The topic of birthday parties never gets old. I know this to be true not only because it’s something parents seem to discuss often, but also because I can see what searches lead readers to my site. And birthday party venues ranks pretty high on that list. So, I make it a point to post a round-up every year of places to celebrate our kids’ big days.
These posts actually originated from my own need to find party venues outside of the house (which I talk about here, here, and here). And as the kids get older and enjoy more celebrations — both their own and their friends’ — I learn about new places to host birthday bashes all the time. Here’s a selection of some of the best we experienced or heard about this year. Party on, kids!
(2016 Update: This location has closed) After a few years of sharing the birthday spotlight with her big bro, Sasha finally got her own party this time around. Little Loft, a creative space for kids on Capitol Hill, was the perfect place to finally make it all about her. When I started looking into party options and saw they offered one with a butterfly craft theme (y’all surely know by now how much my girl loooves her some butterflies), I knew where we’d be ringing in Sasha’s 4th. The party started off with a short story time session with Lia, one of the owners (of course, the book was about butterflies), and Owen very sweetly surprised us all by reading to Sasha and her guests, too. With inspiration from the stories, they started on two art projects: watercolor butterflies and big, wearable butterfly wings that they decorated with colorful pieces of tissue and foil paper. When they were done with their projects, the kids donned the wings and played at a couple of play dough stations until it was time for cake then some more play time afterward. All in all, it was super fun for the kids, even easier for me to plan, and Sasha’s artwork now decorates her bedroom wall.
ComedySportz 4 Kids
If this sounds familiar, it’s because I mentioned it last year, just not from experience at the time. We’d looked into it as a possible party venue, and found the kids were too young then. However, Owen didn’t forget that he’d be old enough this year – The Comedy Spot at Ballston Mall offers parties for kids in first grade and up. So, we checked out a show over winter break, and my boy couldn’t stop cackling at the off-the-cuff performance. The rest, as they say, is history. Owen had a bunch of friends join him for a birthday improv show about a month later in late January. The kids seemed to love the show, laughing and interacting with the cast, plus they got to go up on stage and be part of it, which was a thrill for them. There was another party going on that day, too, so it was a packed and lively venue. Afterward, we celebrated with snacks and cake in a separate room. The logistics: ComedySports 4 Kids shows take place on Saturdays at 3pm, and parties can be booked on those days from 3-5pm, with the show running 75 minutes and party time another 45. Cost is $10/person, plus $100 to stay after and party. A tip: If you’re interested in booking there, be sure to ask about the party space. The description says you get to party on stage after the performance. When I booked it, I was told there’d be another party, but there was space for both of us. What they didn’t tell me was that we’d be crammed in a small room off stage with not much table space for the food and cake. (That said, Owen and his friends still had a blast, but I recommend confirming exactly what you’re getting.) For more info, visit the website.
Ice Skating al Fresco
I always thought outdoor parties weren’t an option for my January-born babes, but a couple of new outdoor ice rinks have changed my mind. Canal Park, the recently developed recreational space in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood, features a fantastic ice rink during late fall and winter along with party packages to celebrate special occasions there. Birthday parties start at $125 and include admission and skate rental for up to 10 guests (beyond that it’s $10/child), a designated area near the rink for the group, coupons for guests’ next visits, and a few more perks. It was a popular party spot this past winter – one of my favorites, in fact (many of us parents hit the ice along with kids). And for skating parties across town in NW, the new ice rink at Washington Harbour also offers birthday parties with many of the same amenities, but starting at a slightly higher cost (it’s Georgetown, after all). So, don’t default to the indoors just because it’s cold. Ice skating parties are a fun, active way to celebrate, enjoy of one of season’s best activities, and take the winter birthday party outside.
Fire Station Birthdays
A couple of months ago, a KFDC reader asked if I had the scoop on birthday parties at fire stations. I didn’t, but I put the word out on Facebook, and learned that plenty of you guys did. There were raves for parties hosted at the Glen Echo, Kensington, and Falls Church Fire Departments and understandably so. For kids with firetruck obsessions, it sounds like a dream come true. Parties include tours of the station, a chance to explore the firetrucks, demonstrations by fire fighters, goodies like plastic fire hats, and party rooms for the celebration. Costs vary by station, but seem to be fairly reasonable. If those locations aren’t convenient for you, and your local fire house doesn’t host parties on premises, you might think about asking to visit the station and taking a tour, then having the celebration in a nearby park.
Labyrinth Games & Puzzles
Kids ages 6 and up can get their game on at their next birthday party! I first posted about Labyrinth right after it opened over two years ago and recommend it with even more fervor now. Not only does the shop have an incredible selection of games and puzzles, they also have a section in the back dedicated to gaming events, including birthday parties for kids. Staff will provide the games and fun and help lead the group in play, while you bring the food and drinks. The rate is $15/guest for the first two hours with a minimum fee of $120. Maximum number of guests is 15, and extras like gift bags and decorations can be included for additional fees. (And PS – I highly recommend Labyrinth for birthday gifts, too; it’s become my go-to place for presents whenever my kids have a party to attend. The staff are very friendly and knowledgeable – just let them know the age and interests you need to suit, and they’ll help you find the perfect game to give.)
Pirate Party at National Geographic
The National Geographic Museum’s current “Real Pirates” exhibit offers more than just a showcase about the slave-turned-pirate ship, The Whydah, and a glimpse into the fascinating world of 18th century pirates. Kids ages 5-12 can celebrate their birthday at the museum, in both a special party room and among the displays and installations that make the exhibit so exciting. The two hours of festivities include pirate dress-up, party games, and a Jolly Roger art project. But the big treat is a private tour and treasure hunt in the exhibit led by Nat Geo staff. Goody bags, a group photo, and certificate for the birthday honoree are also part of the package. Cost of the party is $375 for the first 10 guests (plus two chaperone parents), and $20 for each additional child. Extra adult admission tickets are $9. More information about both pirate parties and the exhibit is available on the National Geographic Museum website.
UltraZone Laser Tag
Owen has been to a few birthday parties at UltraZone Laser Tag and raved about them. I, on the otherhand, am admittedly clueless about the whole Laser Tag experience, so this description comes straight from the website: “Step into a high-tech, laser tag adventure where identity is limited only by imagination. Dodge lasers, and strategize with teammates as you compete for high scores and glory in this futuristic version of Capture the Flag.” I can see why my 7-year-old digs them so much, and their party packages sound equally appealing for parents, as they tend to cover just about everything. Along with laser tag play (opt for 1, 2, or 3 games) and a private party room, they include food and drinks, your own party host, place setting and supplies, free parking, and invitations. Rates are $12.99/guest for 1 game, $17.99/guest for 2 games, and $22.99/guest for 3 games. Parties last from 90 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the number of games. For more information, visit the Ultrazone website.
The Tabula Rasa
(Update: This location has closed.) If you have a great party idea, but lack the room to pull it off, The Tabula Rasa may be the perfect solution. The event space on Barracks Row in southeast DC truly is a blank slate that can be transformed into whatever setting you want for your kid’s b-day bash. It’s 1,000 square feet of white, airy interiors, plus another 500 of pretty courtyard area, have hosted everything from parties for children and adults to pop-up shops to baby showers to meetings and workshops. We’ve attended quite a few of them, including ninja and cowboy themed birthday celebrations, and they’ve all been superbly executed. Amanda Clarke, Tabula Rasa’s lovely owner (as well as one-half of the amazing Boogie Babes team) has a keen eye for detail and is happy to lend her creativity and event planning expertise to help make your party a success. Some of her theme suggestions are Ninja, Princess, Scavenger Hunt, Movie Night, Dance Party, Tea Party, and Spa Treatment Party. And she, of course, welcomes clients to bring in their own ideas. As for logistics, cost is $600 for a four-hour rental, which includes two hours of party time, an hour each of set up and clean up, and house décor. Party packages with extra decorations and goody bags are also available. If the price sounds steep, this is one to consider sharing with a friend, especially since the space accommodates more people than many venues. And sometimes, having everything exactly the way you want it, is worth it. To learn more, contact Amanda at 202.640.2616 or [email protected]
Do you have party venue recommendations? I always love to hear about them, so feel free to leave any suggestions in the comments!