Why is it that celebrating a birthday, a promotion or anything you’re proud of means going to the bars and getting f*cked up?
In all honesty, this is the precise reason why I hate my birthday.
Every year, I get nauseous even thinking about celebrating my birthday because it means I’m going to have to go out with an unusually large group of my friends (some of whom I haven’t even seen since last year’s debauchery on my day of birth), and do something fun and unforgettable for a “night I’ll never forget.”
Why do we do this on our birthdays? Why add so much unnecessary stress? If you ask me, I’d much rather take a fun vacation somewhere tropical, lie on a beach and try to achieve an optimal sun tan. If you, like me, struggle with making a plan for a birthday celebration, I came up with this list of things to do on your birthday instead of getting wasted.
This year, I am going on a vacation to Cancun with my entire extended family.
We have a few big deals this year: My dad is turning 60, my uncle 50, my brother 30 and I'm turning the absolutely terrifying age of 25.
Needless to say, I’m beyond excited to spend my birthday the way I have always wanted to with the people I love most.
I’m going to be zip-lining through forests, parasailing above an ocean, snorkeling with turtles, swimming with dolphins and exploring the pyramids with my sister.
It can’t get much better than that, right? Wrong!
I fly home on the day of my birthday, which means, according to my friends, I have plenty of time to rest up on the plane and make it out downtown to celebrate this fantastic day the second I touch down in San Jose, California.
But why? I mean, I’m all for drinking, going out and having a good time, but not when it’s for my birthday.
I’ve never liked the idea of everyone catering to me all night. And the worst part is, people make it their life goal to make sure you are having a good time.
So if the pressure to have fun doesn’t sound like fun at all, here are a few other alternatives worth bringing up the next time your BFFs text you about your birthday plans:
1. Fly Somewhere Far Away, Or Travel Someplace You Never Thought You'd Go
There is no better time than your birthday to do some traveling. Plan a vacation with your family or a group of your best friends, and go have an adventure.
Dr. Jennifer B. Rhodes, licensed psychologist and forthcoming author of Toxic Insecurity: Why our relationships matter most in our search for love, happiness and authentic power tells Elite Daily, “It is important to do things that push you out of your comfort zone and help you move past fear… So many of us struggle with birthday reactions that something that should truly celebrate our well-being turns into something to avoid. If all else fails, book a plane or a train ticket elsewhere. There is nothing like a new adventure to celebrate all your success to date.”
So, go check out a city, country, or a state you’ve always wanted to explore. There’s no better time than the present to start crossing things off your bucket list, or even adding items to it.
2. Plan A Day Party In A Park
To all San Francisco natives, Dolores Park is in your backyard, and it is notorious for having the best day parties.
I experienced serious FOMO when I saw posts from the grand reopening of this historic park where a silent disco was held.
Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, highlights the benefits of opting for a day spent in the park. He tells Elite Daily, “Nature bathing — or being exposed and immersed in nature for a period of more than 30 minutes — can relax us, release endorphins and change our whole frame of mind. A day party in the park combines the power of nature with the power of nostalgia.”
3. Go To The Beach
This one’s a no-brainer. Everyone knows how to throw together a bag of beach gear and drive to the nearest oceanfront location.
Dr. Indra Cidambi, Addiction Medicine Specialist, General Psychiatrist and Medical Director for the Center for Network Therapy tells Elite Daily that going to the beach can be a really awesome birthday alternative to drinking. She says, “To ensure you don’t feel compelled to reach for a piña colada, work in some fun and healthy activities. Bring portable beach games, book a surfing lesson or rent a kayak, whatever you can to keep you active and engaged without looking for the nearest beach bar.”
Santa Cruz, California, is a perfect spot. For all of you in the Bay Area, my personal favorite is Seabright Beach.
I like to park in the residential area right in front of the beach entrance and tan and splash around in the ocean during the day.
When I’ve had enough of the sun, I walk across the train tracks bridge to the Boardwalk and ride a few rides, maybe indulge in a deep-fried Twinkie and then make my way to the pier, where you can get some clam chowder, silver rings, salt water taffy and check out the sea lions sunbathing on the rocks.
4. Have A Bonfire
See first: Go to the beach. Do all that, then double-back once the sun starts going down to start a campfire.
Bring some stuff to make s'mores, a stereo system for some good tunes, and dance around the fire with your friends and family.
5. Go On A Camping Trip
Pick a destination nearby or far away, depending on how long of a trip you're planning.
“Camping instantly brings us back to a more primitive state,” says Klapow. “From exploring the simple flora and fauna, to taking in the sites, sounds, and smells that we are not used to, camping will transform you and bring you back to your core self. A little nature bathing is really good to relieve stress and renew energy levels, too.”
What’s better than that? I’ve personally always dreamed of taking a hiking trip to Yosemite and camping out there, hanging around a warm and toasty fire at night under the twinkling stars.
The only requirement I ask for when I go camping is a shower where you pay with quarters. I’m all for roughing it, but I need to be able to shower and brush my teeth in a bathroom, not under a hose.
6. Contact Or Visit Someone You've Lost Touch With
This kind of goes hand in hand with "travel somewhere far away and take a vacation."
Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, licensed clinical psychotherapist, relationship expert, and author of the new book Training Your Love Intuition tells Elite Daily, “Contact a friend or family member with whom you've stopped communicating.”
This might be a great opportunity to reach out to someone you haven’t seen in a while or someone you’ve lost touch with.
7. Plan A Day Adventure To Explore A Nearby City With Your Best Friends
Go on an adventure in a nearby city. As I’d previously mentioned, I’m from San Jose. For me and my friends, it's always San Francisco.
I like to pick places and things I’ve never done before, and I just jump on the train or Bart to go check them out.
There’s nothing like a good old spontaneous trip doing new and exciting activities to get you pumped about getting another year older.
As a matter of fact, Klapow says, “Exploration is what children do. Being with your best friends transports you back to a simpler time. Exploring a nearby city allows you to see the city through the eyes of best friends versus the eyes of a grown, analytic adult. You will be a child for a period of time and that is a wonderful state of mind.”
8. Go To A Music Festival
This is my personal favorite option. I am a music festival junkie. I've been to Coachella, Lollapalooza, EDC, BFD, Love Fest, Pride, Bay to Breakers, San Jose Hot Summer Nights, etc.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a music festival; it could be any festival or event that’s outdoors and fun. Klapow says, “Being at a music festival can tap into your adrenalin reserves, your emotions, and yes — your endorphins. Losing yourself in the music will give you a high that has no hangover.”
MJ Gottlieb, co-founder and CEO of Loosid, a digital platform “that celebrates the sober lifestyle,” tells Elite Daily, “Music festivals are a fantastic idea as countless studies have shown the power of music to heal. Again, I would suggest going with individuals who know you don’t drink so you have a supportive network around you.”
So go ahead and pick a music festival that sounds interesting to you, find a killer hipster outfit, lace on your combat boots, slap on a flower headband and Ray Bans, and you are good to go.
9. Go To A Museum/Aquarium/Zoo/Theme Park/Sporting Event
You can always use your birthday as an excuse to visit that science museum or theme park you’ve always wanted to check out.
Gottlieb says, “Being that the typical birthday seems to always center around drinking and more specifically drinking establishments, I think it’s critically important to use this time to focus on new experiences. Going to a museum where you can learn and be still with your thoughts can be greatly beneficial to slow down the mind and get grounded. Going to the aquarium or zoo are also great ideas, as there is a magical healing power with animals that is well documented.”
Sporting events are always a super fun way to spend a birthday, too.
I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of sick of waking up the day after my birthday wondering, "How did I get in my bed? Why does my throat hurt? Wait, why am I tagged in 157 pictures?”
That’s why this year, I’m trying something different.
This post was originally published on July 24, 2015. It was updated on July 26, 2019.
This article was originally published on