Birthdays are always a magical time. For one glorious day each year, people get to focus on themselves and be the star of the show. But some birthdays are inevitably better than others. They’re the ones that just stick with a person for the rest of their life. The best birthdays break through the average memories of gifts, cake, and presents to truly stand out. Light some candles, blow some balloons, and enjoy 48 stories about the best birthdays ever.
1. Simple and Sweet
When I was a kid, I had a tiny nine-inch television in my room that I had my Super Nintendo hooked up to. On my 12th birthday I was having a sleepover with a bunch of friends, so my dad let me hook up the SNES to our 32” TV downstairs. I walked in from school to find my dad playing Super Mario World on the TV and it was freaking glorious.
Mario looked life-sized compared to before and the colors were amazing. I was blown away. I still very vividly remember watching him play in the forest level with the angry caterpillars. Then later that night, my friends and I stayed up all night eating pizza and having Street Fighter II tournaments. I can’t imagine any birthday being able to match that now.
2. Electric Surprise
I thought everyone had forgotten my 18th birthday. I was trying to make plans with any of my friends but they all said: “sorry, busy, maybe tomorrow?” It left me feeling really frustrated. So, I went to a friend’s house (the only one available) only to have my mom call me saying she was feeling sick. I was like, “Ok, that’s it, this is the worst day of my life.”
My friend’s mom drove me home to see what was happening to my mom. I got there, and there were all of my friends, my parents, my family…and a real-size electric guitar cake. Best night ever!
3. Sister Surprise
When I turned 30, my sister and I went shopping. It happened to be a Saturday, and Saturday shopping was a regular thing for us at the time. We’d get out early and come home early, but I was kind of grumpy that day so I was ready to go home earlier than usual. Even so, she wouldn’t take me! I was like, “WHAT THE HECK Sissy, I’m over it and I want to go home.”
I fussed, and she came up with excuses, but I persisted, and that went on because I’m a grown stinking woman, and I wanted to go home, darn it. So then she pulled the Sister Card, and starts telling me that she’s feeling blue, doesn’t want to be alone, and can’t we just go get lunch, or something, and hang out a little? Oh for Pete’s sake, YES, of course we can go get lunch. I was so difficult.
Finally, she takes me home, but doesn’t just drop me off, (oh Jesus Christ she is super needy today). I open the door, and see all the decorations a split second before SURPRISE!! I turned and looked at my sister, the designated distracter. She’d been waiting all day to say, “You’re a real pain in the butt.”
4. Best Gift a Kid Can Get
My mom and dad divorced very early in my life, well before I was two years old. After their divorce, my mom did the typical single mother thing, working crazy long hours to make ends meet (zero financial support from her ex-husband, my dad). I was happy enough but also kind of lonely. After several years of living like this, my mom met this single guy with two kids my age (literally we were all born the same year).
They fell in love and got married. They didn’t do a fancy church wedding. Instead, they went down to the courthouse, got a marriage license, and then came straight home. We packed up the truck that afternoon, and headed to the beach for a camping trip. The day they got married was my sixth birthday. I was just thrilled to have a dad, a brother, and a sister.
What blew me away that evening was a surprise birthday cake, party, and presents at the beach next to a campfire on the shores of Lake Superior. That birthday, those feelings, those smells, and images will probably be with me the rest of my life.
That guy my Mom married would later go on to adopt me. BEST. DAY. EVER.
5. Thief Afoot
On my sixth birthday, my mom got this incredible Batman cake: multi-level and enormous so that I could share with my whole Montessori class. But before we could pack it up and put it in the car, my mom heard a bump on the dining room table and the noise of shuffling feet. She discovered a huge chunk missing from the cake. She grabbed her disposable camera and bolted to the spare room, where she found me building my Thomas the Tank Engine tabletop set.
Confused, she explored the house until she found my four-year-old brother crying in his closet, scraping cake off his face, and into his mouth. She took several pictures that I will keep forever.
6. Birthday Abroad
I was participating in a study abroad program in Japan for my 22nd birthday, and all of the friends I had made that year got together and came out for a special surprise dinner. They rented out the room of a restaurant and we all got to hang out, drink, and dance together. Then the hoard of us biked across town to go to a Karaoke Bar. It was the best birthday ever.
7. Hit the Showers
My best birthday was my 18th Birthday. I had a home basketball game and afterward, I was taking a shower in the locker room, as you do. But every time I went to get out of the shower, three or so people would throw soap at me. It was funny at first, but after like the fifth time it was kind of annoying. Finally, me and my friend were the last to leave the locker room.
He offered me a ride home, and when we walked into my house, it was just my parents in the kitchen. Then like 35 people jumped out, and surprised me. It was amazing, and I was actually very surprised. Afterward, they told me that they kept throwing soap at me so my girlfriend could finish getting everything ready. It was a blast.
8. Hug it Out
My best birthday was when Barney the dinosaur came to my school and gave me a hug. Tears of joy, man. Mother Goose was there too but I didn’t give a snot about her.
9. Find Out Who Your Real Friends Are
This year was my 21st birthday and it didn’t show up on Facebook for some reason, so pretty much everyone forgot. Only the real ones remembered and they wished me happy birthday in person. It was actually kind of nice to only have my real close friends and family celebrate my birthday with me.
10. Private Penguin Time
So, I’ve always had a deep manly affection for penguins and one day, my local aquarium put in a penguin encounter thing where you could pay for 45 minutes with the penguins. The first day it was open happened to be my birthday, so my mom paid for us to go. We show up, and there are like 60 people there, no one is 100% sure how things are supposed to work, and the two teenage workers ask if we’re there for the tour. We were like, heck no we wanna play with the penguins, so it was just my mom and me with three penguins for 45 minutes.
It was fun but the best part was when the keepers turned their back, I would give the penguin a hug. When would I have another opportunity to a hug a penguin? (Penguins as it turns out do not enjoy hugs). Well, it turned out that they messed everything up. We were definitely supposed to be part of the 60-person group, but because of an error we got the penguins all to ourselves.
11. To Infinity and Beyond!
When I was a kid I would watch Toy Story religiously. If you had to babysit me, you would just have to play that movie on repeat and I would be in a trance. So on my 4th or 5th birthday my parents threw me a party and invited my friends and family over. At the party I was playing with my Buzz Lightyear action figure, until my mom approaches me and takes it. I watch her carry it up the stairs, and for a moment I had my eyes glued on those steps.
Shortly after, she walks down, stops halfway down the steps, and calls to me. When I looked up, I dropped my jaw because I was watching a life-size Buzz walk down the steps behind her. He lifted me up and wished me a happy birthday. I couldn’t say anything because I was still trying to digest the moment. The other kids were also in shock and awe. Eventually, he went back upstairs, and my mom returned the action figure to me. For a while, I was wondering how my folks did that, but I didn’t pry for answers. I was just happy that it happened.
12. Celebrate Good Times
This past March I turned 60. This has been the best birthday so far because I was so grateful to actually have a birthday to celebrate. I had been battling stage three cancer for one and a half years prior. My husband and I went to the Miraval wellness resort in Tucson and it was a fabulously healing experience.
13. Birthday Break
My 25th birthday was my best birthday. I spent the day alone, in another state, buried in a university’s archives doing research (I was in grad school). But I treated myself to a manicure, so I got my nails done. When I came home a few days later, some friends took me out for wings and drinks, and when they took me back to my apartment, a whole bunch of other friends and some family were inside for a surprise party. That was also the summer I met my future husband.
14. A-maze-ing Birthday
When I was seven or eight, my dad had a large garden in his backyard. I asked him if we could do a corn maze there someday and he said maybe. I didn’t really pay much attention to what he did in the garden but come the next year, 90% of it was sprouting giant, tightly packed corn stalks. I’d mostly forgotten my wish by then, being a kid who was busy building lightsabers with PVC pipe.
The day of my birthday, I came home from school to see a big, freaking corn maze. Even better, my mom had turned our entire house into a haunted house. The school was small enough that everyone rode the same bus. My parents had arranged for everyone to get off at my place so we could get right to playing.
Best. Birthday. Ever.
15. The Birthday is Right
My best birthday was my 23rd birthday. I was on The Price Is Right. I won a trip to Vegas, but I took the money instead because the “trip to Vegas” was actually just like $1,000 in Travelocity dollars which is nothing, especially in Vegas of all places. The check they sent me was for like $800. I bought a laptop with it. The whole crowd sung me Happy Birthday as I walked off stage.
16. Sometimes Coming in Last Isn’t So Bad
I went to Disney World in Orlando for my seventh birthday (I am British, so this was quite the trip). In the Magic Kingdom, you can go and have breakfast with people dressed as famous Disney characters. We sat down, and I don’t really remember much, just my family buzzing around (aunts, uncles, nan…all there, it was a large family holiday). Next thing I know the lights go off and I hear my name on the loudspeaker. They’re saying it’s my birthday and then the music starts playing.
Me and my family (and everyone else at this point) look around to see a large line of Disney characters walking out the kitchen following a birthday cake to my table. It was pretty amazing (My mum had no idea they were going to do this either, she didn’t know what to expect).
It turns out that other kids got one character each if it was their birthday, but since my mum brought the cake herself they decided to go all out and leave me until last so that all the characters would be available. EVERYBODY was extremely jealous. I absolutely loved it. It’s still making me tear up writing it.
They stopped doing it the year after too, so I got a once in a lifetime experience that day and one of very few fond memories.
17. Birthday in the Hospital
After three rounds of IVF, my daughter was due to be born in February this year. My birthday is in late January. Things didn’t quite go to plan and my wife’s water broke four weeks early while I was out of town for work. There were phone calls, and tears, and fear, and helplessness, and a four-hour drive to the next available flight home. I got the call at seven AM, finally made it to the hospital about nine PM. Baby arrived mid-morning the next day, screaming her lungs out (we were very glad to see they worked).
The next couple of weeks spent in the nursery were challenging at times, but I got to spend my birthday with my wife and daughter in our double room at the hospital where I was born 33 years earlier. We were even surrounded by the nurses who had worked with my mother when she was a nurse there. It was a pretty great birthday.
18. So Long Glory Days
My best birthday was my 40th. I wanted something special. Something nobody had ever done or seen before. So not only did my 40th celebrate my time on the earth, it also celebrated the death of my youth. So all guests were instructed to dress nicely or in black (or both). The cake had a tombstone and grim reaper on it, and I took one of those cardboard Halloween coffins and filled it with stuff from my childhood, teens, and twenties. Lastly, I had my best friend, a real Roman Catholic priest officiate the wake and funeral.
It was the coolest.
19. Celebrate By Yourself
Today is my birthday! It has been an introvert’s dream. I have the house all to myself this weekend. My husband and kids went to visit my in-laws. I slept in until 8:30, and I got all my work done by 11:00. Then I went to the nail salon. There was a language barrier between the manicurist and myself so there was no need to carry a conversation. She did understand, though, when I told her it is my birthday. She gave me a 10% birthday discount!
I picked up lunch on the way home. I ate lunch and watched a documentary. I then took a nap listening to the rain. My husband surprised me by ordering dinner to be delivered to me at 7:15. He said he did this so I wouldn’t have to interact with anyone. He knows me well. After dinner, I did a little online shopping, and now I am watching The Office and eating a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Since getting married, I don’t have a whole lot of alone time. I love my family to death, but I find that I am my best self when I have a chance to recharge. I’m thankful to have a husband who understands that. When my husband and babies get home Sunday, we will go to dinner to celebrate.
20. Block Out Time For Nothing
My significant other and I have been together two years at this point. She’s from a nice family that celebrates everything and enjoys doing things. So when my birthday rolled around, she tried to go all out and throw me a BBQ at home with friends, which was wonderful but exhausting. This year she planned nothing–as in she blocked out the calendar so she could do absolutely nothing with me.
It was the best. There was no timeline, no plans. We slept in, drank at home before going to lunch, had some afternoon delight, met friends for dinner and then played video games together until falling asleep. She’s amazing and I couldn’t think her enough for understanding that I hate pre-set plans for parties, holidays, etc.
21. Adventure Time
I flew from Pennsylvania to Oregon to meet one of my online friends for the first time. I spent four days with him and he took me sight-seeing, adventuring in nature, and we just had general wholesome fun. My birthday was the third day I was there, and he bought me an ice cream cake. We put it in the freezer at the hotel and went out for more adventures. We had loads of fun. When we came back, I went to get the cake out, and it was melted. We laughed hysterically and ate the melted mess anyways.
It was honestly just such carefree and innocent fun the whole time. He also honestly took the freaking time to plan things out for me before I even got there and genuinely enjoyed just hanging out and taking me to do things. I haven’t had a lot of that in my life, and I know it sounds awful… but just the fact that someone went through that much effort just to simply have fun with me still makes me so happy today.
22. Dream Girl, Dream Birthday
My best birthday was probably my 22nd. Even though I hate celebrating my birthday, my then-girlfriend really brought her A-Game. I got home from class and inside my bedroom was a big pillow and blanket fort. I knew she’d be inside. And I was right, but what I didn’t expect was to get handed a nerf gun and then shot in the face.
So, we chased each other around the room for like half a minute shooting each other, before settling in the fort where she presented me with my favorite burrito from my favorite local restaurant. I thought that was all, but after we hung out for a bit she took me to the arcade. She got me $50 worth of tickets, we played House of the Dead, and a bunch of other games with me, and she supplied me with drinks all night.
You may notice, I said my “then-girlfriend” at the start of my story, but don’t worry. She’s my wife now. She proposed (very much her style) to me a few months later, and I’d have been an idiot to say no.
23. High Times
My best birthday was sometime in high school. I had a few friends over, we smoked a bunch, and played video games. My brother brought KFC home for us since the parents were away. At the end of the night there was four of us and a chocolate cake. We just cut it in four pieces and ate the entire thing. Being high as a kite, eating chocolate cake, while playing video games just a little too close to the TV is a memory I’ll never forget.
24. Campy Birthday
My best birthday was my 17th birthday party. I went to see Rocky Horror for the first time with my two friends (plus the girlfriend of one of those friends) on the theater’s anniversary showing. Before that we went to my favorite pizzeria, and watched part of the film adaptation of Tommy (not a GREAT movie, but so insane you can’t not have fun with it). It was quite possibly one of the greatest nights of my life.
25. Wu Tang Nation
Wu Tang Clan happened to be playing a show on my 30th birthday. So that ain’t nothin to…you know the rest.
26. Love At First Birth Date
My first date with my fiancé was on my birthday. It was pretty much love at first sight when we met. Also years later on my birthday, my fiancé blindfolded me and drove me to the animal shelter. We found my beloved dog Rowlf. Apparently there had been a dog house in the back yard for two weeks without me noticing (which he knew I wouldn’t).
27. Magical Creatures
I was 10 years old and I got to swim with the dolphins in Mexico! Dolphins are my favorite animal, plus I was on a cruise for the first (and only) time.
28. First Gig
I had a super huge party at a friend’s house and the band I was in made our first appearance, while one of our other friends had his DJ setup for when we weren’t playing. I’d say about well over 100 people came and went during the whole evening, and the dance-floor was constantly packed. People were constantly shoving shots and joints in my face while we were playing.
29. More Time With Mom
On my 23rd birthday, I told my mom, “Don’t get me anything. Just stop drinking soda.” She used to drink two to four liters a day. It’s been almost four years now and she hasn’t had any since. The best birthday present I ever received was a much longer and healthier life for my mom.
30. Disney Dad
I love going to Disneyland for my birthday, but I had never gone with my father EVER in my life. It was just me and my parents, and we had a blast. My dad hates rides, but he really enjoyed everything we did. Best of all, we ended the day with some pineapple whip. I would love to repeat that day.
31. Sharing a Birth Day
This was my best birthday ever–no contest. I’m technically four and a half hours away from my birthday (I’m turning 34). I’ve got my husband, two-year-old son, mom, and dad sitting with me in my post-partum recovery room eating pizza. My newborn son is snuggled on my chest sleeping. My heart is bursting with love, and I’m grateful for every second of it.
32. Quality Alone Time
My best birthday was my 28th. I took the day off work. My daughter went to daycare, my husband to work. I had bought special fancy treats (shortbread cookies, cheesy chips) and had myself a fancy tea and a long bath. Then I watched The Man Who Knew Too Much the whole way through. Then I got my first massage ever. Then I had dinner with friends, and went axe throwing. And I spent the whole weekend after with my husband and daughter, completely relaxed.
33. Birthday on a Plane
For some reason I have always loved being alone on my birthday. Last year, I happened to be flying home from Alaska with multiple stops and layovers totalling about 16 hours. I made sure I bought myself a beer and a treat in every airport, and on the flights watched movies I was really excited about. I’ll always remember managing to have a really nice birthday in a bunch of airports.
34. Birthday Bakery
I was on my first holiday with my boyfriend to another country. We went to Toulouse, France and stayed in a crappy two star hotel during the hottest part of the year. My birthday just happened to be on the last day of the trip and I woke up to find that he had woken up early to run to the nearest bakery. But that bakery had been closed, so he ran another 15 minutes to another all so he could surprise me with a birthday pain au chocolat. It meant so much to me.
35. Birthday Tunes
A classmate (a friend who I happened to have a crush on at the time) was turning 18. I’d been talking a lot with her, things had been going surprisingly well out of nowhere really, so I jokingly said that since I hadn’t come up with an idea for a birthday present, I’d sing for her in front of class. She pulls the old, “well now you said you’d do it so I expect you to,” and having a crush on her didn’t make it easy to say no.
Eventually, her birthday party arrived and I figured I was gonna need a fair bit of booze to get singing. She kept asking when I was gonna do it, so she was obviously looking forward to it. Eventually I decided it was time and I sang for her. Firstly: I can’t sing for spit. But I did, and for a guy who’d been struggling a lot with self-esteem for various reasons, that in itself was a victory. Some even claimed that I sang well, and I still claim they’re wrong.
Secondly, making a girl I liked smile like that, and making her birthday memorable was possibly an even bigger achievement in my book. Considering I was terrible when it came to girls, and also at making people smile. It was more than worth the hangover. So yea, ironically enough my best birthday experience wasn’t even my own birthday.
36. Birthday Button
If it’s your birthday at Walt Disney World, you get a button that says “Happy Birthday [Name]!” so everyone says happy birthday to you (and you sometimes get free things). My birthday is in a quiet time during park season, so the one time I went, characters on the floats in the afternoon parade were yelling happy birthday and I got a massive cupcake for free. Also, a number of drinks with dinner.
37. Fun But Not Fancy
I grew up in a village with rich kids though we were definitely NOT rich. At every birthday party, the kids would have themes, hire professionals, plan transport so parents didn’t need to pick up their kids–the works. We did not even have a car, so my mom wrote on the letter that parents had to drop off and pick up their own kids. Somehow, kids still wanted to come to my house and celebrate my birthday.
We played outside and honestly, everyone was having such a blast that my mom had to call us five times to eat the food she prepared. We just ate quickly all the food my mom made and went to play outside. There was no theme, no face painting, pottery, clowns, or magicians. It was simply playing outside with a ball.
Everyone was sighing when their parents came to pick them up and asked to stay longer. I’ll never forget that the next school day kids came to ask to play with me.
38. Sneak Attack
My best birthday was my 17th birthday. No one really gives me gifts, which I don’t mind. But every birthday, I would love to spend my money on all of my friends. I don’t care if I go broke, as long as I see them happy. But that day was different. It was just a normal day at school, no one really greeted me except for my friends. It was lunch when my friend playfully grabbed my bag and took it with him in the car.
It took him a few minutes before he got out so I got suspicious. I immediately checked my bag after retrieving it from him. When I opened it, there was a small white box inside. I almost cried right then and there. He gave me a wooden music box to the tune of Hedwig’s theme from Harry Potter. He had saved three months of allowance to buy it. I didn’t know what to say. I was so flattered by the fact that someone had actually saved up to give me a gift on my birthday. I was so happy, but it doesn’t end there.
Later that day, all of my friends went home except for him. We were talking, as usual, when all of a sudden he started fidgeting which he rarely does unless he’s nervous or something’s bothering him. This is really cliché but he confessed how he feels about me, or I guess we both confessed how we felt about each other. We’ve been dating for five months now. He helped me with my depression and I’ve been clean for almost two months now because of him. I guess that would be the best birthday ever.
39. Everyone Should Feel Special On Their Birthday
My birthday is during a month where we always have final examinations, so I never really had a proper birthday party. It was mainly cutting a cake with mum and dad, and then studying the whole night since I had exams the next day. My friends hardly ever wished me a happy birthday because they were always so tense about exams (I don’t blame them).
This year on my 17th birthday, I had my chemistry practical exams and I wasn’t expecting much on my birthday, as usual. I prepared for my exam the whole night, went to take my practical, and came back home. As soon as I was going to take a nap, my friend calls me and says, “come outside.” I went outside my house and literally all of my friends were there with balloons, cakes, and presents.
I cut the cake, then they all took me to this cafe that they all chipped in to pay for, and booked for my birthday party. We had delicious food, great conversation, and at last I gave a cheesy cliché speech on how thankful I was to have each one of them as my friend. At the end, it got kinda emotional (in a good way) so we had a group hug. Thank you guys, thank you for making me feel special.
40. It’s Your Birthday!
My best birthday was after years of having terrible birthdays. I had given up on trying to do fun things for my birthday, and it made me super sad, but that year my friends pushed me to do something fun. We went to a crazy huge Halloween party at a famous hotel, and raged all night long. When it turned midnight my friends wouldn’t stop screaming, “IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY!!!” at me and telling strangers about it.
The next morning we went out for brunch at my favorite vegan restaurant ever. I went home (I was staying at my parents’ house that weekend) and my parents and brothers surprised me with a PS4 (I was completely shocked—I had been saving up for one but had to blow all my money on surgery for one of my dogs), and a digital copy of Red Dead Redemption 2 (which was the whole reason I was saving up for a PS4 in the first place). I cried.
And again, this was after years horrible birthdays. Like, really, really terribly sad let downs, cancelled plans, and people forgetting. For my friends to plan something, show up, and celebrate me all night, and then for my family to get me such an amazing and incredible gift, when I wanted and expected nothing…it was so good. Honestly, just the reminder the people love me that much helped pull me out of a depressive episode I had been going through.
Although now I feel like I’m never gonna be able to top it!
41. More Than Enough
My father was dying of a brain tumor. He was ambulatory, but just barely. He asked me if I’d like to have a birthday lunch with him. We drove to a really lovely restaurant he had chosen and sat fairly close to the door because it was such a struggle for him. After we ordered, he began to cry, saying he wanted to do so much more for me.
I told him I loved the place. It was next to a lake and it had a great menu, but all that was secondary. I told him that being with him was the best birthday gift I could ever hope for, and the best I ever had. We talked about all the wonderful things in life and I got him laughing about some of the crazy things he had done as a young boy.
It was the best birthday ever. Nothing will ever compare. It was so good to see him happy.
42. Family Summer Time
My best birthday was my sixth birthday. My dad was a software engineer working in the UK at the time. His company acquired another company and sent him there under the guise of it being a temporary assignment, but they kept extending it, much to his displeasure. My parents had just divorced and my mom was working long hours to pay the bills, so the timing was bad and things were generally pretty rough.
My birthday weekend fell in the middle of my dad’s stint in the UK. Without telling his boss, he flew back to spend the weekend with me (we’re from California so it was a ten-hour flight). This also happened to be the Fourth of July weekend so he took me, my sister, and my grandparents to the family cabin deep in Wine Country to celebrate.
Friday, we had pizza and cake and I opened presents, the marquee gift being a gigantic super soaker that I’d been pining after for months. Saturday, I got to run around, play catch with my dad, and shoot my sister with the super soaker. Sunday we went swimming in a nearby creek and watched the fireworks our neighbors set off.
I just remember it being the pinnacle of carefree childhood fun. My dad risked his job and traveled thousands of miles to make it happen which I’ll never forget.