Last month I turned 31, and I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired to plan a birthday party. I just didn’t feel like I had any fab San Francisco birthday ideas. I mean, when I turned 30 I was in Peru volunteering with a bunch of bad-ass women and having one of the most memorable experiences of my life, so going out for bday drinks just felt a little…lame.
My family was coming into town and when I told my mom I was feeling a little meh about planning my own birthday, her response was, “Oh, come on!!” So with that little kick in the pants, I set to finding something fun to do in SF for my birthday, that wasn’t dinner or drinks, and started Googling around for San Francisco birthday ideas. Because honestly, large group birthday dinners where you mix all your friend groups and split the bill from your pre-fixe dinner at the end are kinda the worst. If you want a lol, read this open rant against bday dinners from the Bold Italic. #TooReal
We ended up landing on Mission Bowling Club, which was a lot of fun, but during my research, I came up with a bunch of San Francisco birthday ideas so I thought I’d share them all here!
San Francisco birthday ideas
1. Mission Bowling Club. Mission Bowling Club is perfect for bday parties! While of course, the bowling part is really fun, they also have great food and drinks. Highly recommend their burger—yum! Do note they don’t allow food in the bowling area, so you can bowl and then eat or vice versa. And when you’re done at Mission Bowling, you’re conveniently in the Mission and have lots of nearby options if you want to take the party to a different bar.
2. SPIN. SPIN SF is a ping pong club and it’s so much fun! We’ve hosted both Omied’s and my sister’s birthdays here and it’s always such a hit, especially since my family has become obsessed with ping pong over the last couple years. You can reserve a couple ping pong tables and have at it, and they also have really good food and drinks. You can read more deets in my full post about SPIN SF.
3. Church of 8 Wheels. Remember when you were in middle school and you’d go roller skating and eventually someone would pull out the limbo bar to skate under and it was the best time ever? Church of 8 Wheels is like that but in an old, beautiful church. It’s also very reasonably priced—$10 to get in, $5 to rent skates (or you can bring your own). Note that it’s cash-only and they don’t allow outside food or drinks, and they don’t serve alcohol—can you imagine how many more people would eat sh*t if they did serve drinks?? It’s funny, until it happens to you. The arcade bar Emporium is just a few blocks away so you could hit that up after roller skating!
4. Trolley Party. What’s more San Francisco than a classic trolley? Nothing, frankly. Book a trolley or cable car for you and all your friends—and BYOB and music. You can customize your route and have your trolley drop you off at different destinations, whether you’re sightseeing or bar hopping. There’s even a karaoke trolley available! I’m considering doing this for a future bday, because every time I see a party on one of these trolleys go by, it looks like everyone is having such a great time!
5. Urban Putt. Urban Putt would be a fun birthday idea for a small-ish group (I’d say 5 or 6 people would be perfect). Urban Putt features indoor mini-golf, with the most intricate and delightful setups! It’s so fun to watch your golf bar being whisked away in fun, themed courses. Their bar area serves up drinks and snacks and there’s a full restaurant upstairs. You can even take your drinks with you on the mini-golf course!
6. Food Tour. There are so many great foodie tours in San Francisco, and it’d be so fun to go out for a day of eating and exploring with friends. You could do a chocolate-tasting tour, Chinatown food tour (think of all the bao and dumplings!), North Beach, Mission…the list goes on and on.
7. Private Skeeball Tournament. I just recently discovered Joey the Cat Skeeball through my research for SF birthday party ideas, and you guys, this looks so effing fun! Joey is a world skeeball champ, and he has a private warehouse in the Mission where he keeps his skeeball games, as well as air hockey, pinball, basketball, and more, that you can rent out for a private party! You can bring in your own food, catering, and drinks as well. How freaking fun. The Yelp reviews are absolutely glowing for this one and it sounds so awesome that even your friends in the East Bay won’t mind traveling into the city for a birthday party here. Sidenote, I wish I knew about this place earlier when I was an event planner at Google, because it sounds perfect for private events and offsites!
8. Wine Tasting. Head north for a day in wine country! Celebrate with wine tasting and endless delicious food options. A few recommendations for my fav spots in different areas that are in beautiful settings and would be perfect for a group:
Sonoma: Three Sticks, Silver Oak, Scribe, Chateau St. Jean
Healdsburg/Russian River: MacRostie, La Crema at Saralee Vineyards, Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves
Napa: St. Supery, Mumm Napa, Odette, Nickel & Nickel
9. Food Forage Tour. For the ultimate foodies, forage for your food with friends! You can do a wild edibles tour where you forage for mushrooms or a seafood tour in the San Francisco Bay where you learn about coastal fishing and shellfish-hunting tour! Bring your friends back to your place to cook up what you forage together, and eat, drink and be merry.
10. Park Day. If you’re looking for something low-key (and if we’re being honest, cheap), do a picnic in the park for your birthday. Golden Gate Park, Alamo Square, or my personal favorite, Dolores, are great options. Spread out some blankets, bring some eats and drinks and ask everyone to do the same. Throw in some activities like setting up badminton, a slackline, card games, or a piñata, and you have a fun and easy-going day where people can come and go and you’re not restricted to any tight timelines.
11. Pool Party. If your bday happens to fall around Indian Summer (#bless), a pool party at Phoenix Hotel would be a fun way to spend the day! You do have to be a guest of the hotel to use the pool (they don’t offer day rates), but at prices averaging $200/night and four people to a room, if everyone is down for $50 each plus food and drinks, it’d make for a really fun day and probably less expensive than a group dinner.
12. Hog Island. This is for sure one of my absolute favorite things to do in the Bay Area is to spend a day up at Hog Island Oyster Co., up in Marshall. Book a table for their shuck your own picnic, which comes with a grill and you can bring your own food and drink along. Their tables book up about four months in advance on weekends, so you’ll need to plan ahead (book here)! But it is so worth it. You can buy their fresh oysters that were literally just pulled out of the water by the dozen, and shuck them right there yourself and slurp them down. Hog Island has actually ruined me for having oysters anywhere else, because up at the oyster farm you can get them for about a buck an oyster and they’re the best I’ve ever had, vs other places where oysters are usually $3 – $4 a pop and they’re not even as good as the fresh ones at Hog Island. Truly, it’s one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon and it’d be such a fun bday get together!
13. Drag Show. One more fun bday option—go to a drag show! A few fun spots are Asia SF (they are legit such good dancers! Note the food is not amazing, but the show is fab), Aunt Charlie’s Lounge (for a v different experience than AsiaSF that’s more divey, fun, hilarious, and over-the-top), or Starlight Room’s Sunday’s a Drag brunch show (for a cheesy but fun venue with awesome views of the city and elaborate costumes). This photo was from a friend’s bday party and we had such a blast!
After putting together this list of San Francisco birthday ideas, I feel like I’m covered for the next 12 years with great birthday party ideas! If you have other suggestions to add, let me know!