Nothing about planning a birthday is easy. Who are you inviting? What are you doing? Why can’t you be 24 forever? But mostly, how can you have as much fun as possible? Finding a bar that makes all your friends (and most importantly you) happy is always a challenge, so we’re here to do the heavy lifting for you.
Whether you’re looking for a big group all-night dance-a-thon, a quiet booth, or just a spot where you can take over and get sloppy, all your birthday bar answers are right here.
We can help with your birthday eating too - check out the best LA restaurants for birthdays here.
If you’re the kind of person who knows every line of Hamilton, you’re going to want to reserve one of the back tables at Tramp Stamp Granny’s as soon as possible. You’ll have to navigate past people on Cahuenga hoping someone will mistake them for a Jenner, but once you make it inside this always fun piano bar, the crowd couldn’t be more different. This is a place where you’ll inevitably ring in your next 525,600 minutes by shout-singing an Idina Menzel song while standing on the bar next to a server/performer.
When you’ve given up trying to make everybody happy, just head to Clifton’s Cafeteria. If you can’t find fun there, you can’t find it anywhere. During the day, Clifton’s is a very skippable downtown cafeteria, but at night, it becomes an all-out nightlife metropolis spanning three separate floors. There are multiple bars, a brass band, competitive swing dancing, a hidden tiki room with a boat in the middle of it, and the most intense taxidermy you’ve ever seen. All in all, this place makes for one of the best nights out in the city.
If you feel like being prepared, you could reserve a booth at this big tiki bar between Hollywood strip clubs, but if you can’t plan in advance (even for your own birthday), just showing up is also a good option. There’s rarely much of a line, so you won’t have to wait long before you can tipsy-dance under a movie projection involving leis and outrigger boats. Unsurprisingly, there are lots of rum cocktails here, but seeing as it’s your birthday you should probably order at least one of the punch bowl cocktails that comes in an octopus-shaped vessel.
You’re over waiting in all the lines and elbowing your way to a crowded dance floor. You want a cool spot with great beer and good music, where you and your friends can just hang all night. Verdugo Bar is that place. Located in Glassell Park, Verdugo doesn’t look like much from the outside, but inside is a great 1930’s-era lounge and a back beer garden you’d never know existed. 22 craft beer taps, live music and DJs, and food trucks on premises will only add to an already great night.
Playing things casual is great, but sometimes you want to make everyone dress up to celebrate your birth. Apotheke is a speakeasy/jazz bar with a fun crowd of people wearing nice outfits, and fits right in the sweet spot of loud but not obnoxious. Take over a corner on the big back patio and let your friends buy you a bunch of fantastic $16 cocktails as your birthday present.
Lost Spirits is definitely not a bar. This is a weird place in the Arts District where the surprises are part of the fun, but imagine getting drunk on an Amazon jungle cruise and you’ll have a general idea of what’s in store at this distillery tour/art installation. It’s also always sold out, so force your friends to commit and buy tickets ahead of time.
When in doubt, bowling always works on birthdays. But just in case you aren’t in the mood for Coors Lite and bad 90’s music, make a group reservation at Highland Park Bowl. The oldest bowling alley in Los Angeles got revamped a few years back and it’s awesome: classic cocktails, good pizza, and a crowd you actually want to be around.
It’s a cold reality: if you’re a low-key bar person, your options in West Hollywood are almost nonexistent. Save for Surly Goat. Located in a nondescript black building on Santa Monica, Surly Goat is one of the best rare beer bars in the entire city, and a surprisingly good spot for a big group. And don’t worry, the crowd isn’t just a bunch of pretentious dudes sitting around talking about acidity levels. There’s shuffleboard, arcade games, and a side patio for all your birthday revelry.
You go to a bar, you get a little drunk, and everybody goes home. If ever there was a time to mix up this boring routine, it’s your birthday. Head to Plaza instead. The drag bar on La Brea is easily one of the best and most unique nights you can have in LA. Despite looking like a closed-down laundromat from the outside, the space is actually quite large, with a dirt cheap (and cash only) bar, and performances throughout the night. Game changer: they give you a bag of Doritos for every drink you order.
If you’d require six energy drinks to stay up late enough for a 9pm dinner reservation, a daytime thing is probably more your style. Three Weavers in Inglewood makes some of the best beer in LA, and is a great low-key option. The taproom has huge picnic tables where you can bring in your own food, post up all day, play some board games, and spend the afternoon trying to convince your friends they don’t need to sing “Happy Birthday” at you in front of the whole bar.
James’ Beach is a restaurant that a fictional Jason Segal character claimed was home to the best fish tacos in the world, but people mostly treat it as a bar. There’s a lot going on here, but that just means it’s perfect for your birthday. You can grab a decent dinner in the more subdued dining room and then take the short commute over to the bar where things get rowdy fast. Hot people, strong drinks, those fish tacos are all for the taking.
Not every birthday has to be an all-night affair involving 1am tequila shots and frantic discussions about where to continue drinking after last call. The Semi Tropic is the ideal place to go for a calmer group celebration involving draft wine and extremely well-made cocktails. The crowd is cool, but in a “that guy is probably in a Soundcloud-famous band” way, not a tiny sunglasses way. Take over one of the big booths, and it won’t be long before you stop using your phones for photos and buy a couple packs of Polaroid film (camera rental included).
Some people say Bigfoot Lodge’s woodsy theme is cheesy, and to them we say not cheesy enough. We live in the land of pool days in January and forest fire warnings for the majority of the year, so give us those Yukon vibes all you want. Big Foot is always a good time thanks to its great cocktail list, an unpretentious crowd, and room to get a little rowdy.
Hiding away on the second floor of the Roosevelt Hotel, it’s easy to forget about The Spare Room sometimes. But this is one of the best bars in Hollywood. The place is massive, with a great bar area, plenty of booths, and two lanes of bowling to get your cardio in. But put your Lucky Strike fears away - this is old-fashioned bowling and scores are kept by actually writing them down. Just make sure you reserve a lane in advance.
Backstage is a Culver City bar staple. The 80-year-old dive across the street from Sony Studios has no cover, no minimum for groups, and one of the most underrated karaoke situations in town. Drinks are cheap, the bar food is better than it needs to be, and there’s even a firepit in the back. If you want to keep things casual, but still feel like you’re having a real party, Backstage is where you go.
As downtown continues to fill vacant parking lots with new high rises, its rooftop bar situation is only getting stronger. But one of our favorites continues to be Ace Hotel Upstairs. The industrial rooftop has fantastic downtown views, great cocktails, and plenty of private areas for your birthday group to take over.