When it comes to children’s birthday parties, my motto is three-fold: Make it memorable, affordable and keep it out of my house! (There’s something about 4 year olds running around my house with purple frosting that I really want to avoid!)
I have nothing against the one-stop-shop, party-in-a-box places around town. There’s a lot to be said for allowing someone else to do everything…including the clean up. (See our previous article about children’s birthday parties – “To DIY or Not to DIY“.) But I like to be involved in the details that make it special, and I like to host the party somewhere unique, as inexpensively as possible. Here are my top birthday party locations ideas!
1. Public tennis courts / basketball courts / football field: Gather up your rackets, balls, frisbees and bats, and head out to a public field or court. I hosted a tennis party for my daughter when she turned 4, and it was so much fun! We are fortunate to have very nice tennis courts in our city at each high school and junior high in our area. We claimed one court (no reservation necessary) and brought every kind of racket we could get our hands on, from tennis to racquetball and even backgammon. We brought bins full of tennis balls and wiffle balls and let the kids go for it! They had fun! And obviously I had to make cute tennis ball cupcakes to compliment our theme! Imagine what you could do at a outdoor basketball court or some soccer fields. The kids would love it! The only downside to an outdoor party of this kind is the possibility of bad weather. Establish a backup plan, and then pray for good weather!
2. Ice Cream Birthday Play Date: Have your guests meet up at a yogurt or ice cream shop. Let each child choose their flavor and toppings, open presents, and call it a day! So easy, and from a child’s perspective, really fun!
3. The Mall: Most shopping malls will allow you to have a modest party in the food court anytime, without a reservation. At the mall in my city, we have a beautiful carousel, so we have actually held 4 birthday parties there, right beside the carousel! We purchased 2 ride tokens for each party guest. We pulled together a group of tables, decorated them with party tablecloths, cake, balloons, etc…and had a great time! We planned our party at 10 AM to avoid the busy lunch hour. The food court has high chairs, restrooms nearby, and it was so easy to clean up afterward. Then we headed over to the Disney store to play!
4. Hotel: Why not combine a little stay-cation for your family with your child’s birthday celebration? Recently we celebrated my 5 year old’s birthday at Embassy Suites! We had cake and snacks downstairs, rode up and down their super fun glass elevators, and then went to our hotel room for a dance party and jumping on the bed! The party was 2 hours long, and then our guests left and we stayed overnight to carry on the celebration as a family. We ordered pizza, watched movies and went up and down the elevators again and again. Best birthday party money ever spent!
5. Fire Station: Check with your local fire department about whether or not they host birthday parties. The fire department in my city will host a tour of the fire station and the firetrucks, and there is a party room for cake, etc. What a cool experience!
6. Scavenger Hunt: Take them to the Mall for a scavenger hunt! Depending on the age of the party guests, it may be a photo scavenger hunt (find a “Buy One, Get One Free” sign, take a photo with a Gap employee, etc.) or if they’re younger, a hunt to collect objects (a Chick Fil A straw, a flyer, a french fry, etc.). A scavenger hunt could also be at a large park or in your neighborhood.
7. Amazing Race: Have you ever seen the show Amazing Race? I’ve always thought this would be fun to do with young teenagers. This one requires a bit of prep work. Plant clues around town, grab another parent/chaperone with a vehicle, and divide your party guests into 2 teams. Have a race to see who can figure out the clues and get to the next one and then the next one and on and on until they reach the final destination…which could be a fun location of any kind.
8. Hair Salon: For little girls, consider letting them invite a couple of friends to go to a hair salon and have their hair done fancy! An up-do, or curls or fancy braids…whatever sounds fun. Then, go out for ice cream or lunch! The cost of the hair salon experience is still likely to come in under an expensive party place, and the unique outing with friends will make great memories! My oldest is getting to the age where I’d love to have her celebrate her birthday with just a few good friends, rather than inviting the whole class and hosting a large party. I think a fun experience with close friends is much more special and fun!
9. Fashion Show: Along the lines of the previous idea… For older girls, take a few friends to the mall and let them try on fancy clothes! I remember doing this with friends when I was in junior high. We would try on prom dresses or expensive cool clothes we couldn’t buy, and we had a blast! (Take pictures of their fashion show and turn it into a photo/video montage later!) Go out to lunch or to the movies afterward.
10. Park/Playground: Take it all outside! Find a cool playground that also has pavilions and/or tables, set up your party and let the kids eat and play. The fun is built right in…so easy!
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