20 13th Birthday Party Ideas to Ring in the Teen Years

From spy museums to slumber parties

13th-birthday-party-ideas: a group of friends surrounding a birthday cake.
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The day your kid becomes a full-fledged teenager is a major milestone (even if they’ve been acting like one for what feels like years). As such, the occasion should be celebrated in style. But what makes for the perfect party, you ask? We’ve rounded up a wide range of 13th birthday party ideas that will suit the unique interests of pretty much any teen, whether they’re more into slumber parties, museum visits or well, anything that gets their cringe parents to leave them alone (or at least hang out a safe distance away from their friends).  

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13th-birthday-party-ideas: kids holding homemade pizzas.
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1. Pizza Party

This teen-friendly food has potential to be the main event. Sign up for a virtual pizza-making class that invitees can participate in for a hands-on activity with guided instruction, or hit up your local pizza joint and ask to buy some dough for a freestyle format that provides kids with a ready-made canvas for their edible creations. (I do the latter option regularly with my kids, and I promise it’s a lot of fun and not too chaotic or complicated.) Just make sure you supply a wide variety of toppings, and the kids will take care of the rest.

13th-birthday-party-ideas: kids making ice cream sundaes.
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2. Make Your Own-Sundae Party

Similar to the pizza party idea, this one involves kids making their own very decadent birthday sundaes. It’s an ideal substitute for kids who want an alternative to birthday cake with a hands-on component. Get your soon-to-be-teen in on the party planning by taking them to the grocery store to pick out a range of toppings, from the traditional to the totally off-the-wall. (Hey, maybe crumbled Cool Ranch Doritos complement Cherry Garcia surprisingly well?)

13th-birthday-party-ideas: kids playing in sleeping bags.
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3. Slumber Party

An oldie-but-goodie, you can’t go wrong with a sleepover. Have some board games set out, order delivery for dinner, give ‘em (relatively) free reign over the TV and let the fun unfold.

13th-birthday-party-ideas: kids in a movie theater.
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4. Movie Night

Maybe your 13-year-old is ready to be initiated into the world of cheesy horror movies (Child’s Play, anyone?) or maybe it’s more of a rom-com vibe. Either way, keep the snacks coming and, weather permitting, definitely consider making it an outdoor viewing by setting up a projector screen in the backyard for an extra special touch.

13th-birthday-party-ideas: disco balls.
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5. Dance Party

If music is important to your newly minted teen, lean into the Taylor Swift obsession and allow a gaggle of Swifties to descend upon your home. Or whatever band or artist your kid’s into. (I’d vote for disco balls and a playlist that features ABBA and Blondie, but the guest of honor should call the shots.)

13th-birthday-party-ideas: kids having a picnic.
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6. Picnic Party

Stake out a patch of grass in a local park and bring some good eats—if there’s a market near you with top-notch prepared foods, I highly recommend saving yourself the hassle of whipping up the picnic spread at home. Bring some supplies to encourage outdoor recreation (kites, soccer balls, frisbees, what have you) and then kick back and relax while the kids have a blast in the sunshine and fresh air.

13th-birthday-party-ideas: teenagers relaxing in a hotel.
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7. Hotel Sleepover

If you’re willing to pony up the cash, this birthday party idea adds a whole new level of excitement to the classic slumber party. The kids can use the hotel pool, enjoy the novelty of ordering room service and cozy up in their suite with an On-Demand movie. Obviously for budgeting reasons and to allow real QT to happen amongst the invitees, this one is best reserved for small groups of besties. (Think: One large suite or two adjoining rooms for a group of four or five.)

13th-birthday-party-ideas: a group of teenagers putting on face masks.
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8. Spa Party

When it comes to throwing a spa party for your teen, there are options to suit any budget. You can either allow the birthday girl to take two or three friends to a fancy spa and choose one or two treatments each; or, for a more cost-effective birthday party, have the invitees whip up some DIY spa treatments. Then, provide some inexpensive robes and let them do their thing. Maybe it will start with makeup tutorials and nail painting and then proceed to homemade face masks.

13th-birthday-party-ideas: a group of kids putting on bowling shoes.
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9. Bowling

We’ve waxed poetic about bowling more than once, and the consensus remains the same: Bowling is a truly awesome indoor activity that’s incredibly fun, not at all competitive and very conducive to socializing. In fact, the turn-taking involved in bowling basically eliminates any awkwardness at a party where friends from different social groups are brought together and meeting for the first time. Plus, you don’t have to go elsewhere for some teen-friendly food and there’s no mess to clean up when the party's over.

13th-birthday-party-ideas: a group of kids playing in a arcade.
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10. Arcade

Calling all gamers. This tried-and-true teen party idea is full of nostalgia and a ton of fun, too. Best of all, there’s little organizing or planning required, since the kids will all just spread out and game to their heart’s content until it’s time for cake. And the fact that every kid can redeem their tickets for a prize at the end means you don’t have to bother with goody bags. (Genius, right?)

13th-birthday-party-ideas: kids playing laser tag.
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11. Laser Tag

Another beloved pastime that’s stuck around (and still just as fun as you remember from your youth)—laser tag is one of the best 13th birthday party ideas because it appeals to pretty much every kid and involves the kind of teamwork that brings guests together without any need to come up with icebreakers to get the party started.

13th-birthday-party-ideas: a roller coaster.
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12. Amusement Park

Amusement parks can be pricey, so this is one of those 13th birthday party ideas that’s best reserved for a small group of tight-knit friends. That said, it’s a celebration that the birthday kid and their chosen company are bound to remember for years to come—namely because the thrills are big, and the adrenaline rush is euphoric.

13th-birthday-party-ideas: a group of teenagers on a beach.
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13. Beach Day

If you’re planning a summer party, the beach is a no-brainer. Set up a food table in the sand and have the guests bring their own beach chair (though you still might want to have a couple extra handy). Then, let the sunshine and ocean take care of the rest. Bonus points if you find a beach that allows for a small camp stove cookout, or even an evening bonfire for later in the day; otherwise, deli sandwiches should do the trick.

13th-birthday-party-ideas: a teenage girl at a roller rink.
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14. Roller Rink

Here, a throwback idea that’s perfect for a retro themed decades party and equally fun with no frills needed. Pay for the skate rentals and let ‘em loose for an energetic that encourages physical activity and comes with built-in party vibes, thanks to the lively atmosphere.

13th-birthday-party-ideas: kids jumping in a pool.
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15. Pool Party

Pool parties are a summer birthday classic that have stood the test of time and make a whole lot of sense as an outdoor party that beats the heat—provided you (or a close friend who’s willing to host) have a pool in the backyard, that is. All you have to do is fire up the grill for hamburgers and hot dogs while the revelers cool off in the water with some of our favorite pool games for kids. (Psst: You can find some other pool party planning tips here.)

13th-birthday-party-ideas: the outside of an escape room.
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16. Escape Room Party

Whether it’s a virtual party that brings together far-flung friends (a great idea if you’ve recently moved), or an in-person event, escape room parties are an amazing choice for a mentally stimulating and teambuilding activity that involves the thrill of solving puzzles with your besties in a race against the clock. If you go to a physical space for the experience, inquire into party rates and accommodations; many escape room venues have a backroom where the guests can enjoy cake and food after the challenge is over, so the whole celebration can be held in just one place.

13th-birthday-party-ideas: kids having a scavenger hunt in the woods.
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17. Scavenger Hunt

Growing up, my best friend from elementary school through middle school threw the coolest birthday parties—namely because every year her parents would organize an extremely elaborate scavenger hunt that allowed us to set off in groups, prowling the suburban neighborhood where I lived and the nearby canyon for clues. Prepare the hunt ahead, assign chaperones for the groups and let the race begin. Bottom line: This is a perfect main event for a budget-friendly birthday party with a longer guest list.

13th-birthday-party-ideas: friends eating food with each other.
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18. Dinner Party

Have your soon-to-be-teen plan the menu for a home-cooked meal, choose a favorite takeout joint or pick a beloved restaurant where you can make a reservation for a small group. However you go about it, a dinner party is a classic way to bring friends together for fun, conversation and, of course, good food. I recommend also having some card and board games at the ready for once the dishes have been cleared.

13th-birthday-party-ideas: a family have a bbq.
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19. Backyard BBQ

Summer is here, and your kid has a gaggle of friends who are just dying to descend on your backyard. Have a late afternoon or evening outdoor party that features excellent summer cookout food straight from the grill, classic BBQ sides and some easy lawn games to keep the good times rolling.

13th-birthday-party-ideas: the spyscape museum.
Courtesy of Spyscape

20. Interactive Museum Party

SPYSCAPE, Museum of Illusions and the Museum of Ice Cream are just a few of my favorite novelty museums with interactive exhibits that appeal to teens. (Yes, I have visited them all.) SPYSCAPE and Museum of Illusions are under-the-radar educational opportunities, but they’re so fun-packed that kids will be totally fascinated by the learning. As for the Museum of Ice Cream, it’s less of a museum and more of a nonstop ice cream binge—guests can enjoy unlimited scoops, pops and soft serve at the museum’s various stations during their visit—with a huge sprinkle pit and exhilarating tube slide, among other things, so it definitely fits the birthday party bill. (Note: SPYSCAPE is only for folks in and around NYC right now, but the Museum of Ice Cream and the Museum of Illusions have locations in major cities across the country.)

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