Big Girl Birthday Parties: It’s All About You

Birthdays—remember when they used to be a day we looked forward to?


Princess parties, turning sweet 16, dropping the “minor” status, the first celebration with a spouse or significant other … yeah, those were fun.

Now, say the word, “birthday,” and most us think about our kids: parties to plan, goodie bags to one-up the neighbors, etc. Our special day? It’s become just a day you don’t have to make dinner. And that’s just wrong. Grab your girlfriends, let your husband watch the kids, and make a day or night of it with these ideas.

For Shop-A-Holics:

On The Cheap
Head up north to Pleasant Prairie and do some good old-fashioned outlet shopping. North Face, Under Armour, Restoration Hardware, Coach, Le Creuset and more. Bonus? You can tell everyone you traveled out-of-state for your special day.

Break The Bank

Gear up for a neighborhood shopping tour. Be forewarned, as boutiques go in- and out-of-business, so do local shopping tour companies. is a great place to start when planning a local excursion in some of Chicago’s ritzier ZIP codes. The company offers customized tours based on your interests, such as a vintage ‘VaVaVoom’ tour. Tours can be chauffeured or on-foot.

For Foodies:

Kickin’ it locally

It’s your night out with your BFFs, so skip the restaurant that asks if you want fries with that. For example, Flight in the Glen Town Center is a wine bar and restaurant that offers a cozy, intimate feel and a fantastic wine selection. Zapatista in Northbrook is the latest in North Shore Mexican cuisine. You can check our dining and entertainment page for the latest in North Shore restaurants and reviews.

Hitting the big city
Publican and Hub 51 are the some of the hottest places to go, but if you’re looking for a little cougar action, try clubbing it at the Drawing Room at Le Passage on Rush Street or sipping uber-fancy, artisanal cocktails at the Violet Hour.

For Goofies:

Why should little kids have all the fun?
Sometimes, a restaurant or shopping just isn’t what you’re in the mood for—you just want to hang out. If you’re feeling creative, skip the knitting circle and make a cool key chain instead! For about $45 per person, at She Beads in Glenview, you can kick back with the girls, drink your beverage of choice and roll clay.

Other off-the-beaten path options:

The Actors Gymnasium, Evanston

If you’re feeling physical, the company offers “big kid” birthday party packages.

Autobahn Country Club, Joliet

When you’re feeling the need for speed, maybe a milestone birthday would be a good reason to shell out for a more pricey—but definitely memorable—celebration that includes high-performance driving school on a professional-level racetrack.

The Chicago Architecture Foundation

Expose yourself and your friends to a part of the city you’ve never seen before, with one of dozens upon dozens of tours to choose from.


Choose Chicago:

You Just Shop:


The Party Girl Cookbook, Nina Lesowitz
Memorable Milestone Birthdays: Over 50 Theme Parties to Help You Celebrate by Robin A. Kring

Big Birthdays: The Party Planner Celebrates Life’s Milestones by David Tutera, Charles Maring, and Jennifer Maring