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Celebrate in Style: Our Favourite Birthday Ideas in California

Another year round the sun, and what better place to celebrate than Cali? Read on for the very best birthday ideas in California

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A large mountain next to a body of blue water at the Big Sur coastline, California

It’s that time of year already? Again? Another year down (don’t worry, we won’t get into the specifics of just how old), you deserve to celebrate in style. With some of the best cities, food, roads, beaches and national parks in the world, we can think of nowhere better than California. And we’re the experts at this, so take our word for it. Here at Plum Guide, we can help you plan your dream vacation - anywhere in the world. We know where to go, what to eat, what to do and, most importantly, where to stay. Our experts only ever pick the very best, with only the top 3% of homes we vet making it onto our site. You deserve to be celebrating in one of our fabulous home rentals. Go on, it is your birthday after all. So with out further ado, here are the very best birthday ideas in California.

  1. Get a taste of Downtown LA and Hollywood
  2. Explore the Exploratorium in San Francisco
  3. Road trip along the coast on Highway 1
  4. Get wild in Yosemite and Joshua Tree National Park
  5. Take a trip to the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre
  6. Spend a day at the Walt Disney Family Museum
  7. Marvel at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
  8. Get your skates on at Church of 8 Wheels
  9. Enjoy a guided tour of Angel Island
  10. Have a mini golf party at Urban Putt
  11. Sip some wine at Vinicola de Coppola Winery & Vineyard
  12. Compete at Spin SF
  13. Visit the historic USS Pampanito

1. Get a taste of Downtown LA and Hollywood

Buildings and mountains in the Los Angeles skyline on a sunny day, California, USA

Buildings and mountains in the Los Angeles skyline on a sunny day, California, USA

The city of dreams has to be one of the very best places on Earth to celebrate and no list of birthday ideas in California can ignore it. Here, you can choose to stay in one of our many beautiful homes and rub shoulders with the stars in Hollywood and Beverly Hills (the artists whom you’ve never, ever heard of before but are apparently dominating Spotify and TikTok, whatever that is. As if your birthday wasn’t enough to remind you you’re getting old).

We could write a whole book about what to do in LA but in the interest of your time, we’ll keep it short here. There are dozens of famous neighbourhoods to explore and check out including Downtown, Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Venice. You’ve got Santa Monica beach with its famous pier, there’s great surf, countless film studios to visit, a number of famous museums, hikes and walks in beautiful national parks all around, world-class restaurants with great food, even better clubs, bars and nightlife (smile for the the paparazzi), long stretching boulevards with deluxe (seriously, watch your bank account) boutique shops under sprawling palm trees and... breathe.

Collection of photos of Matinee Idol, Plum Guide home in Los Angeles

Matinee Idol, Plum Guide home in Los Angeles

4 Bedrooms | Sleeps 7 | 4 Bathrooms

Key highlights:

  • Serve a round of drinks from the built in bar
  • Work remotely from the impressive home office
  • Cool off in the private swimming pool

2. Explore the Exploratorium in San Francisco

Tram on the hilly streets of San Francisco, California

Tram on the hilly streets of San Francisco, California

LA not your thing? San Francisco is the perfect antidote and an equally fantastic city to spend your birthday in. Nicknamed the golden city, San Francisco is home to some of the USA’s most iconic landmarks. Take a drive out across the Golden Gate Bridge where you’ll be awed by the size and wonder of such a famous structure. Visit Alcatraz - the notorious prison island that used to house some of America’s most high-profile criminals (we don’t recommend staying here overnight).

Alongside the obvious landmarks, it’s a simple delight just to ride the trams up and down the VERY hilly streets - a much better option than walking, trust us. There are views, zoos and museums to explore (like the aptly named Exploratorium) and you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to the shopping, food and wine. It doesn’t take an expert to tell you that California is home to some of the world’s best vineyards and a lot of their exports end up in the city’s finest restaurants and fanciest bars. Happy birthday.

Collection of photos of Golden View, Plum Guide home in San Francisco, US

Golden View, Plum Guide home in San Francisco, US

1 Bedroom | Sleeps 2 | 2 Bathrooms

Key highlights:

  • Enjoy breakfast with views of the city
  • Stay focused in your very own home office
  • Unwind with a drink on your private patio

3. Road trip along the coast on Highway 1

An empty road in California overlooking the city at sunset, USA

An empty road in California overlooking the city at sunset, USA

What’s a trip to the United States of America without a classic road trip? California is home to more than its fair share of fantastic drives that can all serve as the perfect birthday getaway. For example, there’s Highway 1. Quite literally the number one highway in the country. If you look at a map, you can see how it winds its way right along the coast from San Francisco, all the way down to LA and beyond. Those ‘squiggles’ and its proximity to the coast guarantee greatness.

Make sure you set off travelling south from San Francisco as this ensures you’re always right next to those sea views (Americans drive on the right, remember). You’ll find plenty of iconic natural beauty spots such as Big Sur, and time after time your driver will become infuriated as you beg to pull over - the views and photo opportunities are that good. It’s like a ‘greatest hits’ album of American road trips. We can only hope your nominated in-car DJ can match up.

Drive all the way down to sunny San Diego, where you'll find plenty of fabulous Plum Guide homes. There’s also plenty of little treats on the way such as Carmel-On-Sea, Malibu, Santa Barbara and Plum Guide's personal favourite - the Lompoc wine territory. Turn on to Highway 101 for a worthy little detour here where you can explore some of the world’s best vineyards. In Lompoc itself, check out the Lompoc Wine Ghetto, a unique collection of wineries with plenty of tasting rooms. Be sure to let them know it’s your birthday and they’ll happily accommodate.

Collection of photos of Ride The Waves, Plum Guide home in San Diego, US

Ride The Waves, Plum Guide home in San Diego, US

4 Bedrooms | Sleeps 9 | 4 Bathrooms

Key highlights:

  • Make the most of the sun from your private terrace
  • Stroll along miles of white sandy beaches
  • Soak away the city life in the jacuzzi bath

4. Get wild in Yosemite and Joshua Tree National Park

Mountains and green trees in Yosemite Valley, USA

Mountains and green trees in Yosemite Valley, USA

Next on our list of top birthday ideas in California, it wouldn’t be right not to mention the National Parks of Yosemite and Joshua Tree. Whilst California is home to nine national parks (more than any other US state), these two deserve special mention. In Yosemite, rub shoulders amongst the rock climbing gods and marvel at some of the most impressive scenic views in the world. The kind of views that would make a great postcard, if postcards were still a thing. There are plenty of hikes to keep you busy here, some lasting a day, others a week.

Meanwhile, much further south, check out Joshua Tree where we have an exceptionally special birthday gift just for you. The Invisible House is one of our most unique offerings, not just in the California collection, but worldwide. No expense has been spared here with outstanding architecture (that very nearly left our experts speechless), a 100ft indoor swimming pool (because it’s your birthday and why the hell not) and plenty of sleek, luxurious furniture - all positioned to make the most of the incredible desert views. All of which are visible through those floor-to-ceiling one-way windows by the way. Joshua Tree is home to plenty of hikes and provides the backdrop to a truly unique birthday celebration.

Collection of photos of The Invisible House, Plum Guide home in Joshua Tree

The Invisible House, Plum Guide home in Joshua Tree

3 Bedrooms | Sleeps 6 | 4 Bathrooms

Key highlights:

  • Marvel at the spectacular and unique architecture
  • Enjoy the mesmerising desert surroundings
  • Swim laps in the 100-foot indoor pool

5. Take a trip to the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre

The Palace of Fine Arts Theatre next to a lagoon, San Francisco, California, USA

The Palace of Fine Arts Theatre next to a lagoon, San Francisco, California, USA

For the high-brow, luxury trip that you deserve, book a space at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre and party with purpose. Built in 1915, the special monument was originally built to showcase works of art, and is now recognised as one of San Francisco’s most impressive landmarks. The photo opportunities on offer here are out of this world, with a lagoon making for the ultimate backdrop to the impressive architecture. Book tickets to catch one of the shows in action, or embark on a guided tour of the theatre to get a closer look at the historic building. This is also the perfect spot to sit and watch the world go by, with the calming lagoon being home to an array of wildlife, including herons, mallards, and a well-known swan named Blanche. Get to know her as you admire the surroundings, and cherish this special birthday trip.

6. Spend a day at the Walt Disney Family Museum

A close up of a Mickey Mouse hat with Disney markings

A close up of a Mickey Mouse hat with Disney markings

For those of you with any vague interest in Disney and its productions, this is an unmissable stop, and a brilliant way to spend your birthday. Dive into the life and story of Walt Disney himself, discovering how he transformed the entertainment world with his innovation and drive to achieve the impossible. The fact that every man and his dog has heard of Walt Disney tells the story, really. Explore the interactive exhibits, book tickets to exclusive watch-alongs, and browse the fascinating artefacts on display throughout the museum. The Walt Disney Family Museum was actually founded by Diane Disney Miller, the only biological child of Walt, so everything you see is totally legitimate and validated, making it all the more interesting.

7. Marvel at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

A view of the white walkway and interesting architecture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California, USA

A view of the white walkway and interesting architecture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California, USA

Devoted solely to 20th-century art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is another unmissable destination on your California birthday trip. With an incredible range of artwork on display, you could spend hours here just marvelling at the stories told by everything you see. You can read all about the collection, visit the acclaimed exhibitions, and even purchase artistic birthday gifts on the online store. You’ll discover artwork from famous creators such as Henri Matisse, Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol, Georgia O’Keeffe, and many more, so you’re guaranteed to leave feeling inspired. Every painting, sculpture, and exhibition can leave you questioning every small detail, exactly as art should, so there's no doubt that this will make for a highly memorable day. And once you’ve perused to your heart’s content, you can venture out to one of the many delightful restaurants nearby - losing yourself in a painting is hungry work, after all.

8. Get your skates on at Church of 8 Wheels

A view of someone wearing roller skates on their feet while sitting with their legs in the air on a sunny day

A view of someone wearing roller skates on their feet while sitting with their legs in the air on a sunny day

As the name suggests, this is (was) a church, but it isn’t your everyday place of worship. It’s now been converted into a public roller rink, where you can skate the day away in the hall of the abandoned old church. Classes, parties, fitness sessions, and casual skating hours are all on offer here, in a place that frankly promises a good time. And don’t worry if you haven’t skated before - it’s easier to get the hang of than you may think. Rock up on a Saturday to skate with accompanying music, as the rink DJ blasts out your favourite tunes to really get you in the party mood. Stay composed though, we don’t want you falling over (too often). Get groovy as you combine your finest moves with your best efforts to stay standing, and find out just how good your balance really is at your new age. Whether you’re travelling with family, friends, or even on your own, this venue will guarantee you the memorable enjoyment that birthdays are all about - you really don’t want to miss this one.

9. Enjoy a guided tour of Angel Island

A view of green mountains and still water from Angel Island at sunset, San Francisco, California, USA

A view of green mountains and still water from Angel Island at sunset, San Francisco, California, USA

For your fix of adventure, enjoyment, and American history, Angel Island State Park is the perfect day out. It is often overshadowed by the more famous Alcatraz Island, but Angel Island itself has a fascinating history worthy of being heard. Not to mention the hikes, bike trails, picnic spots and more that it has to offer - oh, and the simply incredible views of the San Francisco Bay. Climb to the top of Mt. Livermore for sprawling views of the serene water and the famous Golden Gate Bridge, all while enjoying a bite to eat at one of the perfectly placed picnic tables. This particular hike is definitely among the most challenging, but that will all be forgotten as you’re staring out from the peak, feeling as if you’re on top of the world (which you are). If you’re going to spend a birthday in San Francisco, there really aren’t many better ways to do it than by hiking up to some of the most impressive views you’ll ever encounter. Birthdays are supposed to be truly special, after all.

10. Have a mini golf party at Urban Putt

A close up of a blue golf ball on a mini golf course

A close up of a blue golf ball on a mini golf course

Ideal for a smaller group of people, Urban Putt combines three universal favourites - mini golf, food, and drinks. Embark on a virtual walkthrough to see what all the fuss is about before heading down, but be warned - that will only make you want to go sooner. Make your way through the high-tech, 14-hole course and compete for the top prize (if your group doesn't let you win on your birthday, that’s just cruel). You can even take your drinks round the course with you, so the experience really couldn’t be better - especially if you reserve your spot in advance to guarantee your timings. After you inevitably win the golf, head upstairs to the impressive restaurant for a bite to eat, as you reflect on where everything went so right (both in the golf, and in life).

11. Sip some wine at Vinicola de Coppola Winery & Vineyard

Red and green grapes growing in a vineyard on a sunny day

Red and green grapes growing in a vineyard on a sunny day

We already mentioned earlier in this guide that California is home to some of the best wine you will ever come across, so it’s about time we introduced you to one of the finest vineyards around - Vinicola de Coppola Winery & Vineyard. It goes without saying that this may not be the perfect place to visit with young kids in tow, but there truly aren’t many better ways to spend your birthday than by sipping wine, are there? The friendly atmosphere, the gorgeous views, the delightful different wines on offer - we’re really struggling to see any downside to this. And as if that wasn’t enough, you can also learn about the life and story of Francis Coppola while you sip. Educational and unforgettable? Count us in.

12. Compete at Spin SF

A red table tennis bat on a blue table with a ping pong ball in San Francisco, California, USA

A red table tennis bat on a blue table with a ping pong ball in San Francisco, California, USA

Similarly to Urban Putt, Spin San Francisco combines food and drink with a classic social sport. Although it isn’t mini-golf this time - it’s ping pong. Grab a tray-full of drinks at the bar (all for you) before heading to the tables, where you can compete against your group and show off all those natural hand-eye coordination skills that famously improve after a couple of glasses of wine… oh. Well that just makes it even more enjoyable, and even more impressive when you come out on top. (Your group may have let you win to make your birthday even sweeter, but that’s not important.) When you need a little break from the ping pong, head over to the in-house cafe to refuel, or take another trip to the bar to restock on drinks. You could even make your day here more special by booking a private room for you and your group - if anyone deserves the VIP treatment daoy, it’s you.

13. Visit the historic USS Pampanito

The front of USS Pampanito submarine in San Francisco, California, USA

The front of USS Pampanito submarine in San Francisco, California, USA

Rounding off this comprehensive list of the finest California birthday ideas, we have USS Pampanito, a fascinating museum ship located in Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco. Formerly a United States Navy ship, USS Pampanito actually completed six separate war patrols, from 1944 to 1945. Now a museum open to the public, you can venture inside for just $3 to embark on the self-guided tour of the submarine, or you can even upgrade to the guided version for slightly more, ensuring that you don’t miss a thing. This is an ideal day out for families, with kids and adults alike guaranteed to be intrigued by the story and the artefacts on show. It’s not every day you freely wander around a genuine war ship, so this is definitely one to savour. Taking a trip back in time is certainly one of the more interesting things to do on your birthday, so make the visit to see what life would have been truly like inside a real-life battleship. Bring the board game along too, because who wouldn’t want to play after a trip like this.

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