a girl in a gold dress with a diadem on her head, sits on a leather armchair.

25 Memorable Party Ideas for Birthdays

We asked for people's most memorable and unique birthday ideas. These birthday traditions are quirky, meaningful and might just give you a fantastic idea for your next birthday celebration!

Solve a Mystery!

Woman in a carnival mask holds up a glass of wine.
Photo Credit: Ollyy/Shutterstock.

Host a mystery dinner party! Everyone gets dressed up in character and role-plays while they figure out who the culprit is. One of the convenient things about this kind of celebration is that you can purchase a theme, and it'll come with all the clues and information you need to host the party.

Treat Your “Child Self” to a Birthday Pizza Party

Bright arcade games light up at Warp Zone Game Center in Bangkok Thailand.
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If you've watched the film “Big” with Tom Hanks, you might recall the scene when as an adult he took his ‘child' self to a birthday pizza party. One person said, “I am mid 50s and for the last 15 years, I have been taking all of my friends to a pizza party on my birthday!”

Host a Mad Hatter's Tea Party

A table is set with a mad hatter tea party.
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Another fun idea shared was having a birthday tea party.

“This year for a party I had a tea party, afternoon tea style – tiny sandwiches and cakes, good leaf tea served from a pot, scones and clotted cream, everyone drinking out of tea cups etc. Plus everyone wearing hats, with extra hats provided if you don't have one, but no pressure to wear one if you don't want to – turned out everyone did.”

Can't Stop the Compliments!

Family at a dinner table for a celebration one man is talking and people are happy
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One of our favorite birthday rituals is the compliment time we do on the birthday person’s birthday dinner. We go around and around saying all the things we love about the person, and they just accept it. They can’t say no or I’m not that great, they can just say thank you. – Kelly

Balloon Bonanza

Portrait of a beautiful little girl in a yellow dress with a yellow balloons.
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Blow up a ton of balloons and write something special about them on each one, then fill the hallway outside their bedroom door with the balloons so when they wake up in the morning and walk out, they're greeted with a really special start to their day. – LHB

A Donut and Crazy Morning Hair

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We start every birthday by waking up the birthday boy or girl with a “Long John” or doughnut with a birthday candle and the “Happy Birthday” song. We always take a picture with the birthday boy or girl and their Long John (which has led to some crazy morning hair pictures)! -Elizabeth

A Celebration to Walk Through

streamers hang from a tree
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When my kids go to sleep the night before their birthday, I'll decorate their doorway with streamers and balloons so when they open the door in the morning they have a whole celebration to walk through. My teenage son is starting to lose his patience for this little tradition LOL! -Eileen

Decorate a Cake Together

little girl with pink cake at party
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Younger grandkids go with me, and we pick out a cake to bake and decorate together. I then cook their favorite meal. My 19 yr old daughter and I always buy a Dairy Queen ice cream cake, and just the two of us eat the entire cake. It does take us a few days to eat the cake. We do this on her birthday and on mine. – Barbara

Homemade Sushi for Birthday Dinner

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The big deal at my house is that the birthday kid gets to eat anything he wants for dinner. The little ones are usually easy… Like Mac and Cheese. But the older ones are always after homemade sushi:) -Jessica

A Birthday Poem Recited by Five Generations

toddler blows out candles
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My family has a tradition that's at least five generations old. After singing Happy Birthday and before blowing out the candles the whole family recites the following poem: “Many happy returns to the day of thy birth, many seasons of joy be given, and may our dear Father prepare you on earth for a beautiful birthday in Heaven.” Then we clap and chant 1…2…3…etc, up to the celebrant's age. (It's a lot of clapping at a grandparent's birthday!) – Mary

The Birthday Person Picks the Cake

Birthday cake has candles spelling out happy birthday lit on top
Photo Credit: Alissa Zorn

In our family, my kids pick what kind of cake they want to have. One year we had a stack of marshmallows (which we took out back and roasted)! Another time my son asked for a “Strawberry Elephant Cake” which was only accomplished because I had a tiny elephant cookie cutter and cut sliced strawberries into the elephant shape.

Crown the Birthday King or Queen!

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We have a birthday crown and the Seuss birthday book, which we only wear and read on that day. A special breakfast of whatever he chooses. And cupcakes! – Sarah

Make a Photo Keepsake of the Year

child walking towards mom taking photo
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Whether you make a photo album, or a framed photo with well wishes, a keepsake that highlights the past year can be a fun birthday tradition. I've heard of people who have birthdays near Christmas receiving a commemorative birthday ornament each year. Other ideas include a t-shirt, a calendar, or adding to a personalized journal each year. – Alissa

Collect Good Wishes on a Wide-Matted Photo

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We put a picture of our son in a black frame with a very large matting around it. We display it at the party and ask all of our guests to write a small note to our little man. He now has a small collection of frames displayed in his room with special memories written on each one! – Rhonda

A Collage of the Brightest Memories

Family Laughing around a table
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I take photos from each month and special occasions and put them in a collage poster (Costco 7 dollars). I hang up the ones from the earlier years at the party, too. It is a simple and easy way to view each year. And the guests always love to see them. – Kim

Have a Birthday Treasure Hunt

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I have a treasure hunt game for them to find their presents in the morning…Eg…”go to the sweetest place in the house”…they would then find the next clue near the sugar bowl..it would then have another clue etc. etc. I would do this about 10 times before the final reveal of where the presents are. Sometimes there would be presents along the way with the next clue taped to it. – Rachel

Make a Birthday  Wishes Jar

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If you're having a birthday party, you can make a birthday wishes jar and have guests write down or share compliments about the birthday person. The recipient can enjoy reading compliments whenever they want a boost.

Play Hot and Cold With Gifts

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My Mom started playing hot cold with my gifts. She would hide them all over the house. I used to love this and it makes the opening of gifts last longer. I'm excited to do this with my son when he's older. – Megan

Going Gold for Golden Birthdays

Golden bunting hanging outside over grass
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Golden birthdays are when you turn the same age as the day of your birthday, like turning 8 on the 8th. Our family wraps gifts in ‘gold' paper on golden birthdays. I've heard of other traditions like wearing a gold crown or taking a trip on the person's golden birthday. – Alissa

You Can Put a Twist on Singing Happy Birthday

Mother and daughter, both with long brown hair, sing into brushes in their living room
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I don’t know but I’ve been told, Someone here is ____years old. Bad news is we sing off key! Good news is we sing for free! Happy (happy) Birthday (birthday) Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday! – Kim

Can't Have a Birthday Without the Birthday Banner

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We have a fabric birthday banner we hang every year.  It's come with us to parks and grandparent's houses. My kids think it isn't a birthday unless the banner is up. 

Make an Event That's Just for Your Family

A happy dad sits on a couch with a gift while his daughter puts her hands over his eyes before he opens his present
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I don't know if we will keep this up, but our current tradition (started at the beginning of last year) is a family trip bowling and then out for cake on the afternoon of the person's birthday. My son was 3 when we started this and we did it for all family members… (Me, my husband and him so far)… – Helen

Ten Is a Big Deal!

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The 10th birthday is big in our family. You can only add a digit 2x in your life, 10 & 100. We take a big trip somewhere none of us has ever been before. We start talking about it when they turn 8. Have to make a decision when they turn 9 so mom & dad can make plans and save some money. For my son's 10th birthday we went to Honolulu, HI. It takes lots of planning but is so much fun. My 6 yr old is already thinking about where he wants to go. Can't wait to see where we end up. – Jennifer

Embrace Calamity – Birthday Parties in Bed

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Some of the best birthday traditions are born out of birthday disasters.

One time, when we were kids, my mom was sick in bed on my birthday. She was feeling too crummy to do much but told us we could bring cake into the bedroom and unwrap presents sitting on her bed. We had birthday parties on the bed for years after that because it was so much fun.

Laugh About Mistakes – No Candles — A Flashlight or Lighters.

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For something that became just a silly family tradition, one year, we forgot candles on someone's birthday. My husband went and got his big red Mag-lite & ‘illuminated' the cake that way (the BBQ grill lighter has also been used), but that has become the family tradition. No candles — a flashlight or lighters. – Barb

Sources for these ideas are from here and here.

Make a Time Capsule

hands hold up a phone taking a picture of a little girl dancing
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One amazing way to “bottle up” those memories is to make a time capsule. This is a super fun activity you can do for a birthday, capturing the special activities you love doing together and making a memory to look back on in the future.

Remember, You Can Change Things Up!

Cute girl dancing surrounded by family
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Family traditions are great, but just because you’ve always done something, or you think somebody expects you to do something, doesn't mean you have to do it!

Take the Photos – But Don't Miss the Party!

Mom taking photo with a child in her arms
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Sometimes, it’s hard to strike a balance between “I'm taking pictures to remember this party.” and “I am being in the moment!” and actually making those memories. We talked with a photographer who's got some great tips for this! We hope you have some fantastic birthdays with these tips!


Author: Alissa Zorn

Title: Trauma-Informed Coach

Expertise: childhood emotional neglect, perfectionism, parenting, journaling, comics, doodling, coaching

Alissa Zorn is the founder of OverthoughtThis.com. She's a trauma-informed coach and cartoonist passionate about helping people overcome perfectionism and shame to build authentic, joyful lives. Alissa has been featured on the Good Men Project, Wealth of Geeks, Motherly, MSN.com and more.