If you’re the parent of a teenager, you know that the teenage years are full of coming-of-age milestones— some great and some not so great! One of the greats is much anticipated (by your teen) and often feared (by you): the 16th birthday! Sixteen is the legal age of driving in most states, and marks only two more years until your baby is officially an adult. To commemorate this teenage occasion, here are 16 ways you can celebrate Sweet 16:
1. Get that driver’s license (or permit)! Depending on your state’s driver’s ed requirements, your teen’s sixteenth birthday may be the exact day you can take them to get their much-longed for driver’s license or driving permit. If you’re ready to let them on the road, celebrate Sweet 16 by taking a trip to your local DMV office. If you’re not familiar with the license application process in your state, be sure to check out http://www.dmv.org/teen-drivers.php to get prepared!
2. Throw an outdoor movie party. A great idea for when the weather is mild, an outdoor movie party is a casual but unique way to celebrate Sweet 16. Besides the birthday teen, a large movie screen is really all you need for the main event! Rent an outdoor movie screen and the necessary audio-visual equipment, fill the backyard with blankets and pillows, and let guests chill out while watching the guest-of-honor’s favorite flicks.
3. Go out to a fancy dinner. Keep your celebration exclusive: Commemorate this milestone birthday by putting on your formal wear and dining at a nice restaurant with only close family members. A fancy dinner out is an intimate, mature way to honor the birthday girl or boy. Depending on your venue, it may also be a less expensive option when compared to a party filled with dozens of hungry teenagers!
4. Have a pool party. If your teen is turning 16 in the middle of summer— or if you can rent an indoor swimming facility nearby— then you can’t go wrong with a pool party! A Hawaiian or beach party theme adds another element of festivity to a pool party, and many decorations following this theme can be purchased easily at a dollar store. Giant, fun pool rafts are also a big seller right now— from unicorns to flamingos to floating pizza slices— so make sure you have one or two on hand for guests to lounge on!
5. Have a “Remember when?” nostalgia party. Sixteen isn’t old by any means— but the days when your baby was actually a baby are long gone! On their 16th birthday, take a walk down memory lane by watching a marathon of home movies and looking back through your library of family photos. You can also ask family members to share their favorite memories of the birthday teen.
6. Go on a mini getaway. Most birthday budgets don’t allow for a “bucket list”-type vacation across the globe— but you can give your teen a mini getaway to celebrate their birthday in an out-of-the-ordinary way. Bring some family members, or a few of your teen’s closest friends, and book into a local hotel for a night. Order room service, hit the pool, and visit the spa. A mini getaway is a special birthday treat and a great alternative to the traditional birthday party.
7. Stage a mystery party. You don’t have to be an amateur sleuth or budding actor to enjoy a mystery party! Based around a script where guests play characters, mystery parties are entertaining in more ways than one. Not only do your teenager and friends get to work together to solve the mystery, they can also dress up in costume, role play their parts, and bring their own props. My Mystery Party even offers teen mystery party boxes ready to go. Mystery parties are a picture-perfect activity your teen will spend the night Instagramming!
8. Have a gaming marathon. If your teenager is a video game junkie, feed their hobby a little bit this Sweet 16 by getting friends together for a gaming marathon. Whether they’re playing the hottest games of today, or going retro with old school systems, your teen may love the opportunity to plug in and veg out— for, say, 16 hours of gaming goodness!
9. Build a bonfire. Light up the night with a celebratory bonfire. A laidback option, a bonfire lets friends and family gather around to roast hotdogs and marshmallows together. Teenage parties involve a lot of hanging out, and a casual group gathering around the backyard fire pit is a cool way to accomplish your birthday celebration. But safety first: keep a fire extinguisher on hand just in case!
10. Go Go-Kart racing! Even at the legal driving age of 16, you may not be ready to let your teenager on the road just yet! Plan a fun way to get them behind the wheel without the worry by taking them Go-Kart racing for their sixteenth birthday. A classic but still popular pastime, Go-Kart racing is an apt birthday activity for an up-and-coming teen driver.
11. Visit the amusement park. Is your teen a thrill-seeker? Set them loose in an amusement park! Whether they enjoy riding roller coasters, eating the concessions, or playing arcade games, there will be no shortage of things to do when your teen and friends spend Sweet 16 at an amusement park. Not sure which park is the best? TripSavvy will help you locate great theme parks and amusement parks by state.
12. Go to a concert. For music-loving teens, going to a concert may be the perfect birthday gift. Is their favorite artist going on tour? Can you find a local music festival being held on their actual birthday? Get tickets and take in some live music for their Sweet 16! If no concert venues are taking place around your teen’s birthday, a quick alternative is a backyard “concert”: hire a live band, or set up the karaoke machine so teens can belt out their own hits!
13. Plan a “favorite” party. Does your teen have a book, movie, decade, hobby, etc., that is their absolute favorite? Plan a party around it! Guests can come dressed as characters from the book or in the style of the decade. Decorations, music, and even food can be tailored to suit the theme. Celebrate your teen’s big day by turning it into an homage to their unique “favorite” thing, whatever that may be!
14. Break out of an Escape Room! Escape Rooms are a hot trend in the retail-entertainment industry, and they just seem to keep growing in popularity! With the help of family and friends, willing participants are locked into a room and must complete various puzzles or solve clues in order to beat the clock and unlock the door! There are plenty of Escape Room themes to choose from, from crime scene investigations, to Sherlock Holmes’ plots, to “rescue missions” and many more! With over 2,800 Escape Rooms worldwide, a quick Google search should help you find the Room closest to you.
15. Start a Cake War. Skip the birthday cake-baking for Sweet 16 and let your teen do the work! In the style of the many cooking competitions on TV, let your teen and their friends have a bake-off. Fill your kitchen with go-to ingredients, then let the teams of cooks bake their cake of choice, decorate it, and offer it up to a panel of “judges” before everyone digs in to enjoy. It may get messy, but it will be totally memorable!
16. Play Laser Tag (or Paintball). Laser Tag and/or Paintball is an awesome idea for an active 16th birthday. Teenagers can be occupied for hours with these activities, and will be ready for lots of easy, greasy party food (think pizza and fries) when they finish. Most facilities for these events also offer a party room where you can eat and open gifts, so you’ll get the full party package when you make your booking.
Whichever way you choose to celebrate, make your teen’s Sweet 16 a sweet event! Which celebration idea is your favorite?