Not your same old kid’s birthday party

With three daughters, we’ve been invited to many birthday parties over the past few years and we’ve had a few birthday parties of our own.

I don’t know when or why it became such a big deal to invite the entire class to birthday parties in suburban America, but it’s a fairly common practice around here, even in our modest suburban community. I know parents dish out a lot of money for those “inflatable jumpy house” places and they invite the entire class of 22 kids for their children’s birthday parties. One parent I spoke to recently told me the last time she had a party there, she spent close to $500 when all was said and done. I nearly choked. $500 for a kid’s birthday party? Seriously? To jump on an inflatable for 2.5 hours and eat crappy pizza?

I think we’ve attended about 10 of those sorts of parties over the past 4 years. And besides being expensive, it’s quite uninventive.

Okay there’s those new pottery places…for anywhere from $250 to $350 (not including cupcake costs) each child comes home with a custom piece of painted pottery that has no purpose except to collect dust, unless your child happens to choose a piggy bank which is at least functional. We are now the proud owner of a brown painted plaster dog that doesn’t do anything. At least she chose a fairly standard doggy fur color, not the black and fluorescent yellow that her friend chose.

Other typical (and crazy) birthday party venues we’ve been to are Chuck E. Cheese, mini-golf, and bowling alleys. Ho-hum.

We’ve never had succumbed to the “we have to invite the entire class” mentality…well, until this year and you’ll find out why toward the end of this post. We’ve always allowed the daughters to invite a 3 or 4 friends and have taken them to the bowling alley or two friends the movies. One time we chose a pizza parlor, though if we did that again, we’d choose the pizza parlor with the ginormous organ they play on Friday nights.

I’ve decided to list some of the more unique places for children’s birthday party venues. Maybe you can find similar venues in your area that might host children’s birthday parties. Even if they don’t currently host birthday parties, it might not be a bad idea to inquire at various places in your community. Perhaps to generate more income, they might think about it. Maybe your party might be the first.

My Top 5 Unique Birthday Party Venues

5. Local toy boutique – There used to be a pretty trendy toy boutique by my home. Now, generally speaking, it was too expensive to shop there, but I’d often bring the kids and browse and shop in their clearances bins while the kids played in their little play area which was set up with lots of the latest and cutest toys. Eventually, to increase revenue, they decided to host birthday parties. For $20 a child (which, I agree, is expensive, so we limited it to 3 BFFs and our 3 girls), the children got to pick from one of 10 different craft kits. While a bit on the spendy side, the kids got to choose their craft kit and make it while there and take it home with them. 5 of the girls chose paint your own jewelry kits and my oldest daughter who wasn’t a jewelry wearing type, choose a paint your own racecars kit. And when they were done with the main craft, there were 2 other paper crafts the children could choose from – my daughter chose paper flowers and paper bag puppets for her and her guests.

What I liked about it – it was a quiet, calm intimate gathering, the kids not only got to create something, they got to bring their creations home with them and they were more functional than a plaster dog.

What I didn’t like about it – the price was too high and the location too small for a large party.

4. Dance Studio – Does your child attend dance classes? My oldest was invited to a birthday party at a dance studio and was taught a jazz number – no prior lessons required. She didn’t need special dance shoes. I think they taught the kids in their socks. When all three girls attended ballet, one of the ballet friends had a birthday party at the dance studio and they got a free dance lesson. They brought in pizza and cupcakes.

What I liked about it – free dance lesson for the guests.

What I didn’t like about it – you need to have a friend in dance, it’s not open to the general public, it’s not cheap (I’m not sure how much, but dance lessons in general is not cheap).

3. Community Arts Center – My middle daughter went to a birthday party at the local community arts center and they had a craft, played games and had cupcakes in their children’s art room. No, I have no idea how much this cost, but I can find out.

What I liked about it – the ambience – upstairs was the Performing Arts Center, and the art rooms were near the rooms where the orchestra practiced, and at the time of the party, we saw musicians and heard some of their music as they played.

What I didn’t like about it – for being in an art studio, they didn’t actually give a free art lesson. The kids just did a craft out of foam. The people from the art center helped us by took digital photos and printed them out for the craft, but I would have liked the kids to have a mini art lesson, either a drawing lesson Young Rembrandts-style, or have easels set up for painting with tempera paints. Now THAT would be cool.

2. Local Humane Society – My oldest attended a party at the local chapter of the Humane Society. The cost was $100 and they brought out cats, dogs and bunny rabbits for the kids to pet. They let the kids see the other animals in their cages. The cost of the party goes to support the Humane Society. And no, they did NOT push for adoptions.

What I liked about it – aw…soft fuzzy animals and kids…what’s not to like? The money goes to a good cause.

What I didn’t like about it – Except for hearing about how soft and cuddly the animals were for days afterward…nothing.

And by far, the most impressive, inexpensive, venue is:

1. Community Planetarium: Housed within a middle school, the local planetarium charges $65 to host birthday parties of up to 65 guests. Yes, you heard that right. $65. For that price, you get use of the meeting room which has displays up of planets, interactive computer programs linked to the NASA website and a weather station and an hour-long program in their domed theater. My youngest will be turning 6 next month and since she’s never had a kid birthday party ever, we chose a program for K-2 called Larry the Cat In Space and have invited her entire class. This was one birthday party experience I am really glad to pay for.

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What I like about it – For so little money, you get a fantastic educational experience. You can see some of the exhibits and the domed theater in this post on my other blog.

What I don’t like about it – I’m having a hard time finding something not to like. I didn’t even have to put down a deposit, just sign a paper and send it back. They work with a local pizza joint that charges only $5 a pizza if you order 10 or more. I think the only thing that’s going to be a challenge is having to bring the party supplies upstairs and bring the gifts downstairs. But that’s not really a major drawback.

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So, do YOU have any unusual birthday party venues?

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2 Responses to Not your same old kid’s birthday party

  1. Fran says:

    Oh my goodness. I was so relieved when my kids finally reached the stage of just wanting pizza, cake, a movie and a sleepover for their birthdays. For many years it seemed like we had an ongoing stream of birthday parties to attend, because if you invite people to yours, you have to attend theirs, right?

    In the end, having a very tight budget, we had to get creative. For my son’s birthday we had a Pirate Party. The children were invited to come in costume, and we held a treasure hunt outside that my husband and I had put together. (Older kids were allowed to come if they would help read the clues for the younger kids.) The picture of the whole group of pirates still makes me smile inside and out.

    For my daughter, we had a Royal Party. The children made their own crowns with colored paper and all kinds of stickers. We had a game I think, and I made her a basic cake upon which we put a little tiny toy castle. The kids seemed to enjoy the party well enough, and it fit our budget.

  2. growinginpeace says:

    I wish I had room to invite kids over to our house. It’s such a rotten layout that it gets cramped.

    And no, I don’t usually subscribe to the idea if they attend ours, we have to attend theirs. We don’t have many for the girls. This year was 6 year olds first birthday party with friends. I don’t even think we made a big deal out of her first.

    When my oldest was 5 we had a princess tea party with a couple of girls. That was a lot of fun. My house is a tiny bilevel and even trying to throw a party in the backyard makes me nervous because the only way to get out there is down 13 stairs of the back deck.

    One of these days, I’ll do a major rearrangement of things, but for now, we usually just do small outings with friends outside the house. This time was just a special treat for daughters golden birthday.

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