Golden birthday on a budget
August 20, 2013 8:29 AM   Subscribe

My golden birthday is coming up, and since you only get one, I'd like to do something special. But I'm pretty much broke.

On August 29th I'll turn 29. As we've all gotten older birthdays have become more and more of a non-event in my family. We have a lot of August birthdays, so there's usually just a communal party/cookout with the family, and a few gifts, and maybe on another day my parents take me out to dinner. I don't even remember what I did last year.

I'd like to do something special and different for my golden birthday. But, I just moved, so I'm pretty broke, and my close friends/family don't have much extra cash to spend on my birthday either. So, I'm looking for ideas of something to do, somewhere to go, an activity to plan that a) is fairly inexpensive, b) is different from the classic cookout/party, c) may either involve a larger group of my friends and family, or be something I can do with just a close friend or two.

A little more detail: I am in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, so location specific ideas for here or the surrounding area are cool, or general ideas. Ideally, whatever I end up doing will involve my best friend, and my two sisters, but ideas for just two people, or for many people are okay too. We'll probably celebrate on the weekend after my birthday, which falls on a Thursday, but that is open, too.

So MeFites, lay on your ideas for a super awesome memorable (budget) birthday! I just want to do something a little out of the ordinary this year, very open as to what.

Thanks in advance!
posted by catatethebird to Grab Bag (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
For making it somehow special or different than other years, how about making it a bit more sentimental? Your friends/sisters could contribute to a list of 29 things they like/admire about you, and you could make a list of 29 hopes or goals you have for the coming year. Put each into a golden sky lantern and release them at the end of the night! This would never ever work where I am in the NW because of wildfire risks, but maybe Wisco is different?

And for doing something different than a party/cookout, what about beach camping for the weekend? Looks like you can rent camping equipment from REI. Not sure about prices but they're fairly inexpensive where I live, especially if people are going in on it. You could have everyone out for the day to enjoy the water, then have a bonfire at night with your close friends.
posted by stellaluna at 8:51 AM on August 20, 2013

Can you do something that results in your having some sort of keepsake? Having a tangible, persisting item that will remind you of that day would probably help to make it memorable and more special.

Another option would be to go on a day long/week long picture road trip where you take pictures with as many weird looking landmarks and statues and signs as possible. Do some research, find out what sorts of weird ass things are around, and plot out a road trip. Be prepared to make impromptu stops for any weird things you find along the way.

I know where I live there is a disproportionate number of really big statues of weird things. We have a giant potato man, a giant blueberry man, a huge effing lobster, a giant 4 storey tall axe, a giant fiddle, skeletal horse, etc. and I have always wanted to do a roadtrip and take pictures beside as many of them as possible.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:19 AM on August 20, 2013

For a memorable, and meaningful birthday, what about getting together a group of your friends and doing a neat volunteer effort? If there is a cause you care about, you could target it to that (animal shelter, homeless advocacy group, environmental group, youth group, etc.).

If you're having difficulty getting inspired, what about going on a hike? There are some wonderful hikes in the Milwaukee area, some of the Ice Age trails look like a lot of fun. I'd call one of the management organizations and offer to do a "hike-through cleanup day" on one of the trails. Give everyone a plastic garbage bag and pick up garbage as you hike. What a wonderful way to give back, celebrating your 29 years and your many years to come.

Also - Please don't use sky lanterns to celebrate your golden birthday - though they are not (yet) prohibited in Wisconsin, as of last year they were already illegal in five states and six countries. They are a significant fire hazard, and could cause accidental fires in the midst of a busy fire season (we just moved to Preparedness Level 5 nationally for the first time in five years).
posted by arnicae at 9:19 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

And for doing something different than a party/cookout, what about beach camping for the weekend? Looks like you can rent camping equipment from REI.

This might fall under non-inexpensive, but you can also rent kayaks and canoes from the Laacke & Joys on Water to use on the river (or to take elsewhere).
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 9:44 AM on August 20, 2013

I recommend ringing in your golden birthday by doing something you've never done before that you've always wanted to do but haven't done yet! Do you have a type of experience in mind -- indoor/outdoor, active/passive, sober/tipsy?

Barring additional specificity, these are some things I would want to do if I hadn't done them already, as someone who is both your age and from your town. (The following approximate geographic delineations are adhered to by me alone, using nothing more than feels gleaned over three decades of living here, and should not be considered definitive or even particularly meaningful.)

Lakefront: There's a lot to do at the lakefront at this time of year. Head to Lakeshore State Park, walk down to McKinley Marina, rent a paddleboat or canoe for $20-30/hour, rent a surrey or bike for $20-30/hour, or rent a scooter ($25/hour). You could also rent a 10-passenger "party barge" ($55/hour; split 4 ways, it would be about $15/person, BYOB and food) and take it out into the harbor on Lake Michigan, or join a pre-scheduled booze cruise ($20-30/person). Admission to the Milwaukee Public Museum is free for county residents on Mondays, Milwaukee Art Museum is free to all on the first Thursday of every month. The Frank Mots International Kite Festival is at Veteran's Park in two weeks (free).

Downtown: Splash Studio is a bar that also offers DIY painting sessions ($30/person). RiverWalk (downtown, Third Ward, or Beerline/Riverwest segments - all free), all kinds of brewery tours ($5-10). The 2nd annual Third Ward Art Festival is next weekend (free). Safe House, obviously (get a Spy's Demise, omg so good, ~$10). SPiN Milwaukee is a bar/restaurant... ping-pong club ($8-10/person). Take a cooking class at the Milwaukee Public Market (most are ~$80, but some are $30/person). Thursday night is Jazz in the Park (free).

North side: Havenwoods is a beautiful state forest that happens to be right in the city (free). Schlitz Audubon Nature Center ($6) is further out, but also really beautiful, and you could hang out with some adorable rehabilitated wildlife or learn how to geocache ($10). Ray's Indoor Mountain Bike Park does what it says on the tin ($20-30/person). Take a cooking class at Boelter ($35/person includes $25 Boelter gift certificate).

South side: South Shore Farmers Market is on Saturdays (free). Bryant's is an old school cocktail lounge with no set menu -- you can tell them what you like and don't like, and they'll make something for you from scratch; At Random is a blast and everyone should go there at least once (both will be ~$6-10/drink). You could hike the Seven Bridges Trail in Grant Park (free), go to a Great Lakes Distillery tour/tasting ($7), and head over to Koz's for mini-bowling (~$10/person). The Mitchell Park Domes ($6.50/person) are always wonderful, as is Boerner Botanical Gardens ($5/person). Clock Shadow Creamery is Milwaukee's first and only urban cheese factory; they offer public tours and samples daily ($3/person). Take a homebrewing class at Braise ($30/person).

East side: Bike the Oak Leaf Trail (free) and go to a Friday night show at UWM's Manfred Olson Planetarium ($2/person). Pick up some fancy snacks at Sendik's or Whole Foods and have a picnic at Urban Ecology Center's Riverside Park branch (free). Take a cooking class at Whole Foods (free-$30/person).

West side: Go to the amazing West Allis Farmers Market on Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday (free), tailgate for a Brewers game at/near Miller Park ($8/vehicle for General Parking, otherwise MeMail me for super-sekrit nearby free street parking). have a picnic at Urban Ecology Center's Washington Park or Menomonee Valley branch (free). Volunteer at Hunger Task Force (free).

(Obviously, you could volunteer anywhere for free. I am just a big proponent of HTF.)

For one-off experiences, keep an eye on Groupon and other similar 'deal of the day' sites. Also, please note that next weekend is Harley-Davidson's 110th Anniversary festival. Large swaths of our city, particularly near downtown/lakefront/Fifth Ward, will be turned into roaring pits of despair and intractable traffic for the duration. Plan accordingly! And happy birthday!
posted by divined by radio at 10:35 AM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the links, DBR, definitely some things to check out.
posted by catatethebird at 2:02 PM on August 22, 2013

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