Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Kids Birthday Party Ideas in Howard County MD

Kids Birthday Party Ideas in Maryland.
I am really sure other parents are as sick as I am of inflatable bounce house birthday parties.  It's not to say kids don't enjoy them, but they are so repetitive and unimaginative, I'd rather shave with a dull razor than go to another one...but alas, there will be many more.  

To help parents combat the urge to take the easiest route, I'd like to work on a list of birthday party venues--some of them typical, but others more unusual, creative and even a few unique ideas, so here are some of the most fun alternatives that I know of. (Please also see my post about what to give out as party favors)

Here is a list of 31+ interesting ideas for places to have children's birthday parties.  Since I live in Howard County Maryland, this list pertains specifically to this area, but many of the things in the list would apply to anywhere USA--you just have to look around for a similar venue in your area.

Let me know what you think of this list!  This list is one of the busiest areas of my blog so contributions such as comments and ideas are very welcome!

Paid Facility Use Parties:

1) Circus School Party - In Columbia, MD there is a circus school that has some pretty cool party action happening.  There is a 15 kid hard limit for this venue.  This is an excellent choice for a great party.  My 7 year old had a party there and we were very impressed.  Greg, the owner is a former Ringling Brothers Circus clown and really makes it fun for the kids.  Highly recommended.  He provides napkins, forks, cups, plates and table clothes.  He can take kids anywhere from age 5 on up.  For older kids he can change up what he teaches them so it should be fun for any age--even adults.

2) Nature Centers and Farms offer some great birthday party options that aren't overdone.   In Howard County we have two nature centers that offer parties: Robinson Nature Center and Howard County Conservancy.  Check their website for information, but a great fall birthday party idea would be a camp-fire party at the Howard County Conservancy.  A naturalist leads the kids through activities and making smores.  Not many people have their parties at these places, but they're really quite nice...and educational.

Robinson Nature Center offers several different kinds of parties at different price points mostly for ages 2 and up.  For instance they have a nature puppet theater party, a butterfly party, a nature hike party or even a full-dome movie party in the planetarium which looks like it would be a blast!  Parties range in price from $325 to $400 at this writing.

3) Clarks Elioak Farm in Ellicott City is very popular.  In the fall you could consider an apple or berry harvest party at Larriland farm--check the harvest calendar to see what is ripe.  Educational and fun--plus the pickings are the party favor.

4) Craft parties: Michael's craft store parties (price depends on craft chosen) are relatively popular and their stores all seem to have some sort of party room.  There are also several pottery painting businesses around.  The parties center on the kids creating and/or painting a piece of pottery.  In Ellicott City  there is the Pottery Stop which is a combination coffee shop and ceramics studio--they have a party room, but it is relatively small.  The added bonus is that the item the kids paint is also the take-home gift/party favor.

5) Autobahn Indoor Go Cart Speedway in Jessup Maryland. Looks like a blast with exclusive track time for your party.  Kids five and up will love this place.

Pool Party Birthday Invitation
6) Indoor pool parties at Kid's First Swim School. About $250 for an hour of swimming and an hour of party room use.  There are also other venues that offer kid's pool parties.  The Columbia Association has a wonderful indoor splash park and is well recommended and if you're a member of Lifetime Fitness, they also do a good job (see below) and offer a competitive package.  Kids love pools and especially if you have a winter birthday, an indoor pool party is a welcome reminder of summer fun.  Party favors might include swim goggles or water toys.  One tip would be to have one parent stay dry while the other gets in the pool with the kids--this way you have your bases covered.

7) Ballet and dance parties. About $130 at Joyful Motion Dance Studio in Savage Mill.  This is a no-brainer for young girls, but boys can have fun at dance parties too.  Most of the time, the gyms will give you a choice as to the style of dance you'd like the kids to learn as part of the celebration so instead of ballet you might do a jazz or even hip hop birthday.  For ballet parties, girls will enjoy dressing up like prima ballerinas.

8) Gymnastics parties - There are plenty of places to hold gymnastics parties.  One of the best experiences I've had was at My Gym in Columbia, MD.  The staff was attentive and the kids had a great time--unfortunately their prices are kind of high.  Here is a recent pricing flyer (as of March 2014-click to enlarge):

9) Build-A-Bear-This will cost you about $20/kid and they have a six kid minimum. Very good experience  with four and five year olds.  There is a build-a-bear location in Columbia Mall.  When we had our party there, we had birthday cake first in the food court.  We got to the mall early enough to reserve some tables for the party guests...and it worked out fine.

10) Lifetime Fitness Parties (rock wall, swimming, basketball etc) - Cost is about $275 for 2 hours including pizza and drinks.  The fee covers 12 guests.  Additional kids are $20/each extra. (Prices can vary by gym location!)  Extra pizzas for adults are $10/each. Two party coordinators are included and they do a great job of making sure everything is going well...they even set up your decorations for you (you have to provide decorations, plates, napkins, party favor bags, etc). If you are a Lifetime Fitness member, I would recommend the parties there.  (Read my review of lifetime fitness).

Here is the information sheet Lifetime Fitness gives you when you want to book a party:

11) Bowling parties (Duck pins are better for younger kids if there is a duck pin alley nearby.  Those are rare.  Around here I know there are duck pins in Silver Spring and Mt. Airy.) You can always go for the larger pin bowling allies but I think it is less fun with the kids even with the lighter 6 pound balls and gutter bumpers the kids still have alot of trouble.  I especially don't recommend the Normandy bowling alley that's off of Snowden River in Columbia.  Although it is a relatively nice alley, all the above problems apply but then as part of the package they give the kids tokens for the game room.  That leads to huge frustration as there aren't really any games young kids can even play!

12) Earth Treks- This rock climbing facility offers kids birthday parties -- locations in Rockville, Columbia and Timonium.  Pricing as of this writing is $225 for 1-10 participants and $325 for 11-15 participants at the Columbia, MD location.  (Lifetime fitness also offers rock climbing parties but you have to be a member)  Earth Treks has a few "party rooms" that have their own climbing walls.  I've been to a party here for five year olds and it worked very well--the kids had a great time.  They provided four climbing instructors who put the harnesses on the kids and belayed them.  Very nice.

13) Roller Skating - The Laurel Roller Rink and the Supreme Sports Club Skating Arena both offer great kids birthday parties.  Supreme Sports Club offers private skating parties for $600.  Regular parties held during a public session are more like $250 and include pizza and cake for 10 kids.

14) Ice Skating - There are ice rinks around the county, but two in particular stand out.  The Gardens Ice House in Laurel, MD and the Columbia Association Ice Rink in Columbia MD both offer parties.

15) Laser Tag - Shadowland in Ellicott City and LaserXP in Laurel.   This is always a favorite with kids of any age.

16) Indoor Miniature Golf (older kids): Monster Mini Golf in Jessup.  Pretty loud and kind of scary for a young kid in there, so check it out and see if it is appropriate for your child first.

17) Sports center parties.  There are a variety of venues where you could have an indoor or outdoor soccer, lacrosse or basketball party.  For example, in Howard County, MD there is the Soccerdome which allows you to rent a field and let the kids play soccer for an hour and then has an area for pizza and cake.  There is also the Get Good Field House in Savage MD.

18) Terrapin Adventures - These outdoor adventure parties are very cool.  Kids must be at least 8 to be able to participate in a party here. (Also see Sandy Spring Adventure Park)

19) Pirate Party on the Urban Pirate boat that sails from Baltimore.  There is also a pirate boat that leaves from Annapolis.

20) Tea Party-Tea Parties at home are always fun, but for something more sophisticated, you could try Tea on the Tiber Victorian Tea Room in Ellicott City. (An interesting experience for a regular visit as well--try out  high tea one afternoon.)

21) Rumor has it that you can book a party at the Rainbow playground equipment show room in Columbia: http://swingsetsbaltimore.com/promotions/.  I have never been to a party there but if it isn't a unicorn it sounds really fun.

trampoline party
A skyzone jump "room"--each child gets their own square of
22) SkyZone - Indoor trampoline park in Columbia MD.  This venue has some similarities to the overdone JumpZone inflatable parties, but this is a bit different since they have actual trampolines.   They have created a very slick venue which looks engaging and fun.   Cost for a party on weekdays is $21/jumper. On weekends is $24/jumper.  There are packages starting at $330/party.  They have party rooms for each birthday party.  Be sure and check the reviews as there seem to be a high proportion of unhappy customers.  So far I have been to two parties and I thought it was okay overall.  My main reservations are safety issues and the fact that in both cases I got the feeling that the party itself was kind of like a production line--by the way, I always got the same feeling at JumpZone! and Pump It Up.  They are setup so that each kid basically gets their own trampoline to make things a bit safer but even so, someone was taken away in an ambulance during the first party I went to.

23) Airsoft - For ages 11 and up an airsoft indoor paintball course is loads of fun.  Located in Rockville, it is a bit of a trek from Howard County, but might be worth the trip.  Rumor has it that there is also an airsoft location in Beltsville, but I can't find any information about it.

24) Museum Parties outside of Howard County: Okay, these museum birthday parties aren't in Maryland Science Center, Port Discovery Children's Museum, The B&O Railroad MuseumCollege Park Aviation Museum--if your child loves airplanes, this is the place to go!
college park aviation museum for birthday fun
Howard County but what cool places for a birthday celebration. The

25) Movie Theater Birthdays - Kids love going to the movies--especially 3D movies that really bring in all the senses.  Some area theaters have party packages and even party rooms. A very good example of a movie theater with a party room is the Arundel Mills Cinemark Egyptian theater.  You could even roll an Egyptian theme into the party if you wanted.  Even if you decide not to use the group rates or party rooms, you may need to contact the theater when planning so you'll know what choices will be available on the date of your party.  The movie itself can also become the theme of your party (ie-Transformers or Disney Princesses).

26) Whole Foods Cooking Party -  Some Whole Foods stores such as the one in Annapolis have culinary centers  which can be rented out for kids birthday parties.  They provide a host who will help the kids through making a pizza and pretzels.  Unfortunately, the Columbia, MD Whole Foods is one of the stores that doesn't have a culinary center, however they do have a private cafe space that can seat 12 kids plus their parents.  For a party there you can pre-order party foods and cake.  If you have an event there (or anywhere else), take advantage of the healthy options that are available at Whole Foods and also consider alternatives to the standard party favors/gift bags.  

27) American Girl Doll party - Okay, not in Maryland and possibly not even very convenient for most Marylanders, but in Tysons Corner Mall they have an American Girl doll store and you can have a birthday party there.  I don't have any suggestions on the logistics of getting classmates and friends out to Northern Virginia, but I have heard good things about parties there.

28) Dave and Busters - This place is really busy with lots of things to do.  The Arundel Mills location has bowling and lots of games.

29) The Melting Pot - My older daughter is starting to want to get away from the bigger birthday parties.  This year we'll take four of her friends to the Melting Pot fondue restaurant in Columbia, MD.  The restaurant is relatively expensive but nevertheless the party will be cheaper and less stress than any of the above parties.  It is definitely a fun experience to eat a multi-course fondue meal with friends.

30) Rent a pavillion at Centennial Park - During the warmer months, there is always a great time to be had at Centennial Park.   The cost is about $150-180 dollars.

31) Have a lego birthday party:  Snapology in Columbia specializes in lego parties.  Seems like a very good venue.

Home Birthday Party Ideas

If you have room at home (or a relative's home or decide to rent a party room such as at the North Laurel Community Center or Roger Carter Community Center in Ellicott City) there are lots of great ideas for home-hosted parties.  For example hiring a magician, having a princess tea party or having someone bring in farm animals, etc.

Here are some entertainers that I have seen that do a good job with home parties:

Science Themed Parties- There are a few performers you can get. I recently saw a show by Eric Energy.  He did a pretty good job with "science-tainment"... you might also try doing this yourself if you're ambitious--see Bird's Party blog's Mad Scientist Party how-to. If you like animals, you could have Reptile Wonders/Nature Center On The Go bring all sorts of interesting animals to your home.  Reptile wonders has huge turtles, a Burmese python, bearded dragon and various skinks for your party guests to see and handle.

Another idea is to have a Lego robotics birthday party--the crew from The Great Adventure Lab will bring lego robots to your party and spend time teaching the kids how to program them.  Sounds like a great experience and an unusual party.

D's Magic - Great magic show complete with rabbit and balloon sculpture.  Very entertaining.
Magic show for a Maryland Birthday Party

Do you have any ideas to share?  Don't be shy about letting me know.  Also, be sure and browse my blog for birthday gift ideas and take a look at my comments about party favors--please choose a healthy option, choose to do something different.

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3 Responses to “Kids Birthday Party Ideas in Howard County MD”

Leeann said...
August 30, 2014 at 3:29 PM

Thanks for these ideas!

Christy E said...
December 7, 2014 at 4:51 PM

This is great!

Lizzie Borden said...
January 17, 2015 at 8:08 PM

Thanks for the ideas. I'm checking out the Lego place!

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