50th Birthday Ideas NYC: 8 Ways to Celebrate for Adults

Turning 50 is a big deal, so make sure it's a big celebration

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New York street view from above

As birthdays go, 50 is a big deal. And that means the usual schtick won’t do: this year must be as lavish as you are now wise. And New York is the place to go big. The city is basically a playground for adults: so much so that it actually does have playgrounds for adults. Google it: they’re essentially outdoor gyms. But you can do better than that. So how about rounding up your favourite people to dine in a Michelin-star restaurant, or watch a basketball game in a private suite at Madison Square Garden. Prefer the opera? Fine by us. And if it all gets too much – consider yourself soothed in a nature-inspired spa. Now the pressure’s off, you just have to decide who to invite.

Tick off a bucket list activity

When it comes to 50th birthday ideas, NYC provides more bucket list experiences per square metre than anywhere else in the world. (Probably.) Whether it’s flying a helicopter, hang-gliding or playing golf with a PGA pro, New York City (and its surrounds) have a lot to offer. Cloud 9 Living has a whole host of definitely-not-every-day bucket list activities to choose from.

Manhattan, New York from above

Drink at The Plaza’s Champagne Bar

We hate to be melodramatic but a birthday without champagne would be like gin without tonic, a morning without coffee, life without love: simply not worth the effort. Thankfully, you won’t have to suffer a champagne-less birthday at The Champagne Bar. The 103-year-old bubbly institution in The Plaza’s Fifth Avenue foyer was once a favourite of Gilded Age financier Diamond Jim Brady, and retains the same effervescent glamour.

Go to the opera

Walk under the hallowed arches of the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center to join the 800,000 people a year who come to see the New York opera here every season. So even if you end up propping up the bar or eating burgers in a diner afterwards, you can still tell everyone who asks that you enjoyed a highbrow evening of opera on your big day.

The Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Center, New York

Catch a sports game from a private suite

Can you tell your Knicks from your Rangers? Sports fans can immerse themselves in a game at Midtown's Madison Square Garden from the comfort of their own private room (with no chance of having to talk to strangers). Menu options for the suites and lounges include American sporting classics like brisket sliders and chicken fingers. You can even book out the Knicks’ and Rangers’ home locker rooms for a pre-show huddle (though to be clear, you can only do that for concerts, they're taken on game nights strangely enough).

Take a nature-inspired spa treatment

At this point NYC’s frenetic pace may have started to take its toll and you might be in need of some more relaxing 50th birthday ideas in NYC. If that’s the case, enter Shibui Spa at Greenwich Hotel, whose treatments are “rooted in simplicity and reverence for nature”. Which means treatments using plant-based and organic products and bathing in cherry blossom. If you’re looking to take it up a notch, you can take a hot sake bath (but please note this is not advised after an evening of indulgence).

Dine at a Michelin-starred seafood restaurant

Michelin-starred Marea elevates pasta to great heights so making a reservation here is one of our top 50th birthday ideas in NYC. While fusilli’s reputation extends little beyond its plastic packet, this fusilli – enriched with red wine-braised octopus and bone marrow – might change your mind about the stuff. The Central Park-adjacent setting adds to the sense of occasion, and with several private dining options to consider – you can even do it without overhearing other people’s dull conversations, too.

Shop for gifts at Hudson Yards

Fifth Avenue might be New York’s most famous shopping street, but Hudson Yards has the novelty factor, having just opened last year. Gift-buying options include Cartier jewellery, Dior clothes, luxury French menswear from Cremieux and work from emerging and established artists at Avant Gallery – plus a lot more. Explore the rest of Hudson Yards, including its honeycomb-like focal point staircase-meets-public artwork, Vessel, and finish up at one of the restaurants, such as Peak, which serves modern American plates on the 101st floor.

Hudson Yards Plaza

Book into one of the world’s best homes

Extend your birthday party into a birthday weekend, by making a Plum Guide booking. Our high standards and fastidious homes critics mean only 3% of holiday rentals in cities like New York make it into our listings. We only pick the most neurotic, highly strung critics – so you can be sure they’ve poked around in every cupboard, tested the firmness of the beds and made sure the art and design accents are up to scratch throughout. There are homes in top NYC locations from Chelsea, SoHo and the Upper West Side to some of Brooklyn’s more relaxed neighbourhoods – so you needn’t worry about accidentally booking into a hell hole.

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