Sign Night Alternatives for Your 21st

You enter UF as a young, naïve freshman an are inundated with our university’s culture. You grow a lot over your fall semester, you make friends and start to think you know pretty much all there is to know about being a college student at UF. That is until you get a Facebook notification from one of your older friends. You’ve been invited to a private event titled, “Susie’s Star-Studded 21st," aka her sign night.

During the two weeks leading up to the sign night, Susie’s closest friends post embarrassing pictures on this page of her peeing in bushes, puking in her dorm’s shower and riding home asleep in an Uber. During Susie’s party, golden streamers are hung from her apartment wall with matching golden balloons floating everywhere.

A few people are doing Jell-O shots, someone’s boyfriend is shotgunning on the balcony and a hoard of people are attempting to get the perfect Insta picture in front of the streamer wall. Everything stops when Susie’s best friend brings out the sign –– a cardboard star-shaped sign with the Hollywood Sign front and center because –– duh –– Susie wants to be an actress. The sign has a list 21 dares to complete by the end of the night. Susie is overcome with joy because the sign is so "her." Shortly after everyone leaves for Mid, (aka Midtown, where are all the party shenanigans get underway) you can be reassured Susie will be back home and in bed within an hour or two because she arrived drunk.

You have now experienced your first sign night. At least at UF, this event can be considered a rite of passage. Throwing a party to celebrate your 21st is definitely not exclusive to UF. I’m sure you could walk onto any college campus and hear of similar traditions, but in a way, it can seem like having a sign night is the only way to go. In the grand scheme of things, it kind of sucks. Parties aren’t for everyone and drinking isn’t for everyone. Even if you are turning 21, none of that stuff may interest you. While sign nights are common in Gainesville, they aren’t mandatory, and you shouldn’t feel pressured to do something just because it’s become the norm. Ultimately, your birthday is about you, which means you should celebrate it your way. Here are some alternative ways to ring in your 21st if a sign night isn’t your thing.

1. Actually use that free movie and ice cream voucher UF sends you when you turn 21

The voucher is only good between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m. on your actual birthday, with a clear goal being to keep you from going out. Grab some friends and go see whatever looks good and have some ice cream after –– this is quick and nice if drinking isn’t your thing.

2. Go out for brunch at OAK

 Sundays are for bottomless mimosas, which means you can savor your alcohol and actually remember your birthday celebration.

3. Go out to dinner

A few places in Gainesville offer birthday specials. Yamatos, a hibachi restaurant, pays for the birthday person’s meal. This way, you can still have a gathering of people and drink if you want, but you and your friends aren’t responsible for planning much.

4. Treat yourself to a spa trip

A spa trip is perfect for the introvert who wants to celebrate making it to 21 with some much needed “me time.” Go treat yourself to a massage or facial at "Hand and Stone," and revel in the fact that you can go home and legally drink that glass of wine afterward.

5. Drink your way around the world at Epcot

We’re an easy two-hour drive away from Disney World. Plan a trip with your closest friends and stumble through a theme park as you try a drink from the 11 different countries in Epcot.

Regardless of how you choose to honor your sacred 21st, remember to celebrate life your way, and stay safe no matter what.