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21st Birthday Party Ideas

5 Ways to Celebrate the Big Birthday


There’s something about hitting that magic birthday - the legal drinking age - that makes even normally level-headed young adults throw caution to the winds. Tales of pub crawls, shooter fests and epic day-after hangovers abound. But here are five ideas for families who want to host a memorable 21st birthday celebration, with a little celebratory booze, but no hangovers.

1. A Winery Tour & Vineyard Picnic

21st birthday vineyard tour
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Whether you’re 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, or go all out with a hot air balloon and champagne.

2. Microbrewery Tours

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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. Or 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.

3. Dinner Theater or a Swanky Nightclub

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The days of children's menus and crayons are over. Take your birthday kid to an evening of European cabaret, cirque and a five-course dinner at Teatro Zinzanni in San Francisco or Seattle, a little murder mystery dinner in Boston, or whatever swanky dinner theater your city offers.

4. A Surprise Party

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Go casual with a surprise party. Enlist the help of a couple of your child’s friends to assemble a guest list, choose a location – a cool sushi restaurant, for example, or a boisterous Tex-Mex joint, or your home – and get your child to the designated location at the appointed time. (Click here for easy ideas for an at-home taco bar, panini buffet and other options.)

5. Luxe Las Vegas

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On the West Coast, one popular, if 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 your own little private party venue.

6. Birthday Cakes & Dorm Deliveries

Photo by Craig Jewell, Stock.Xchng Photos
P.S. If your child is spending his 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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