Birthday Theme Ideas for an 18th Birthday Party

18th birthday party balloons

Coming up with ideas for an 18th birthday party can be difficult. After all, most 18-year-olds are a little too mature for many of the typical younger teen party activities. Get a range of ideas to help make this milestone birthday one that your teen will never forget.

Memorable 18th Birthday Bashes

An 18th birthday is almost as big a deal for most parents as it is for their teens. Whether or not you mark every birthday with a party, an 18th birthday deserves some special recognition. However, what qualifies as special should really be up to your teen to decide. Have a realistic discussion about your party budget, and then start brainstorming ideas together to find out what the birthday boy or girl really wants. Also keep in mind that you don't have choreograph every single party activity for this age group. Older teens often like to just hang out with each other. Here are some themes and ideas to consider.

Attend a Concert

If your teen is into music, attending a concert could be a great way to celebrate his or her birthday.

  • Take a look at upcoming concerts near your town, and let your teen pick a band he or she would love to see. It doesn't have to be on the actual birthday, but it's nice if it's sometime around that date.
  • Buy several tickets so your teen can ask a few close friends to come along.
  • Let them have a night of fun on their own.

Attend a Sporting Event

If your teen loves sports like hockey, basketball, baseball or football, make this the centerpiece of the celebration.

  • Purchase group tickets to a local professional, college or amateur sports game.
  • Give your teen a piece of memorabilia from his or her favorite team as a gift.
  • Have the birthday cake made in the shape of a basketball, baseball, hockey stick or whatever is appropriate.

Amusement Park Trip

Teens on a ferris wheel

An all-day event at a water park or theme park can be tons of fun for your teen and his/her friends.

  • Make sure anyone invited understands the costs involved (paying for tickets/food/souvenirs) and what you are providing.
  • Have your teen select which park he/she would like to visit.
  • Organize transportation so everyone has a ride.

Co-Ed Party

Letting your teen host a co-ed party can be a perfect 18th birthday party idea.

  • Consider throwing a parent-approved, co-ed slumber party.
  • Alternatively, your teen may prefer a huge dance party at a rented banquet hall.
  • Make sure the parents of invited kids understand the party will be for both sexes, and make sure you provide just enough supervision to keep from cramping your teen's style.

Paint Ball Party

For some good, competitive fun, you just can't beat paint ball.

  • Find a local paint ball field or arena and schedule your party date and time.
  • Invite enough of your teen's friends to have two teams to compete against each other.
  • Ask ahead of time if you can bring food and drinks to the facility. If you can't, plan to serve them at home before or after the match.

Bonfire

You might need a special permit to build a bonfire depending on where you hold the party, but a nighttime bonfire can lead to a really great time.

  • Ask your local fire department for help assembling a safe bonfire.
  • Consider making this an overnight party and rent or borrow tents for your guests to sleep in.
  • Plan to barbecue for dinner, and have plenty of beverages.
  • Also plan to cook a hearty breakfast for everyone before you send them home the next morning.

Humans versus Zombies

Does your teen enjoy fantasy role-playing? If so, a Humans versus Zombies theme party could be a blast. This modified game of tag pits a few zombies against the rest of the humans. When the humans are caught, they turn into zombies, and so it goes until everyone becomes a zombie. This activity is actually a huge hit on college campuses, so it's perfect for this age group.

Teen and zombie pals
  • Plan to provide face paint so your guests can transform themselves into zombies.
  • Make everyone aware of the party's boundaries so they don't frighten your neighbors unnecessarily, and do let your neighbors know about your party plans so they know when and what to expect.
  • Afterwards, everyone can partake in some good food and dancing.

Rise Above It All

The idea of this theme is to do something extraordinary and decidedly ungrounded. Whichever activity you choose, you can organize it just for your teen and a few best friends, or you could book rides for a larger party if that's in your budget.

  • Consider scheduling a hot air balloon ride.
  • Take a ride in a helicopter to see some of the main attractions of your town from the sky.
  • After the main event is over, everyone can meet back at your place for food, dancing and fun.

Weekend Adventure Party

If your teen is the athletic or adventurous type, a weekend of adventure could be just the ticket. More than just a party, this event could become a real rite of passage.

  • Book a white water rafting excursion.
  • Take a canoe trip.
  • Schedule a sky-diving lesson.

Safety is paramount to this kind of party, so be sure to use professional guides/instructors who know their territory and are prepared with all the equipment you'll need.

Economical Ideas for an 18th Birthday Party

Not everyone can afford to rent a hall or take kids to an amusement park for an 18th birthday party. However, that doesn't mean you can't still host a memorable party for your child. Here are a few ideas for low-cost parties that can still turn out to be terrific fun.

Pool Party

If your teen has a summer birthday, think about throwing a pool party.

  • Host a backyard barbeque and let the teens enjoy the sunny summer day.
  • Plan to play your teen's favorite music CDs.
  • If you have the space, set up some backyard activities like volleyball, badminton and croquet. That way everyone has something fun to do besides swim.

Luau

Teen doing the hula

Luaus are always fun, and you can find tons of decorations and theme supplies at your local party store.

  • Set up tiki torches around your backyard.
  • Give everyone grass skirts and leis.
  • Roll out bamboo mats on the ground so everyone can dine Hawaiian-style, and make sure there is plenty of pineapple cake for everyone to enjoy.
  • Do the limbo and the hula, and play some Hawaiian music for atmosphere.

Toga Party

Toga parties have never really gone out of favor ever since Animal House made them so famous. They seem to be the standard for a rollicking good time.

  • You can set up a banquet table complete with grapes and sparkling juices, as well as an assortment of delicious hors d'oeuvres.
  • Let your teen choose the dance music and any other activities he or she would like to incorporate for a good time.
  • Pick up some extra sheets from your local thrift store to have on hand for anyone who doesn't come dressed in their own toga.

Mocktail Party

A mock cocktail party just might be perfect for the teen who desperately wants to be an adult!

  • Make hors d'oeuvres and serve non-alcoholic versions of drinks like daiquiris and pina coladas.
  • You can purchase plastic cocktail glasses, stirrers, cocktail napkins and those cute little paper umbrellas from almost any party supply store to make everything seem more authentic.
  • Ask your teen for suggestions about which kind of music to play.

Dinner and a Movie with Friends

Simply giving your teen the funds to go out to dinner and a movie with some good friends can turn out to be a great birthday night. You can always have a separate family celebration with your teenager at another time.

  • Let your teen choose the movie and the restaurant.
  • Purchase tickets ahead of time for each guest who RSVPs. Plan to provide cash to purchase tickets for teens who forget to RSVP and show up anyway.
  • Set a realistic dinner budget based on average prices from the restaurant your teen selects, and give him or her enough cash to cover it. You might also consider providing the dinner at your home to keep costs in line, but make yourself scarce once dinner is served.

Get Your Teen's Input

Turning 18 is your teen's entry into adulthood, and that means your days of being in charge of all the party planning are over. Talk to your teen about how he or she envisions spending this very important birthday, and then find a party theme to match.

Birthday Theme Ideas for an 18th Birthday Party