Friends celebrating a birthday in Chicago
Ian Packham

Top things to do in Chicago for birthdays

A birthday is a great excuse to push the boat out and treat yourself to something beyond the everyday. When it comes to things to do in Chicago for birthdays you’re not limited to a night out in a speakeasy-style bar or a smart restaurant – although both are excellent options for sharing the special day with friends and family.

In fact, the windy city is a breeze when it comes to finding unique ways to mark a birthday. Don’t believe us? Just take a look at our pick of the crop!

Spend your birthday on the beach

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Because of the city’s location on the western shores of Lake Michigan, summer babies can spend the day on the sands of any of Chicago’s beaches. For atmosphere, head to North Avenue Beach, one of the most popular. Decked out with volleyball courts, jet ski and other water sports rentals and even WiFi, there’s something for everyone.

A short walk from the Museum of Science and Industry, 57th Street Beach is generally a little more laid back, although still provides the chance to try your hand at stand-up paddleboarding or canoeing from its northern end once you’ve soaked up enough of the sun from the yellow-orange sand. For the ultimate in tranquility, consider heading to Promontory Point in Burnham Park instead, where the sand is replaced with stepped limestone blocks and plenty of opportunity for a picnic.

But don’t do away with your swimwear if you celebrate your birthday during the winter months. Simply switch the beach for one of the city’s top spas. Lounge by a temperature-controlled indoor pool whilst cocktails I brought to you, feel rejuvenated with a full body massage, or soak in a wine bath – the antioxidants are said to be kind to the skin.

Celebrate with a glass in hand

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If bathing in the stuff seems like a waste, you’re in luck – the nearest vineyards are just a few miles out of the city. Stripped free of snobbery, the Valentino Vineyards manage to cram 20 different varieties of grape into their 20 acres roughly 30 minutes’ drive from downtown. Their tasting room becomes a hive of activity during the summer months, hosting tastings of their award-winning vintages, tours of the vineyard and seminars for anyone keen to learn a little more.

Sticking firmly downtown, on clear evenings the city’s rooftop bars are other ways to celebrate your birthday in Chicago. Perched on top of the buildings of Navy Pier beside Centennial Wheel, Offshore Rooftop & Bar has entered the record books as the largest rooftop bar in the world.

Thanks to a retractable roof, its third-story views of Lake Michigan can be enjoyed for birthdays at any time of year. If you’re after a space that’s a little more intimate, head to upmarket Homestead on the Roof in West Town whose food menu is as good as its cocktail list.

Alternatively, take the elevator as far as it will go in your hotel – it’s more than likely any downtown stay has its own rooftop perch.

Party with a view

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The Chicago skyline is difficult to tire of and fun things to do for a birthday in Chicago include taking in the city from its tallest buildings. Once the tallest building on Earth, and still one of its loftiest, the Willis Tower contains Chicago’s highest vantage point without recourse to a parachute or helicopter – the Skydeck.

Over 1300 feet up on the 103rd floor, sunset is the prime time to visit. To make things extra special, the 99th floor contains a second space with the same panoramic views of the city that can be hired out for private events.

The Skydeck isn’t the only fun thing to do for a birthday in Chicago where you’ll find personalized treatment. Head back to Navy Pier and you can step aboard the Centennial Wheel’s VIP gondola. Its plush interior has enough seating for four, ideal for smaller gatherings.

If our previous mention of helicopters piqued your interest, you’ve got various options for taking to the air. Most operators hover around the skyscrapers of downtown before skirting the lakeshore on a flight that will leave you enthralled, mildly terrified or a bit of both.

Dine in style

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Back on the ground, Chicago has plenty of places to treat the taste buds. Going all out, there’s somewhere in the region of 20 Michelin-star restaurants adorning the Near North and Near West Side neighborhoods alongside Lincoln Square, South Loop and Chinatown.

Top billing goes to two star Moody Tongue, pairing a seasonal tasting menu with their very own beers, whilst Spiaggia has brought the culinary world’s top award to Italian cuisine for more than a decade.

In addition to cuisine which passes muster for the Michelin team, Chinatown has spots turning out incredible flavors without breaking the bank, whether it’s the chili heat of Szechwan, crunch of deep-fried dim sum or freshly-baked barbecue pork buns that take your fancy.

Elsewhere in the city, those looking for a relaxed approach to dining might want to combine it with a couple of hours of fun at a bowling alley – both family-friendly and weatherproof options for things to do on your birthday in Chicago.

Go City does the hard work so you have a birthday to remember

Birthdays don’t come cheap, unless of course you’re in Chicago with Go City. We give visitors to the world’s top cities huge savings on admission to top attractions, including many of the things to do in Chicago for birthdays we’ve mentioned in this post.

Not only is taking advantage of this reduced attraction admission incredibly easy, but you’ll generally get to skip the ticket line and keep much of the flexibility that’s important when on vacation. Not sure where to start? Follow @GoCity on Facebook and Instagram for what’s hot and what’s not right around the globe!

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