met to come help you celebrate (and buy you drinks).
When You’re Turning 35
Is 35 actually a milestone birthday? Not-so-much. But it’s pretty much the last one you’re allowed to go all out for until you turn 40, so you might as well take advantage and use it as an opportunity to get your friends together for a fun night out.
Score at the Bowling Alley (and Hopefully Elsewhere)
It’s probably been at least 25 years or so since you had a bowling birthday party, but you can do it super grown-up style at Mission Bowling Club. Depending on the size of your group, you can do a full (46-180 guests) or partial (18-45 guests) buyout, or just rent a couple of lanes for you and your friends. Either way, you’ll definitely want to start with dinner as Mission Bowling Club has earned a good reputation for its elevated comfort food, specifically the fried chicken sandwich and the burger.
Fire Up the Grill in Golden Gate Park
One of the best parts of living in SF is all of the green space we have. Take advantage of that by renting a picnic area in Golden Gate Park with a grill, picnic tables, and plenty of room for lawn games, like sloshball and cornhole. Just be sure you reserve a spot where alcohol is allowed for maximum birthday party day drinking fun.
When You’re Turning 40
Whereas once 40 was considered “over the hill,” in San Francisco it’s pretty much the age where people start realizing they might actually want to do things like get married and procreate. Because of that, it might be hard to get your friends to go away for an entire weekend, which is why all of these party plans are perfect for people who might need to hire a babysitter in order to escape for a few hours.
Sail the Bay
Rent a luxury yacht to take you and your friends for a cruise around the bay. There are lots of companies to choose from, but Commodore Cruises & Events has yachts for groups of 10 to 350 and can do a fancy dinner, booze cruise, theme party… Pretty much whatever you want to have happen while you cruise around the San Francisco Bay.
Host a Dinner Party (without Doing Any of the Work)
San Francisco has some amazing private dining spaces where you can host your friends and serve them delicious food and cocktails without spending a second in the kitchen. Sure, it’ll cost ya, but it’s worth it to feel like a guest at your own event. Our favorites? The Eden Room at Park Tavern in North Beach, which seats up to 50, has an AV system for that embarrassing slide show of childhood pics, and custom menu selection. If you don’t want to invite everyone you’ve ever met, consider renting out the legendary back room at Tosca, which seats a maximum of 22, but works well for more intimate groups as well.
When You’re Turning 45
There’s nothing like turning 45 and realizing you’re actually a grown-up to make you want to turn back the hands of time, which is why these birthday party ideas are meant to make you feel like a kid again.
Get Your Groove On with a Roller Disco Party
Go fully retro with a roller skating party at Paradise Skate Roller Rink in the East Bay. You couldskate with the masses, but this is your birthday, so instead, rent out the entire space which holds up to 35 skaters. Be sure to require your guests dress in full 70s disco outfits and probably also knee pads. You’re 45 now; injuries suck a lot more than they did when you were eight. Pro Tip: Tell your friends to bring a flask; roller skating rinks aren’t big on serving alcohol (for obvious reasons).
Play Arcade Games and Sip on Tiki Drinks
Arcade games aren’t just for kids, especially when those arcade games are located right next to a tiki bar with gorgeous views of the bay. Rent out the Luau Lounge on Pier 39, which has a full tiki bar theme and is literally right on the water. Then load your guests up with tokens, so they can play air hockey, skee ball, and over 85 more arcade games.
When You’re Turning 50
Congrats! You did it. You survived the first five decades of your life. Which means you might as well go all out with your birthday bash. Why else have you been working so damn hard?
Get Handsy at the Exploratorium
A party at The Exploratorium with its hands-on exhibits tells your guests “Yes, I’m 50 and I appreciate things like science and museums, but I still love to have a good time.” Rent out one (or more) of the galleries, which can hold anywhere from 100 to 1,100 seated guests. What? You’re 50! You probably have a lot of friends! Each gallery has a theme, so you can choose from a soiree that’s all about light and sound, one that focuses on thoughts, feelings, and social behavior, or just go for the Fisher Bay Observatory because it has awesome views.
Spend a Weekend in Wine Country
Rent an amazing house in Napa or Sonoma for you and your closest friends and do the weekend up right. Hire a caterer to cook all of your meals, bring in a bartender to mix drinks and pour wine at night, have a limo take you to the very best wineries, and bring in a masseuse for massages by the pool. After all of the celebrating, you’re going to need it.