Congratulations, you were fortunate enough to be born in one of the warmer months. With this great privilege that you didn’t ask for comes great responsibility - now you have to plan a birthday celebration outdoors. And since birthdays are one of the only times you get to tell your friends how to party, we want to help ensure that it’s great. Whether you’re hoping for a big group hang with 30 of your closest friends, or a dinner with four of them in a nice backyard, use this guide to find your ideal summer birthday situation.
If you resent people who insist on observing their “birthday week” or “birthday month,” but you’d also love to have your friends meet you on Nantucket (even if you’ve never been to Nantucket) for a long weekend, Cape House is a good compromise. The outdoor seafood shack between Bushwick and East Williamsburg has picnic tables, cocktails on tap, lots of wine and beer options, and everything from a raw bar to fish and chips. Plus, they’ll likely be playing Mos Def two notches louder than they need to, which makes it a great option for outdoor drinking with a big group.
Saraghina is great if you want a sit-down dinner outside that’s intimate enough to hear your friends shower you with birthday compliments and affection. This mostly-pizza place is relaxed about special requests (Keira really likes the pizza that comes with spicy salami but she’s a vegetarian so she needs it on the side), they’re fine with you hanging out for a while at your table, and everything is shareable. As a bonus, you can bring your crew to Bar Lunatico across the street after dinner. You can see it from Saraghina’s door, and they have live music and another great back patio.
Think of that time you went to a birthday party at a German beer garden in Manhattan. Okay now stop. Unless Tim’s 30th was at Loreley, he was doing it wrong (sorry, Tim). Make an early (and free) reservation for their inside beer hall and they’ll let you move outside if there’s space. There’s also a private lounge inside where you can take over the aux cord and play Rihanna’s album “Good Girl Gone Bad” on repeat just like you do at home.
Having a birthday party at Night Of Joy is a good idea any time of the year, but the big rooftop makes it an excellent choice during the summer. And, when it inevitably gets too sweaty, you can always cool off downstairs, where they happen to have antique furniture but modern air conditioning. Night Of Joy works for a birthday celebration with a bunch of people, especially if you get there early enough beat the crowds, find a table, and take advantage of Happy Hour, when cocktails are $6 and beers are $4.
If your birthday party requirements involve drinking on top of a building in Manhattan while the sun is high in the sky, this rooftop bar at the Thompson Hotel on the LES is for you. It gets crowded on the weekends, so we’d recommend showing up on the early side to enjoy things like beer slushies, Japanese street snacks, and ping pong. Plus, there are plenty of tables in the shade for when it gets to hour three of the party and you’ve ended up drunkenly ordering sashimi and a Kirin popsicle.
If it weren’t for the excellent burger and the patio space, Royale would just be another East Village sports bar where people watch sweaty men on TV screens. But those two factors make Royale a good place to spend an afternoon or evening outside, especially for a low- maintenance birthday. The backyard doesn’t get too rowdy, the burger is consistently great, and the pickle backs come with a piece of bacon.
If you look really closely at a map of Williamsburg, you’ll see a tiny corner called Little East Village, only it’ll be spelled Freehold. Despite being every bit as post-collegey as that Manhattan neighborhood, Freehold is still a great outdoor spot for a (rowdier) birthday. There’s a little balcony area above the giant backyard bar, which is available for rent if you’d like to make things feel more like your personal party kingdom while still being able to look out at the peasant activity below.
Sycamore has a great garden backyard with string lights, a bunch of picnic tables, and some pine trees (possibly the only ones in NYC when it’s not Christmas). The front of this bar is a fully-operating flower shop during the day, which is both adorable and useless. Come day or night, bring a pizza if you want, and it’ll feel like your own personal oasis in Ditmars Park.
If you’re planning an outdoor birthday uptown for more friends than Aunt Nancy has in her entire Facebook network, you might as well automatically default to Harlem Tavern. The food is better than your average bar food (with a solid burger), but the reason to come here is the giant front patio. They do a bunch of different open-bar price packages (that start at $30 per person for beer and wine for two hours) as long as you have a minimum of 10 people.
Sally Roots is one of our favorite places in Bushwick that’s a good compromise between a high-key and low-key birthday celebration. There’s loud music, a fun, outdoor atmosphere, and tropical cocktails with lots of rum in them, but the main appeal is that you’ll get to have a great meal with the people who know about your unfortunate middle name. The food itself is Caribbean (we like the tostones and pork main the best) and everything is pretty affordable. They’ll let you make a reservation if you’re five or more.
Maybe you want to relive your high school glory days, what with being secretary of debate club and captain of JV basketball and all. Maybe you’re just not into small talk - even at your own party with people you theoretically enjoy. Regardless of your reasons for enjoying activities, Greenwood Park is an ideal spot for a large birthday party outside that might as well come with a printed schedule of events. This South Slope beer garden has bocce courts and enough space to conceivably play a game of hide and-seek. There’s also some solid bar food, a quaint string-light setup, and plenty of picnic tables for when you bocce too hard.
Roberta’s has nearly twice as much picnic table seating on their giant patio as they do in the actual restaurant. If the host tells you it’ll be a three-hour wait for your party of six, walk down the block to their takeaway spot, order from a menu that has almost all of the same pizzas, and bring them back to the patio. The outdoor space has its own bar and the atmosphere feels like a park where everyone eats the same, excellent Neapolitan-style pizza.
Even if you invite all of your office friends, their significant others, and the people you talk to from high school (granted, it’s not that many), you can still have a not-crowded group party outside at Lavender Lake. They have a bunch of picnic tables with umbrellas and you can even bring your dog. When it gets to the point in the party when you want a snack, make sure to order several orders of brussels sprouts.
Diamond Reef understands that any good summer birthday party requires great music, alcoholic slushies with umbrellas in them, an indoor-outdoor space (because people get antsy and sweaty), and string lights that come on once it gets dark. They also have a food truck on the patio where you can get grilled skewers to go with your cocktails. The backyard at this Bed-Stuy spot is one of our favorite places for a group hang in the summer.
Nowadays is a giant indoor/outdoor bar in Bushwick that almost always feels like a communal birthday party. And you’d do well to use their weekly dance party called Mister Sunday as a no-planning-necessary celebration. The crowd is a good mix of younger people, older people, kids, and dogs, the DJs only play vinyl, and there are strictly enforced no-cell-phone rules under the disco ball on the dance floor inside. If you can think of a better way to spend a summer birthday on a Sunday, please send us a text invitation.
If you want a big outside space with food that’s actually enjoyable, Extra Fancy is just about the best you can do in Williamsburg. The seafood at Extra Fancy is good all year, but this place is at its best in the summer, when they have their big back patio set up. They stay open late and their lobster bisque fries will make you want to throw your cake away and stick a candle in them instead.
The Jeffrey was the spot for a big outdoor birthday when it opened in 2014 and we feel confident that it will remain useful as long as people are into drinking beer (specifically the craft variety) outside in the sun. This is a good choice for a relaxed birthday hang, especially for the neighborhood (Midtown-adjacent).
Azul is one of the less-sceney, more tolerable rooftops in Lower Manhattan. So invite a bunch of friends to hang out on some couches while you drink Cuban-ish cocktails and look out at the Hudson. Azul is especially good for a day-drinking event, or for a Sunday night party, when they have a live Cuban band playing. Alternative birthday plan: tell people to show up on a Monday when they screen movies as the sun sets.
Sugar Freak feels like a New Orleans-themed party, with lots of big groups drinking strong draft cocktails and sharing crawfish boils in a loud space with beads hanging from the light fixtures. The party doesn’t quite spill into the streets like in New Orleans, but they do have a bunch of picnic tables in a big seating area on the sidewalk out front.