Birthday Ideas in New York: Celebrate Your Big Day in the Big Apple

Spending your birthday in New York City? Our curated list of ideas will ensure it’s the best one yet.

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Brooklyn Bridge Manhattan New York

Planning to spend your birthday in New York City? If you absolutely insist on getting older (and sorry but it seems like there’s no way around it), the concrete jungle where dreams are made of is probably the perfect spot. And thanks to this list of Plum Guide's curated birthday ideas in New York, you're sure to be celebrating in style.

Enjoy a brunch of champions

After waking up and getting ready for the day in your rather wonderful Plum Guide NYC home, the first order of the day is brunch. You can’t celebrate your birthday in this city without it –  it’s New York’s favourite meal of the day. Feel like a youngster again (you’re welcome) as you dig into a tasty stack of the world-famous pancakes at Clinton St. Baking Company or just sit angrily sipping black coffee while you watch your kids spoon in the calories to their heart’s delight. Either way, this is the perfect spot for a birthday breakfast.

Other brunch alternatives that are equally delicious are Sarabeths, Jack’s Wife Freda and Balthazar. Wherever you go make sure to have a drink with your birthday meal - remember you’re trying to create a day that will guide you through at least a couple month’s worth of dinner party conversation. If you prefer breakfast on the go, pick up a classic New York bagel from Tompkins Street Bagels or a pastry and coffee from a local coffee cart and head to the nearest park to eat and people  – watch like the older and wiser traveller you are.

Buy a gift (for yourself)

You’re old wise enough to know that self presents are the best presents so yes, the next of your birthday ideas in New York is to hit the shops. (And yes, you’d better have your credit card ready). For those who really want to splash some cash, head to Saks Fifth Avenue where the elite shoppers meet. It's one of the oldest department stores in New York City dating back to 1867, so you can even make the excuse you’re going here to check out the history rather than the watches, power suits and leather goods - potato, potahto.

If independent boutiques are more to your liking when shopping in New York, make your way to Greenwich Village. Don’t miss bookshops Three Lives and Company and Strand Books as you harken back your younger years pretending to be a beat poet (and in case you need a firm reminder – no, that wouldn’t have paid the bills). For those travelling with little ones, make sure to make a stop at Books of Wonder. After half an hour spent circling the children’s bookstore, we’re guessing it’s time to caffeinate again. If we’re right (which we always are), head straight to Caffe Reggio, a local gem of a coffeehouse since 1927. Recharge with a cappuccino because next up, it’s time for some culture. Wanting to stay in the area? You, shopaholic, you. Look no further than The Villager as your Plum home from home.

The Villager, Plum Guide home in Greenwich Village, New York

The Villager, Plum Guide home in Greenwich Village, New York

Get your culture fix

Today is about growth, so as much as you might like to lounge all day from the comfort of your luxury Plum home, it's to the museums you go. If you’re a fan of contemporary art, make your way to the New Museum, Manhattan's only dedicated contemporary art museum. For Modern and Pop-Art, it’s all about the MoMA and for those who want to recall the olden days in which they sometimes feel like they were born, try the Met. If any of the above sounds like the type of plan that will have your kids screaming for an immediate out, the Natural History Museum is your best bet. It’s fascinating and fun for the whole family and is directly opposite Central Park, which is where you’re headed next.

Take in some greenery

Just because you’re in the city, doesn’t mean your birthday ideas in New York should exclude spending time in nature, especially when that patch of nature is one of Manhattan’s top attractions. Central Park is located across 843 acres and watching the sun dip below the Manhattan skyline from here is one of life’s bucket list spectacles. Stroll through the park, giving your kids the opportunity to pose for many a magic hour selfie and relax among the verdant trees and glistening lake. Take this moment to slow down and smell the roses because tonight we’ll be back in party mode and there are no excuses.

Listen to the lullaby of Broadway

A Plum Guide list of birthday ideas in New York wouldn’t be complete without a Broadway show, so choose your poison – whether serious drama, campy musical or anything in between – and make your way to the theatre. Get there a little early so you have time to pose for some birthday photos under the lights of Times Square (only if you must) and take in the hustle and bustle of the busiest part of the city. Want to stay close to the action? Green & Gold, one of Plum's homes in Times Square is a great option.

Green & Gold, Plum Guide home in Times Square, New York

Green & Gold, Plum Guide home in Times Square, New York

Enjoy an exquisite birthday dinner

Before or after an evening at the theatre, there’s no better place for a birthday dinner than Minetta Tavern in Greenwich Village. Take a bite of the best burger of your life aka their Black Label Burger, sip icy cocktails or share a bottle from the excellent wine list and enjoy the last few hours of celebrating you. Some other great ideas for pre or post-theatre birthday dinner are Catch for sushi and people watching, The Grill for an elegant soiree from another era and Joe Allen for a family-friendly, classic American menu (which is a theatre district staple).

Celebrate good times

Now that the family’s bellies are full, drop the kids back at your NYC apartment (the fact your eldest is now old enough to babysit makes you feel especially old, doesn’t it?) and get ready for the adults-only part of the night. For musical theatre lovers or karaoke buffs, don’t miss the ultimate downtown hangout Marie’s Crisis. This historic piano bar draws a crowd of gay locals and musical theatre performers who will sing, drink and be merry until morning. If you’re hoping for something a bit more elegant, the golden age of New York cabaret comes alive nightly at Café Carlyle, located within the luxe Carlyle Hotel. And if you’re a jazz person, look no further than the Blue Note, an intimate club where jazz legends take the stage. It will feel like a birthday serenade.

And there we have it, the best birthday ideas New York has to offer. Ready to start planning your trip? Start by choosing where to stay in the city – whether you prefer the glamour of the Upper East Side or the family feel of Park Slope, our New York neighbourhood guide for visitors has something for everyone.

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