How to Celebrate Your 21st Birthday

Updated 05/14/19

There is something about hitting that magic 21st birthday that makes even normally level-headed young adults throw caution to the winds. They have reached the legal drinking age and tales of pub crawls, shooter fests and epic day-after hangovers abound.

For a celebration that is a little more low-key, here are five ideas for families who want to host a memorable 21st birthday party. Of course, there may be a little celebratory booze involved, but we will try to avoid the hangover!

01 of 06

A Winery and Vineyard Tour

Friends hold up wine glasses at a picnic in a vineyard.
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Whether you are in California’s Napa Valley, Virginia’s wine country or any of the other grape growing regions of the country, a wine tasting tour and vineyard birthday picnic can be a memorable way to celebrate a big birthday.

Go low-key by packing a homemade picnic and visiting any boutique wineries that catch your fancy. Wineries are popping up everywhere and it should not be difficult to find one near you.

You could also go all out with a hot air balloon ride and a champagne toast.

02 of 06

Microbrewery Tours

Group interested touring through machinery in beer brewery.
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No vineyards? There are microbrewery and artisanal vodka (bourbon, etc.) distilleries across the country. Take a tour, learn how the good stuff is made, and sip and compare the results.

You could also book a wine appreciation or food and wine pairing class.

All these options celebrate your child having reached legal drinking age, but they emphasize responsible drinking and educated appreciation – unlike, say, jello shots in a late-night bar.

03 of 06

Dinner Theater or a Swanky Nightclub

Crafted multi-color cocktail on table.
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The days of children's menus and crayons are over. Parents, take your birthday kid out for an evening that is a little swankier.

Enjoy a night filled with a European cabaret, cirque and a five-course dinner at Teatro Zinzanni in San Francisco or Seattle. Take in a little murder mystery dinner in Boston or whatever swanky dinner theater option your city offers.

This is your opportunity to show your now-legal kid that adults can have high-class fun, a little drink and wake up feeling great in the morning!

04 of 06

A Surprise Party

Friend covers friends eyes for a surprise birthday party.
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Go casual with a surprise party. It is very easy and, if all goes according to plan, the birthday person will never suspect a thing!

  • Enlist the help of a couple of friends to assemble a guest list.
  • Choose a location: a cool sushi restaurant, for example, or a boisterous Tex-Mex joint, or your home.
  • Get your 21-year old to the designated location at the appointed time.
05 of 06

A Trip to Luxe Las Vegas

Las Vegas at night.
 Sandro Geiger/EyeEm/Getty Images

On the West Coast, one popular (and pricey option) is a trip to Las Vegas with the extended family – parents, older siblings and even grandparents.

There are casinos, of course, but families also enjoy the Cirque du Soleil shows, fine restaurants and bars, and beautiful swimming pools.

The Bellagio, for example, rents luxurious poolside cabanas, which are equipped with a wet bar, television, tables, chaises, and misting sprayers, as well as waiters who replenish the sodas and alcoholic beverages. Rates vary from $200 to $350 depending on the day of the week, but that price gives you a little private party venue all your own.

06 of 06

Birthday Cake Dorm Deliveries

Hand holding a birthday cake with lit candles and a blue background.
RuthBlack/Getty Images 

If your child is spending their 21st birthday — or any birthday, for that matter — away at college, you can still arrange to have a birthday cake shipped there in time.

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