SEE MY LIST OF 40+ IDEAS FOR KID’S BIRTHDAY PARTIES BELOW
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 the party locations are 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 note that these are not paid listings–it is my own list. I have added the birthday venues here because I have used them for my own kids, been to a party there or have it on authority from other parents. There are few “negative” recommendations in the list below too–places that might be popular go-tos, but should be avoided.
(Please also see my post about what to give out as party favors and if you’re looking for some great gift ideas, see my post Gift Ideas for Brainy Kids!)
Here is a list of 40+ 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. I also have created a similar birthday place list for Anne Arundel County.
Let me know what you think of this list! This list is one of the busiest posts on my blog so contributions such as comments and ideas are very welcome!
Here is my list of places to have kid’s birthday parties:
- Circus School Party (Ages 5+.) – 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, teenagers and even adults would enjoy a party here.
- Nature Centers (Ages 2-10) 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.
Party Favor Ideas: Bamboo Plants, Miracle Grow Seed Pods, Tickle Plant Seeds, Binoculars
- Clark’s Elioak Farm (Ages 2-10) in Ellicott City is very popular. In the fall you could consider an apple or berry harvest party at Larriland farm (Ages 2-12)–check the harvest calendar to see what is ripe. Educational and fun–plus the pickings are the party favor.
Party Favor Ideas: Straw Hats, Tickle Plant Seeds
- Craft parties (Ages 4-13): Michael’s craft store parties (price depends on craft chosen) and Joann Fabrics Parties 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.Another great option is the Columbia Art Center. They have preset parties that look like great fun in a nice atmosphere. They have a variety of available party themes (even Minecraft!) and parties can be on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays.In Ellicott City there is the Pottery Stop which is a combination coffee shop and ceramics studio–they have a small party room. If you are bringing a small group of kids (maybe 5 or less), you may be able to just “drop in” to the store and make your own party there. You are allowed to bring in outside food although they do offer a few snacks and a full coffee/hot chocolate menu. There is a Qdoba restaurant next door to the Pottery Stop, so you can get quesadillas or tacos there and bring them into the Pottery Stop.Unless you setup a birthday party package, there are no reservations, so you have to be careful to pick a day and time when they aren’t likely to be so busy that you won’t find a table for your party. You may want to call and ask what the most strategic times to set your party, but probably the safest time is right at opening.For example, we had a party there the weekend before valentines day in the mid-afternoon and it was quite busy, we were lucky to get a table for 4. Still, the children had a really good time. The added bonus is that the item the kids paint is also the party favor. Note that it takes a week for them to fire their creation in the kiln, so plan to come back and pick up the items.
Party Favor Ideas: Playdough, Putty Balls
- Autobahn Indoor Go Cart Speedway (Ages 5+) in Jessup Maryland. Looks like a blast with exclusive track time for your party. Kids five and up will love this place.
Party Favor Ideas: Balloon Racers
WiBits at Columbia Swim Center
Indoor pool parties (Ages 2+) 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.
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.
The Columbia Association has pool parties and I generally do NOT recommend parties there because of crowding. For example, they just added an pool-based inflatable obstacle course called “Wibits” at their Columbia Swim Center indoor pool. Although there are some fun aspects to it, I cannot recommend this party because they do not control the number of kids! If you opt for this party, be advised that the pool can get very overbooked and your kids will have long wait times to go on the course. When we went it was about 13 minutes for each turn–and if the kid falls off (which they often do), they have to swim to the wall and get out of the pool-they are not allowed to get back on and continue from where they left off. I would only recommend this party for older kids on off hours.
- Ballet and dance parties (Ages 2-10). 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. Pricing varies about $130 at Joyful Motion Dance Studio in Savage Mill. Also, check with Turning Point Dance Academy in Elkridge, Md.
Party Favor Ideas: Flashlights
- Gymnastics parties (Ages 2-10) 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. You may also want to check out Top Flight Gymnastics on Redland Road in Ellicott City.
Locations: Columbia, Ellicott City, other locations around Howard County
Party Favor Ideas: Ribbon Wands, Necklaces
- Build-A-Bear (Ages 2-7) 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.
Party Favor Ideas: Bubbles
- Lifetime Fitness Parties (Ages 4+) (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. The parties here would be appropriate for kids as old as 10-12 years old, even older teenagers.
Party Favor Ideas: Glowstick eyeglasses
- Bowling parties (Ages 5+) (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!
Party Favor Ideas: LED Rubberband Helicopters or Rocket Copters
- Rock climbing at ClimbZone (301-317-1970) in Laurel or Earth Treks (Ages 5+)
The bookcase climbing wall at
Compared to Earth Treks, the atmosphere at ClimbZone is less serious and more fun. They have done a fantastic job of making it less serious but making the climbing walls into interesting sculptures and objects, rather than the same old walls. For example, they have a wall that looks like Mount Rushmore and another one that’s a replica of a gigantic bookcase. Kids love it. All of their walls have auto-belay so you don’t have to worry about having someone paying attention and belaying the kids. This is a huge advantage, especially because kids 6 and up will likely be able to hook themselves in to any wall and start climbing! They also have some bouncy houses and slides for younger kids. There are party rooms available in this very new facility.
Earth Treks (Columbia Location – 410-872-0060)
Earth Trek’s 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.
- Roller skating (Ages 5+) The Laurel Roller Rink (301-725-8070) and the Supreme Sports Club Skating Arena (Columbia – 410-381-5355) 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.
Locations: Laurel, Columbia
Party Favor Ideas: Fishnet Gloves, Personalized Thank You Stickers, Glow Sticks
- Ice skating (Ages 5+) 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.
Locations: Laurel, Columbia
- Laser tag (Ages 5+) Shadowland in Ellicott City (410-740-9100) and LaserXP in Laurel ((410) 833-6611). Laser tag parties are always a favorite with kids of any age.
Locations: Laurel, Ellicott City
Party Favor Ideas: LED Bumpy Ring, Mini LED carabiner Flashlights
- Indoor Miniature Golf (Ages 7+): 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.
- Sports center parties (Ages 5+) There are a variety of venues where you could have an indoor or outdoor soccer, lacrosse or basketball party. For example, in Jessup 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 and the Columbia Association SportsPark.
- Terrapin Adventures (Ages 8 and older) (301-725-1313) These outdoor adventure parties are very cool. Kids must be at least 8 to be able to participate in a party here. These are great parties for 13 year olds, even sweet sixteens… (Also see Sandy Spring Adventure Park)
- Pirate Party (Ages 7+) on the Urban Pirate boat that sails from Baltimore.
Party Favor Ideas: Gold Pirate Coins
- Tea Party (Ages 7+) 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.)
Locations: Historic Ellicott City
Party Favor Ideas: Decorate Your Own Teacups
- Indoor Playground Party (Ages 2-7) You can book a party at the Play -n- Learn playground equipment show room in Columbia. I have never been to a party there, but it sounds really fun. Weekday parties are $219 for two hours of playtime on the indoor playground. Weekend parties are $269. You can also book a party after hours for $369 on weekends.
A skyzone jump “room”–each child gets their own square of
SkyZone (Ages 5+) 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 attended there.
Party Favor Ideas: Balloon Helicopters
- Airsoft (Ages 11+) 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.
Party Favor Ideas: Compasses
- Museum Parties outside of Howard County (Ages 5+) Okay, these museum birthday parties aren’t in Howard County but what cool places for a birthday celebration. The Maryland Science Center, Port Discovery Children’s Museum, The B&O Railroad Museum, College Park Aviation Museum–if your child loves airplanes, this is the place to go!
- Movie Theater Birthdays (Ages 3+) 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).
- Whole Foods Cooking Party (Ages 5+) 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.
- American Girl Doll party (Ages 4-9) 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.
Location: Tyson’s Corner, VA
- Dave and Busters (Ages 4+) This place is really busy with lots of things to do. The Arundel Mills location has bowling and lots of games.
Location: Hanover, Md
Party Favor Ideas: Uno Mini Card Game
- The Melting Pot (Ages 6+) 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.
- Rent a pavillion at Centennial Park (Ages 2+) During the warmer months, there is always a great time to be had at Centennial Park. The cost is about $150-180 dollars. Even cheaper: The tire park at the Hilton area of Patapsco State Park. This is a two acre playground made from recycled tires. Loads of fun and the nearby pavilions go relatively cheap (in Baltimore County).
- Have a Lego birthday party (Ages 5-10) Snapology in Columbia specializes in lego parties. Seems like a very good venue.
Party Favor Ideas: Lego Favors
- Fire House Birthdays (Ages 3-7) Many people don’t even know that you can host a birthday party at some of the fire stations in Howard County. You can learn how to make an inquiry about it here. I know quite a few kids who love fire trucks and love birthdays…and they get some fire safety tips too! My only caveat would be that an emergency could potentially cut the party short. As an alternative, there is a Fire Museum in Towson that provides a pretty good experience. A great gift to go with this birthday party would be a pair of walkie talkies. Here is one suggestion for a pretty good pair.
- AmuseToys (Ages 2-6) In Pikesville (Baltimore County). Parties in the lab are great fun.
- Music Birthday Parties (Ages 2-7) – There are several music schools in the area that host birthday parties. A great option is Oleynka School of Music in Columbia. They work with several age groups. Parties include high-energy music activities and games including songs, dance, activities using instruments, hula hoops, balls, parachutes, followed by a one hour celebration in their Party Room.
Party Favor Ideas: Maracas, Egg Shakers, Echo Microphones
- Drama and Comedy Workshop Parties (Ages 5+) – There are some great opportunities around for drama and comedy related parties. Guest can take part in drama or comedy workshops at places like Drama Learning Center in Columbia or Improv Comedy in Baltimore.
- Live Theater Parties (Ages 3+) There is some great children’s theater in the area. Check with Toby’s Dinner Theater to see if they have appropriate shows. You may also want to consider a party at Medieval Times in Arundel Mills. If you can travel further, you will definitely like Imagination Stage in Bethesda, Any of the above will surely provide a memorable birthday!
- iFly (Ages 3+) Okay, this isn’t nearby (in Whitemarsh), but it’s amazing! Possibly the most unusual idea on this list, indoor sky-diving would make for a wonderful birthday party. Your boy or girl will never forget this party!
Party Favor Ideas: Parachute Cord Bracelets, LED Finger Lights
- Bowie Baysox Baseball Party (Ages 6+) – If your daughter or son loves baseball, they’ll love having a birthday party at Baysox Stadium. Another possibility is getting tickets to a Baysox, Nationals or Orioles game and making a party out of that (Nationals do have a birthday party package, I am not sure that the Orioles do)
- Fencing (Ages 8+) – The Baltimore Fencing Center in Columbia on Rumsey Road has a great facility for unusual birthday parties. Guests learn the basics of fencing and can get a little practice in at the party.
- The Swellness Center (Ages 0-6) – Swellness Center is an indoor play area for toddlers. The parties there seem like they would be fun (I haven’t been there).
Suggestions based on age:
|Party Place||Age 1-4||Age 5-7||Age 8-9||Age 9-10||Age 11-13||Age 14+|
|Circus School Party||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
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, The Meeting Room in Clarksville, Occassions Banquet Hall in North Laurel, 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. For more ideas, see my other post about birthday party themes:
- Science Themed Parties- There are a few performers you can get. One great choice is Mad Science–they have several performers that can come to your child’s party. I’ve seen Damu perform, he’s was fantastic. Request him if he’s available. I have also seen several shows by Eric Energy. Eric did a pretty good job with “science-tainment”–he gets the kid’s involved in several science experiments that they are sure to love…
- You might also try doing a science party 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.
- Have an art-themed party. A colleague and friend of mine bought canvases and paints for the party attendees. She put nails in her fence and attached the canvases so each child would have an easel.
- Petting Zoo party – If it’s in the budget, get Leesburg Animal Park to bring their petting zoo to your home. Kids will get to learn about and pet llamas, turtles, chickens, snakes, goats, and more
- Kids all love a face-painters. Try Pirate Girl.
- D’s Magic – Great magic show complete with rabbit and balloon sculpture. Very entertaining.
- For a special flair of sophistication, and to perhaps make your job as host a little bit easier, consider hiring on a little bit of light catering. For example, the Omelette Guys provide omelette and Belgian waffle stations as well as pasta stations.
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. Also, here is my list of birthday party places in Anne Arundel County.