Creative Ways to Spend Your 21st Birthday

Check out these four things you can do at 21 besides drink.

To some, the point of your 21st birthday is to do the things that you weren’t able to do when you were 20. But what if you’re looking to mark your official passage into adulthood somewhere other than in a bar?

Maybe you have friends younger than you that you want to include in your birthday festivities, or maybe you just don’t like to drink. Maybe bars simply aren’t your scene, or maybe you just want another option that isn’t what every other new 21-year-old is doing. Here are some other ideas.

Take a road trip

In most states and for most car rental companies, the minimum age to rent a car is 21. You will have to pay an additional fee, but the good news is, you’d get to do something you weren’t allowed to do before! 

Grab a few friends to hop in on the price with you, get your favorite rental, and spend your birthday week traveling the country. Or, if you don’t want to spend all that time driving, book a flight and rent a car when you arrive. When I was 21, my friends and I took a trip to LA and rented a car to get around, which turned out to be much cheaper than relying on Uber.

Go to a fancy dinner

If you’re more of a foodie and would rather travel around to different restaurants and eat as much exotic food as you can, then the world is your oyster. Find the restaurant that your parents never took you to as a kid because it was for “adults,” and book that reservation. Your teen years are over and you no longer have age restrictions working against you (except to become president). You can now officially say you are part of the “adult” clientele that restaurant is aiming for, so feel free to dress up. 

If the budget is tight, you can always stay in and have a cookout with friends instead. Make a quick grocery trip, search for a fun and slightly complicated recipe, and have fun making your own delicious meal. 

It’s movie time

Growing up, most of the birthdays in my household were celebrated at the movie theater — as were Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and just about any weekend, really. What can I say? My family loves movies. 

If you’re anything like my family, then you understand how seeing a new movie in the theater was just a whole different experience than catching it two months later on Netflix or RedBox in your living room. Both have their benefits, however. The theater (if it’s safe to go) allows you to play movie trivia with your friend, watch previews, eat popcorn as you hope for free refills, and engage in the immersive experience so you can discuss your review after — all of the benefits without any interruptions. 

But if you’d rather not spend extra money and you love pausing and discussing as you watch (or if social distance measures are in place), then a movie night in is perfect! I love all of the above, so I tend to go back and forth. Either way, a movie can still be a rewarding way to spend a birthday.

Have a game night

Highly underestimated and the best way to bond, a game night can be a great way to loosen up, laugh a lot, and boost your confidence (considering that your birthday is the only time your friends might let you win). Start up a game of spoons, Monopoly, or charades. You can even whip out the old Wii (nevermind that highschoolers don’t even know what that is anymore). I’m 24 years old and game night is still my number one activity request for my birthday. And the best part about this option (for me, at least): it’s free!

You’ll only turn 21 once. Birthdays are a celebration of the person you are, so you should feel free to shape the day around your own interests and personality. You don’t have to fit into any stereotypes or follow any tropes — you should do you. Your friends and family will only love and respect you more for being intentional about how you want to spend the day.  

Grotto quote graphic about things you can do at 21 besides drink: "Creative ways to spend your 21st birthday: Rent a car and take a road trip, go to a fancy dinner (or make your own delicious meal), go to a movie (if it's safe) or have a cozy movie night in, host a game night with friends."

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