21 Sober Things to Do on Your 21st Birthday

By Kayla M. Burson on October 22, 2012
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Via flickr.com; uploaded by Martyn Wright

Friday is my 21st birthday, and just like everyone else, I have been waiting for this day with great anticipation for a very long time.  But a major difference between me and most 21 year olds to be?  I don’t drink.  I am one college student of the small 20% of students who don’t drink.  Most students don’t understand me when they offer me a beer and I reply, “No thanks, I don’t drink.”  They think they must have heard wrong.  In order to stop the constant questions and peer pressure I would often bring a bottle full of water with me to parties which people assumed was Vodka (I was a champ when it came to taking shots!).  Or I would tell people I was allergic, to which the common reply was “Damn that sucks!” Or I would tell them that I was the designated driver that night (which I usually was).  But this week being my 21st birthday, it will be much more difficult to use any of my general excuses.  The truth is, I just don’t like it—it tastes like rubbing alcohol, it gives me a headache, and I don’t like feeling dizzy and nauseated when I’m just sitting.  So, I’ve decided to compile a list of 21 sober things I can do on my 21st birthday and still have just as much fun as everyone else (maybe more because I won’t have my head in the toilet bowl all night long).  So, if you are another non-drinker, or maybe just in the midst of your sports season as your 21st birthday rolls around, here are some things that you can do and still have a TON of fun!

1)      Go to a Casino.  Drinking isn’t the only thing for which you are now legal.  Press your luck and play the slots or roulette at Mohegan Sun or Foxwoods.

2)      Go to a Bar/Club.  Yes, this article is about sober things, but you don’t have to drink!  It’s the thrill that you can show your ID and enter the bar/club.  Go with some friends who understand that you don’t want to/can’t drink and just hang out, meet new people, and dance!

3)      Have a Mocktail Party.  Invite all your friends and make fun fruity non-alcoholic drinks like virgin strawberry daiquiris and piña coladas.  Crystal light now sells mocktail mixes—just add water to get the party started!

4)      Play Drinking Games.  You don’t have to drink to find drinking games fun.  Get everyone a bottle of water, or use your mocktails from the party, and learn about each other through games like ‘Never Have I Ever’ or just get competitive with Beer Pong/Beirut or Kings.

5)      Be a Party People Watcher.  I have had fun at many parties people watching and seeing how all of the drunk people make complete fools of themselves.  Bring your camera and take lots of pictures and videos to post on facebook the next day.  Your friends will love you for it!

6)      Go on a Road Trip.  Mom can’t really stop you now, so if there is somewhere you want to go, then go!  You can even rent a car from Hertz because they have just removed their under 25 young renters fee, so it is even more reasonably priced!

7)      Rent a Hotel Room.  Typically, many hotels will have an age requirement of 21 to book with them, especially many nicer, upscale hotels.  Get together three or four friends and have a sleepover in a new destination you want to explore!

8)      Get a CDL License.  Now that you are 21 you can get your commercial driver’s license.  Make a little extra money over the summer and drive trucks part-time to help work your way through college.

9)      Buy Yourself a New Toy.  Since you aren’t spending upwards of $10 per drink, use that extra money to buy yourself something fun, like a new outfit or gadget.

10)   Have Your Friends Buy You a New Toy.  Since your friends won’t have to be buying you drinks all night, ask them to chip in their money for something that you really want instead.

11)   Supervise a Learner Driver.  You are now old enough to sit in the car with a learning driver, so go ahead, and teach them how follow ALL of the rules of the road, just like you…

12)   Go Sky-Diving.  Your friends may think you aren’t fun if you don’t drink, but show them how you are actually much more fun and braver than they are by going sky-diving.  You can always check Livingsocial and Groupon for great deals!

13)   Go White Water Rafting.  If sky-diving is a little too intense for you, you could try white-water rafting.  All your friends will be jealous that all they did was go to a bar on their 21st

14)   Get High on a Hot-Air Balloon Ride.  Not even alcohol can get you as high as a hot-air balloon ride!

15)   Make a Movie about Turning 21.  I was going to say watch a movie about turning 21, but I honestly cannot think of or find any that exist.  If you know any, suggest them in the comments below, but otherwise, make your own!  Use your friends to record what a 21st birthday should look like (drinking or not!).  You can use idea number four on this list for inspiration.

16)   Make a Photo Book of Your Life so Far.  Turning 21 is a huge milestone.  You have lived for over two decades, graduated high school, and you’re most likely about to graduate college.  You will always want to remember when you were able to see your hot self in the mirror without putting on your glasses (sadly my vision prevents me from doing that unless I’m an inch away from the mirror), but remember the best years of your life by using shutterfly or snapfish to make a photo book of your life so far.

17)   Write a Story.  You have now lived long enough to have had real meaningful experiences.  Share your wisdom with the rest of the world in an article, a blog, or even just a word document that you share with family and friends because they might actually learn something from you for a change.

18)   Reinvent Yourself.  If you want a new look or wardrobe, this is the time.  In two years or less you will be in the “real” world with a “real” job and a “real” life.  You will be meeting new people and really learning what you can achieve, so make your look reflect how you feel as this new “real” person.

19)   Redesign Your Room.  With your new look, you need a space that also reflects this new you.  Paint your walls at home, buy new furniture, or simply buy new posters or pictures.

20)   Eat Lots of Cake.  Since you won’t be consuming upwards of 1000 calories from drinking, you can eat as much cake and ice cream as you want.  Yay for yummy cake instead of alcohol!

21)   Enjoy Your Day.  Don’t let anyone make you feel bad or not normal because you don’t drink.  It’s a personal decision and it has nothing to do with anyone else.  If you drink or not, turning 21 is still a big deal and you should enjoy it in as many ways as you can.  Try some of the things on this list to help celebrate, or come up with some of your own and leave your ideas in the comments below!

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Kayla M. Burson graduated from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts cum laude in May of 2013. Her concentration was in English Literature, Psychology and Spanish. She is the Marketing Assistant for ISD, a scholarly book distribution company in Bristol, CT, but she isn't quite ready to put Uloop and college life behind her. She mostly writes about campus life and will pretend she is still a student as long as she can!

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