Like every other millennial, I am trying to figure out a birthday celebration in NYC that is both age and COVID-friendly. Thinking a Saturday afternoon stop-by-and-get-(me)-drunk situation but that’s harder these days given the restrictions. Any ideas?
- It’s My Party And I’ll Cry If I Want To
Happy birthday! Before we get started, I have to ask. Is it actually your birthday?
Never in my life have I attended as many birthday parties as I have in the last two weeks. Friends who normally despise their birthdays are throwing Studio 54-themed parties where everyone is contractually obliged to show up in sequins. Acquaintances I’ve only met a handful of times are hosting gatherings in Prospect Park with as many tipsy people as you’d typically find at a high school prom.
Maybe this so-called birthday surge realistically occurs every spring and summer, and I’m only reacting because I’m out of party practice. But I’d like to propose a juicier explanation: New Yorkers are so desperate to let loose, they’re fibbing their birthdays. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in full support and I won’t tell anyone your birthday was actually on February 17th.
One daytime birthday idea is to post up at a fun bar that you and your friends can casually usurp for the afternoon. My general rule is to avoid crowded, well-known birthday backyards, like Lavender Lake, Threes Brewing, or Pig Beach. Not because they’re not fun - they are. You’re just going to have some competition.
Instead, pick a smaller neighborhood bar that just so happens to have a great outdoor space - and arrive early. I’ve been to birthday parties in the backyard at the fantastic beer bar Harlem Hops, at Zombie Hut - a fun tiki bar in Cobble Hill with a backyard - and on Night Of Joy’s rooftop in Williamsburg. I also just discovered that Holiday Cocktail Lounge in the East Village has a hidden, luscious back garden. Breweries with outdoor spaces are also historically good for this (some of my personal favorites being Evil Twin in Ridgewood and Fifth Hammer in Long Island City).
Because of the aforementioned 2021 Birthday Surge, it’s possible the idea of taking a chance on day-of availability makes you anxious. Fortunately there are a couple good places to make a group reservation ahead of time that don’t require a full buy-out. Sycamore Flower Shop + Bar in Ditmas Park has a relatively reasonable minimum requirement for private parties, where you can reserve as many of their outdoor garden tables as you want so long as you commit to $250 per table of 6-8 people. Meaning everyone has to spend around $30 on drinks and/or food. Email SycEvents@gmail.com to make a reservation (or find out more details). They’re also serving burgers, cheese plates, and other bar food from The Farm On Adderley right now - a great restaurant in the neighborhood. If you’re considering indoor bar options, E’s Bar on the Upper West Side has a couple different semi-private and private packages to check out.
Another birthday party genre I’m particularly fond of right now is The Park Hang. Your friends can come and go as they please. And, as the host, you can manage the dizzying dynamic of your social worlds colliding by getting drunk and refusing to stand up. Even at its worst, a park birthday party is an excellent opportunity to sit cross-legged in a patchy knoll and drink something light and delicious (preferably fizzy) while you gorge on an array of Trader Joe’s snacks you yourself did not purchase. To supplement the Scandinavian Swimmer gummies and bags of Taki knock-offs, I’d also recommend stopping by one of these Prospect Park or Central Park adjacent restaurants to stock up on excellent birthday picnic provisions beforehand. And if you want to save your friends 20 minutes of locating your party cluster in the sea of other birthdays in the park, try a smaller green area like Fort Greene park, the middle grassy area of Tompkins Square Park in the East Village, Transmitter Park in Greenpoint, Astoria Park, or the tippy top of Central Park.
One more wild card birthday idea: I used to live close to this florist on Clinton Street that hosts private parties in their backyard without really advertising it. According to their website, you can reserve two hours in the backyard for around $200. Full disclosure, I haven’t done this first hand but it seems like an incredible hack.
Good luck, have fun, and “happy birthday.”