How to Celebrate a Birthday While Social Distancing

What to do, where to order food and drinks, what gift to buy and where to get decorations for your big day.

Photograph by miljko, courtesy of iStock.

If you have a birthday or other celebratory milestone coming up and you’re bummed that you can’t go to your favourite restaurant or take part in social activities due to the pandemic, you can still make the most of the day. Local businesses have been extremely creative while their dining rooms and/or storefronts have been closed. Here are few ways you can celebrate in style without leaving your home — because don’t forget, you’re still allowed to have fun during a crisis as long as you’re responsible.


What to Eat and Drink

The vast number of restaurants, liquor stores, grocers, breweries and distilleries offering curbside pickup or delivery right now means there’s no shortage of options for refreshments on a special day. Go with food from your favourite eatery or check out these especially festive options below.


Multi-course Meals

Some Calgary restaurants have found ways to translate the prix fixe experience to the home. Bar Von Der Fels offers a weekly changing family-style spread with six-plus courses starting at $75 per two portions, while Bridgette Bar is doing three-course meals for just $25 per person. Modern Steak‘s Sunday dinner series offers four courses for $72 per couple and the team behind Alley Burger, Charcut, Charbar and Chix Eggshop offers a menu with the signatures of all four concepts, including charcuterie and cheese plates. These are just a few examples — find your go-to restaurant for a special occasion on our list of restaurants offering takeout and delivery and inquire about what’s available.


Meal Kits

Prefer to eat food straight out of the oven? Numerous restaurants and food providers are offering self-assembly meal kits and heat-and-serve prepared dishes. Annabelle’s Kitchen, Cibo 17th and Scarpetta Italian Eatery are all offering kits and “take-and-bake” Italian favourites like pizza, pasta and wine. Both The Living Room and Moonlight & Eli have fondue kits available, Craft Beer Market has DIY nacho kits (and a tutorial on Instagram) and Shiki Menya has chili goma ramen kits for two if you’re quick enough to order while they’re in stock.



Some very jazzy options for alcohol have arisen during COVID-19. In addition to wine and craft beer from its menu, Native Tongues is offering margarita kits for two as well as six packs of AGD that come with a spicy rim mix to simulate the michelada-drinking experience. Speaking of Native Tongues, you can also buy a box kit to make its paloma cocktail from Vine Arts, which has other collaborative cocktail kits and curated wine bundles available. At Shelter, bottled cocktails made with Bridgeland Distillery spirits are for sale. Across the river, Kensington Wine Market has new exclusives, revamped bar wares for sale and wine six-packs that benefit the Calgary Food Bank.



Dessert is arguably the highlight of any birthday. Here are some rapid-fire options available to you: bake and decorate your own cupcake kits from Crave; doughnut delivery from Hoopla Donuts; coffee-and-doughnut bundles from Five21 Coffee Roasters (order through them for delivery) and Mountain Rhino Donuts; delivery and curbside pickup of customized treats from Swirl Custom Cakes & Desserts; curbside pickup from all three Pie Junkie locations; and while Sweet Relief Pastries prepares to re-open, the team has been posting amazing baking tutorials for specialty goods on Instagram. Check out their Instagram for details on reopening.


Where to Get Decorations

The big box stores that come to mind when you think of decorations are offering online shopping during the pandemic, sure, but there are also plenty of options if you prefer to shop local. To that end, Reid’s is taking phone and email orders for pickups of its decorations, gifts and stationery, local web store A Little Confetti has party supplies for all ages and themes available for pickup and delivery (including this cute banner raising funds for The Happy Birthday Project), and stalwarts Don’s Hobby Shop and Canuck Amusements are both offering delivery and curbside pickup.


What to Do

Besides eating, drinking and decorating, here are some activities to commemorate the day or just work off all that sugar energy.


Request a Drive-by Birthday Greeting

Available for kids aged four to 12 and for those 75 or older, unoccupied fire responders will drive by your home, blare a siren and/or play “Happy Birthday” over the truck’s loudspeaker. Call 311 or fill out this form to place your request.


Order a Curbside Concert to Your Street

In April, Calgary musicians Matt Masters and Amanda Burgener launched a traveling concert series for folks in isolation. Here’s how Curbside Concerts works: a booking inquiry is made through its website for either a six-song or 10-song concert and then Masters (or another musician — the talent roster is currently growing) will roll up to your home in his customized minivan and perform on its roof. Rates and details are available here.


Have Your Portrait Taken (From a Distance)

This option is most viable if you’re good at planning ahead. There are a few different photographers in and around the city who will come to your front lawn and photograph you in your entryway, and they’ve seen high demand so far. Your options include Neil Zeller’s Porchtraits, the 6 Feet Photography project by WalktheYYC and Amber Holt’s Front Step Project, whose service areas and booking conditions vary.


Do Zoom Karaoke

Zoom isn’t just for giving updates on TPS reports and trying not to talk over one another. It’s fairly easy to set up a meeting to be a virtual karaoke party. As we learned via Tom’s Guide, creating a video sync chatroom with Watch2gether and finding karaoke versions of your favourite songs on YouTube is really all it takes to get started. Tom’s Guide has more tips and tricks on how to optimize the experience.


What to Gift

What to get someone for a birthday is an very personal call to make. That said, there are a few local options that we believe to be crowdpleasers.

You can’t really go wrong with flowers unless the recipient is an anthophobe. Delivery options abound: Small Flower (floral studio), Purple Orchid, Splurge Flowers & Gifts, Gardenia Flower Boutique, Blooms on 9th, Fleurish Flower Shop and Callia (among many others) are all delivering fresh flowers designed with their own signature aesthetic.

There are a few different schools of thought on giving gift cards for a special occasion, but hopefully naysayers can forgive the concept during the pandemic. We recently covered the initiatives and, both of which offer directories for restaurants, stores and services offering gift cards right now.

If your recipient is style-obsessed and/or working from home, we recently covered local clothing companies giving back during COVID-19 and great Alberta-made products for a home office. You can also check out the work of Made in Alberta Awards winners and hopefuls for inspiration on a variety of gifts.

Puzzles: so hot right now. As CTV reports, the satisfyingly simple act of assembling puzzles has led to a massive sales surge during the pandemic. Cue local artist and Top 40 Under 40 class of 2019 member Heather Buchanan, who is now selling puzzle versions of her work on that feature images like David Lynch eating a doughnut and George Constanza eating shrimp. Buchanan also sells greeting cards via her own web store, and more puzzles can be found at both local bookstores offering delivery and board game shops offering pickup and delivery.

Speaking of greeting cards, Kricket’s, Reid’s and Steeling Home are always reliable options and each offers curbside pickup and/or delivery. East Village shop Liz & Lottie also has a deal where you can buy five cards and get a sixth one for free. There are also some new cards by Alberta-born artist Tallulah Fontaine at Lukes Drug Mart, where you’ll no doubt find additional gift ideas.

Lastly, and this one is a bit of a curveball, you could order a Cameo greeting from your recipient’s favourite (or maybe third favourite, depending on budget) celebrity. Messages from Calgarian music legend Jann Arden are available for just $50, and ones from former Calgary Flames goalie Grant Fuhr are available for $75.

Want more suggestions for the best things to do in Calgary? Sign up for our Weekender Newsletter.

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Abby Parker

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