Milestone birthdays call for major celebrations! Whether you’re going all out for a 21st or honoring a loved one’s 50th, “Birthdays by the Ages” shares the best tips for celebrating some of life’s biggest moments. 

Forty is a milestone birthday. You’ve navigated the calamitous years of your 20s, accomplished much in your 30s, and now? Hello, wisdom.  

Here are 40 unique ways to ring in an exciting start to an exciting new chapter of your life, along with a few helpful tips for planning your birthday bash. 

Try something completely new 

What better way to start a new decade of life than with something new? Try one or all of these things on your special day. 

Two women laughing
  1. Learn a new skill
    Music, baking, underwater basket weaving…your options are endless! 
  2. Take a new class
    Remember how you’ve always wanted to learn how to make homemade pasta? 
  3. Start a new workout routine
    Try something different to get your 40s off to a healthy start. 
  4. Try a new cuisine
    Opt for something you’ve never had in the past. 
  5. Read a new book
    How about that book you’ve thought about reading for the last year? 

Revisit something timeless 

Sometimes classic is best, or what was once great is still great now. Whether it’s sticking to something you enjoy, or taking a (literal) trip down memory lane, consider a timeless celebration for your 40th.  

  1. Visit your old neighborhood
    No matter how much changes, it’s always the place where you grew up. 
  2. Recreate a past birthday celebration
    Was that three-mile brewery tour loads of fun a couple years ago? Why not organize Part II? 
  3. Follow your tried-and-true birthday routine
    If you celebrate every birthday in a particular way, it’s okay to stick to routine.  
  4. Laugh with old friends
    Either gather safely or connect virtually for all the old laughs. 
  5. Watch your favorite movie
    Turn on that one movie that never gets old. 

Throw the best virtual celebration ever 

40th birthday cake

You can still have plenty of fun with a virtual event. Keep in mind that milestone birthdays can be even more festive when you choose a creative theme. So, pull out those themed Zoom backgrounds and give these activities a try! 

  1. Play virtual games
    Gather your crew and deal the cards. Or maybe charades? How about hours’ worth of fun with something like Jackbox?  
  2. Share a virtual meal
    Either order from the same place or virtually cook together. 
  3. Get the entire family online
    There’s no better way to celebrate than with family, and a virtual meetup can allow the whole family to celebrate with you from anywhere and everywhere.  
  4. Create your own movie riff track
    Watch a movie together and create the best commentary ever. 
  5. Play trivia
    Any form of trivia works here, but since it’s your birthday, you can always test how much people know about you… 

Let food take the wheel 

Everything’s better with food. “Make sure you have a fun inspired menu with signature cocktails that are personalized to the birthday person,” says Margaret Lee, Director of Catering at Butterfield Country Club. Time for margaritas in your honor, or try one of these food-inspired activities! 

Friends celebrating a birthday
  1. Cook your favorite meal
    You deserve your favorite meal on your special day.  
  2. Cook something you’ve never cooked before
    Of course, you can always experiment with new cuisine. 
  3. Let someone else do the work
    Better yet, let someone else cook amazing things for you? 
  4. Hire a private chef
    For ultimate birthday luxury, hire yourself an incredible private chef
  5. Create by proximity
    Time to experiment based on whatever’s in your fridge. Ready, set, go!

Make sure you have a fun inspired menu with signature cocktails that are personalized to the birthday person.

Margaret Lee

Director of Catering

Butterfield Country Club

Go full-on traditionalist 

Itching for an uber-traditional celebration? Find it with these OG birthday activities. 

  1. Craft your own birthday hats
    Get artsy and make your own birthday attire. 
  2. Enjoy the atonality of your fam’s “Happy Birthday” rendition
    It might sound terrible but…they mean well? 
  3. Bake a massive birthday cake
    Gather some inspiration from The Great British Bake Off and get baking yourself. 
  4. Buy a massive birthday cake
    Or, like cooking, allow someone else to bake you an amazing cake. 
  5. Have a desserts-only party
    Channel your inner-sugar enthusiast and provide guests with a smorgasbord of desserts and other treats. 

Incorporate the number 40 as much as possible 

40th Birthday pinata and decorations

You’re turning 40, right? Why not celebrate this special occasion as much as you can?  

  1. Share your 40 favorite memories
    And get ready to make a ton more! 
  2. Do 40 different “things” on your special day
    This might require some pre-planning, but you can do it. Use this list for starters! 
  3. Blow out 40 candles
    Forget the simple 4-0, go all out with 40 individual candles! 
  4. Add 40 items to your bucket list
    What else are you itching to do in your life? 
  5. Plan 40 vacations for your next 40 years
    At least one per year – you won’t regret planning this out! 

Relax to the extreme 

Kick back in the best of ways with these party ideas. And speaking of relaxation – if you’re planning your own shindig, Margaret says, “You’ll end up doing a lot of multi-tasking and tweaks the day of, so remain calm and focused.” Same goes for planning. Stay organized and you’ll thank yourself come celebration day. 

Woman working out on beach
  1. Catch some sun by the pool
    Total rays and relaxation. 
  2. Treat yourself to a spa day
    Massages, facials, a mani-pedi. Relax and unwind because you deserve it. 
  3. See a movie in theaters
    Maybe the quiet of a dark room and giant movie screen is just what you need. 
  4. Hike your favorite nature trail
    Enjoy nature and work up that appetite for a giant slice of birthday cake.  
  5. Kick back in a hammock
    There’s nothing more relaxing than time in a hammock. Seriously. 

Celebrate you 

On your birthday, you are the most important person in the world. Enjoy the day for what it really is – a celebration of your amazing self. Embrace any of these ideas to get started! 

  1. Wake up when you want
    Early riser? Sure. Sleeping in? Go for it. 
  2. Eat what you want
    Whether it’s you cooking or someone else, forgo limitations on this day. 
  3. Do what you want
    Maybe you don’t want to do 40 different things, maybe you do. Either way, YOU is the keyword here. 
  4. Think how you want
    Keep those work-related “stress thoughts” away. 
  5. Celebrate how you want
    It’s worth repeating: this is your day and your celebration. Cheers! 

There you have it – 40 unique ways to celebrate the start of an incredible new decade of your life. We hope these ideas and party-planning tips have left you with tons of inspiration for your own celebration, no matter what you do. Just start with the basic pillars of a party, theme it out if you’re feeling creative, and flaunt those organizational skills. Above all, make sure to enjoy yourself and this milestone year. Happy 40th

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Joe Wolff is a novelist and blogger focusing on education, employment, and the service industry. His first book, "Temporium," released in 2019.

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