20+ Birthday Ideas in NYC

CityDays’ guide to birthday ideas in New York City, whatever age you’re becoming.

Grab your candles, bake or buy your cake, and get ready to receive many happy returns – it’s time to gather the best birthday ideas in NYC!

Whether it’s your birthday or someone you love is celebrating another trip around the sun, everyone could use a few more fun ideas to celebrate in style. For some of us, that’ll include a big event with all our friends and family, while for others, it’ll be a quiet affair with just our nearest and dearest. 

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Either way, you’ll need some birthday ideas in NYC to get the party started. We’ve got your back –  think of this guide like a giant birthday piñata of ideas. Grab the ones you like, and save the rest for years to come. 

Read on to find out how you’ll be spending your birthday in New York City!

And just so you know, nobody pays us to be featured on this list. They’re just our recommendations to you, so you can find the best things to do in New York.

Best Birthday Ideas in NYC

Do a Self-Guided Scavenger Hunt Through NYC’s Coolest Neighborhoods

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Looking for birthday ideas in NYC for a big bunch of people? This is for you.

Scavenger hunts like these are perfect for groups who want to fill a few hours before attending an event (like a dinner reservation or a show) and involve a bunch of people with different interests. 

The concept is super simple to understand: you’re basically playing a live action board game where the birthday person and their friends, family, kids, whoever are the main players. The twist? Your arena is the city streets, and you are in charge!

You receive puzzles, riddles and clues that take you around Manhattan’s secret sights and hidden gems, you learn a bunch of random stuff along the way – and you get recommendations for bars and cafes in case you get thirsty.

Practical information: $20 per person, stop and start the game whenever you want. All you need is WhatsApp, mobile data and a good pair of shoes (and some people to share the memories with!). 

Go Bowling at Melody Lanes near Sunset Park

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Strike up some birthday fun at Melody Lanes near Sunset Park! 

If you’re looking for the best birthday ideas in NYC that bring out your competitive streak, this is the place to do it.

This classic bowling alley offers a nostalgic yet vibrant atmosphere perfect for all ages (kids will really love it but hey, we’ve all got an inner-kid in us). 

And if you want a pro tip, after bowling, walk around half a block to savor authentic Mexican flavors from the nearby El Bronco taco truck. Now that’s a happy birthday! 

Practical information: For lane availability and pricing, visit Melody Lanes. Don't forget to check out Tacos El Bronco on Instagram for their latest location and mouth watering menu updates.

Do an Outdoor Escape Room in Manhattan

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Indoor escape rooms have taken over NYC and beyond for some time now, but we’re betting you’ve never taken your test of skills to the great outdoors.

These outdoor escape room games take place right here in NYC’s storied streets. Instead of getting locked up and the key being thrown away, it’ll be up to you and your team to crack the codes, follow clues and unravel riddles that lead you on a winding path around Manhattan’s coolest districts – no claustrophobia involved! 

Practical information: Visit City Days - NYC Escape Room Games to book your outdoor adventure and find out more about pricing and available times.

Plan a Birthday Picnic at The Park

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Not all birthday plans have to be elaborate or expensive. In fact, I’m a big fan of the low-key birthday party, and no matter how old you are, you just can’t go wrong with a picnic.

The main reason I advocate for this idea is there’s so much freedom in planning a birthday picnic. First of all, you get to decide where it happens, what you eat, what time to start and end, and, if you have a furry-legged friend, they can join in the fun too!

Where you host is up to you: obviously, if you have a local park that you love, go for that. But if you’re not local or you haven’t been in NYC long enough to find a favorite spot, I’ll share mine with you:

  • Prospect Park: Awesome designated barbecue spots and plenty of space to hang out.

  • Riverside Park: Stunning Hudson River views and playground spots for kids.

  • Carl Schurz Park: Dog-friendly and more secluded, pretty spot.

  • Astoria Park: Incredible views, dog and family-friendly, has an ice cream truck during the spring/summer months!

Practical information: No reservations or permits needed unless you’re planning a large gathering (usually 20+ people).

Solve a Murder Mystery in Manhattan’s Streets

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Looking for NYC birthday ideas for the armchair detective in your life? Check this out.

If you or whoever’s birthday it is can’t get enough of Glass Onion, Agatha Christie novels, true crime podcasts or Forensic Files, this is for you.

The Devil in Chelsea is a kind of outdoor escape room game where you and your friends or family take on the roles as detectives.  As you follow the clues, decipher evidence and work together, you'll be drawn deeper into a fictional case that blurs the line between game and reality.

All you need is your phones, walking shoes and plenty of imagination - and you even get some handy help from Sherlock Holmes himself! 

Practical information: $25 per person, start and stop the game at any time between 7am and 7pm. The game lasts around 3 hours so bring water on a hot day and make sure you have comfortable shoes! 

Fun Birthday Ideas in NYC

Hit Up NYC’s Best Karaoke Spots

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Maybe it’s just me, but one of the worst things about it being your birthday is having other people sing “happy birthday” to you. Call me awkward, call me weird, but I’ll bet I’m not the only one.

But there’s good news: I’ve found a way of making it bearable - by incorporating it into some karaoke. There’s nothing better than joining your buddies to belt out your favorite tunes together (are you even friends if you don’t know what their karaoke song is?) and of course, nowhere has a better karaoke scene than NYC. Period.

Koreatown is the obvious choice to find awesome karaoke bars, but if you want some personal recommendations, I’ve included them here - check them out! 

Personal Recommendations: 

Lion’s Roar: A place for hardcore karaoke fans, huge catalog selection

Gagopa: BYO food and drinks and great location

Planet Rose: Awesome East Village karaoke bar that’s welcoming and great 

Practical information: Rates and hours vary by location. If you’re spending your birthday by yourself, I recommend heading over to Sing Sing - people can choose whether they want private rooms or sing at the bar and it’s always a lot of fun.

Play A Grown Up Version of “The Floor is Lava” at Squarena

Looking for birthday ideas in NYC for kids or want to recreate that feeling of your own childhood?

Take the nostalgic game of "The Floor is Lava" to the next level at Squarena, where you can jump, dodge, and balance across an elaborate arena designed to challenge and create immersion. 

It’s simple: stand on the blue squares, avoid the red squares, and spend a few hours as a big kid (or celebrating an actual kid).

Practical information: Book your game at Squarena.

Do a Self-Guided NYC Walking Tour

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Want birthday ideas in NYC that can be done during the daytime? Your wish is my command!

The awesome thing about living or being in New York is realizing that you’ll never fully figure it out. It’s so big, so full of secrets and mysteries that if you blink, you might have missed what was going on in front of you – but there’s also a ton of hidden gems that have been there all along. You’ve just gotta find ‘em.

Explore NYC at your own pace with a self-guided walking tour like these. Pick a route, gather some friends or your family and get out there - you’ll have a blast! 

Practical information: From $20 per person. Flexible bookings with bar and cafe recommendations included. 

Have a Spa Day at AIRE Ancient Baths NYC

You wanna know what I asked for this year for my birthday? Some peace and quiet. 

If that feels like something you’re in need of, there’s only one place to go and one thing to do: indulge in the tranquil waters of AIRE Ancient Baths. 

Nestled in a restored factory in Tribeca, this spa offers a serene escape with its array of pools, massages, and treatments inspired by ancient traditions. It’s super fancy inside and it’s popular with couples, but there’s no reason you couldn’t bring along a couple of friends instead of a partner if you wanted to. 

Practical information: Reserve your soothing retreat at AIRE Ancient Baths NYC. Check the website for specific services and pricing.

Head to One of NYC’s Best Comedy Clubs

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Freshen up your list of NYC birthday ideas with a visit to one of the city’s best comedy clubs! 

NYC is arguably one of the best cities in the world to see live comedy - there’s tons of shows every night, some of the best acts in the country start out their careers here, and hey, New Yorkers are funny people so the local stuff is great too.

A great way to start your new age off on a high and get your belly muscles working: a win-win for everyone.

Practical information: Check local listings for showtimes and ticket prices. Popular spots include the Comedy Cellar, Gotham Comedy Club, and West Side Comedy Club

Play Shuffleboard at Royal Palms

If you’re looking for birthday ideas in NYC that turn a regular group outing into competitive fun, this is for you.

Shuffleboard is kinda the new kid on the block when it comes to bar games. Although it’s been around a long while (its origins go all the way back to 15th century England), it’s made an unexpected comeback in the past few years. It’s super easy to get the hang of - so even people who are bad at bar sports (like me) can play. 

Royal Palms also has awesome decor and cocktails, and there’s a giant Jenga game to keep you occupied while you’re waiting for your turn to play. 

Practical information: Learn more about the venue and make reservations at Royal Palms.

Take a Ferry Ride to a New Neighborhood

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Ok so this might not be the main event of your birthday, but it’s still one of the nicest NYC birthday ideas. 

If you ask me, the ferry is one of the most underrated ways to get around the city. And I’m not just talking about taking the ferry out to Staten Island (locally referred to as the SI ferry). 

You can actually get around to many places using the ferry - Astoria in Queens, for example - and it's fairly cheap at 4 bucks a ticket. What you choose to do after that is up to you, but take it from me - this is a real treat. 

Practical information: Schedule and fare information can be found at NYC Ferry.

Check Out What’s On at Broadway

It’s classic for a reason, and I bet you’ve already thought about this - but c’mon, you don’t need an excuse to spend your birthday watching a show on Broadway. 

Whether you’re a musical fan or you’re looking for fresh takes on stories you know and love, you know you’ll find it here. 

Practical information: Visit official Broadway websites or ticketing platforms to see show schedules and purchase tickets.

Plan a Dream Birthday for A Movie Buff

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Looking for NYC birthday ideas to impress a film lover? Don’t worry, I’ve got a ton of ideas for you.

NYC is a film and TV lover’s paradise in many ways - think of all the iconic shows, movies and sketches that have been set, shot or based in New York over the decades! Luckily for us, there are loads of immersive experiences that bring our favorite screen scenes to life – whatever show you’re into. 

Here are some places I’d highly recommend:

  • Metrograph: An incredible and charming old-style movie theater. Movies are shown from all over the world and there’s an adorable restaurant and seating area. Best for old/foreign cinema lovers or those who want an intimate movie experience.

  • Museum of The Moving Image: A MUST-visit for movie buffs. The exhibits here are awesome and the perfect excuse to geek out over equipment, sets, cameras, and all things movie history.

  • Film Forum: A rare, not-for-profit movie theater that celebrates all things cinematic!

  • The NY Philharmonic: Watch a movie while an outstanding orchestra performs the score live in concert at the same time! 

Practical information: Check showtimes and special events on their various websites. If you have a particular favorite (Seinfeld, Sex in The City, etc), you can find movie locations pretty easily.

Play Shuffleboard at Royal Palms

If you’re looking for birthday ideas in NYC that turn a regular group outing into competitive fun, this is for you.

Shuffleboard is kinda the new kid on the block when it comes to bar games. Although it’s been around a long while (its origins go all the way back to 15th century England), it’s made an unexpected comeback in the past few years. It’s super easy to get the hang of - so even people who are bad at bar sports (like me) can play. 

Royal Palms also has awesome decor and cocktails, and there’s a giant Jenga game to keep you occupied while you’re waiting for your turn to play. 

Practical information: Learn more about the venue and make reservations at Royal Palms.

Have a “Smashing” Time at Break Bar

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Not all NYC birthday ideas include stress relief, but boy oh boy, this one does.

Ever wondered what the adult equivalent of a piñata is? Well, it’s this. 

Basically, every time you finish a drink at Break Bar, you’re invited to step up to the smashing range and turn your bottle into smithereens by launching it at the wall. No questions asked - as long as you do it safely, of course. 

Practical information: For pricing and booking, visit Break Bar NYC.

Seek Out NYC’s Board Games Cafes

Level up your birthday with a visit to one of NYC’s board games cafes!

I’m biased here, but there are few things I enjoy more than sitting with a bunch of my favorite people and playing board games. They’re inclusive, enjoyable, and once you get the hang of a particular game, they become a tradition.  

Places like Black Cat LES, Squarrel Cafe, Hex NYC, and Bryant Park Games all offer cozy environments where you can challenge friends to everything from classic Monopoly to the latest strategy games. 

Practical information: Visit their websites for hours and potential cover charges.

Explore NYC’s Garment District and Fashion History in Midtown

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Looking for NYC birthday ideas for a fashionista? Gotcha.

NYC is one of the most dynamic fashion capitals in the world. From baseball caps to make up brands, anything with NYC in the name is instantly recognizable – and hey, as New Yorkers, we’re used to that. 

But for a true fashion lover, the opportunity of delving into NYC’s fashion past and present is almost as irresistible as getting your hands on the latest pieces from a collection.

Glamour of Midtown” is a kind of outdoor escape room/self-guided walking tour where you get to explore the storied past of the Garment District, where the threads of fashion history are woven into the very fabric of the streets. 

Answer riddles, follow clues and get taken around the chicest and most fashionable spots in Midtown. And don’t forget to snap some pics along the way! 

Practical information: $20 per person, stop and start the game whenever you want. All you need is WhatsApp, mobile data and a good pair of shoes (and some people to share the memories with!). 

Check Out NYC’s Coolest Art Galleries

If you’re an art fan who has yet to experience NYC’s incredible art galleries, your birthday is the excuse you’ve been looking for.

Apart from being a peaceful place to get some quiet time either alone or with the people you love, art galleries are awesome places to get some inspiration. As an art lover, I can’t recommend visiting NYC’s galleries enough - but as they’re often pretty expensive, I’d recommend picking one or two that really appeal to you. 

That said, I’ll give you my recommendations based on my own preferences (I’m a big fan of photography, classic paintings and impressionism if that helps), so do your research if my choices aren’t to your taste! 

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Personal Recommendations

Fotografiska: One of my favorite galleries in the world. If you’re ever in Stockholm, Sweden, you’ve gotta check out the “original” Fotografiska, but honestly, the one in NYC is just as good. Awesome local and global photography exhibits and I love attending events here (stand up comedy, lectures, you name it).
SIDE NOTE: Fotografiska will relocate later this fall. 

The Met: Classic but for a reason – it’s unmatched in its sheer volume of incredible artworks under one roof and you can spend a whole day here without getting bored.

MoMa: If you like modern art, I don’t need to say any more. If you don’t, this place might just change your mind - the Sculpture Garden is one of my all-time favorite places in the city.

The Frick: Temporarily closed at the time of writing (July 2024) but set to reopen near the year’s end. Absolutely worth a visit if you love classic paintings and artists (and the original building is gorgeous, too!).

Guggenheim: Maybe an unpopular opinion but I actually think the building outshines the artwork in here. That said, architecture is a form of art and I love just walking around inside here. Best suited to modern art fans. 

Practical information: Varying opening hours; check their websites. Tickets for art galleries in NYC start at around $25; though some entry prices vary by exhibition.

Seek Out The Hidden Gems of Chinatown

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Tourist or not, Manhattan’s Chinatown is a feast for all your senses and one of the best places to spend your birthday in NYC. Why? It has absolutely everything you could wish for.

Aside from its rich cultural history, Manhattan’s Chinatown is full to the brim with amazing food, nightlife, landmarks, and incredible secret, hidden gems. From dim sum joints tucked away in side alleys to temples filled with incense and history, it’s impossible to be bored. 

Personally, I think the best way to discover the lesser-known sides of Chinatown is by doing a self-guided walking tour like this one (which also shows you around trendy and equally fascinating Tribeca) or just float around and see where your feet take you. 

Practical information: If you’re lucky enough for your birthday to fall around Lunar New Year, don’t miss the lion dancing and festivities - it’s a whole vibe! 

Get Tickets to a Sporting Event

If you’re looking for birthday ideas in NYC for a sports fan, there’s (arguably) no better city to be in. You’re (kinda) forgiven for not supporting The Nets or The Knicks, but it won’t be any surprise to you that the Yankees are a BIG deal around here. 

But don’t forget, aside from American classics like football, basketball and baseball, there are plenty of other sporting events happening in and around NYC most of the time. 

Your birthday is a great excuse to try something new like soccer, ice hockey, and even cricket (the first ever international cricket match was played in Manhattan in 1844, where the USA played Canada, and won by 10 wickets). 

Practical information: Ticket prices and schedules vary by sport and venue. Check league websites for the most up-to-date information.

Find More Things to Do in NYC with CityDays

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So there you have it, 20+ birthday ideas in NYC so you can celebrate your next big day however you want! 

Remember that no matter what you decide to do while visiting or exploring NYC, there’s nothing like teamwork to make the dream work.

That’s why we at CityDays create fun, interesting and challenging trails around the world to help you immerse yourself in a city’s culture, history and curios. 

Want to find out more?

Check out all our available activities in NYC here and embark on an adventure in the city you’ll never forget: CityDays awaits!